Determinants of Active Sport Tourists' Satisfaction: The Case of an International Marathon

 
Proceedings of 3rd European Business Research Conference
            4 - 5 September 2014, Sheraton Roma, Rome, Italy ISBN: 978-1-922069-59-7

             Determinants of Active Sport Tourists’ Satisfaction:
                   The Case of an International Marathon
                                     Anna Romiti and Daria Sarti
                   This paper analyses the determinants of active sport tourists’ satisfaction of
                   participating in a marathon. The data for this study were collected through an
                   online questionnaire filled in by the participants in the 2013 Firenze
                   Marathon. Regression analysis was employed to analyse the data from the
                   respondents (N=988). The results show that the antecedents of active sport
                   tourists’ satisfaction are quality of interaction with staff, venue quality, value,
                   information, organization and the level of race competition. This study
                   provides suggestions for future research and gives useful insights into
                   managerial implications for sport tourism management.

JEL Codes: M3

1. Introduction
In recent years, sport tourism has been considered as a means to boost tourism
destinations (Gibson, 2003). Event sport tourism is considered to be ‘the highest profile
product within sport tourism’ (Weed, 2009: 621). These events help to reach different
goals: a) they improve the destination’s image and differentiate its tourism products
(Chalip et al., 2003), b) they increase tourism demand in the off-peak seasons and c) they
develop urban renewal and infrastructure at the destination (Getz, 2008). Thus, cities
might include sports events among their economic development strategies (Chalips and
Leyns, 2002).
In the field of sport tourism, it has been argued that scholars should go beyond
approaches that measure outcomes in favour of focusing on a leveraging approach that
addresses strategies to exploit different opportunities presented by sport tourism (Chalip,
2004). With a leveraging approach, scholars can identify the contributions that sport
tourism may make in developing the marketing of a destination (Chalip, 2001).
Accordingly, behavioural research about event sport tourism has to be developed to
address management and marketing issues (Weed, 2009).
Some authors show that it is not sufficient to verify overall satisfaction while it is important
to analyse the specific features of the events (Ryan and Lockyer, 2002).
Studying the determinants of satisfaction of active sport tourists may help destination
managers to identify the factors that contribute to enhancing tourists’ satisfaction and thus
lead to the event’s success.
In this paper, we refer to active sport tourists as people who travel to participate in a
sporting event (Gibson, 2003) and, particularly those who travel to the place where the
event is organized. Several studies have analysed the perception of the quality of sport
tourism. In particular, Shonk and Chelladurai (2008) developed a framework to verify the
relationship among antecedents of intent to return, loyalty and satisfaction for sport
tourists. But they did not provide empirical support for their model. Martìnez Caro and
Martìnez Garcìa (2007) revealed the ‘key affective factor’ as a determinant for satisfaction


    Anna Romiti, University of Florence, Italy, anna.romiti@unifi.it

     Daria Sarti, University of Florence, Italy, daria.sarti@unifi.it
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Proceedings of 3rd European Business Research Conference
        4 - 5 September 2014, Sheraton Roma, Rome, Italy ISBN: 978-1-922069-59-7
in sporting event. The antecedents of sporting event quality that refer to sport tourists who
actively participate in a sporting event have not yet been explored in the previous
literature.
The purpose of this study is, therefore, to show the determinants of active sport tourists’
satisfaction for those who participate in a marathon.

2. Literature Review
Most scholars in service management and marketing agree that customers’ satisfaction is
concerned with many aspects of the service package rather than with a single one (for
example, Berry et al., 1985; Brady and Cronin, 2001). Most authors provided lists of
determinants of service quality (for example: Parasuraman et al., 1985; Mels, Boshoff, and
Nel, 1997). These determinants are, for example, access, communication, competence,
courtesy, credibility, reliability, responsiveness, security, understanding and tangibles
(Parasuraman et al., 1985).
Walker (1990) suggested that the key determinants for quality service are product
reliability, quality environment and delivery systems. Similarly, Brady and Cronin (2001)
identified three dimensions of service quality: interaction quality, quality of the physical
environment and outcome quality. Greenwell et al (2002), in their study on ice hockey
spectators, suggested that customers’ perceptions of the core product, physical facility,
and service personnel altogether explain the variance in customer satisfaction. This
demonstrates the fact that they are interrelated components.

