Segmentation of rural tourists by tourism motivations (Case study: Sarvestan, Bavanat Township)

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Associate Professor, Faculty of Geography, University of Tehran and Member of CERP, Iran

2 PhD Candidate in Geography and Rural Planning, Faculty of Geography, University of Tehran, Iran

3 PhD Candidate in Geography and Rural Planning, University of Tarbiat Modares, Iran

4 MA Student in Geography and Tourism Planning, University of Sistan and Bluchestan, Iran

5 PhD Candidate in Tourism Management, Faculty of Management, University of Tehran, Iran


Increasing growth in different forms of tourism and leisure in rural areas has drawn the attention of researchers as a new opportunity to overcome the problems of rural development, particularly in the economic dimension. In Iran, rural tourism received considerable attention in the research community from the early 2000s. Despite the widespread development of rural tourism in the recent decades, few studies have investigated on the identification and classification of rural tourism as demand factors and key players in the development of tourism in rural areas. Recently, most rural tourism studies have been destination-oriented, and researchers have mainly focused on the issues related to the development of tourism, the characteristics of tourism destinations, and perceptions of local residents. Thus, development of tourism and rural tourism as the main actors in rural areas has received little attention. A review of literature indicates that in Iran there has been a paucity of research on the segmentation of rural tourism. As a result, the present study seeks to segment rural tourism in Sarvestan Rural District (Dehestan) in Fars Province. Tourist market segmentation is important to understand the decision making processes and motivational factors involved in rural tourism. This Rural District (Dehestan), centered on Bazm County, has turned into one of the leading destinations of tourism in the region. Kotler (1988) defines segmentation as "dividing a market into homogeneous subsets of customers, so that each subset can be considered as a target market." This is one of the most popular and most widely used definitions of tourism market segmentation. Generally, market segmentation is leading to an increasingly professional attitude to tourism in rural areas. Different techniques are employed for market segmentation. Meanwhile, the use of geographic, demographic, socio-economic, psychological and behavioral variables is the most common technique known in the tourism market segmentation.
The main instrument of data gathering was self-administered questionnaire with 258 random samples. The collected data were analyzed in three stages. First, descriptive-statistics analysis was applied to the collected data to explore the overall sample profile. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) with varimax rotation, during the second stage hierarchy cluster analysis was used to identify the number of clusters by an agglomeration schedule on the cluster analysis. Then, K-means cluster analysis was used to classify the samples according to their travel experience parameters that best discriminated them. During the third stage, segment characteristics were delineated by various univariate and multivariate statistical procedures. Specifically, the differences among clusters in demographics, travel behavior, and the various personality and interest dimensions were assessed by suitable analyses including ANOVA and chi-square. ANOVA was used to identify whether there were any differences among the clusters, as measured by a comparison of mean ratings (for metric variables). Discriminant analysis was used to provide information. Travel motivational items were driving the differences to assess the accuracy level of classification of segment membership. Finally, chi-square analysis was used to explore the differences between clusters in terms of categorical variables, such as demographics and travel behavior.
Results and Discussion
Rural tourism is an effective way to revitalize the rural economy in Sarvestan area. In this study, factor analysis yielded six motivational factors, as: "ecotourism, physical activity and adventure", "rural life", "relaxation and recreation and rest", "belonging and place attachment ", and "restaurants and historical monuments". The findings suggest that rural tourism market based on tourist incentives can be divided into four parts in Sarvestan Rural District (Dehestan): "ecotourism and visiting historical monuments" (14.6%), "passive group" (4.9%), "ruralism, relaxation and rest" (42.7%), "relaxation and rest" (20.7%), "belonging and place attachment" (17.1%). Discriminant analysis of segmentation of the samples based on tourism motivations show that total, 96.3% of all samples were correctly segmented. The unilateral variance analysis indicates a significant difference between tourists based on various tourist motivations. The results provide valuable information about the structure of the demand for rural tourism that can be useful for government agencies, tourism entrepreneurs and local community. The results showed that among the tourists’ explanatory variables, there was a significant relationship between only three variables, including employment status, household income, and education level of the sample.
The segmentation of rural tourism based on travel motivations is highly important in identifying target groups in rural tourism market and opening new ways of achieving efficient developmental and marketing strategies based on proper and rational plans. Results suggest this key point that the majority of rural tourism has combinative incentives. With the exception of the passive group that constitutes a small percentage of tourists; other four groups have combinative motivations. According to the results, the combination of ruralism incentives with relaxation and rest in the third group as the largest section of tourists is the obvious example of motivation combination. Thus, it can be said that the rural area is a various and complex tourist destination that meet heterogeneous demands. The results suggest that socio-economic variables, occupational status, income level, and education level are related to the motivation of rural tourism among the descriptive features of tourists. For example, the third group "ruralism, relaxation and rest" as the biggest section has a higher level of education and income compared to other groups. Rural tourism development in Sarvestan area, like most regions of Iran, is still at its primary stage.  As observed in this research, tourism segmentation indicates that rural tourism should not be treated as a homogeneous market, just because rural tourists encompass groups of people with diverse characteristics, needs, attitudes, preferences, expectations, and behaviors. The results of this research and similar case studies provide valuable information about the structure and features governing the status of rural tourism for governmental entities, rural tourism business, and the local society.


Main Subjects

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