Literature Review

Question:

The topic is Factors affecting the online travel booking decision

Write the Literature Review part including
1.Major studies: what are the major writers in the area? What do they have to say about the results of previous work? What are their strengths? Where are there gaps in the research?
2.Parallel research: what other research has been done in related areas that might affect your pursuit of the purpose statement? How does this research contribute to ways this topic. 
3.Patterns: where has the research been conducted? What common threads do you find? Where do studies contradict each other?
4.Gaps: what are the gaps in the literature? What is missing, either from content, process, method, or findings?
5.Sampling: what populations have been sampled? What generalizations been drawn that make sense? What other populations should be investigated?
6.Methods: what are the common or prevalent ways in which research has been done in this area? What do the studies suggest for your research design?

Answer:

Factors affecting the online travel booking decision

Introduction

In today’s world of internet technology, one of the main developments in the travel industry is the introduction of online booking systems. There are many factors that an individual has to consider before making an online booking decision. Many scholars are interested in understanding these factors. The assumption is that there are certain behaviors that are predominantly found in online environments. One of the main areas of interest among the scholars is to determine how various factors affect the decision by tourists to make use of websites that facilitate online hotel booking.

This aim of this literature review is to identify the major studies that have been done in this area as well as research patterns. Trends in research are also identified. The paper examines whether there is an emerging trend in research and whether there are any contradictions. Major findings are also presented to identify gaps in research. These findings are evaluated in terms of similarities and differences. The literature review also explores aspects of sampling and the research methods.

Major studies

            There are a number of studies that have in recent times explored various factors affecting online travel booking decisions. For instance, Ivan reviewed literature on the theories that affect the intention by consumers to purchase travel products online (758). The research design for Ivan’s study involved creating a conceptual framework of various factors that affect online buying decisions among customers (759). These factors include customers’ attitudes, customer satisfaction, quality of the website, and customer trust. When building this conceptual framework, Ivan examined the theoretical foundation for various online purchase intentions (761). Ivan concluded that with the use of actual data, it is possible for researchers to empirically test relationships between factors and determine the possible areas of future research for each factor (764).

            Buhalis also carried out a major study, which explored the factors that influence internet users’ online booking decisions (179). Buhalis’ study explored these factors in the context of China’s domestic tourism (181). In this study, empirical data was used. The main factors identified include self-efficacy, quality of the website, and domain-specific innovativeness. The study also emphasized the crucial role that both the theory of planned behavior and the theory of reasoned action play in predicting the online purchasing behaviors of consumers (186).

            Conyette also carried a major study that explained how consumers approach the issue of planning and booking travel online (59). Conyette was interested in developing a framework that would explain the actions of consumers (57). This decision was based on the view that travel literature has not provided integrated frameworks for identifying the factors that determine the decision-making process in the online environment. Conyette’s study is important because of the way it discusses online searching, planning, as well as booking of products relating to leisure travel. However, Conyette concluded that consumers tend to plan before booking travel. This finding is different from that of many researchers who argue that consumers are influenced by attitudes while booking online.

            In Conyette’s study, online questionnaires were used. Some 1,198 respondents completed the questionnaires (65). The scholar predicted that more travel products are going to be booked online in the near future. This is largely because there are intelligent agents that are becoming increasingly powerful and user-friendly. Moreover, more portable devices such as smartphones and tablet computers are gaining entry into the global market.

            Andrlić and Ružić also carried out a major study on online travel booking decisions (698). In this study, the impact of e-marketing was explored. Aspects of bidding were also explored, particularly in relation to the impact of new technology development. According to Andrlić and Ružić, hospitality practitioners are interested in staying ahead of changes in consumer preferences (698). However, in this internet era, the practitioners are faced with the problem of lack of information on how consumers are using the internet to access information, to book for travel, and to purchase hospitality products.

Andrlić and Ružić used an online web survey in determining how the internet influences consumer behavior as well as trends in the internet usage within the Croatian market (701). This study identified two major factors influencing the use of internet in online travel booking decisions. These include ease of use of the online booking process and the need to save time. Andrlić and Ružić concluded that e-marketing in the hospitality industry would continue growing at a dramatic pace (704). This would greatly influence the way individuals make online travel booking decisions.

Sparks and Browning argue that many people now rely on the internet to access information before making decisions on tourism products (1311). This has changed the way consumers perceive choice and trust. In this study, the main area of analysis was the role of online reviews provided by consumers after an online hotel booking experience. An experimental design was used to investigate different variables. The variables investigated include framing of reviews, target of reviews, valence, and the numerical ratings provided by consumers. Sparks and Browning concluded that early negative information had a greater influence on consumers’ decisions, especially when negative reviews were provided. This finding has far-reaching implications on the way consumers use reviews provided by other consumers to review hotel booking procedures.  