2.1 Staff interaction quality as a determinant of tourists’ satisfaction
A number of contributions as well as most literature on service quality (Grönroos, 1982),
sports, tourism and sport tourism (Yoshida and James, 2010) demonstrate the importance
of interaction quality for customer satisfaction.
Most findings in service marketing in different sectors suggest that interactions with the
service providers or service staff are very crucial—and some time the most important
factor—in predicting service quality (for example, Brown and Swartz, 1989; Schneider et
al., 1998).
Research showed that certain employee behaviour (such as soliciting information from
customers) moderates the relationship between a service climate and customer
perceptions of service quality (Schneider et al., 1998). Staff interaction quality—i.e.
interaction between a service provider and customers—focuses on how the service is
delivered (Brady and Cronin, 2001; Grönroos, 1984). It concerns the relationship with the
service provider and also implies a good personal service (i.e. staff attitude, knowledge
and skills). In sports event tourism, the quality of staff interaction refers to the quality of
relationship between staff and participants as perceived by the latter—wherein the staff
provides support to participants.
The relationship with the service provider has been previously considered as a primary
antecedent of service satisfaction in sporting events (Yoshida and James, 2010).
Thus, we hypothesize the following:

Hp 1: The staff interaction quality in sports event tourism influences the satisfaction of
active sport tourists.
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Proceedings of 3rd European Business Research Conference
        4 - 5 September 2014, Sheraton Roma, Rome, Italy ISBN: 978-1-922069-59-7

2.2    Venue quality as a determinant of satisfaction
Some authors argued that physical environment is an important dimension of service
quality (Brady and Cronin, 2001). The physical environment in which a service is
performed is considered a key determinant of service quality (Bitner, 1992) and consumer
satisfaction (Wirtz and Bateson, 1999).
In the sport tourism sector, tourists give importance to the service offered by sport tourism
destination as relevant factors for their destination choice. Active sport tourists are
particularly interested in environment in which they can achieve optimal performance
(Francis and Murphy, 2005).
Regarding sport tourism, Standeven (1998) considers two dimensions: cultural experience
of physical activity and cultural experience of the location. Therefore, the dimension of the
environment may be understood as embodying the characteristics of the venue in which
the event is organized (Shonk and Chelladurai, 2008).
In our study, the aspects of the environment which we define as venue quality, were
considered factors influencing active sport tourists’ satisfaction. Thus:

Hp 2: Perception of the characteristics of the venue in which an event is organized
influences the satisfaction of active sport tourists.

2.3    Value as a determinant of active sport tourists’ satisfaction
Another factor that influences perceived service quality is outcome quality (Brady and
Cronin, 2001). In terms of events, outcome quality refers to the value created by the event
for the participants. For brevity we define outcome quality as value of the event. Value of a
sporting event is a relevant component of satisfaction as the value influences satisfaction
among event participants (Yoon et al., 2010). With respect to sports event tourists, the
value refers to perceived value of accommodation and of other service provided to tourists.
In this field, perceptions of value positively affect the perceptions of sport tourism quality
which in turn contributes to sport tourists’ satisfaction (Shonk and Chelladurai, 2008).

Hp 3: Perception of value influences the satisfaction of active sport tourists.

2.4 Information and organization as a determinant of active sport
  tourists’ satisfaction

The importance of interaction quality as demonstrated by a number of previous studies
mentioned earlier is related to functional quality. This is the evaluation of service delivery
which could include aspects such as personnel, announcements, parking and other
ancillary service aspects. Those are considered to be of particular interest to sports
marketers (Kelley and Turley, 2001). Event organization and information represent an
important aspect of the service provision related to the interaction quality under the control
of the event management (Yoshida and James, 2010). Because of the importance of these
aspects for functional quality in active sports events, as suggested from previous evidence
in other contexts such as festival (Yooh et al., 2010), we posit that:

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Proceedings of 3rd European Business Research Conference
         4 - 5 September 2014, Sheraton Roma, Rome, Italy ISBN: 978-1-922069-59-7
Hp 4: Perception of information and organization of the event influences the satisfaction of
active sport tourists.

