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Exploring social media use by local tourism providers in rural Western Australia

Vlasich, Eliza Jane (2022) Exploring social media use by local tourism providers in rural Western Australia. Other thesis, Murdoch University.

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Social media has had a significant impact on the tourism industry. Instagram has become a popular platform to share travel experiences due to the visual experience it offers users. This study utilised a case study approach to explore how small business, local tourism providers in the Shire of Collie, Western Australia (Collie), are using social media to promote their business and the destination. This study also examined how local tourism providers and social media users utilise hashtags on Instagram to represent a rural Western Australia tourist destination.

The study included conducting semi-structured interviews with 11 local tourism providers representing five major requirements of a tourist destination (Dickman, 1989). Common barriers in using social media were identified. Challenges included inadequate time, difficulty in measuring the impact of social media and lack of knowledge using affordances, such as using functionalities effectively. Participants shared benefits of using social media, which included reaching a wider audience and a ‘younger’ demographic. The interviews also explored influences on local tourism providers’ social media use, including the influence of destination management organisations (DMO) activities and resources.

A content analysis of hashtags on Instagram was undertaken to explore how hashtags are used in conjunction with Collie, including the most popular hashtags. Based on purposive sampling, ten hashtags related to tourism in Collie were selected. The hashtags included popular tourist attractions, such as #blackdiamondlake, and hashtags used on the Collie Visitor Centre Instagram page, including #collierivervalley and #colliewa. From this sample, five hashtags with the highest growth were used as the basis of exploration of other hashtags used in conjunction with the topic. The hashtags were categorised based on the level of DMO, to explore the influence of DMO marketing on hashtag use. Hashtags relating to Tourism Western Australia marketing campaigns such as #wanderoutyonder and #thisiswa, were amongst the most used hashtags.

Finally, this study explored Kavaratzis’ (2004) theoretical framework for developing city brands and proposes changes to the model, to include local tourism providers and social media. The framework discusses three levels of communication representing different aspects of marketing a destination: primary, secondary, and tertiary. The study proposes changes to Kavaratzis’ (2004) framework, to reflect how communication has evolved to include social media and demonstrate how it can be used to describe communication in rural tourist destinations.

This study provides a holistic approach to understanding how local tourism providers in a rural destination use social media, and may be utilised in other rural settings to develop destination image. The findings reflect that local tourism providers in Collie recognise the benefits of using social media for promotion, although there are barriers when using social media.

Item Type: Thesis (Other)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): IT, Media and Communications
Notes: Accelerated Research Masters with Training
Supervisor(s): Lee, Diane and Archer, Catherine
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