<%BANNER%>

Images of Latin America

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0024650/00001

Material Information

Title: Images of Latin America Managing Impressions through Tourism Websites
Physical Description: 1 online resource (90 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Valdes, Jennifer
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2009

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: america, colombia, el, image, impression, latin, management, online, paraguay, public, relations, salvador, tourism, website
Journalism and Communications -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Mass Communication thesis, M.A.M.C.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: IMAGES OF LATIN AMERICA: MANAGING IMPRESSIONS THROUGH TOURISM WEBSITES By Jennifer M. Valdes August 2009 Chair: Janis Page Major: Master of Arts in Mass Communication Tourism is one of the largest economic resources and fastest growing industries in Latin America. A nation?s official tourism website is a significant public relations channel considering the reach of the Internet and the representativeness of content from the country?s perspective. Each nation develops its own tourism website for the purposes of publicizing its national image and identity and attracting tourists. Most tourism websites are administered by an official government organization, eliciting a legitimate assumption that it is representing and explicating a national image and culture. Competitive pressures from flourishing Latin American neighbors such as Mexico, Brazil and Costa Rica coupled with a growing sense of confidence in the economy have motivated other Latin American nations to develop and invest in their travel and tourism sector. The challenges of promoting a Latin American nation include eliminating negative stereotypes, replacing them with positive impressions, building trust with foreign audiences, and successfully communicating the nation?s image to foreign audiences. The purpose of this paper is to analyze and explore the current online tourism campaigns of three Latin American countries-- Colombia, El Salvador and Paraguay. Based on existing literature of image and impression management, this study evaluates the effectiveness of each nation?s tourism website to influence or change the visitors? opinions, perceptions and images of each nation. Furthermore, this paper seeks to highlight opportunities for Latin American countries to boost their economy and improve their international reputation by optimizing their nation?s image via online tourism campaigns.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Jennifer Valdes.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.M.C.)--University of Florida, 2009.
Local: Adviser: Page, Janis Teruggi.
Electronic Access: RESTRICTED TO UF STUDENTS, STAFF, FACULTY, AND ON-CAMPUS USE UNTIL 2011-08-31

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2009
System ID: UFE0024650:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0024650/00001

Material Information

Title: Images of Latin America Managing Impressions through Tourism Websites
Physical Description: 1 online resource (90 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Valdes, Jennifer
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2009

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: america, colombia, el, image, impression, latin, management, online, paraguay, public, relations, salvador, tourism, website
Journalism and Communications -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Mass Communication thesis, M.A.M.C.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: IMAGES OF LATIN AMERICA: MANAGING IMPRESSIONS THROUGH TOURISM WEBSITES By Jennifer M. Valdes August 2009 Chair: Janis Page Major: Master of Arts in Mass Communication Tourism is one of the largest economic resources and fastest growing industries in Latin America. A nation?s official tourism website is a significant public relations channel considering the reach of the Internet and the representativeness of content from the country?s perspective. Each nation develops its own tourism website for the purposes of publicizing its national image and identity and attracting tourists. Most tourism websites are administered by an official government organization, eliciting a legitimate assumption that it is representing and explicating a national image and culture. Competitive pressures from flourishing Latin American neighbors such as Mexico, Brazil and Costa Rica coupled with a growing sense of confidence in the economy have motivated other Latin American nations to develop and invest in their travel and tourism sector. The challenges of promoting a Latin American nation include eliminating negative stereotypes, replacing them with positive impressions, building trust with foreign audiences, and successfully communicating the nation?s image to foreign audiences. The purpose of this paper is to analyze and explore the current online tourism campaigns of three Latin American countries-- Colombia, El Salvador and Paraguay. Based on existing literature of image and impression management, this study evaluates the effectiveness of each nation?s tourism website to influence or change the visitors? opinions, perceptions and images of each nation. Furthermore, this paper seeks to highlight opportunities for Latin American countries to boost their economy and improve their international reputation by optimizing their nation?s image via online tourism campaigns.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Jennifer Valdes.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.M.C.)--University of Florida, 2009.
Local: Adviser: Page, Janis Teruggi.
Electronic Access: RESTRICTED TO UF STUDENTS, STAFF, FACULTY, AND ON-CAMPUS USE UNTIL 2011-08-31

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2009
System ID: UFE0024650:00001


This item has the following downloads:


Full Text

PAGE 1

1 IMAGES OF LATIN AMERICA: MANAGING IMPRESSIONS TH ROUGH TOURISM WEBSITES By JENNIFER M. VALDES A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS IN MASS COMMUNICATION UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2009

PAGE 2

2 2009 Jennifer M. Valdes

PAGE 3

3 To my parents, for their e ndless faith, love, and support

PAGE 4

4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This study could never have been achieved and com pleted without the valuable contributions of several individuals. I would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Juan Carlos Molleda, for his support and guidan ce throughout my graduate studies at UF. Always excited to meet with me and discuss shared public re lations interests, Dr. Molleda helped me through my thesis topic selection process and planning. Hi s contagious passion and enthusia sm is inspiring. I would also like to thank Jody Hedge for always having the answer s to my questions and for being so helpful. I thank my committee chair, Dr. Janis Page, for her availability as well as for her confidence in my abilities. She reviewed my draf ts several times in minute detail and expressed great enthusiasm about my study. I thank Dr. Belio Martinez and Dr Michael Mitrook, my committee members, for providing constructive feedback and prac tical recommendations. I also owe much thanks to Moonhee Cho, fellow classmat e and research lab assistant, who patiently guided me through my research. I thank my friends for constantly offering wo rds of encouragement. I thank my boyfriend, Frank Pedraza, for helping me get through stressful times during graduate school and always lending an ear. His kindness and optimism gave me the strength I needed to complete my thesis. Most importantly, I thank my family for allowing me to have such a fulfilling life. I thank my parents and my grandparents for believing in me and supporting me wholeheartedly. I also want to thank my sister for keeping me in her thoughts and prayers. I am where I am today because of my family.

PAGE 5

5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ............................................................................................................... 4LIST OF TABLES ...........................................................................................................................7LIST OF FIGURES .........................................................................................................................8ABSTRACT ...................................................................................................................... ...............9 CHAP TER 1 INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................................. 112 LITERATURE REVIEW .......................................................................................................15Nation Building ......................................................................................................................15A Public Relations Function ............................................................................................ 15Purposes ...................................................................................................................... .....15Impression Management ......................................................................................................... 16Definition .................................................................................................................... .....16Strategies .................................................................................................................... .....17Impression Management Online ...................................................................................... 17Image ......................................................................................................................... .............18Definition and Components ............................................................................................. 18Image Makers .................................................................................................................. 19A Marketing and Branding Perspective ..........................................................................19A Public Relations Perspective .......................................................................................20The Internet .............................................................................................................................21Website: A Public Relations Tool ................................................................................... 22The Dialogic Communication Theory .............................................................................23Interactivity ................................................................................................................. .....25An Experience-Centered Approach ................................................................................. 27Empirical Research on Tourism Websites ...................................................................... 27Latin American Online Tourism Campaigns .......................................................................... 29Colombia, the Only Risk is Wanting to Stay .................................................................. 29El Salvador, Impressive ................................................................................................... 31Paraguay, You Have to Feel It ........................................................................................32Research Questions ............................................................................................................ .....333 METHODOLOGY ................................................................................................................. 34An Experimental Design .........................................................................................................34Pilot Study ..............................................................................................................................35Main Study ..............................................................................................................................35Sample ........................................................................................................................ .....35

PAGE 6

6 Profile of Participants ......................................................................................................36Colombia .................................................................................................................. 36El Salvador ...............................................................................................................37Paraguay ................................................................................................................... 37Treatment ..................................................................................................................... ....37Stimuli ....................................................................................................................... ......38Procedure ..................................................................................................................... ....38Data Analysis ..........................................................................................................................41Analysis of the Open-Ended Questions ...........................................................................42Analysis of the Likert Scale and Bipolar Items ............................................................... 434 RESULTS ....................................................................................................................... ........49Analysis of Filter Check Questions ........................................................................................ 49Analysis According to the Research Questions ...................................................................... 49Research Questions ......................................................................................................... 50RQ1: Can each nations tourism website change a persons knowledge about that nation? ............................................................................................................50RQ2: Can each nations tourism website change a persons feelings towards and evaluation of that nation? ...............................................................................51RQ3: Can each nations tourism website ch ange a persons intention to visit or live in that nation? ................................................................................................ 52RQ4: Does a nations tourism website enhance or modify images held of that nation by those who visit the website? ................................................................. 53RQ5: Based on the findings of the pre ceding questions, do differences exist between images of Colombia, El Salvador and Paraguay? .................................. 555 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION .................................................................................... 62Implications .................................................................................................................. ..........67Recommendations ............................................................................................................... ....68Limitations ................................................................................................................... ...........69Suggestions for Further Research ........................................................................................... 70 APPENDIX A INFORMED CONSENT FORM ............................................................................................ 71B SURVEY QUESTIONNAIRE FO R EXPERIMENT GROUP ............................................. 73C CODEBOOK FOR CONTENT ANALYSIS ......................................................................... 78D CODING SHEET FOR CONTENT ANALYSIS .................................................................. 81LIST OF REFERENCES ...............................................................................................................83BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .........................................................................................................90

PAGE 7

7 LIST OF TABLES Table page 3-1 Stimuli ................................................................................................................... .............443-2 Filter check questions .................................................................................................... ....443-3 List of Likert scale items................................................................................................. ...453-4 List of bipolar items ..................................................................................................... ......454-1 Overall images differences be fore and after intervention .................................................. 574-2 Overall cognitive images differences before and after intervention .................................. 584-3 Overall affective/evaluative images di fferences before and after intervention .................594-4 Overall behavioral images differe nces before and after intervention ................................ 60

PAGE 8

8 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 3-1 Colombias tourism website .............................................................................................. 463-2 El Salvadors tourism website ...........................................................................................473-3 Paraguays tourism website ............................................................................................... 484-1 Images before intervention ................................................................................................ 614-2 Images after first impression ............................................................................................. .614-3 Images after intervention ................................................................................................. ..61

PAGE 9

9 Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Mast er of Arts in Mass Communication IMAGES OF LATIN AMERICA: MANAGING IMPRESSIONS TH ROUGH TOURISM WEBSITES By Jennifer M. Valdes August 2009 Chair: Janis Page Major: Mass Communication Tourism is one of the largest economic resour ces and fastest growing industries in Latin America. A nations official tourism website is a significant public relatio ns channel considering the reach of the Internet and th e representativeness of content fr om the countrys perspective. Each nation develops its own t ourism website for the purposes of publicizing its national image and identity and attracting tour ists. Most tourism websites are administered by an official government organization, eliciting a legitimate a ssumption that it is repr esenting and explicating a national image and culture. Competitive pressures from flourishing Latin American neighbors such as Mexico, Brazil and Costa Rica coupled with a growing sense of confidence in the economy have motivated other Latin American nations to develop and invest in their travel and tourism sector. The challenges of promoting a Latin American nati on include eliminating negative stereotypes, replacing them with positive impressions, building tr ust with foreign audiences, and successfully communicating the nations image to foreign audiences. The purpose of this paper is to analyze and explore the current online tourism campaigns of three Latin American countri es-Colombia, El Salvador and Paraguay. Based on existing literature of image and impression management, this study evaluates the effectiveness of each

PAGE 10

10 nations tourism website to influence or change th e visitors opinions, perceptions and images of each nation. Furthermore, this paper seeks to highlight opportunities for Latin American countries to boost their economy and improve thei r international reputation by optimizing their nations image via online tourism campaigns.

PAGE 11

11 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Frequently, the disciplines of advertising and m arketing take the credit for tourismrelated communication efforts (LEtang et al., 2 007; Huertas, 2008). In marketing and tourism literature, many studies investigate how destinat ion marketing can enhance a nations position in the global marketplace. Tourism and marketing res earchers examine the strategies nations use to promote themselves as desirable destinations as well as distinguish themselves from other nations. Nations engage in des tination marketing to manage th eir nations brand and reshape public opinion of their nation (Kahn, 2006). However, the success of most destination marketing efforts relies on the assistance of public relations. Although public relations literatur e and theory have neither been widely recognized nor applied in the tourism industry, public relations pl ays a critical role in the industrys strategic communication activities. Public re lations practitioners in the t ourism industry typically receive recognition for media relations, employee comm unications as well as risk and crisis communications; however, there are many more func tions public relations practitioners serve within the tourism industry. LEtang, Falkenheim er and Lugo (2007) explain, [t]ourism is an intercultural process and public relations is a necessary function activity which facilitates multiple understandings of that process (p. 71). Though marketing and promotional activities are important components to the tourism industr y, tourism institutions and nations need public relations for a broad range of purposes including development st rategies, image and impression management, and public diplomacy. In some inst ances, nations disguise and address political needs, such as attracting foreign investment and engaging in cultural exchange programs, by practicing and engaging in strate gic public relations within thei r tourism sectors. These public relations functions allow nations to influence opinions, evoke em otions and motivate behaviors.