2.5     The level of race competition as a determinant of active sport
        tourists' satisfaction
The dimension of Competence-Mastery is considered an important motivation for
participants in leisure activities. This dimension is referred to ‘extent to which individuals
engage in leisure activities in order to achieve, master, challenge and compete’ (Beard
and Ragheb, 1983). This dimension is also demonstrated to be one of the motivations in
the tourism sector (Ryan and Glendon, 1998). In the sport tourism field, the level of race
competition is considered one of the elements that influence the sport tourism quality,
which in turn, influences the sport tourists’ satisfaction (Shonk and Chelladurai, 2008).
Within the dimension ‘competition motive’, that is the research of comparing one’s own
ability to another, we can identify ‘a challenge factor’. This refers to the ability to challenge
oneself and others (Ryan and Lockyer, 2002). This is considered one of the major
motivations for active participants in a sports event (Gillet and Kelly, 2006) and it is related
to the overall satisfaction of active participants at an event (Ryan and Lockyer, 2002).
In our study, the dimensions of the level of race competition was considered as a factor
that can influence active sport tourists’ satisfaction. Thus:

Hp 5: Perception of level of race competition influences the satisfaction of active sport
tourists.

3. The Methodology and Model
On the basis of our hypothesis, we propose the model below (See Figure 1):

                          Figure 1: The hypothesized research model

        Interaction
         with staff

       Venue quality

                                                      Active sport tourists’
           Value                                           satisfaction

   Information and
     organization

      The level of race
        competition

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Proceedings of 3rd European Business Research Conference
        4 - 5 September 2014, Sheraton Roma, Rome, Italy ISBN: 978-1-922069-59-7

3.1 Measures
The instrument employed was a questionnaire that was divided into three parts: the first
part addressed socio-demographic factors, the second part dealt with accommodations
and sports performance of participants, and the third part addressed the service quality of
the 2013 Firenze Marathon. This study used scales adapted from prior research based on
the results of an interview with a promoter of the Firenze Marathon. Responses were
measured on a five-point Likert scale with 1 as ‘strongly disagree’ and 5 as ‘strongly
agree’.

Independent variables

1. Staff interaction quality was measured with a 12-item scale consisting of variables
   adapted from the original scale by Brady and Cronin (2001). An example of item is:
   ‘Overall, I would say that the quality of my interaction with Firenze Marathon’s staff is
   high’. The Cronbach’s α for this variable was 0.966.
2. Venue quality was measured with a 4-item scale comprising variables adapted from
   Shonk (2006), such as the following: ‘Florence is well-suited to host the Marathon’. The
   Cronbach’s α was 0.843.
3. Value was measured with a 4-item scale consisting of variables adapted from Yoon et
   al. (2010), such as the following: ‘Firenze Marathon was worth what I spent (money,
   time, effort)’. The Cronbach’s α was 0.739.
4. Information and organization was measured with an 8-item scale comprising variables
   adapted from Yoon et al. (2010), such as the following: ‘Signage along the course
   enhanced the understanding of information and direction’. The Cronbach’s α was
   0.848.
5. The level of race competition was measured with a 5-item scale adapted from Ryan
   and Lockyer (2002), such as the following: ‘The level of Firenze Marathon competitors
   is high’. The Cronbach’s α was 0.748.

Dependent variable

6. Satisfaction was measured with a 4-item scale adapted from Martìnez Caro and
   Martìnez Garcia (2007). An example of question included in the scale is: ‘I am satisfied
   with my participation in this race’. The Cronbach’s α was 0.881.

3.2 Data Collection
The international sports event we selected for the research is the Firenze Marathon. Even
though the event is organized locally, it attracts participants from different countries. It
takes place in Florence (Italy) at the end of November, and we analysed the event’s 30th
edition.
To test our hypotheses, data were collected from participants after the event through an
online questionnaire on the Firenze Marathon website. We gathered as many as 988
questionnaires from 11.332 participants. The response rate was almost 10%.
83.7% of the sample was Italians. Males represented the large majority of the sample
(83.5%). The majority had a high-school diploma (38.2%) or a university degree (32.1%).