Patterns in research

            Many researchers are interested in examining indicators of trust in the online environment. The researchers want to determine how consumers make decisions on whether to trust the information provided in a website or not. A consumer has to have a perception of trust before booking for travel online.

According to Ratnasingam, customers’ trust indicators have a far-reaching impact on their online booking decisions (192). Ratnasingam identified three distinct types of trust: predictability, competence, and goodwill trust (194). The study’s aim was to correlate these types of trust with different online booking decisions. In Ratnasingam’s view, trust indicators keep on changing and evolving, meaning that their impact on online booking decisions also changes with time (194).

On the other hand, Bart argues that the quality of a website influences online trust, consumer characteristics, and the behavioral intent of consumers (147). In this study, data was gathered from 6831 consumers who were using the online hotel booking services provided by 25 websites (148). Results showed that the factors that influence online trust vary from one website to another and from one consumer to another. The determinants that exerted the greatest influence included order fulfillment and privacy. This was particularly the case in situations with a high involvement level and a high level of information risk.

Bogdanovych states that in the travel industry, travel acceptance is a major factor in determining the likelihood of success of an online booking system (84). According to Aziz and Musa, the theory of reasoned action and the technology acceptance model can best explain the level of acceptance of an online booking website (117). On this basis, Aziz and Musa examined several factors, including the effectiveness of websites, internet self-efficacy, social factors, and consumers’ intention to use a travel website in the future (117).

It is not possible for acceptance to occur if consumers do not trust the technology being used in the booking process. This view was shared by Luo, who examined the various reasons that motivate travelers to consult travel websites for reservations as well as information search (120). Using the technology acceptance model, Luo explored a website of a travel guide who relied on online booking systems to get customers. This analysis showed that perceived usefulness has a far-reaching influence on the behavioral intention of consumers as far as the use of an online travel website is concerned. Luo further observed that perceived ease in website use has no any direct impact on the consumers’ behavioral intention. The main shortcoming of this study is failure by the researcher to examine the relationship between technology acceptance and the level of trust in the online booking process.

Chen also explored the factors that influence consumer trust as far as online travel sites are concerned (201). According to Chen, trust plays a critical role in determining the way online relationships are built (203). It is an enabler of activities where different parties have to enter into business contracts online. In the case of online travel booking, the consumer does not have any direct control over the seller’s actions. In such a situation, it is very crucial for both parties to have trust for one another. It takes a long time for a strong relationship to be built. According to Chen (199), the need for strong relationships in online marketing has been emphasized in both academia and industry. The main aim of Chen’s study was to contribute to current literature on consumer trust in e-commerce (209). In Chen’s view, the managerial perspective can provide valuable information on how best to design internet marketing strategies in such a way that consumer trust is initiated, developed, and maintained (212).

Jones indicates that online shopping is a new trend and it is normal for consumers to exhibit reluctance whenever there is a need to make purchasing decisions on the basis of trust (131). According to Ling, developments in the internet technology have led to the creation of entirely new forms of transactions, such as electronic retailing (129). Many customers are becoming increasingly involved in electronic retailing. Minghetti states that in such a situation, it becomes important to determine various aspects of online purchase intention among customers (279). In this regard, Ling introduces the concept of ‘shopping orientations’. Other concepts that are discussed in Ling’s research include ‘prior online purchase experience’ and ‘online trust’ (135). To determine purchase intentions among online buyers, Ling carried out a survey of 242 information technology students from a Malaysian private university. The outcome of the study was that impulse purchase intention, brand orientation, quality orientation, and prior purchase experience are related in a positive way to the online purchase intention (137).

From analysis of literature, it is evident that the main area of concern for consumers is trust. On the other hand, online travel operators are interested in determining the intention by the consumer to buy a product or service online. The study by Ling is oriented more towards the concerns of the online travel operator. A similar concern was expressed by Park, who carried out an analysis of the intention by internet users to make online vacation purchases (219). According to Park, there are numerous variables and constructs that affect the intentions by internet users to buy a product or a service online. Some of the variables that Park mentions in the study include purchase involvement, attitudes towards online purchases, customer demographics, motivational involvement, and purchase involvement (218). A major limitation of this study is the omission of the notion of trust.