PAGE 12

12 Currently, tourism is one of the largest economic resources and fastest growing industries in Latin America. According to the Office of Travel and Tour ism Industries (2008), Mexico was one of the top ten most visited destinations by United States residents flying abroad in 2007. In 2008, travel by Americans abroad was up 4.4% to the Caribbean, up 3.7% to South America and up 5% to Mexico (Office of Travel and Tour ism Industries, 2008). Additionally, an annual survey conducted by the United States Tour Op erators Association (2008) named Latin America the most popular international region. For these reasons, competi tive pressures from flourishing and popular Latin American and Caribbean destin ations like Mexico coupled with a growing sense of confidence in the economy have motivat ed several lesser known Latin American nations to develop and invest in their travel and tourism sectors. A nation looking to enhance and improve its political, social and/ or economic status, usually seeks to invest in and promote its tourism industry through nation build ing. In large part, Latin Ameri can nations hope to decrease unemployment rates and attract greater volumes of tourists and investments by managing their impressions and improving their images across the globe. To achieve these goals, nations strategica lly plan and implement public relations campaigns which focus on tourism. An extensive array of communication vehicles are frequently used for public relations campaigns, but the official tourism website of each country is one of the most significant public relations channels consid ering the spread of In ternet usage and the representativeness of content from the nations perspective (Kaplanidou & Vogt, 2008). Since its beginning, the Internet has e xploded upon society, connecting a nd empowering individuals and institutions all over the world and turning the world into a tr uly global society (Wakefield, 2008, p. 138). Business and government organizations use their websites as a public relations tool to foster dialogue and es tablish and maintain relationshi ps with various publics (Ayish,

PAGE 13

13 2005; Wakefield 2008; Gertner et al., 2006; Kent & Taylor, 1998). A ccording to Gertner, Berger and Gertner (2006), the Internet has helped [tourisms] expansion by disseminating information cheaply and in record time across the globe. Not surprisingly, travelers are increasingly using the Internet as a major source for gathering information about a nation. In 2004, the Travel Industry Association estimated that among the 145.7 million U.S. travelers, 67% use the Internet for trip planning (as cited in Kaplanidou & Vogt, 2008, p. 204). Keeping in mind the importance of strategi c online public relati ons initiatives, many Latin American nations develop their own tour ism websites for the purposes of distributing tourist information, marketing products and at tracting potential consumers. Most tourism websites are administered by a government or a corresponding official organization, eliciting a genuine assumption that it is representing an au thentic depiction of its nation. Furthermore, tourism websites provide a venue for nations to address their already existing reputation and simultaneously promote itself in a positive light. To effectively achieve the goals and objectives of a tourism campaign, a nation must employ strate gic online public relations tactics to manage information and communicate favorable impressions to the public via its tourism website. Then, these positive impressions will hopefully manipulate the website visitors images of the nation. The ultimate goal is to influence the website visito rs images of the nation and their intention to visit or invest in the nation. When making de cisions about nations, travelers whom have a limited knowledge of particular nations depend on their perceived images of the nation. Thus, planning and organizing a tourism or nation building campaign requi res extensive public relations research and strate gy. Campaign planners charged with promoting Latin American nations must replace negative stereotypes with positive impressions, build trust with foreign audiences and successfully in cite attractive images of the nation and its culture.

PAGE 14

14 Researchers studying effects of tourism websites have focused on evaluating website performances and design (Kaplanidou & Vogt, 2008; OMalley & Irani, 1998; Park & Gretzel, 2007; Tierney, 2000); however, few studies have specifically examined the impact of using websites as impression management tools for image building in the context of tourism or nation building. In addition, many image studies have not been able to establish a clear relationship between images of nations and tourism website s. Based on existing literature of image, impression management and online public relati ons, this study explores image building in current Latin American online tourism campaigns. Specifically, the research er takes a closer look at how Colombia, El Salvador and Paraguay use their official tourism websites as online public relations or impression management tools to attract tourists and create positive and favorable images. This exploratory study makes an importa nt contribution to the understanding of image and impression management in the context of to urism and provides insight to manipulating and managing favorable impressions an d desirable images online. Latin American nations aspiring to build or repair their national image or break through and succeed in the competitive tourism industry should continue to investigate the role of online publi c relations in image and nation building.

PAGE 15

15 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Nation Building A Public Relations Function Public relations scholars Taylor (2000) a nd Taylor and Kent (2006) investigated and applied public relations theory to nation build ing efforts, emphasizing the relevance and importance of relationship building. A public relations approach to natio n building stresses the importance of cooperative and stable relationshi ps founded on trust. According to Taylor and Kent (2006) public relations is an appropriate, yet underutilized, approach to nation building because it focuses on how communication efforts ar e used to establish, maintain or change relationships between organizati ons (or nations) and publics (p. 347) To take a public relations approach to nation building, practitioners must understand how governments have used communication tools to achieve national goals. Nation building is an essential governmental function that helps to build the national character of developing nations (as cited in Taylor & Kent, 2006, p. 348). Purposes Nation building relies heavily on relationship building a nd dialogue with diverse audiences, especially in the c ontext of tourism. Taylor and Ke nt (2006) explain communication campaigns can help people during difficult times of social, economic and identity transformation (p. 355). Public relations campaigns can inform, educate, motivate, illustrate and encourage people and nations to embrace other cultu res and nations. According to Taylor (2000), nation building campaigns possess several them es: information and e ducation, relationshipbuilding, national development and tradition-bu ilding (p. 193-194). Thus, many nations which desire development and economic improvements as well as international attention and respect

PAGE 16

16 turn to their tourism sectors. In the tourism industry, public rela tions campaigns offer incentives for cooperation by providing information to dispel cultural stereotypes and increase cultural tolerance, understanding and national unity (Taylor, 2000, p. 201). Other public relations functions which can further nation building e fforts include impression management and image building. Impression Management Definition Organizational and m ass communications studies regarding impression management commonly focus on individuals rather than the impressions managed by orga nizations or nations. Most definitions of impression management fo cus on the individual because many researchers examine the use of impression management w ithin the contexts of job interviews and performance evaluations. Connolly-Ahern and Broadways (2007) definition of impression management is most appropriate for this st udy. They define impression management as the goal-directed activity of controlling information about a person, object, entity, idea or event (p. 343). This definition embodies the notion that impression management should not only be a concern for individuals but also for other enti ties. According to Taylor and Kent (2006), like individuals and organiza tions, nations attempt to create fa vorable impressions for particular audiences. Nations can accomplish this main objective by controlling and strategically communicating information. In particular, or ganizations and nations practice impression management to secure their goals protect their relationships and enhance or modify images held by specific publics (Bozeman & Ka cmar, 1997; Bolino et al., 2008). Bromley (1993) identifies two major forms of impression management. One form is reactive while the other is proact ive. The reactive form of impression management is defensive and is used in response to threats to ones identity or reputation. The proactive form of

PAGE 17

17 impression management is promotional and aims to enhance ones overall status or rank. While a nation cannot directly control the images individuals associate with them, it can control or regulate information so it is consistent with th e goals of the nation. Sall ot (2002) affirms that impression management is purposef ul, strategic and tactical. Strategies While m any studies have discussed impressi on management techniques and tactics, researchers Jones and Pittman (1982) identified six major impression management strategies: self-promotion, intimidation, supplication, in gratiation, accounting and exemplification (Schlenker, 1980; Giacalone & Rosenfeld, 1991; Bolino & Tu rnley, 1999). These impression management strategies have been applied and examined in numerous impression management studies. Self-promotion refers to the embellishment of accomplishments or achievements. Intimidation conveys the likeness of being poten tially dangerous or threatening. Supplication indicates an attempt to get major influencers to become sympathetic. Ingratiation refers to the use of flattery, acquiescence or the rendering of favors. Accoun ting is an attempt to create distance from negative events. And, last, exemplification conveys selfless commitment or selfsacrificing. While all strate gies serve a purpose in the study and practice of managing impressions, some strategies are unnecessary or inappropriate for part icular conditions or situations. In the context of promotional impression management of a nation, for example, the strategies which may prove most beneficial include self-promoti on and ingratiation. Impression Management Online Websites are significant impression management tools for public rela tions practitioners. Several studies have focused on impression manage ment tactics exercised in websites. Websites are great tools for managing impre ssions since they are timely and inexpensive. They also allow the individual or organization to have complete control over its messages. Connolly-Ahern and

PAGE 18

18 Broadway (2007) assessed online corporate impr ession management techniques using Jones typology of impression management strategi es. Although all of the websites studied demonstrated self-promotion (or competence), the re sults demonstrated that not all websites are using the full two-way communication capabilities of the Internet Establishing a corporations competence is a critical function of a corporate website, but feedback is just as important. Bansal and Kistruck (2006) ex amined organizations websites to determine the effect of both illustrative and demonstra tive forms of impression management on observers perceptions of the firms commitment to the natural environm ent. Illustrative impression management tactics focus on pictures or broad generalizations in an attempt to create the desired organizational image, while demonstrative impression management tactics provide specifi c factual information regarding the organizations sp ecific activities (B ansal & Kistruck, 2006; Bolino et al., 2008).Their study revealed that while both forms of impression management may be practiced independently of each other, the effective use of both approaches will reach a broader group of stakeholder. All in all, impression management, or the controlling of information, can manipulate and provoke visual and be havioral responses if practiced strategically. Image A great deal of tourism literature and public relations literature has examined the concept of image, including its formation, conceptualiz ation and measurement (Gartner, 1993; Echtner & Ritchie, 1991; Jenkins 1999; Beerli & Martin, 2004). Definition and Components Assessing a brands im age as it compares to its competitors images is an essential part of a nations marketing strategy (Morgan et al., 2004) A persons image of a nation can influence a persons purchasing or investing de cisions as well as their trav elling decisions. Image has been defined in many ways; however, scholars agree that image is a multidimensional construct.

PAGE 19

19 Avraham and Ketter (2008) define an image of a nation as the sum of the cognitive, affective and evaluative characteris tics of the [nation] or an inhe rent perspective of itself (p. 20). They suggest that a nations image consists of four components: cognitive, affective, evaluative and behavioral. The cognitive componen t can be interpreted as beliefs and knowledge about the nation. The affective component refe rs to the feelings towards the nation. The evaluative component measures how one evaluates the place or its residents. The behavioral component refers to whether one considers im migrating to/working in/visiting/investing in a certain nation. Image Makers A nations im age may be viewed as an attitu dinal concept consisting of impressions that a tourist holds of the nation. An im age typically describes the over all impression an entity makes on the minds of others (Reilly, 1990). Images are primarily the unpredictable reactions of the public to the information or actions presente d by the nation. According to Avenarius (1993), members of the public are image makers (p. 66). The entertainment industry and the media also play a particularly influential role in sh aping peoples images of nations (Morgan et al., 2004). The images of Colombia as a nation plagued with corruption, drugs and violence, for example, have been depicted in several popular films such as Maria Full of Grace and Miami Vice Often, those who are unfamiliar with a nation deem perception as reality, and organizations and nations have little control over the images they are widely associated with. A Marketing and Branding Perspective Successf ul brands have social, emotional and identity value to users: they have personalities and enhance the perceived utility, de sirability and quality of a product (Kotler & Gertner, 2002). A nation must possess a brand rich with personality and emotional appeal.

PAGE 20

20 Nation branding can help to bridge any gaps be tween a nations strengths and potential visitors perceptions (Mor gan et al., 2004). Based on marketing research, Wells and Wint (2000) identified corporate positioning as an image-building activity relian t on visibility and credibility. Corporate positioning involves examining the interaction between visibility, or the breadth of the companys reputation, and credibility, or the quality of the companys reputation among those executives that know it (Wells & Wint, 2000, p. 43). Not surprisingly, marketers depend on the products image when establishing its position. The im age assists marketers in determining and influencing the perceptions of the product. According to Bu rke and Resnick (2000), when product positioning is used effectively, the image becomes a central and unifying influence on every aspect of the travel product (p. 66). Hence, governments frequently stimulate attrac tive images of their nations. Many developing nations do not have strong reputations as attractive sites for investment; therefore, it is cruc ial that these nations build cr edibility among a targeted group of investors before broadening their image-bui lding efforts (Wells & Wint, 2000, p. 45). A Public Relations Perspective While common branding and marketing techniques are widely researched and explored in tourism studies, public relations remains an ill-defined, undervalued and underresearched aspect of destination marketing and brand building (Morgan et al., 2004, p. 222). The studies of images of nations and nation building have been a major area of research interest for many scholars in the disciplines of international communication and public diplomacy. Kunczik introduced the notion of images of nations to public relations literature in 1990. Taking the idea that images may represent na tional identities, Kunczik (1997) defines national image as the cognitive representation th at a person holds of a given country, what a person believes to be true about a nation and its people (p. 46). According to Boulding (1956), a

PAGE 21

21 universe of discourse and creation of public im ages occurs as indivi duals discuss and share their personal images with othe rs (as cited in Taylor & Kent, 2006). Images, regardless of their accuracy, influence peoples thoughts and feelings about certain nations. Images of nations have the ability to reinforce stereotypes, both positiv e and negative, and demons trate the necessity for nations to assertively establish and maintain their image internally and externally. Nations with economic, political or social interests in projecting a positive image internationally, especially those de aling with negative stereotypes, must partake in active tourism public relations campaigns. Burke and Resnick (2 000) claim that building a distinct, positive, and appealing image in the marketplace is critical especially since thos e who have not actually visited the nation rely on the mass media mostly(p. 77). The Internet Com pared to traditional print media, the Internet integrates text, sound, visuals, animation, and the potential for real-time interacti on. The Internet has proven to be a great oneway information dissemination tool and an ev en better two-way symmetr ical public relations tool. In todays global society, or ganizations and nations are usi ng the Internet to communicate with a wide range of publics. The Internet provides an accommodating communication tool for nations and their boards or mini stries of tourism to communicat e their image. Morgan et al. (2004) claim: the World Wide Web can be compared to a prod uct brochure that is constantly up todate, graphical and colorful, capable of text, audio and video images, cheap and easy to copy, and accessible by millions of readers around the world (p. 133). Tourism websites offer endless opportunitie s for the communication and promotional activities of nations. Researchers across all disciplin es continue to investig ate the potential of the Internet to nurture relationshi ps, support dialogue and generate memorable experiences (Kent &