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Proceedings of 3rd European Business Research Conference
          4 - 5 September 2014, Sheraton Roma, Rome, Italy ISBN: 978-1-922069-59-7

4. The Findings
Data were analysed in four steps. In the first step, we computed each variable as the
average of the answers to different item scales. We also controlled VIF (variance inflation
factor) to measure the degree of multi-collinearity. The highest value was 2.352. Thus all
values were less than 10 as suggested by Hair et al. (2006).
In the second step, a factor analysis was applied to the items that were identified in Table
1; a principal component analysis with varimax rotation was used in this step. Five factors
based on eigenvalues-greater-than-one rule were identified: staff interaction quality,
information and organization, venue quality, the level of race competition and value. The
reliability of the scales used was tested for internal coherence by calculating Cronbach’s α.
All the reliability values were well above the suggested limit of 0.7 (Nunnally, 1978). The
five factors explained 63.244% of the variance in the sample data. The Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin
(KMO) measure of sampling adequacy was satisfactory at 0.961. (see Table 1).

                Table 1: Results of the factor analysis for independent variables
Factors                                                  Factor      Eigen    Variance     Reliability
                                                         Loading     Value    Explained    Coefficient
Factor 1: Staff interaction quality
Overall, I would say that the quality of my                   .765    8.971       27.186         0.966
interaction with the Firenze Marathon’s staff is high.
You can count on the Firenze Marathon’s staff                 .775
being friendly.
The attitude of the Firenze Marathon’s staff shows            .815
that they are willing to help.
The attitude of the Firenze Marathon’s staff shows            .849
that they understand my needs.
You can count on the Firenze Marathon’s staff                 .796
knowing their jobs.
The Firenze Marathon’s staff is able to answer my             .845
questions quickly.
The Firenze Marathon’s staff understands that I               .858
rely on their knowledge to meet my needs.
You can count on the Firenze Marathon’s staff                 .870
taking actions to address my needs.
The Firenze Marathon’s staff responds quickly to              .829
my needs.
The behaviour of the Firenze Marathon’s staff                 .874
indicates that they understand my needs.
The number of staff members was suitable.                     .594
Overall, I would say that the quality of my                   .805
interaction with Firenze Marathon’s staff is
excellent.
Factor 2: Information and organization                        .568    3.732       11.309         0.848
Firenze Marathon's information point Expo was
effective in providing information.                           .623
The Firenze Marathon stand where the competitor
kit was delivered was well organized.                         .681
On the Firenze Marathon website it was possible to
find all the information about the race.                      .665
Signage along the course enhanced the
understanding of information and direction.                   .703
Information inside the competition kit (map, rules,

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Proceedings of 3rd European Business Research Conference
         4 - 5 September 2014, Sheraton Roma, Rome, Italy ISBN: 978-1-922069-59-7
etc.) was useful and clear.                                  .566
Firenze Marathon's staff provided a good guide
service.                                                     .404
Refreshment Points were suitable.                            .399
Different Marathon events (e.g. Marathon party)
were well organized.
Factor 3: Venue quality
Florence ranks very high as a sports venue.                  .695   3.278          9.934       0.843
Florence is well-suited to host the marathon.                .744
What makes the Firenze Marathon great is the wise            .705
choice of the course.
The race course was suitable for marathon.                   .786
Factor 4: The level of race competition
The level of Firenze Marathon competitors is high            .480   2.479          7.512       0.748
Firenze Marathon is an event that usually has high           .442
number of participants.
Firenze Marathon is a challenge where you                    .654
challenge yourself.
Firenze Marathon is an event that is a challenge.            .793
Firenze Marathon is an event where you can                   .737
challenge others.
Factor 5: Value
Firenze Marathon was worth what I spent (money,              .519   2.410          7.303       0.739
time, effort).
Firenze Marathon offered more value than
expected.                                                    .720
Firenze Marathon offered more value than did other
marathons.                                                   .711
The value of competition kit was good.
                                                             .544
All factor loadings are significant at p
Proceedings of 3rd European Business Research Conference
         4 - 5 September 2014, Sheraton Roma, Rome, Italy ISBN: 978-1-922069-59-7
influenced by a set of variables that measure the quality of sport tourism: quality of
interaction with staff, venue quality, value, level of race competition and information and
organization. We controlled the participants’ experience in terms of participation in the
previous edition of the race. The control variable was included in the model in the first
step. As demonstrated for different sports, experienced participants attribute different
levels of importance to the elements that contribute to create an experience. Thus past
experience also influenced the level of expected service quality (Zeithaml et al., 1990). Our
results are summarized in Table 3. The experience in terms of participation in the previous
edition of the Firenze Marathon played a role in the perception of service quality. For sport
tourists who participated in previous edition, the satisfaction is lower. Later, in step two, the
five independent variables were included as a block entry. Interaction quality with the staff
had a positive effect on satisfaction which confirms Hp 1. Indeed, the higher the interaction
quality with the staff, the higher the satisfaction. The perception of the value from the event
had a significant positive effect on satisfaction which supports Hp 3. In other words, the
higher the perception of the value of the race, the higher the levels of satisfaction.
The information and event’s organization had a significant positive effect on satisfaction
which confirms Hp 4. Therefore, the higher the perception of information and event’s
organization, the higher the satisfaction. Venue quality had a significant positive effect on
satisfaction which confirms Hp 2. The higher the perception of the quality of the venue, the
higher the satisfaction. In the end, the level of race competition had a significant positive
effect on satisfaction which supports Hp 5. The higher the perception of the level of race
competition, the higher the satisfaction.