In the study by Wen, efforts are made to incorporate aspects of both trust and online search intention (157). In this study, Wen uses a structural equation model in the assessment of three main variables relating to purchase intentions of various travel products. These variables include website design quality, the intention of the traveler to search the website, and the traveler’s trust. In this study, an online survey was carried out. The target of the survey was consumers of a popular online travel company. Wen found out that during the evaluation of a website design, consumers highly value information, service, and system quality. These findings confirmed that search intention, website design quality, and trust greatly influence consumers’ purchase intention. Wen suggests that future researchers should feel free to use his study as a basis for the examination of travelers’ intentions to repurchase a product or service (157).

Research methods

The dominant research method in this literature review is the use of online questionnaires and online web surveys. Several scholars, including Conyette; Andrlić and Ružić; and Bogdanovych preferred to use online questionnaires in their studies. For instance in the case of Conyette, 1,198 correspondents were consulted and requested to complete study questionnaires (61). In this study, Conyette established a framework for explaining how consumers plan before making an online travel booking decision (57).

Other than the online questionnaires, Conyette also used qualitative research. This research was carried out between 2007 and 2008. The qualitative research was critical in confirming the relationships between the explanations offered in the processes of researching, planning, as well as booking travel. The researcher also used focus groups and their role was also evident; they revealed the tendency by participants to consult travel agents, the internet, friends, as well as relatives whenever they needed suggestions on destinations. Such efforts were also made whenever the consumers were searching for good deals.

            In the use of case studies, Conyette observed that travelers sometimes engage in a planning process. This is contrary to the popular belief that they are mostly influenced by their attitudes towards online travel booking procedures. Moreover, women were found to be spending more time on internet searches than men. They were keen on comparing prices and thoroughly checking details before discussing the specifics of the travel with their partner. This shows that different research methods can be used to gain different categories of information. 

            The use of personal interviews was also important because it showed that travel decision aids were an important source of planning assistance. This information is slightly different from the one obtained through case studies. Through case studies, it was evident that respondents who were more likely to participate in extensive online and offline research with the use of certain aids had disdain for surprise and novelty. This was particularly the case with older participants. This means that it is necessary to use different research methods in a complementary fashion in order to obtain as much information regarding consumers’ decision-decision process as possible. The use of different research methods is also important in developing a comprehensive conceptual framework. 

            According to Bogdanovych, it is important to make a comparison between travel agents and online booking (81). Bogdanovych argues that today’s online tourism portals have several shortcomings (82). This study made use of an online survey whereby every respondent was required to fill in a questionnaire. This questionnaire was made publicly available to everyone on the internet. However, calls for participation were directed at travel enthusiasts through travel-related forums and through email.

            The researcher did not give out any rewards for the participants. The researcher expressed the view that participants who answered the questions voluntarily would given out the most accurate answers. Focus was on people who were experienced in the use of computers and had some experience in the navigation of the World Wide Web. In this way, the researcher was able to target individuals with deep understanding of technology. In this example, it is evident that some researchers are keen to go into details to obtain crucial information relating to online travel booking decisions.

            Andrlić and Ružić were also specific with the information they were seeking in their online web survey (701). In this case, focus was on capturing the complexity of consumers’ decision-making process within the tourism sector, particularly in the contemporary era of online booking systems. Andrlić and Ružić also understood the alarming rate at which e-marketing was growing (702). With such growth, this form of marketing has had a far-reaching impact on the behavior of both the market and the customers.

            In Jarvenpaa’s view, capturing information that will demonstrate such changes can sometimes be a challenge (65). Jarvenpaa gives the example of the difficulties faced in measuring the effect of the internet on the buying behavior of consumers in the travel industry (65). Moreover, there is a lack of information regarding the different ways through which consumers make use of the internet to access information, make bookings, and purchase travel products. Given that Andrlić and Ružić were carrying out a primary study, there was a need to empirically test ideas relating to decisions regarding internet purchases in tourism (703).

            The aim of the research greatly determines the choice of research method. For Andrlić and Ružić, the research objective was to examine how internet purchase decisions relate to tourist-side factors. In simple terms, the objective was to determine how personal factors attributed to a tourist affected the intention of the individual to purchase an item on the internet. Andrlić and Ružić argued that in this way, they could determine the actual purchase behavior of the tourist (702). For this information to be obtained, an empirical research had to be carried out. Data was collected through an online web survey between May and September 2009.

            Nevertheless, not all researchers use online questionnaires and web surveys when carrying out research relating to internet use. For instance, Sparks and Browning used the experimental design approach (1313). The aim was to expand knowledge through the use of an experimental study that combined four factors to examine both the main and interactive effects of online reviews on the perceptions of trust among consumers. A set of reviews were investigated for this purpose. According to Sparks and Browning, the main value of these contributions arose from the fact that they were complementary to past research studies (1314).