PAGE 22

22 Taylor, 1998; Wakefield, 2008; Esrock & Leic hty, 2000; Hill & White, 2000; White & Raman, 2000, Seltzer & Mitrook, 2007; Vorvoreanu, 2006). Website: A Public Relations Tool Most online public relations studies have focused on the effectiveness of m essage dissemination on the Internet and on ly a few studies have examined the effects of the Internet as a relationship building tool. Several researchers ha ve looked at how public relations practitioners and website designers perceive we bsites as a strategic communi cations tool (Hill & White, 2000; White & Raman, 2000, Seltzer & Mitrook, 2007). Studi es have revealed that the most common purposes for a website are to inform, advertise an d receive customer fee dback. Public relations practitioners have also used websites to reach publics the organization do es not reach normally. Despite the evidence provided th rough research, there is an inconsistency between what practitioners think is possible through the Internet and what they are actually doing to facilitate relationship building (Kent et al., 2003, p. 73). Spicer (2000) suggests that because public relations practitioners function as both the conscience and the change agent for the organization, practitioners must be aware of th e Internets full potential as a relationship building and image building tool (Spicer, 2000; Connolly-Ahern and Broadway, 2007; Huertas, 2008). As two-way communication tools, the In ternet and websites offer organizations opportunities to strengthen relationships, establish credibility and enhance its image. When public relations practitioners were aske d about the purpose of their organizations website, respondents noted that the website served more of a statu s symbol or image building function than as a relationship building tool (p resence over content) (K ent et al., 2003, p. 73). Grunig (1993) asserts communi cationa symbolic relationshi pcan improve a behavioral relationship (p. 123). According to Grunig (1993), image building suggests that organizations can produce and disseminate an image from basica lly nothing and have great impacts on their

PAGE 23

23 publics. Once an organization or nation rec ognizes and understands its identity, it can use symbols to communicate its culture and its vision to its publics. Images of nations, formed by a sum of beliefs, ideas and impressions, are very im portant because they invert symbols of a nation into the potential visitors mind and give the vi sitor a preconceived idea of the nation. Thus, image is a vital concept in understanding th e travel planning pro cess of tourists. Kent and Taylor (1998) proclaim it is essent ial for organizations to facilitate real dialogues on their websites. Esrock and Leichty (2000) add that the use of interactive features in a website is essential in attract ing and retaining visitors. In the same vein, a website should generate a positive user experience. According to Vorvoreanu (2006), the website should not be viewed as a space for text but as [a] space in wh ich user experiences take place (p. 396). As a result, public relations practitioners and website designers should take an experience-centered approach when planning the design of their organizations website. The Dialogic Communication Theory Online dialogue com bines both mediated co mmunication theory and dialogic theory. Kent and Taylor (1998) explain, dialogic communication refers to any negotiated exchange of ideas and opinions (p. 325). Due to organi zations dependency on their publics, numerous studies have advised organizations to incorporate dial ogic features into their websites. Through the use of mass mediated channels, organizatio ns can strengthen their commitment to dialogue with publics. In the case of the nation-buildi ng process, dialogue th eory can be studied by examining the mass media, Internet and governme nt websites within a nation (Taylor & Kent, 2006). Public relations literature involving online communication frequently cite Kent and Taylors (1998) dialogic comm unication theory which is c onsistent with the two-way symmetrical model. While the two-way symm etrical model refers to the process of

PAGE 24

24 communicating, dialogic communication refers to the products that emergetrust, satisfaction and sympathy. Kent, Taylor and Whites 2001 study on activist organizations websites offered a comprehensive explanation of the dialogic theory To effectively practice online public relations and dialogic relationship buildi ng, Kent, Taylor and White discussed how to effectively use the Internets dialogic capacity by fu lfilling five requirements: ease of interface, usefulness of information, conservation of visitors, genera tion of return visit and a dialogic loop. The ease of the interface dimension measur es the ease and speed with which website visitors can navigate and find information. If visitors become frustrated with a websites structure, they are likely to leave the website and never return. To ensure a pleasing online experience, websites should possess four elements: site maps, links, search box and a well designed layout (Taylor et al., 2001 ). The usefulness of information dimension is based on the quality of information. The conservation of visi tors dimension refers to the organizations ability to maintain and keep visitors on the webs ite by using such features as a short download time, posting of last updated date and time and important information on the home page. The generation of return visit refe rs to the organization s ability to motivate visitors to return to their website. Ensuring return visits is accomp lishable by using features, such as FAQs, RSS feeds, and a calendar of events. Last, the dial ogic loop dimension allows publics to respond to the organizations messages and measures the interactivity of the website. Kent and Taylor (2002) offered a more ex tensive description of the dialogic loop dimension when they identified five features of online dialogue: mutuality, propinquity, empathy, risk and commitment. Mutuality ac knowledges the existence of an organizationpublic relationship. Propinquity de scribes the type of interaction in term s of time and space. Empathy refers to the encouragement of s upport and trust within an interaction. Risk

PAGE 25

25 underlines the possible negative outco mes of the relationship. Dialogi c risk offers the reward of stronger organization-public relationships (Kent & Taylor, 2 002, p. 29). Finally, commitment is the extent to which an organization ple dges its loyalty to its strategic publics. Building upon research established by Kent Taylor and White, Seltzer and Mitrook (2007) applied dialogic communicat ion theory to weblogs and anal yzed their pote ntial as online relationship-building tools. Overall, they conc luded that weblogs offer a strong potential for dialogue and discovered that some di alogic features were actually st ronger in the weblogs than in traditional websites. Seltzer and Mitrooks (2007) re search illustrated the potential for weblogs as an effective, ethical, two-way rela tionship building tool on the Internet. Interactivity Unlike traditional m ass media, the Internet possesses an interactive component. The Internet provides for truly interactive flows of information from which PR practitioners could benefit (Seltzer & Mitrook, 2007, p. 386). Esrock and Leichty (2000) add the interactive nature of the Internet can benefit ci tizens and organizations in a my riad of social, political, and economic manners (p. 342). Intera ctive websites are capable of providing quality information and creating virtual experiences. Unfortunate ly, there seems to be some gap between acknowledging the importance of the concerns of a public and actually engaging that same public interactively (Kaplani dou & Vogt, 2008, p. 206). If a website is to serve as a truly symmetrical and interactive tool, value-added feat ures such as online feedback forms and chat rooms, need to be featured prominently on th e website. Kaplanidou and Vogt (2008) explain, functional content like contact information offe rs an opportunity to the user to communicate and interact with the [destination marketing orga nization] directly (p. 206). Kent and Taylor (1998) offer other interactive stra tegies to build organization-pub lic relationships and encourage

PAGE 26

26 repeat visits like forums, frequently asked que stions (FAQs), easily downloadable information, referral services and links to local agencies or information providers. Ha and James (1998) proposed five dimensions of interactivity: playfulness, choice, connectedness, information collection and reciprocal communication. Playfulness refers to the extent to which users navigate through a website Choice availability allows individuals to find further content on a website. Connectedness allows users to navigate easily from one section to another. Information collection refers to the us ers information gathering process. Reciprocal communication parallels the twoway models in public relations and collects feedback from visitors. Kim and Fesenmaier (2008) describe reciprocity as the extent to which a website is perceived to provide or suppor t two-way information exchange between the destination and users (p. 7). It is common to fi nd tourism websites offering benefits to visitors in the form of special offers, deals, sweepstakes, and contests as strategies to build a r eciprocal relationship and retrieve personal information from visitors such as name and e-mail and/or address (as cited in Kim & Fesenmaier, 2008, p. 7). Within the Internet, interactivity has been found to be an infl uential factor of a visitors level of involvement with Intern et-based applications. Kim and Fesenmaier (2008) suggest that website visitors whom are highly involved with the website are very likel y to search for more information, accept fewer alternativ es, process relevant information in detail, and form attitudes that are more resistant to change (p. 6). Ev idence from studies confirms enjoyable and interactive websites invite visito rs to visit, keep them entert ained, and increase their depth of exploration (Kim & Fesenmaier, 2008 p. 7). Some scholars argue that in teractivity is a component of the persuasion process. OMalley and Irani (1998) asse ssed the relationships betwee n interactivity, quantity of

PAGE 27

27 information, attitude change and behavioral intention. They found that higher amounts of information and interactivity can increase a visi tors intention of returning to a website and concluded that interactivity play s a role in relations hip building through changes in attitude and behavior. Jo and Kim (2003) investigated the impact of online intera ctivity and multimedia orientation on the publics perceptions of relationships with organizations. Their study produced similar findings to OMalley and Iranis study (19 98) revealing that interactivity had significant effects on relationship building. An Experience-Centered Approach As m entioned earlier, Vorvor eanu (2006) proposed an experience-centered approach to designing websites. According to this approach, a website can cultivate dialogue and interaction through three phases: first impression, exploration and exit. The impression phase occurs in seconds, and the user forms an opinion about the relevance and the quality of information on the website. Exploration refers to the navigation of the website. According to Vorvoreanu (2006), the exploration phase presents ample opportu nities for relationship management (p. 397). During the last phase, exit, users have devel oped a final opinion about the website. The study also suggests that websites can be broken dow n into four components: navigation, content, graphic layout and dialogue. Vo rvoreanu (2006) introduced a new research method practical for evaluating a website: the website experience analysis (WEA). Empirical Research on Tourism Websites Park and Gretzel (2007) conducted a qualitative m eta-analysis of factors that lead to successful websites and concluded with a unifi ed framework consisting of nine factors: information quality, ease of use, responsiveness, security/privacy, visu al appearance, trust, interactivity, personalization and fulfillment. Mo st evaluation studies related to destination websites have typically mentioned three categories of website features su ch as navigation (ease

PAGE 28

28 of gathering useful information), content (tex t and visuals) and accessibility (download times) (as cited in Park & Gretzel, 2007). In general terms, tourism studies describe a successful website as one which attracts, engages, retains and ensures users. Websites also reveal user preferences and allow for two-way interactions Tourism websites can di rectly influence the users perception of a nation as we ll as the users inten tions to travel to the nation. Thus, it is important that tourism public relations practitioners strategically plan what to communicate on nations official tourism websites and how to convey messages to diverse audiences (Kang & Mastin, 2008). Unfortunately, many destination we bsites are acting as online brochures rather than taking advantage of the Internet for creatin g deeper and longer lasting relationships with existing and potential visitors (as cited in Kim & Fesenmaier, 2008, p. 10). Kaplanidou and Vogt (2008) discuss the effect s of website elements such as content, navigation and accessibility, which influence travelers perceptions of destination website usefulness and their intentions to visit the destination. The re searchers claim a website should provide constantly updated and useful content for its users. A websites hierarchy and structure influence the quality of information presente d on a website. Audience-specific information should be organized so that it is easy to fi nd by the targeted publics. The ease with which the user navigates through a website and the speed with which the web pages download refers to accessibility. Kaplanidou and Vogt (2008) found that website visitors were not greatly influenced by the factor of accessibility; how ever, [t]rip information functionality and motivating visuals were important predictors of perceived website useful ness in planning a trip (p. 213-214). While their study confirms that visu als and animation can stimulate travelers desire and intentions to visit the destination, Ryan (2003) points out that images and graphics can also increase a web pages download time. Although a website is designed to be rich in content,

PAGE 29

29 Kent and Taylor (1998) assert we bsites need to provide informa tion as quickly and efficiently as possible (p. 329). Sites should be interesting, informative, and contain information of value to publics (Kent & Taylor, 1998, p. 330). Although the inclusion of multimedia to websites may lure visitors, they may also cause distractions and limit visitors inform ation processing. Thus, there are inconclusive results on the effectiven ess of multimedia in the Internet (Jo & Kim, 2003). Latin American Online Tourism Campaigns In mass media, the positive images pinned to Latin America include colorful landscapes, beaches and vibrant culture. The most common negative external perceptions include drugs, civil war and corruption. While the positive images and impressions of Latin America lend themselves well to building a count ry brand through tourism, the negatives have not traditionally been very conducive to business and brand investment (Clifton, 2007). Confronting a negative or even nonexistent image is a challenging task for public relations practitioner, especially when the media and other external forces are of ten creating or perpetuating stereotypes. Colombia, the Only Risk is Wanting to Stay Colom bia has an international image problem In popular and mass media, Colombia and Colombians are associated with kidnappings, gue rrilla war and cocaine (Cutter & Torro, 1990; Forero, 2008). Colombias image problem causes tourists and business travelers, especially North Americans and Western Europeans, to en tirely avoid the country (Cutter & Torro, 1990). According to Molleda and Suarez (2004), todays volatile political and economic environments in Colombia demand nation-building efforts both internally and externally. As a result, according to Baker (2008), the [Colombian] govern ment is making a concerted effort to try to clean up its international reputa tion and steer away from images of violence and drugs.

