Consumer Search Behaviour and Adoption of Online Booking of Travel Services in Saudi Arabia
The main aim of this study was to investigate current search behaviour among Saudi consumers of travel services, to establish their attitudes towards, and adoption of online search and booking processes. It also aimed to explore current experiences within travel agencies of the adoption of online booking systems in the Saudi Arabian market. The study relied on a multi-method research design, with a focus on using both qualitative and quantitative data across three sequentially organised phases of data collection. Phase one centred on in-depth interviews with Saudi travel agents; phase two adopted a combined approach, using observation and semi-structured interviews, with a focus on getting a comprehensive insight into Saudi consumer search behaviour. In phase three, the researcher undertook a survey of internet adoption and search behaviour with a cross-section of Saudi consumers, located in the UK (N=481). Findings from the first phase demonstrated that Saudi Arabian travel firms continue to rely on offline booking methods and have been relatively slow to adopt online systems. Key factors influencing the adoption of online travel booking technology included attitudinal and cultural factors and an absence of customer trust, security and privacy. The second phase results indicated that information search and evaluation emerged as a single highly integrated process, however behavioural elements within the process varied across individuals, according to their search strategy and level of prior experience. In phase three, the key relationships in the conceptual model were examined, notably the relationship between search constructs and purchase intention. Only a few past studies have examined information search and evaluation in relation to purchase in emerging markets. This study offers a more in-depth perspective on search intention and information search and evaluation in the pre-purchase stage for online travel products. Key insights have emerged on the nature of the relationship between search intention, information search and evaluation and purchase intention through the development of a more comprehensive conceptual framework than in prior studies. The qualitative research demonstrated a) how search ability and search strategies were reflective of confident and well-established search behaviour on the part of Saudi consumers and b) gender and regional variations c) that the nature of information search and evaluation is shaped by behavioural differences at an individual consumer level. The study also offers a deeper understanding of the challenging perceptions that exist with regards to the slow adoption of online travel processes among Saudi Arabian travel firms.
- PhD