Sparks and Browning argue that experimental designs are very useful in making generalizations about the effects of different variables instead of generalizing statistical effects to very wide populations. In the study, a number of factors (such as framing and valence of reviews) were selected and their influence on change in other factors (such as trust and booking intent) investigated. It is because of such a major research requirement that an experimental design had to be applied. In this explanation, it is evident that proper choice of research method has a far-reaching influence on accuracy of research results.

Research gaps

There are several research gaps that need to be addressed in this area of study. Not many researchers have explored the issue of internet use trends among consumers. In most recent studies, focus is on the intention to purchase among internet users. Such research is primarily aimed at enabling online sellers to determine which consumers to focus on. According to Sparks and Browning, there are serious limitations regarding the information that a researcher can access in internet studies (1318). This methodological limitation has created a major research gap. This research gap manifests itself in the fact that some scholars are deviating from certain core issues simply because of difficulties in accessing data on the internet.

Sparks and Browning add that not many researchers have explored the experimental approach (1318). This is highly beneficial research method although it puts limitations on the variables that a researcher can select. Numerous variables may have an influence on the dependent variables. In this case, there are numerous areas that researchers may need to focus on in the future using the experimental design. In the example of the issue of consumer trust, there are many research gaps in the analysis of information provided by virtual third parties. As technology keeps on changing, new opportunities keep arising and there is always a need to understand virtual third parties operating in online booking systems better. For instance, it is necessary to examine whether the consumers share any similar interests. This would make it easy for the researcher to determine whether a certain online behavior is emerging within a certain category of internet users.

In studies that focus on the use of website reviews and their influence on consumers’ online travel booking decisions, there are several research gaps. First, Morrison notes that no studies have been undertaken to determine the authenticity of the website reviews provided (171). The researchers do not put into consideration the possibility of some website owners publishing ‘false’ reviews. Some online travel agents may generate ‘false’ positive reviews to dupe consumers into believing that the website is one of the most popular online booking portals in the world. Other variables that are difficult to examine include a sense of membership to a website and a match between the reviewer and the self, particularly in terms of demographics.

Given the fact that few field studies have been undertaken in this area, it would be appropriate for experimental design studies to be followed up with field studies. It should be borne in mind that experimental design studies are artificial; they do not reflect real-life online-booking activities. Through a field study, researchers can understand the actual booking behavior instead of focusing merely on intention. Such an approach would bridge the gap between statistical and practical significance of results. To illustrate this problem, it is necessary to explain a major limitation of Conyette’s study (66). In this study, survey respondents stated that they had an intention of searching travel online. According to Conyette, this is not necessarily a reflection of the behavioral patterns of the subjects. Such a research gap may have far-reaching implications in a situation where the internet was relied upon in administering the survey instrument.

Today’s technology is changing at an alarming rate. Mobile devices are increasingly being used to access the internet. Not many researchers have explored the role of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers in revolutionizing online travel booking business and consumer behavior. In most recent studies, the assumption is that the online questionnaires presented will be accessed through the same online platforms. On the contrary, consumers across the world have a wide range of platforms through which they can access the internet. It would be appropriate to examine whether the type of platform that an individual uses may have an influence on his purchasing behavior. For instance, one would assume that an individual who has already purchased a tablet computer is highly knowledgeable in technological issues, and is therefore highly likely to give responses that demonstrate this experience.

There is a need for future research to examine the ways in which mobile devices will change the behavior of consumers. It is necessary for such research findings to be based on sound theoretical principles that build on the existing models. Such research should also examine how marketers interact with consumers during the information search process with a view to influence their buying behavior. It is likely that the current technological advancements are already redefining this market-consumer relationship. Moreover, as Conyette points out, many organizations are already in the process of integrating mobile devices with online intelligent tools in efforts to establish competitive advantages (66). Researchers should keep pace with these technological changes in their research methods or else the research gap will continue widening.

Research gaps in research on indicators of trust in online travel booking decisions

According to Grabner-Kräuter, there is an abundance of literature on indicators of trust in online travel booking decisions (801). The main problem in Grabner-Kräuter’s view is that this literature provides conflicting conceptualizations of the construct of trust. Yet for most people, lack of trust is the main reason why it is a bad idea to purchase any product or service from the internet. In this environment of conflicting conceptualizations, the relationship between trust and its various antecedents and consequents remains unclear. It is for this reason that Grabner-Kräuter provided a review of literature on indicators of trust from an integrated point of view (803). In this study, Grabner-Kräuter addressed the issue of trust in the e-commerce environment in such a way that it was possible to analyze results cumulatively (805).