PAGE 30

30 Since its inception in 2000 under the Clinton administration, Plan Colombia has made Colombia one of the biggest recipients of Un ited States foreign aid (Molleda & Suarez, 2004; Kirschke, 2008). President Alvaro Uribes govern ment has fortified Colombias army, and now vast stretches of the country have been brought under state control (F orero, 2008). Under Uribe, unemployment, homicides, kidnappings and overa ll terrorist attacks have all significantly decreased. Homicides under Uribe have fallen by 40%, kidnapping by 83% and overall terrorist attacks by 76% (Kirschke, 2008). Colombias major urban centersB ogota, Medellin and Calipossess lower per-capita murder rates than Atlanta, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. (Kirschke, 2008). As a result, Uribe enjoys higher approval ratings than an y other head of state in the Hemispheremore than 90% (Kirschke, 2008). Tourisms contribution to the economy is sm all but vital to President Uribes imageconscious administration. 1.3 million foreigners visited Colombia in 2007more than twice the number who came in 2002, when the violence was at its peak (Kirschke, 2008; Forero, 2008). Currently, the country is receiv ing more than $2 billion of fo reign exchange through tourism (Hens, 2007). Many have attributed Colombias growth to the policies and change brough about by President Alvaro Uribe. This country has moved from terrorism to tourism, Uribe recently told delegates of the United Nations Wo rld Tourism Organisation (Hens, 2007). Under the slogans, Colombia is passion a nd Colombia, the only risk is wanting to stay paired with an annual promotional budget valued at $4 million, the Tourism Ministry has embarked on a campaign to improve the intern ational picture of Colombia (Hens, 2007; Kirschke, 2008). Colombia is rebranding itself with the motto C olombia is passion, a statement aimed both to its citizens and to visitors. Additionally, the government has given more than $250,000 to build and furnish privately owned tour ism-related businesses and to provide some

PAGE 31

31 tourism training. According to Forero (2008), C olombians, most of whom have never known a period of peace, are for the first time optimistic that one could be near. El Salvador, Impressive Central America, let alo ne El Salvador, has not received much attention across the globe as a tourism destination. Though r elatively undiscovered and new to the global travel scene, El Salvador is quickly becoming a competitor in the global tourism market (eTurboNews, 2008a). Eager to accelerate their position in the globa l tourism market, El Sa lvador launched a new website as well as branding and marketing efforts with ElSalvador.trave l in 2006. El Salvador adopted www.ElSalvador.travel hoping that a .tr avel name would inevitably link the nation as a tourism destination. Since the websites launch, t he site is growing and increasing its visitors by approximately 30% a month (eTurboNews, 2008a ). Outside its boundaries, other nations and people sometimes possess distorted images and misi nterpretations of El Salvador. The campaign hopes to highlight El Salvadors many positive attrib utes such as its quality products, investment opportunities, great natural and scenic landscape s and the unique hospitality of Salvadorans (Tourism Ministry, 2008). When developing an identity, campaign planners focused on the strengths of El Salvador: industry, cordiality, youth, stabilit y, modernity, international rec ognitions, leadership, diversity, and scenic and natural beauty. Thro ugh research, they realized that first-time visitors are often surprised and unexpected of the countrys develo pment and hospitality. There was an agreement amongst campaign planners that El Salvador coul d capitalize on its capacity to impress visitors in overwhelming their initial expectations. Thus, the El Salvadors Tour ism Ministry introduced the slogan: El Salvador, Impressive! Upon its introduction, the Ministry of Tourism toured worldwide fairs and conventions to introduce their country brand to the world and invited members from the private sector demonstrating th at each Salvadoran is an ambassador of its own

PAGE 32

32 country (Tourism Ministry, 2008). Since last year, there have been increases in economic activity and tourism to El Salvador. El Salvadors Minist er of Tourism forecasts El Salvadors tourism sector will continue to experi ence growth during 2009 (Piche, 2008). Paraguay, You Have to Feel It Paraguay, a small country located in the hear t of South America, is usually overshadowed by its much larger neighbors, Brazil and Argentina. Often overlooked as a tourism destination, Paraguay is composed of five distinct eco-regio ns, each of which can be accessed easily by land or by air. Located along the fringes of these five eco-regions, Paraguays wildlife is varied and constantly on display. In creating a tourism campaign, the campaign planners highlighted the most frequently mentioned and relevant elements expressed by respondents of an opinion survey. Several respondents mentioned a lack of awareness su rrounding Paraguay abroad, the surprise involved in discovering it as well as the cordiality and warmth of its peopl e, who live in harmony with an exuberant nature. Also mentioned were the livel y colors of the country: an intense blue sky, green vegetation and red soil (SENATUR, 2008). After the research and planning processes and a design contest or ganized by the Tourism Sectorial Board and the Na tional Tourism Office SENATUR Paraguay developed and introduced its brand and tourism campaign. The Mi nister of Tourism expl ained that Paraguays brand and campaign served the purpose of uni fying the countrys visual identity, in the intention to make Paraguay known as a travel destination (SENATUR, 2008). The slogan chosen, Paraguay, you have to feel it gathers the elements of the conceptual framework and emphasizes an intangible, emotional and vital expe rience. Overall, the campaign aims to project an attractive nation, create and strengthen comp etitive products, and substantially increase the number of visitors and their travel spending.

PAGE 33

33 Research Questions In this paper, the researcher examines the impression management and images of Colombia, El Salvador and Paraguay. Based on the aforementioned lit erature, this study addressed the following fi ve research questions: RQ1: Can each nations tourism website change a persons knowledge about that nation? RQ2: Can each nations tourism website change a persons feelings towards and evaluation of that nation? RQ3: Can each nations tourism website change a persons intention to visit or live in that nation? RQ4: Does a nations tourism website enhance or modify images held of that nation by those who visit the website? RQ5: Based on the findings from the preceding questions, do differences exist between Colombia, El Salvador and Paraguay?

PAGE 34

34 CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY An Experimental Design This study employed a 1 x 3 quasi-experim ental design (different sources: Colombias tourism website, Paraguays tourism website, El Salvadors tourism website). The purpose of this study is to explore Latin American natio ns use of tourism websites as impression management and image building tools. Given the purpose of this study, an experime ntal design is consid ered an appropriate approach to answer the research questions. An advantage of the experimental method is that it allows researchers to establish causality between two or more variables (Wimmer & Dominick, 2003). Since the introduction of the Internet, many empirical studies of online public relations have been dominated by content analyses and qua litative interviews (Esrok & Leichty, 2000; Hill & White, 2000; Kent & Taylor, 1998; White & Raman, 1999). Additionally, research about public relations websites is mostly exploratory and focuses on corporate websites. Very little research employs experimental designs or addr esses tourism public relations. In an image study such as this one, experimental design shoul d prove to be a very effective methodology. The researcher has control over both the environment and the variables. Also, in comparison to other research methods, experiments are less costly and allow for replication (Wimmer & Dominick, 2003). Through the use of a pretest/stimuli/posttest design and with the assistance of MediaLab, the researcher hopes to investigate whether online tourism pu blic relations campaigns can enhance or modify visitors imag es of Latin American nations. MediaLab, a research software for de signing and implementing computerized experiments, has powerful multimedia capability. Depending on the experimental condition, MediaLab allows the researcher to administer different stimuli and dependent measures in

PAGE 35

35 different orders, if needed. It also allows the researcher to present html pages with active hyperlinks using Internet Explorer browsing engine MediaLab enables the researcher to create questionnaires with a variety of question form ats. Conveniently, the researcher can analyze MediaLab data files in either Excel or SPSS. Pilot Study A pilot test with 34 graduate students was execu ted before the m ain study in order to test the experimental stimulus and survey instrument All students were recruited on the campus of the University of Florida and assigned to one of the four treatment conditions randomly. The questionnaire and MediaLab experiment were pilo t-tested for wording, co ntent and functionality. Minor changes to the wording of th e instructions and questions were made after the pilot testing. The amount of time given to the participants to browse the website was shortened from 15 minutes to approximately 10 minutes. The final version of the questionnaire was administered to a total sample of 90 students. Main Study Sample A convenience sam ple and volunteer sample wa s used in this study. The advantages of this sampling strategy include convenience, high response rate and cost-effectiveness. Mass media researchers frequently use nonprobability sampling, especially in available samples and volunteer samples (Wimmer & Dominick, 2003). One major limitation of this sampling strategy is generalization and external validity. Although an experimental design in a university setting is likely to generate a relatively di verse group of students, the results of the pr esent study cannot be generalized beyond this specific sample.

PAGE 36

36 Profile of Participants All respondents used for analysis in this expe riment were university students, specifically undergraduate students at the University of Florida. A total num ber of 90 students participated in this study. Respondents gender was skewed toward females. Of the total 90 participants, 77 (85.6%) were female, 13 (14.4%) were male. The median age of the respondents was 21. The ages of the respondents ranged from 18 to 29 with more than 87.8% of respondents ( N= 79) identifying themselves as upperclassmen, either juniors or seniors. A ll 90 respondents (100%) use a computer at their workplace, at school a nd at home on at least an occasional basis. More than 93% ( N = 84) of respondents go online to get info rmation online several times a day, and more than 60% ( N = 55) of respondents spend two to five hours getting information from the Internet on a daily basis. A breakdown of par ticipants demographics, organized by nation, or condition, are provided and described below. These summaries of demographic statistics and online behaviors may provide useful in sight to the findings of this study. Colombia A total num ber of 30 students answered questions regarding images of Colombia. The majority of respondents were female. Of th e 30 participants answ ering questions about Colombia, 28 (93.3%) were female and only two (6.7%) were male. The median age of the respondents was 21. The ages of the respondents ranged from 18 to 29 with 80% of respondents ( N= 24) identifying themselves as upperclassmen, eith er juniors or seniors. More than 86% ( N = 26) of respondents reported goi ng online several times a day to get information or news, and more than 56% (N = 17) of respondents reported spending tw o to five hours getting information from the Internet on a daily basis.

PAGE 37

37 El Salvador A total num ber of 30 students answered questions regarding images of El Salvador. Respondents gender was skewed toward female s. Of the 30 particip ants, 25 (83.3%) were female and five (16.7%) were male. The median age of the respondents was 21. The ages of the respondents ranged from 18 to 24 with more than 83% of respondents ( N= 25) identifying themselves as upperclassmen, either juniors or seniors. More than 96% ( N = 29) of respondents go online to get information onlin e several times a day, and 60% ( N = 18) of respondents spend two to five hours getting information from the Internet on a daily basis. Paraguay A total num ber of 30 students answered questions regarding images of Paraguay. Respondents gender was skewed toward females. Of the total 30 participants, 24 (80%) were female and six (20%) were male. The median ag e of the respondents wa s 21. The ages of the respondents ranged from 20 to 23 with 100% of respondents ( N= 30) identifying themselves as upperclassmen, either juniors or seniors. More than 96% ( N = 29) of respondents go online to get information online several times a day, and more than 66% ( N = 20) of respondents reported spending six to ten hours a day getting inform ation from the Internet. In comparison to participants who responded to questions about Colombia and El Salvador, participants who responded to questions about Paraguay were a ll upperclassmen and reported more frequent use of the Internet for seekin g and gathering information. Treatment The sam ple is comprised of college students at the University of Florida. In terms of computer skill and experience with the Internet, college student participants are popular samples for Internet studies. An invitation was provided to undergraduate students through an instructor responsible for the course or the researcher herself. Subjects ( N = 90) were recruited from

PAGE 38

38 undergraduate public relations, tele communications and tourism cour ses. Subjects volunteered to attend one 20 minute experimental session in the UF College of Journalism and Communications Research Lab. Three websites were established to serve as stimuli in this study. Participants were assigned to one of three conditions: (1) Colombias tourism website ( N = 30), (2) El Salvadors tourism website (N = 30) and (3) Paraguays tourism website ( N = 30). Therefore, a total of 90 respondents were required for this experime nt. No matching or randomization was done. Stimuli Official English-language tourism websites of three Latin American nations (Colombia, El Salvador and Paraguay) served as stimuli for this experiment (Table 3-1). The rationale for choosing these nations is that they each launche d their tourism campaigns websites within the past two years. It is assumed that each nation uses their tourism website as an impression management tool and controls the information di sseminated via their tourism website with the hopes of influencing external audiences images of their nation. Each nation has political and economic motivations to earn an international reputation for thei r tourism industry and follow in the footsteps of success stories produced by popular Latin American and Caribbean destinations such as Mexico and Puerto Rico. For each condition, about 30 participants were recommended. Procedure The particip ants received a written inform ed consent form explaining the research procedure (Appendix A). If they vol untarily agreed to participate, they signed the agreement as well as received a copy for their own records. Then, they were assigne d a laptop or desktop computer in the College of Jour nalism and Communications research lab. Participants read an introduction paragraph which provi ded clear and succinct instructions to follow. The study also employed a filter check (Table 3-2).