     Table 3: Hierarchical regression results for the relationship between the variables
                     measuring sport tourism quality and satisfaction
                  Predictors                  Step 1                Step 2

Step 1            Previous experience          -0.068 (0.043)*       -0.060 (0.031)**

Step 2            Staff interaction quality                          0.140 (0.028)***
                  Venue quality                                      0.277 (0.029)***
                  Information and                                    0.095 (0.038)**
                  organization
                  The level of race                                  0.101 (0.029)**
                  competition
                  Value                                              0.256 (0.028)***
                   2
                  R                             0.005*                         0.478***
                             2
                  Adjusted R                    0.004*                         0.475***
                  R
                     2
                                                0.005*                         0.473***
                  F value                       4.550*                       149.669***
                  F                            4.550*                       177.876***
Standard errors are given in parentheses; + p
Proceedings of 3rd European Business Research Conference
        4 - 5 September 2014, Sheraton Roma, Rome, Italy ISBN: 978-1-922069-59-7

5. Conclusion
The aim of this paper was to verify the determinants of active sport tourists’ satisfaction.
We found that all five factors influenced satisfaction level of active marathon participants:
staff interaction quality, venue quality, information and organization, the level of race
competition and value.
Regarding the first dimension, interaction with the Firenze Marathon staff—the study
confirmed previous results which demonstrate that the interaction quality is an important
factor that affects perceived service quality (Brady and Cronin, 2001).
The second dimension, the venue quality, is also found to be a key determinant of service
quality (Bitner, 1990) of sport tourism (Standeven, 1998). As different authors have found,
the characteristics of the venue in which the event is organized also influence satisfaction
for active participants at sporting events.
The third dimension, information and organization, is found to be an important antecedent
of satisfaction of sport tourists. This confirmed previous research that shows that the
process quality in terms of the contest of the event organized has an impact on sport
tourism quality and in turn on satisfaction.
The fourth dimension, the level of race competition which referred to the level of challenge
of the competition, is another element that affects tourists’ satisfaction. As previous studies
confirmed, the presence of challenge factor and having a sufficient number of competitors
are important components for participants (Ryan and Lockyer, 2002).
The fifth dimension, the value, is also found to affect tourists’ satisfaction. This confirms
that the perception of value is positively associated with event satisfaction (Yoon et al.,
2010).
Therefore, promoters of events should invest in advertising the importance of the venue
and the value that the event can offer to participants because they are the principal
components of active sport tourists’ satisfaction.
All the five variables are of crucial importance.
In order to positively affect participants’ satisfaction, considerable care should be taken
particularly in selecting staff and implementing development programmes. This approach
should also be adopted when the staff members are volunteers.

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Acknowledgements
Anna Romiti and Daria Sarti share the final responsibility for this paper. Anna Romiti wrote
paragraphs 1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.5, 3.1; Daria Sarti wrote paragraph 2, 2.1, 2.4; both authors wrote
paragraph 3, 3.2, 4, 5.

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