Kaynama observes that in many studies, the main challenge is on proposing trust constructs that are a reflection of both the institutional phenomena and interpersonal forms of trust (71). The main forms of trust in this regard include trusting beliefs, dispositional trust, trust-related behaviors, and trusting intentions. In the realm of institutional phenomena, research attention is normally on the trust that consumers have with the online system. For many researchers, the main problem is on how to build a framework that demonstrates clear relationships among these forms of trust in the context of e-commerce.

According to Rose, many researchers are interested in the role of trust in determining the rewards that customers receive after purchasing products and services online (26). Rose points out that there are two aspects of these benefits that have been explored in detail, namely perceived benefits and enjoyment (26). There is a close association between positive online purchasing experience and attitudes towards the World Wide Web as a medium for shopping. In this regard, a strong association occurs with regard to the perceived benefits and the future online purchasing decisions. Cheng states that although such findings are of great value to research on online purchasing behavior, they are yet to be integrated into a coherent theoretical framework (502).

Moreover, comparisons across studies are normally difficult because of the conflicting conceptualizations of indicators of trust. Moreover, Rose indicates that researchers have to put into consideration the differences between the notion of trust in the ordinary sense and trust in the online environment (28). Any study that addresses trust as one of the factors affecting online travel booking decisions should clearly define these differences.  The main problem, though, is that no agreed-upon definition of the trust construct is available for use in facilitating comparisons across studies.

Rose also reiterates that within literature, differing views exist on the role of trust in online purchase decisions. The disagreements are also evident with regard to trust both as an antecedent and as a consequent of a specific experience. In efforts to deal with this problem, some researchers regard trust as a multidisciplinary concept. For instance, Jin and Park argue that trust is an outcome of several attributes of the environment in which the purchase decision takes place (207). According to Jin and Par, this model is based on the idea that trust and satisfaction are outcome variables that influence customers (208).

In the view of Tan and Sutherland, trust is a contributory factor in online travel booking decisions (47). It is viewed as a construct that can be understood in various dimensions. For instance, in the psychological approach, trust is considered both a feeling and a belief. In this case, it is understood to be a core component of online customer experience. From this analysis, it is evident that no coherent model is available for explaining the concept of trust. However, this has not stopped researchers from repeatedly including it in various models of online customer behavior.

            It appears that one of the reasons why these research gaps are yet to be addressed is the fact that internet technology is relatively new. Dunn states that the remote online environment in which customer-organization relationships are nurtured is also a major hindrance to many research undertakings (12). There is a need for many research studies on indicators of trust to be carried out with the aim of developing a coherent conceptual framework. Within such a framework, the concept of ‘trust’ would be clearly defined. This would form the basis for further studies on its impact on online travel booking decisions.

            Research on online travel booking decisions shows that many consumers perceive the online environment to be a risky territory. This is particularly the case in situations where purchasing decisions are to be made. This creates feelings of vulnerability and fear among consumers. For online travel companies, the main area of concern is on determining whether there is an intention by the customer to book online. In recent literature, no efforts have been made to reconcile these two aspects of e-commerce. This is a major research gap that needs to be addressed in future research.

Conclusion

            In conclusion, there are several factors that affect online travel booking decisions among consumers. The factors that were identified in this literature review include indicators of trust, quality of website design, the need to save time, and consumers’ perception of choice. Other factors include online reviews provided by other consumers and intention to purchase online. Most of the recent literate focuses on indicators of trust and the intention to purchase online. A major contradiction that the literature review identified relates to the influence of attitude. Most researchers argue that attitude has an influence on one’s online booking decision. However, there are a few researchers who disagree; they point out that most consumers first engage in an elaborate planning process before making any online travel booking decision.

            The main research methods identified in this literature review include online questionnaires and online web surveys. However, there are some other methods that are less commonly used. These methods include experimental design, focus groups, personal interviews, and qualitative research. This literature also identified some theories that are appropriate in studies on online travel booking decisions. The main ones include the theory of reasoned action and the technology acceptance model  .

            However, some major research gaps have also been identified in this literature review. First, internet technology is a relatively new area of study. For this reason, complete integration of conceptual frameworks has not yet been achieved. For instance, many researchers continue to examine the concept of ‘indicators of trust’ from a multidisciplinary perspective. Moreover, a base model is yet to be established for use in examining e-consumer behavior and customers’ purchase intentions in future studies. Additionally, technology is changing at an alarming rate. A case in point is the emergence of mobile technologies. Many scholars are yet to examine the online behavior changes that may occur as a result of the introduction of these mobile technologies. Nevertheless, it is evident that trust is the most crucial factor that influences online booking decisions among travelers today.

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