PAGE 39

39 The six filter check questions asked the study subjects whether they themselves or someone they know has visited or lived in Colomb ia, El Salvador or Paraguay. They also asked whether the study subjects had read about or seen images of Colombia, El Salvador or Paraguay through mass media (i.e., newspapers, magazines, radio, film, etc.) recently. The study subjects who had at least one experience w ith one of the Latin American nations were referred to another unfamiliar Latin American nation and their t ourism website. Based on their responses, a questionnaire concerning one of the three nations was randomly assigned to each respondent. If a respondent had visited, lived in, re ad about or seen images of any of the nations, she or he was randomly assigned one of the remaining nations. In this way, respondents were screened to ensure that they had not visited, lived in, read about or seen imag es of the nation for which they were providing image and impression information. This control was instigated to ensure that the images and impressions measured in this surv ey were based solely on secondary sources of information and not on first-hand experiences. Si nce the total sample size consisted of 90, 30 questionnaires were completed for each of the three nations. The procedure follows three phases (initial im pression, exploration a nd exit), as reflected by Vorvoreanus (2006) experience-centered appr oach to websites, and took approximately 20 minutes to complete. Study subjects responded to a pretest questionnaire, were exposed to and interacted with a stimulus and then filled out a posttest questi onnaire. The survey questionnaires included multiple choice responses, open ended re sponses, Likert scales and bipolar items. Based on their responses to the filter ch eck questions, respondents were randomly assigned a Latin American nation. At the begi nning of the questionnai re, respondents were prompted with an open-ended res ponse question about the images they associate with the nation to discover their preconceived images of the na tion: What images or characteristics come to

PAGE 40

40 mind when you think of Nation X? This open-e nded question and the fr ee elicitation of descriptive adjectives have been tested and used in previous im age research studies (Echtner & Ritchie, 1993; Reilly, 1990). Th e question allowed respondents to think freely about the nation and describe their overall impressions of the nation without restrictions. Image was operationalized in terms of its four components: c ognitive, affective, evaluative and behavioral. Cognitive image, or respondents be liefs or knowledge about a nation, and behavioral image, or responde nts intention to visit the nati on, were measured on a five-point Likert scale, responses ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree), where 3 represented a neutral response. The likert it ems were adapted from Ong and Horbunkeukits 1997 study. The researcher developed and added two items relevant to a persons cognitive image of a nation. One item was removed due to redundancy. As a result, eight of the eleven items measured participants cognitive image of a nation while the remaining three items measured participants behavioral image (Table 3-3). The affective and evaluative components of re spondents images were measured using semantic differential scale presented by Kotler, Haider and Rein (1993). Affective image, or respondents feeling s toward or evaluation of a nation, and evaluative image, or how respondents evaluate a nation and its people, were measured on a seven-point scale using twenty bipolar items (Table 3-4). According to Vorvoreanu (2006) it takes website visitors just a few seconds to form a first impression (p. 398). After asking res pondents about their knowledge of and feelings toward the designated nation, a snapshot of either Colombias tourism we bsite (Figure 3-1), El Salvadors website (Figure 3-2) or Paraguays website (Figure 3-3) appeared on the computer screen for approximately 10 seconds. Then, th e participant was asked an open-ended question

PAGE 41

41 about their first impression of the nation. This is the same question as was asked at the very beginning of the questionnaire: What images or characteristics come to mind when you think of Nation X? After giving their res ponses, the respondents were then presented with the stimulus and instructed to browse the si te freely for approximately 10 minutes. The median visit duration across all websites is approxima tely three minutes. In 2008, the median length of time visitors spent on Brazils website was four minutes, el even seconds (Tourism Ireland, 2008). During this exploration phase, no specific instru ctions were given in order to allow for a more genuine online experience with the website. Participants were given 10 minutes instead of the median duration of three minutes to browse the tourism website in an effort to encourage the participants to explore beyond the websites home page. This longe r duration allotted more time for participants to discover and observe more content and images, especially videos. After visiting the website, during the exit phase, respondents then proceeded to a posttest survey questionnaire where they answered the open-ended question and were presented with Likert scale and bipolar items again. For a final time, respondents were asked the open-ended question about their images of the nation. Overall, these responses to the open-ended questions, when compared at different stages, will illustrate whether or not the tourism website influenced or changed the visitors initial perceptions and images of the nation. The quest ions remained the same as in the pretest questionnaire, and the only difference was in the ordering of the quest ions. Additionally, the survey presented six questions each about the participants general In ternet use and basic demographic information (i.e., age, gender and level of education). Data Analysis The analysis of the data in this study consis ted of two m ajor parts: analysis of the openended questions and analysis of th e Likert scale and bipolar items.

PAGE 42

42 Analysis of the Open-Ended Questions The prim ary objectives in analyzing the open-en ded questions were to classify and label the various images and characteristics given by respondents and then, by means of frequency analysis, to determine the holistic and unique images most commonly held of each nation. To establish the classification schema used to c ode the answers to the open-ended questions, the researcher and a second coder grouped similar an swers for each of the open-ended questions and provided a label for these groupings. As a result of this procedure, a final classification schema was developed for each of the open-ended questi ons for the three nations. The answers of the open-ended questions were coded using the guide lines established by the classification schema. Frequency tables were then produced for each of the open-ended questions for the three nations. The placement of each item was based on Beerli and Martins (2004) dimensions and is a conceptual gathering rather than one based on statistics. A similar process was used by Lepp and Gibson (2003) to conceptually group risk related images. Th e responses to the open-ended questions were classified with respect to their to pics and in accordance with Beerli and Martins (2004) destination image classifi cations. The coding process was done in an inductive way, with images and characteristics sorted by the follo wing five broad categor ies: (1) physical, (2) cultural, (3) economic/political, (4) atmosphere and (5) none. Then, all images were sorted within one of the five main categories and into sub-categories as listed in the codebook (Appendix C) and coding sheet (Appendix D).All in stances of each image dimension were coded and counted. This dataset allowed for comparisons of the images and characteristics expressed by participants before visiting the website, after seeing a snaps hot of the website and after browsing through the website. These comparisons a llowed the researcher to draw conclusions about the specific impression of tourism webs ites on the respondents images of a nation.

PAGE 43

43 Intercoder reliability was estimated between the researcher and a second coder. The subsample used was 10% of the total sample. The c oder was instructed to follow the directions and guidelines of the codebook to categorize and coun t the images and charac teristics of nations given by respondents. The intercoder reliability was calculated according to the following equation: 2M/N1+N2 where M is the number of the coding decisions in common, N1 and N2 are the respective coders decisions (Holsti, 1969). Interc oder agreement averaged 89.5%. Analysis of the Likert Scale and Bipolar Items SPSS 15.0 was used to com pute the data collected from the likert items and bipolar items. To determine the impact of the tourism website on participants images of the nation, the participants ratings before visiting the website we re compared to their ratings after visiting the website; more specifically, pretest mean scores were compared to posttest mean scores. Paired difference t-tests were used for all bipolar and likert items to compare the change of the images held of Colombia, El Salvador and Paraguay before and after exposure to the stimulus by comparing within group statistical analysis.

PAGE 44

44 Table 3-1. Stimuli Experimental Stimuli Website Colombias tourism website http://www.colombia.travel/en El Salvadors tourism website http://elsalvador.travel/eng/ Paraguays tourism website http:// www.senatur.gov.py/index.php?language=2 Table 3-2. Filter check questions Colombia El Salvador Paraguay a. I have visited b. I have lived in c. I know someone who has visited d. I know someone who has lived in e. I have recently read about___ in the media f. I have recently seen images (i.e., photo or film) about ___ in the media

PAGE 45

45 Table 3-3. List of Likert scale items Measures cognitive image 1. Nation X is an expensive place to tour. 2. Nation X is a small country. 3. There is not much to see in Nation X. 4. It is not safe to visit Nation X because of the crime. 5. I have no idea where Nation X is located at. 6. Nation X is politically stable. 7. Shopping would be great in Nation X. 8. It is difficult to obtain information on Nation X. Measures behavioral image 9. I would like to visit Nati on X in the near future. 10. I am afraid to visit any country I know nothing of. 11. I would like to live in Nation X in the near future. Table 3-4. List of bipolar items Measures affective/evaluative image Innocent-Sinful Vibrant-Stagnant Underdeveloped-Overdeveloped Dirty-Clean Pretty-Ugly Favorable-Unfavorable Friendly-Cold Sophisticated-Simple Touristy-Not Touristy at all Romantic-Boring Natural-Artificial Ec onomically Poor-Economically Wealthy Old-New Accessible and Isolated Interesting-Uninteresting Safe-Unsafe Feminine-Mascu line Harmonious-Conflictual Upscale-Poor Overcrowded-Sparse

PAGE 46

46 Figure 3-1. Colombia s tourism website

PAGE 47

47 Figure 3-2. El Salva dors tourism website

PAGE 48

48 Figure 3-3. Paraguays tourism website

PAGE 49

49 CHAPTER 4 RESULTS Analysis of Filter Check Questions Overall, only three responde nts (2.5%) had visited Colom bia, one respondent (0.8%) visited El Salvador and another single respondent (0.8%) visited Paraguay. No one in the sample had ever lived in Colombia, but one respondent (0.8%) lived in El Salvador and another single respondent (0.8%) lived in Pa raguay. More than 63% ( N= 76) knew someone who had visited Colombia while about 21% or less knew someone who had visited eith er El Salvador or Paraguay (20.8% and 15.8%, respectively). More than 54% of respondents knew someone who has lived in Colombia while less than 8% of respondents knew someone who lived in either El Salvador (0.8%) or Paraguay (0.8% and 7.5%, re spectively). Of the 120 respondents, only one respondent (0.8%) had read about Paraguay in th e media recently, four respondents (3.3%) had read about El Salvador and 39 respondents (32.5 %) had read about Colombia. One-third of the respondents ( N= 40, 33.3%) had seen images of Colombia in the media recently while less than 10% of respondents reported seei ng images of either El Salva dor or Paraguay (9.2% and 2.5%, respectively) in the media recently. Analysis According to the Research Questions To ascertain the im pact of a tourism website on visitors images of a nation, respondents image ratings prior to visiting the tourism website were compared to those ratings solicited after browsing the tourism website for several minutes As can be seen in Table 4-1, significant differences in total image scores for the th ree nations combined were observed for all components of an image: cognitive, affective, ev aluative and behavioral. In general, respondents exposed to a tourism website rated the Latin Amer ican nation more favorably and positively than respondents who were not exposed to a tourism website. However, when the image scores were

PAGE 50

50 observed by individual nation and im age component rather than as a group, differences did exist. The findings, as detailed belo w, provide such evidence. Research Questions RQ1: Can each nations tourism website chan ge a persons know ledge about that nation? To determine the impact of the Latin Am erican tourism website on respondents knowledge about a nation, respondents cognitive image ratings prior to visiting the tourism website were compared to those ratings solicited after browsing the tourism website for several minutes. As can be seen in Table 4-2, the total average cognitive image score is not statistically significant for Colombia ( t = 1.82, df= 29, p= .079). However, the total average c ognitive image score is statistically significant for Paraguay ( t = 4.41, df= 29, p= .000) as well as for El Salvador ( t = -2.45, df= 29, p= .021). Therefore, as a whole, the tourism websites of both El Salvador and Paraguay were more successful in changing resp ondents knowledge about their nations than Colombias tourism website. For the most part, respondents exposed to the tourism website s lightly altered their knowledge of a Latin American nation from thei r knowledge before they were exposed to the tourism website. After visiting a nations tourism website, respondents agreed more that all three Latin American nationsColombia, El Salvador a nd Paraguay are politica lly stable as well as safe to visit. Also after visiting a nati ons tourism website, respondents were more knowledgeable about the nations location. Statistically significant differences in cognitive images of Colombia were found for likert items related to country size ( t = 2.73, df= 29, p= .011), safety ( t = 4.58, df= 29, p= .000), location ( t = 4.08, df= 29, p= .000), political stability ( t = -3.46, df= 29, p= .002) and shopping opportunities (t = -2.90, df= 29, p= .007). After visiting Co lombias tourism website, respondents

PAGE 51

51 agreed more that Colombia is a great place for shopping (M= 3.60, SD= .81) and disagreed more that Colombia is a small country (M= 2.57, SD= .90). Statistically significant diffe rences in El Salvadors cognitive image scores were observed for six of the eight items: safety ( t = 3.90, df= 29, p= .001), location (t = 4.66, df= 29, p= .000), political stability ( t = -4.65, df= 29, p= .000), country size ( t = 2.16, df= 29, p= .039), sightseeing opportunities (t = 4.17, df= 29, p= .000) and tour expenses (t = 2.28, df= 29, p= .030). After visiting El Salvadors tourism website, respondents disagreed more with the following statements: There is not much to see in El Salvador ( M= 1.97, SD= .77) and El Salvador is an expensive place to tour ( M= 2.13, SD= .78). Statistically significant differences in Paraguays cognitive image scores were observed for almost all items: country size ( t = 2.90, df= 29, p= .007), sight -seeing opportunities ( t = 3.79, df= 29, p= .001), safety ( t = 3.18, df= 29, p= .003), location ( t = 3.94, df= 29, p= .000), political stability ( t = -2.08, df= 29, p= .046), shopping opportunities ( t = -3.29, df= 29, p= .003) and availability of information ( t = 3.29, df= 29, p= .003). Respondents ag reed more that Paraguay is a great place for shopping ( M= 3.50, SD= .82) after visiting Paraguays tourism website. Also, respondents disagreed more with the ideas that there is not much to see in Paraguay ( M= 1.60, SD= .68) and that it is difficult to obtain information on Paraguay (M= 1.57, SD= .57). RQ2: Can each nations tourism website change a persons feelings tow ards and evaluation of that nation? To determine the impact of the Latin Ameri can tourism website on respondents feelings towards and evaluation of a nati on, respondents affective and eval uative image ratings prior to visiting the tourism website were compared to those ratings solicited af ter browsing the tourism website. As can be seen in Table 4-3, the total average affective/evaluative image score is not statistically significant for Paraguay ( t = -0.45, df= 29, p= .964), yet it is statistically significant

PAGE 52

52 for both Colombia ( t = 4.87, df= 29, p= .000) and El Salvador ( t = 5.55, df= 29, p= .000). Thus, the tourism websites of both Colombia and El Salvador were more successful in changing respondents feelings towards and evaluation of their nations than Paraguays tourism website. For the most part, respondents exposed to the tourism website s lightly altered their feelings toward and evaluation of a Latin Ameri can nation from their feelings and evaluations before they were exposed to the tourism website. Statistically significant differences in all three nations image scores were observed for 14 out of the 20 bipolar items. Respondents rated Colombia, El Salvador and Paraguay as more romantic, safe, interest ing, vibrant, pretty, harmonious, clean, upscale, accessible, touristy, economically wealthy, developed and favorable after visiting thei r tourism websites. Statistically significant differences in Colo mbias affective image scores were also observed for the following items: feminine--masculine ( t = 4.33, df= 29, p= .000), friendly--cold ( t = 2.52, df= 29, p= .017), old--new (t = -4.21, df= 29, p= .000), natural--artificial ( t = 2.81, df= 29, p= .009) and overcrowded--sparse ( t = -2.72, df= 29, p= .011). Statistically significant differences in El Sa lvadors affective image scores were also observed for the following items: innocent--sinful (t = 3.74, df= 29, p= .001), feminine-masculine (t = 3.10, df= 29, p= .004) and overcrowded--sparse ( t = -3.61, df= 29, p= .001). Statistically significant differences in Para guays affective image scores were also observed for the following items: friendly--cold ( t = 2.77, df= 29, p= .010), old--new ( t = -2.25, df= 29, p= .032) and sophisticated--simple (t = 3.79, df= 29, p= .001). RQ3: Can each nations tourism website change a persons inten tion to vi sit or live in that nation? To determine the impact of the Latin Ameri can tourism website on visitors intention to visit or live in that nation, respondents behavi oral image ratings prior to visiting the tourism

PAGE 53

53 website were compared to those ratings solicited after browsing the tourism website for several minutes. As can be seen in Table 4-4, the total av erage behavioral image score is not statistically significant for Paraguay ( t = -1.16, df= 29, p= .256). However, the total average behavioral image score is statistically significant for both Colombia ( t = -3.02, df= 29, p= .005) and El Salvador ( t = --6.15, df= 29, p= .000). Consequently, the tourism websites of both Colombia and El Salvador were more successful in changing respondents intention to visit or live in their nations than Paraguays tourism website. Mostly, respondents exposed to the tourism website slightly altered their behavioral intentions of a Latin American nation from their behavioral intentions before they were exposed to the tourism website. All mean scores increase d when respondents were asked their intention to visit the nation after visiting its tourism website Statistically significant differences occurred only for El Salvador (t = -4.37, df= 29, p= .000) and Paraguay ( t = 5.95, df= 29, p= .000) for the statement: I would like to vi sit Nation X. Surprisingly, m ean scores increased only for Colombia when respondents were asked their in tention to live in the nation after visiting its tourism website. Respondents disagreed less that they would like to live in Colombia (M= 2.57, SD= 1.00) but disagreed more that they w ould like to live in El Salvador ( M= 1.60, SD= .77) or Paraguay ( M= 2.13, SD= .78). RQ4: Does a nations tourism website enhance or modify images held of that nation by those w ho visit the website? Figure 4-1 provides the frequenc y of responses to the firs t of three open-ended image questions included in the survey. The most common responses were images of physical attributes of each nation. Physical images consisted of references to flora and fauna, such as jungles, rainforests, jungles and trees. The second most frequent image dimension for El Salvador and Paraguay was the cultural dimension ( N= 23, N= 31, respectively), more specifically

PAGE 54

54 characteristics of native people ( N= 8, N= 10, respectively) were most common. Interestingly, in the case of Colombia, there were more economic and political dimensions (N= 24) reported than cultural dimensions ( N= 17). Specifically, respondents list ed images of agriculture ( N= 11), mostly coffee, and crime ( N= 7), mostly drugs and violence. A ll nations were also frequently linked to images of poverty. There were few images which made reference to a nations atmosphere and some respondents even offered no images in the cases of El Salvador and Paraguay. Figure 4-2 provides the frequenc y of responses to the sec ond of three open-ended image questions included in the surve y. Before providing images or ch aracteristics of a nation this second time, respondents were able to view the ho mepage of the nations tourism website for ten seconds. The visuals on the websites home page le d to an increase in th e number of images respondents offered for the open-ended questi on. The number of physical images offered remained high, but images within the atmosphere dimension increased co nsiderably across all nations. In comparison to the other two stages of the survey when respondents were asked the open-ended image questions, respondents offered th e most images belonging to the atmosphere dimension during this first impression phase. It seems as though their brief exposure to the tourism website and the visual s displayed on its homepage gr eatly affected respondents formation of affective and evaluative images. In addition to identifying tangible images and characteristics of the nations, respondents were also voluntarily offeri ng intangible images and characteristics of the nations. The most frequent characteristics attributed to the three nations were the following intangible images and charac teristics: vibrant, co lorful and beautiful. After the first impression phase, respondents most common images of Colombia fell into the cultural category. The large visual of th e two women on Colombias home page evoked

PAGE 55

55 many responses related to indigenous and ethnic people. There were no images of poverty, drugs or crime linked to Colombia; instead, the economic/political dimension consisted of images of coffee, shopping and tourism. In fact, images of tourism were among the top four responses for all three nations. The sharp increase in Paraguays economic/pol itical dimension may be explained by the large picture of a citys skyline which dominates the homepage of Paraguays tourism website. This particular image on Paraguays tourism website changed the minds of many respondents who initially labeled Paraguay as old and underdev eloped and left an impression of a developed, urban nation on the minds of the website visitors. Figure 4-3 provides the frequenc y of responses to the fina l of three open-ended image questions included in the survey. Before providing images or charact eristics of a nation this last time, respondents browsed the nations tourism website for approximately ten minutes. Their exploration of and interaction wi th the tourism website led to more informed and descriptive images of all three nations. Once again, physical images were the most common for all three nations, with almost equal mention of both terrestrial and aquatic images. Images of a nations tradition/history were very frequent after respondents browsed the tour ism website whereas they were rarely given in response to the first open-ended image question. RQ5: Based on the findings of the preceding questions, d o differences exist between images of Colombia, El Salvador and Paraguay? Yes, as revealed in the preceding findings, image differences do exist between Colombia, El Salvador and Paraguay. Most importantly, El Salvador is the only nation which had statistically significant differe nces for all image components total average image scores: cognitive, affective/evaluative and behavioral. Colombias total average image scores only

PAGE 56

56 possessed statistically significant differences for the affective/evaluative and behavioral components of image. Meanwhile, Paraguay had statistically significant total average image scores solely for the cognitive component of image. Based on these observations, El Salvador seems to be most successful in altering respondent s images of its nations followed by Colombia and Paraguay. Images offered by respondents when prompted with the open-ended question also varied by nation. Though the majority of responses we re similar across nations, respondents also offered distinct and specific images and characte ristics of nations such as Juan Valdez for Colombia, impressive for El Salv ador and guarani for Paraguay.

PAGE 57

57 Table 4-1. Overall images differen ces before and af ter intervention Pre-website Post-website Mean SDaMean SDat df p Cognitive ** 2.71 0.36 2.46 0.32 5.568 89 .000 Affective/Evaluative ** 3.53 0.43 3.14 0.44 9.941 89 .000 Behavioral ** 2.44 0.60 2.88 0.66 -7.749 89 .000 Note Values are the mean of reported scores on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagr ee, 3 = Neutral, 4 = Agree 5 = Strongly Agree). aStandard Deviation. *p < .05 **p< .01.

PAGE 58

58 Table 4-2. Overall cognitive images differences before and after intervention Colombia El Salvador Paraguay PreMean PostMean PreMean PostMean PreMean PostMean Nation X is an expensive place to tour. 2.73 2.70 2.57 2.13 2.53 2.80 Nation X is a small country. 3.03 2.57 3.83 3.50 3.67 ** 3.13 ** There is not much to see in Nation X. 1.90 1.77 2.73 ** 1.97 ** 2.03 ** 1.60 ** It is not safe to visit Nation X because of the crime. 3.07 ** 2.37 ** 3.07 ** 2.43 ** 2.60 ** 2.10 ** I have no idea where Nation X is located at. 2.57 ** 1.60 ** 2.83 ** 1.83 ** 2.80 ** 1.63 ** Nation X is politically stable. 2.53 ** 3.10 ** 2.73 ** 3.27 ** 2.93 3.30 Shopping would be great in Nation X. 3.00 ** 3.60 ** 2.77 3.03 3.03 ** 3.50 ** It is difficult to obtain information on Nation X. 1.93 1.67 2.00 1.73 2.03 ** 1.57 ** Total Average Cognitive Score 2.60 2.45 2.82 ** 2.49 ** 2.47 2.56 Note Values are the mean of reported scores on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagr ee, 3 = Neutral, 4 = Agree 5 = Strongly Agree). *p < .05 **p< .01.

PAGE 59

59 Table 4-3. Overall affective/ev aluative images differences before and after intervention Colombia El Salvador Paraguay PreMean PostMean PreMean PostMean PreMean PostMean Innocent--Sinful 3.60 3.37 3.53 ** 2.90 ** 3.13 3.13 Feminine--Masculine 4.53 ** 3.70 ** 4.10 ** 3.40 ** 4.00 3.67 Friendly--Cold 3.47 2.87 3.33 3.03 3.03 2.60 Romantic--Boring 3.23 ** 2.30 ** 3.67 ** 2.90 ** 3.33 ** 2.47 ** Old--New 3.37 ** 4.20 ** 3.03 3.03 3.07 3.83 Safe--Unsafe 4.53 ** 3.47 ** 4.50 ** 3.47 ** 3.87 ** 2.87 ** Interesting--Uninteresting 2.57 2.03 3.13 2.50 2.47 ** 1.92 ** Vibrant--Stagnant 2.80 ** 1.90 ** 3.17 ** 2.40 ** 2.80 ** 1.93 ** Pretty--Ugly 2.57 ** 1.73 ** 3.17 ** 2.30 ** 2.57 ** 1.97 ** Sophisticated--Simple 4.30 3.93 4.63 4.30 4.73 ** 3.93 ** Natural--Artificial 2.43 ** 1.93 ** 2.43 2.03 2.20 1.87 Harmonious--Conflictual 4.03 ** 3.10 ** 4.07 ** 2.83 ** 3.73 ** 2.70 ** Dirty--Clean 3.60 ** 4.80 ** 3.13 ** 4.53 ** 3.47 ** 5.07 ** Overcrowded--Sparse 3.73 4.23 3.50 ** 4.23 ** 3.93 4.00 Upscale--Poor 4.80 ** 3.80 ** 4.97 ** 4.40 ** 4.80 ** 3.30 ** Accessible--Isolated 4.13 ** 3.13 ** 4.20 ** 3.20 ** 3.67 ** 2.37 ** Touristy--Not Toursity At All 3.97 ** 2.93 ** 4.27 ** 3.37 ** 3.70 ** 2.40 ** Economically Poor--Economically Wealthy 3.07 ** 3.90 ** 2.80 ** 3.43 ** 3.13 ** 3.83 ** Underdeveloped--Developed 3.20 3.77 2.77 3.23 3.00 ** 3.83 ** Favorable--Unfavorable 3.53 ** 2.70 ** 4.17 ** 2.93 ** 3.40 ** 2.50 ** Total Average Affective Score 3.57 ** 3.91 ** 3.63 ** 3.30 ** 3.64 3.64 Note Values are the mean of reported scores on a 7-point semantic differential scale (1-----7). *p < .05 **p< .01.

PAGE 60

60 Table 4-4. Overall behavioral images di fferences before and after intervention Colombia El Salvador Paraguay PreMean PostMean PreMean PostMean PreMean PostMean I would like to visit Nation X. 3.20 3.60 2.63 ** 3.33 ** 3.07 ** 3.87 ** I am afraid to visit any country I know nothing of. 2.63 2.40 2.93 2.73 2.37 2.13 I would like to liv e in Nation X 1.77 ** 2.57 ** 2.57 ** 1.60 ** 2.70 ** 1.77 ** Total Average Behavioral Score 2.53 ** 2.86 ** 2.39 ** 2.88 ** 2.46 2.56 Note Values are the mean of reported scores on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagr ee, 3 = Neutral, 4 = Agree 5 = Strongly Agree). *p < .05 **p< .01.

PAGE 61

61 Figure 4-1. Images before intervention Figure 4-2. Images after first impression Figure 4-3. Images after intervention 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 Frequency PhysicalCulturalEcon./Pol.AtmosphereNone Image Dimension Colombia El Salvador Paraguay 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 Frequency PhysicalCulturalEcon./Pol.AtmosphereNone Image Dimension Colombia El Salvador Paraguay 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 Frequency PhysicalCulturalEcon./Pol.AtmosphereNone Image Dimension Colombia El Salvador Paraguay

PAGE 62

62 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION The purpose of this study was to understand a nd com pare Latin American nations use of image and impression management on their tourism websites. Specifically, this study sought to discover whether or not a nations tourism website is an effective impression management tool equipped with the capacity to enhance or modify visitors images of nations. The first research question sought to determin e the impact of a nations tourism website on respondents knowledge about the nation. In gene ral, respondents beli efs and knowledge of a nation changed after their exposure to the tour ism website. However, st atistically significant differences were observed for Para guay and El Salvador only and not for Colombia. This is to some extent a reflection of the results from the filter check questions. About one-third of all respondents had recently read about or seen images of Colombia in the media while more than half of the respondents knew someone who had visited or lived in Colombia. In comparison to El Salvador and Paraguay, it would make sense that Americans seem more familiar with and feel greater proximity to Colombia due to its some what frequent presence in American media. Colombias prevalence in American media is mostly due to the fact that Colombia is one of the largest recipients of United States foreign aid. El Salvador and Paraguay, on the other hand, scarcely make headline news in the United Stat es recently. These observations may also explain why some respondents were incapable of offering any images at all of e ither El Salvador or Paraguay in response to the first open-ended question. Since there is little information about or exposure to El Salvador or Para guay to begin with, it is not surp rising that their tourism websites were most successful in changing respondents beliefs and knowledge of their nation. Interestingly, at the end of the experiment respondents agreed more that Colombia, El Salvador and Paraguay are politically stable and safe nations to visit. Colombias claim that the

PAGE 63

63 only risk is wanting to stay may have e ffectively persuaded and changed respondents perceptions of political stability and safety in Colombia. In addition to Colombia, El Salvador and Paraguay were able to convince respondents that their nations are harmonious and safe tourism destinations. The profe ssionalism, logic organization a nd easy navigation of the tourism websites most likely influenced respondents tr ust in and positive attitudes towards the three nations. A less surprising result was that res pondents were also more knowledgeable about each nations location and perceived each country as larg er in size after visiting the nations tourism website. As expected, each nation attributed a section on its tourism website to illustrate its geographic location and inform visitors of its nations various regions. After exposure to the website, respondents believed that there is much to see in all three nations and shopping would be great in all three na tions. Also, after visiting the website, respondents disagreed more with the idea that Colombia and El Salvador are expens ive places to tour. On the other hand, respondents rated Paraguay as more expensive after visiting its website. While Colombia and El Salvador position themselves as safe, natural and lush destinations, Paraguay positions itself as a technological nation, filled with endless i nvestment opportunities and access to luxurious activities. The second research question s ought to determine the impact of a nations tourism website on respondents feelings towards the nation. Es sentially, respondents ex posed to the tourism website reported more positive feelings toward and favorable evaluations of all three nations after they were exposed to th e tourism website. Respondents rate d Colombia, El Salvador and Paraguay as more romantic, safe, interesti ng, vibrant, pretty, harmonious, clean, upscale, accessible, touristy, economically wealthy, deve loped and favorable among other items. The content and design of each nations tourism website most likely influenced respondents feelings

PAGE 64

64 and evaluations of the nation. Ironi cally, Paraguay, whose slogan is you have to feel it, was the only nation which did not have statistically significant differences for its total average affective/evaluative image score. The explanation for this is uncertain. The third research question attempted to es tablish the impact of a nations tourism website on visitors intentions to visit or live in that nation. Th e total average behavioral image score was not statistically significant for Paragua y. However, the total average behavioral image score was statistically significant for Colombia and for El Salvador. Consequently, the tourism websites of both Colombia and El Salvador we re more successful in changing respondents intention to visit or live in their nations than Paraguays tourism website. This is rather unexpected since of the three nations, Paraguay is the only nation with a slogan which provokes action: you have to feel it. The reason for this finding is unclear withou t further research. Not so surprisingly, respondents agreed more that they would like to visit all three nations after visiting its tourism websites. St rangely, though, while respondents agreed more that they would like to live in Colombia, they agreed less that th ey would like to live in either El Salvador or Paraguay after visiting their touris m websites. The latter of these findings seem to contradict the earlier findings which demonstrated a greater interesting in traveli ng to El Salvador and Paraguay upon visiting their touris m websites. An explanation may be that after more than 10 minutes of exposure to the tourism website, responde nts may be primed to view and perceive the nation as a temporary vacation destination versus a potential place to cal l their permanent home. The fourth research question sought to determ ine respondents descri ptive, detailed and distinctive impressions of each nation. When respondents were first asked the open-ended question about their images of a certain nati on, most respondents characterized each nation by stereotypical mental pictures. The high frequency of physical images such as beaches and

PAGE 65

65 rainforests may be reflective of the common percep tion and depiction of Latin America as a lush, tropical region in the world. Countries such as Brazil, Mexico and Cost a Rica have attracted attention to the Latin American region by su ccessfully positioning themselves within the ecotourism market segment of the tourism industry and circulating many vi suals of their natural environments and outdoor activities via interna tional advertising and ma rketing materials. Based on each nations most frequent images, it is apparent that res ponses were influenced by the visuals presented to them on the tourism website. Respondents numerous intangible images of nations may further demonstrate a nd support the notion that tourism websites are strategic impression management tools. They ha ve the ability not only to build awareness and knowledge among its audiences, also referred to as cognitive imag es, but also to influence audiences interest and attitudes towards a nation, also known as affective and evaluative images. The open-ended image questions proved useful for determining not only existing imagery but also for monitoring the effect of the t ourism websites on these images of nations. Overall, images of Colombia, El Salvador and Paraguay were mixed and consisted of positive, negative and neutral images. Before visiting the tourism websites, the negative images of nations were associated mostly with poverty and crime. Physical images of Colombia, El Salvador and Paraguay included generic references to rainforests, jungles, mountains, beaches, oceans and waterfalls. Cultural images consisted of history, tradition, the Spanish language and indigenous people. The images and characteristics which fell under the economic/political dimension were mostly negative: third-world, p overty, drugs, cocaine, violence, corruption and dictatorship. Colombian coffee was the only positiv e image of Colombia in terms of politics and economics.

PAGE 66

66 After visiting the tourism websites, images b ecame more positive and descriptive. In other words, after the intervention the overall images were more positive than the overall images held before the intervention. Positive images and characteristics of Colombia included the Amazon, colorful costumes, handicrafts, co ffee plantations, resorts, relaxi ng, beautiful, modern, paradise and more. There were only two instances of negative images: drug wars and dull. Positive images and characteristics of El Salvador consis ted of beachside restaurants, ecotourism, surfing, white water rafting, volcanoes, pyramids, tropica l and attractive. A few negative images and characteristics of El Salvador did exist. Negative references were made most specifically to bad climate, dirt and underdeveloped locations. Posi tive images and characteristics of Paraguay included spas, good climate, Asuncion, guarani, deve loped, adventurous, diverse, and exotic. In the open ended responses, after visiting Pa raguays website, no negative images or characteristics were offered. The fifth and final research question attempted to determine if there were any differences between images of Colombia, El Salvador and Paraguay. Because El Salv ador is the only nation which had statistically significant differences, it appears to be the most successful nation at altering website visitors images of its na tion. Both Colombia and El Salvador possess statistically significant differences for their aff ective/evaluative and be havioral images. This evidence reveals a relationship between these image components. Specifically, those who have more positive feelings towards a nd evaluations of a nation are also more likely to want to visit that nation. Evidence also shows that at first gl ance, visuals on a websites home page can make lasting impressions on website visitors. Afte r the first impression phase, respondents held distinctive impressions of each nation as a result of the large, focal visuals. For these reasons,

PAGE 67

67 image and impression management are necessa ry when planning an online campaign and designing the campaign s official website. Implications Nations m ust invest in their tourism sectors if they want to manage their international reputation as well as sustain thei r economies. In order for a govern ment to understand its nations current images and achieve its desired images, governments seek professional counsel. Usually, public relations practitio ners are charged with managing a na tions public image. This charge becomes especially important to a nations suc cess in the tourism indus try. Public relations practitioners must be able to work with webs ite designers to strate gically and effectively communicate and maintain a nations image via their official tourism website. From a practical perspective, the overall understanding of the components of an image and the factors influencing the forming and shaping of images and impressions will help nations and public relations practitioners to communicate a fitting image online. As has been demonstrated, first impressions matter and websites serve as effective impression management tools. With the right amount of research and pl anning, tourism websites can in crease visitors beliefs, knowledge of a nation, feelings toward and evaluation of a na tion, and intentions to vi sit or live in a nation. Public relations practitioners must also consider the necessity to establish trust and credibility among publics, both internally and externally, in order to succe ssfully attract individuals attention and influence their imag es and impressions of a nation. Since it has been demonstrated that a touris m website can positively influence individuals images of a nation, all nations should invest in their online presence beginning with a tourism website. A tourism website provides the capacity for the nation to build and achieve national unity, greater recognition in th e global realm, respect for its country and its people and international political and economic relationships.

PAGE 68

68 Recommendations A nations website m ust project an image which will create a lasting impression on online users minds and entice visitors to return to the site. First-time visitors of the nations tourism website may not possess prior knowledge of the na tion. Thus, a tourism website should be as informative as possible and convey the nations lo cation, what the nation has to offer and contact information. Developing content distinctive to th e nation or its location is another way to draw visitors to a tourism website. Additionally, nations must struct ure their websites to be easily navigable and with constantly updated content so that all info rmation and visuals are current, fresh and exciting. Keeping that in mind, web designers and content managers must avoid getting caught up in online clutter. Web designers and public relations practitioners must strive to make a strong first impression with the home page of the tourism website. To be successful, the home page must be inviting, emotive and visu ally pleasing to the visitors eyes. A major challenge is designing a tourism webs ite that is attractive on first view and fascinating enough to encourage re peat visits. Public relations practitioners must spread awareness of a nations online campaign and spar k audiences curiosity with striking, powerful visuals. By relying on word-of-mouth and other br anding strategies, public relations practitioners can increasingly direct traffic and attract visitors to the we bsite. Governments and tourism institutions should develop strate gic alliances and partnerships w ith small and large businesses at local and national levels. Businesse s can provide a link to their na tions official tourism website on their own websites and marketing materials as a special courtesy for international business partners, business travelers and potential invest ors. Providing easy access for foreign audiences to a tourism website will likely encourage busin ess travelers to visit the nation and possibly invest in the business and the nation. All busin esses within the hospita lity industry such as hotels, restaurants, tour operators and cultural institutions should also support and promote their

PAGE 69

69 nations tourism website through their individual ma rketing and public relati ons efforts. A link to the nations official tourism we bsite should be provided on all tourism communication materials, including business cards, press releases, advertisements, brochur es, annual reports and all other publications. Creating national awareness and re cruiting support from their own residents, nations can build national unity and a cohesive national image which will build credibility and increasingly attract the attention and trust of foreign audiences. Limitations Because of the explorato ry nature of this study and the sample consisting of university students, this research is not ge neralizable. Most likely due to Un iversity of Floridas proximity to Latin America as well as the large Hispanic population in the state of Florida, many respondents had experiences with or knew someone who had experiences with Colombia. This proved as a challenge when attempting to acquire an equal amount of unbiased respondents for each nation. Although there statistical signi ficance is observed for many variables within each group, the findings cannot be attributed to tourism websites because th ere was no control group. Also, the results do not reveal exact ly how respondents explored and interacted with website. The details of the exploration phase may have been able to explain how or why respondents rated the images of the nations as they did. Though mostly based on Beerli and Martins (20 04) image dimensions, the data coding is subject to interpersonal biases in the creation of the concept categories. Additionally, the images elicited are not assessed on traditional measurement concerns of reliability and validity. However, free elicitation is approp riate as an exploratory technique.

PAGE 70

70 Suggestions for Further Research In this specific study, tourism websites seem to have an impact on visitors images of nations. The websites have the pot ential to act as an influentia l impression management tool which can lead to the enhancing or modifying of images and im pressions. Future studies should investigate the relationships between the four components of image. Do a persons cognitive images and affective/evaluative images determine that persons behavioral images or vice versa? Researchers should perhaps perform a content analysis of the tourism websites to further provide explanations on respondents image ratings and the differences which exist between nations. Future studies should include an investigation of the role of interactivity in image impression management in order to observe the functions as well as the visuals of the website. Having access to and conducting interviews with the onli ne tourism campaign planners, including the web designers, can also provide further insight into how a nation or government plans and manages its desired impressions and images on line. Furthermore, research should further research should include the use of computer soft ware which can track what visitors click on and look at while exploring the website This will allow the researcher to observe what exactly on the website caused or formed the respondents im ages of the nation. Another idea, though quite difficult to accomplish, would be to run the experiment again with same sample to assess if images remain or changed after time has past. Researchers must continue to study how image and impression management is communicated online and conduct studi es over time. This study serves as the beginning of what could potentially be a wide range of research related to the study of image building, impression management and online campaigns, which will continue to expand with the growing and evolving field of public relations.

PAGE 71

71 APPENDIX A INFORMED CONSENT FORM Protocol Title: Im ages of Latin America: Managing Impressions through Tourism Websites Please read this consent document carefully befo re you decide to partic ipate in this study. Purpose of the research study: The purpose of this study is to assess students knowledge and feelings about certain nations. What you will be asked to do in the study: You will be asked to answer questions about your knowledge and feelings towards a nation. You will also be asked to explore a website. The n, you will be presented with additional questions which will ask you further about a nation, your general Internet use and basic demographic information. Time required: 20 minutes Risks and Benefits: We do not anticipate that you will have any risk s from participating in this study. We do not anticipate that you will benefit directly by participating in this experiment. Compensation: There will be no compensation. Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the ex tent provided by law. Your information will be assigned a code number so your name will not be linked to your responses. When the study is completed and the data have been analyzed, th e list will be destroyed. Your name will not be used in any report. Voluntary participation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no penalty for not participating. Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdraw from th e study at anytime without consequence.

PAGE 72

72 Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Jennifer Valdes, Graduate Student, College of Journalism and Co mmunications, 305-733-3800, jemi612@ufl.edu. Janis Page, PhD., College of Journalism and Communications, 3065 Weimer Hall, 392-0491, jpage@jou.ufl.edu. Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: IRB02 Office, Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250; phone 392-0433. Agreement: I have read the procedure described above. I volunt arily agree to pa rticipate in the procedure and I have received a copy of this description. Participant: ___________________________________________ Date: _________________ Principal Investigat or: ___________________________________ Date: _________________

PAGE 73

73 APPENDIX B SURVEY QUESTIONNAIRE FOR EXPERIME NT GROUP INTRODUCTION Thank you for taking the time to answer the questions in this survey. Your answers will be used only for statistical purposes and will remain strictly confidential to the extent provided by law. Please read the instructions and questions carefully. 1. Please complete the following statem ents by checking all that apply: Colombia El Salvador Paraguay a. I have visited b. I have lived in c. I know someone who has visited d. I know someone who has lived in e. I have recently read about___ in the media f. I have recently seen images (i.e., photo or film) about ___ in the media Next Part IA 2. What images or characteristics come to mind when you think of Nation X? Next Please select the number that best represents your current beliefs or knowledge about Nation X. ( 1=strongly disagree, 5= strongly agree) Strongly Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Agree 3. Nation X is an expensive place to tour. 1 2 3 4 5 4. Nation X is a small country. 1 2 3 4 5 5. There is not much to see in Nation X. 1 2 3 4 5 6. It is not safe to visit Nation X because of the crime. 1 2 3 4 5 7. I have no idea where Nation X is located at. 1 2 3 4 5 8. Nation X is politically stable. 1 2 3 4 5

PAGE 74

74 9. Shopping would be great in Nation X. 1 2 3 4 5 10. It is difficult to obtain information on Nation X. 1 2 3 4 5 Next Please select the number that best describes your feelings towards or evaluation of Nation X. 11. Innocent 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Sinful 12. Feminine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Masculine 13. Friendly 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Cold 14. Romantic 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Boring 15. Old 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 New 16. Safe 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Unsafe 17. Interesting 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Uninteresting 18. Vibrant 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Stagnant 19. Pretty 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Ugly 20. Sophisticated 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Simple 21. Natural 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Artificial 22. Harmonious 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Conflictual 23. Dirty 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Clean 24. Overcrowded 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Sparse 25. Upscale 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Poor 26. Accessible 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Isolated 27. Touristy 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Not At All Touristy 28. Economically 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Economically Poor Wealthy 29. Underdeveloped1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Overdeveloped 30. Favorable 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Unfavorable Next Please select the number that best represents your intentions to visit or live in Nation X. ( 1=strongly disagree, 5= strongly agree) Strongly Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Agree 31. I would like to visit Nation X in the near future. 1 2 3 4 5 32. I am afraid to visit any country I know nothing of. 1 2 3 4 5 33. I would lik e to live in Nation X in the near future. 1 2 3 4 5 Next Next, you will briefly see a snapshot of a webs ite. Following the image, you will be prompted by a question. Next

PAGE 75

75 [Snapshot of Nation X websites home page wi ll be displayed here for 10 seconds. See Appendices B, C and D] 34. What images or characteristics come to mind when you think of Nation X? Next Now, you will have the opportunity to brow se and navigate through a website for approximately 10 minutes. Click on the following link Next 35. What im ages or characteristics come to mind when you think of Nation X? Next Please select the number that best represents your current beliefs or knowledge about Nation X. ( 1=strongly disagree, 5= strongly agree) Strongly Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Agree 36. There is not much to see in Nation X. 1 2 3 4 5 37. I have no idea where Nation X is located at. 1 2 3 4 5 38. Shopping would be great in Nation X. 1 2 3 4 5 39. Nation X is an expensive place to tour. 1 2 3 4 5 40. It is not safe to visit Nation X because of the crime. 1 2 3 4 5 41. Nation X is politically stable. 1 2 3 4 5 42. Nation X is a small country. 1 2 3 4 5 Next

PAGE 76

76 Please select the number that best describes your feelings towards or evaluation of Nation X. 43. Interesting 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Uninteresting 44. Vibrant 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Stagnant 45. Romantic 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Boring 46. Dirty 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Clean 47. Pretty 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Ugly 48. Natural 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Artificial 49. Innocent 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Sinful 50. Harmonious 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Conflictual 51. Old 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 New 52. Safe 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Unsafe 53. Underdeveloped1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Overdeveloped 54. Overcrowded 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Sparse 55. Upscale 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Poor 56. Friendly 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Cold 57. Accessible 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Isolated 58. Touristy 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Not At All Touristy 59. Feminine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Masculine 60. Economically 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Economically Poor Wealthy 61. Favorable 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Unfavorable 62. Sophisticated 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Simple Next Please select the number that best represents your intentions to visit or live in Nation X. ( 1=strongly disagree, 5= strongly agree) Strongly Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Agree 63. I would like to live in Nation X in the near future. 1 2 3 4 5 64. I would like to visit Nation X in the near future. 1 2 3 4 5 65. I am afraid to visit any country I know nothing of. 1 2 3 4 5 Next General Internet Use 1. Do you use a com puter at your workplace, at sc hool, at home, or anywhere else on at least an occasional basis? [ ] Yes [ ] No

PAGE 77

77 2. About how often do you go online for getting information? [ ] Several times a day [ ] About once a day [ ] 3-5 days a week [ ] 1-2 days a week [ ] Every few weeks [ ] Every few months [ ] Less often [ ] Never 3. What is the average number of hours you spend on getting news or information from the Internet every day? [ ] 0 [ ] 1 [ ] 2-5 [ ] 6-10 [ ] more than 10 Next Demographics 1. Gender: Male [ ] Female [ ] 2. Age: _______ 3. What is your curren t level of education? [ ] Freshman [ ] Senior [ ] Sophomore [ ] Graduate Student [ ] Junior THANK YOU VERY MUCH FO R YOUR PARTICIPATION! Exit

PAGE 78

78 APPENDIX C CODEBOOK FOR CONTENT ANALYSIS I. Instructions: In the Excel workbook provided, re spondents open-ended answers were separated by nation. Each Excel sheet represents one of the th ree nations. You are asked to class ify and categorize the survey participants images and characteri stics of three Latin American nations (Colombia, El Salvador and Paraguay) into four dimensions (physical, cultural, political/economic and atmosphere). The participants offered their images and char acteristics of a certain Latin American nation in response to three open-ended questions. Th e first open-ended question was asked at the very beginning of the survey. The second open-ended question was asked in the middle of the survey and probed participants first im pression of a website. The last open-ended question was asked after participants browsed through the website for several minutes. The purpose of asking the same question (What are your images or characteristics of Nation X?) three times is to observe any changes as a result of visiting or not visiting a nations tourism website. 1. General information 1.1 Coder initials and date: Code r should include their initials and the date their coding. 1.2 Name of nation: Write down the name of the coded nation, as indicated on each Excel sheet tab (Colombia, El Salvador or Paraguay). Stage of image formation: In the Excel sheet, images listed under the column Image 1 correspond to image assessments made by res pondents at the beginning of the survey. Image 2 refers to images given after the fi rst impression phase, and Image 3 refers to images given after th e exploration phase. II. Images: After classifying and categorizing the im ages into their appropriate dimension, count the number of times each type of imag es was mentioned by the respondents and write them down in the coding sheet. The four dime nsions below are based on Beerli and Martins (2004) dimensions which determine perceived images of a nation. 2. Physical dimension 2.1 Terrestrial Count the number of terrestrial images (i.e., hills, mountains, trees, rainforests, forests, jungles, etc.). 2.2 Aquatic Count the number of aquatic images (i.e., water, ocean, lakes, rivers, sand, beaches, etc.). 2.3 Geography Count the number of geography images (i.e., small, Latin America, big, South America, land-locked, etc.). 2.4 Animals Count the number of animal images (i.e., monkeys, birds, wildlife, horse, pigs, cattle, etc.). 2.5 Climate Count the number of climate images (i.e., weather, humid, sun, sunshine, co ol, tropical, etc.).

PAGE 79

79 3. Cultural dimension 3.1 People Count the number of people images (i.e., native, indigenous, Ethnic, Spanish, Hispanic, black heritage, ethnic, etc.). 3.2 Tradition/History Count the number of tradition/history images (i.e., culture, churches, Spanish architecture, nations flag, etc.). 3.3 Gastronomy Count the number of gastronomy images (i.e., food, fruits, bananas, drinks, etc.). 3.4 Textile Count the number of textile images (i.e., dress, costumes, etc.). 3.5 Recreation Count the number of recreat ion images (i.e., soccer, golf, outdoor activities, wh ite water rafting, etc.). 3.6 Language Count the number of language images (i.e., Spanish, Guarani). 3.7 Entertainment Count the number of entertainment images (i.e., nightlife, dancing, music, fes tivals, celebrations, etc.). 3.8 Religion Count the number of religious images (i.e., churches, Catholic, cathedrals, etc.) 4. Economic/Political dimension 4.1 Agriculture Count the number of agriculture images (i.e., coffee, coffee beans, crops, exports, farming, etc.). 4.2 Tourism Count the number of tourism images (i.e., vacation, ecotourism, resorts, sights eeing, attractions, etc.). 4.3 Crime Count the number of crime images (i.e., violence, drugs, guerrillas, etc.). 4.4 Shopping Count the number of shoppi ng images (i.e., street markets, shopping plazas, etc.). 4.5 Development Count the number of development images (i.e., modern, developed, citi es, technology, etc.). 4.6 Poverty Count the number of poverty images (i.e., poor, underdeveloped, third-world, etc.). 4.7 Political Stability Count the number of politic al stability images (i.e., corruption, military personnel, etc.) 4.8 Political tendencies Count the number of political tendency images (i.e., dictatorship, liberal, etc.)

PAGE 80

80 5. Atmosphere dimension Operational definition 5.1 Vibrant/Colorful Count the number of vibrant/colorful images. 5.2 Beautiful/Pretty/Attractive Count the number of beautiful images. 5.3 Relaxing/Calm Count the number of relaxing/calm images. 5.4 Life/Lively Count the number of life/lively images. 5.5 Fresh Count the number of fresh images. 5.6 Dull Count the number of dull images. 5.7 Fun/Exciting Count the number of fun/exciting images. 5.8 Romantic Count the number of romantic images. 5.9 Impressive/Fascinating Count the number of impressive/fascinating images. 5.10 Nice Count the number of nice images. 5.11 Exotic Count the number of exotic images. 5.12 Paradise/Tropical Count the number of paradise/tropical images. 5.13 Safe Count the number of safe images. 5.14 Dangerous Count the number of dangerous images. 5.15 Clean Count the number of clean images. 5.16 Patriotic Count the number of patriotic images. 5.17 Young Count the number of young images. 6. No answer Operational definition 6.1 No images Count the number of times images were not offered (i.e., none, no images).

PAGE 81

81 APPENDIX D CODING SHEET FOR CONTENT ANALYSIS 1. General inf ormation 1.3 Coder initials and date: 1.4 Name of nation: 1.5 Stage of image formation: 2. Physical dimension 2.1 Terrestrial: 2.2 Aquatic: 2.3 Geography: 2.4 Animal: 2.5 Climate: 3. Cultural dimension 3.1 People: 3.2 Tradition/History: 3.3 Gastronomy: 3.4 Textile: 3.5 Recreation: 3.6 Language: 3.7 Entertainment: 3.8 Religion: 4. Economic/Political dimension 4.1 Agriculture: 4.2 Tourism: 4.3 Crime: 4.4. Shopping: 4.5 Development: 4.6 Poverty:

PAGE 82

82 4.7 Political stability: 4.8 Political tendencies: 5. Atmosphere dimension 5.1 Vibrant/Colorful: 5.2 Beauty: 5.3 Relaxing: 5.4 Life/Lively: 5.5 Fresh: 5.6 Dull: 5.7 Fun/Exciting: 5.8 Romantic: 5.9 Impressive/Fascinating: 5.10 Nice: 5.11 Exotic: 5.12 Paradise/Tropical: 5.13 Safe: 5.14 Dangerous: 5.15 Clean: 5.16 Patriotic: 5.17 Young: 6. No answer 6.1 No images:

PAGE 83

83 LIST OF REFERENCES Avraham E., & Ketter, E. (2008). Media strategies for marketing places in crisis: Improving the image of cities, countries and tourist de stinations. Burlington, MA: Elsevier Inc. Avenarius, H. (1993). Introduction: im age and public relations practice. Journal of Public Relations Research, 5 (2): 65-70. Ayish, M.L. (2005). Virtual public relations in the United Arab Emirates: a case study of 20 UAE organizations use of Internet. Public Relations Review, 31 : 381-388. Babbie, E. (2005). The basics of social research (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth. Baker, V. (2008, April 1). The rise of the cocaine tourist. The Guardian Online. Retrieved September 14, 2008, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2008/apr/01/colombia. southam erica?gusrc=rss&feed=travel Bansal, P., & Kistruck, G. (2006). Seeing is (not ) believing: Managing th e impressions of the firms commitment to the natural environment. Journal of Business Ethics, 67 : 165-180. Beerli, A., & Martin, J.D. (2004). Factors influencing destination image Annals of Tourism Research, 31 (3): 657-681. Berg, L. (2001). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences Meadham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon. Bolino, M.C., Kacmar, K.M., Turnley, W.H., Gilstrap, J.B. (2008). A mu lti-level review of impression management motives and behaviors. Journal of Management, 34(6): 1080 1109. Bolino, M.C., & Turnley, W.H. (1999). Measurin g impression management in organizations: A scale development based on the Jones and Pittman taxonomy. Organizational Research Methods, 2 (2): 187-206. Botan, C. (1992). International public re lations: critique and reformulation. Public Relations Review, 18 (2): 149-159. Boujbel, L., & dAstous, A. (2007). Positioning countries on personality dimensions: scale development and implications for country marketing. Journal of Business Research, 60 : 231-239. Bozeman, D.P., & Kacmar, K.M. (1997). A c ybernetic model of impression management processes in organizations. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 69(1): 9-30. Bromley, D.B. (1993). Reputation, image and impression management. England: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

PAGE 84

84 Broom, G.M., Casey, S., & Ritche y, J. (1997). Toward a concept and theory of organization public relationships. Journal of Public Relations Research, 9 (2): 83-98. Bruning, S.D., & Ledingham, J.A. (1999). Rela tionships between organizations and publics: development of a multi-dimensional organization-public scale. Public Relations Review, 25(20): 157-170. Burke, J. F., & Resnick, B. P. (2000). Marketing & selling the travel product Albany, N.Y.: Delmar. Central Intelligence Agen cy World Factbook. (2008). Colombia Retrieved October 28, 2008 from, https://www.cia.gov/library/publica tions/the-world-factbook/geos/co.htm l Clifton, D. (2007, November 5). Branding in La tin America: mas y major for Latino brands. Brand Strategy. Retrieved from October 22, 2008 from LexisNexis database. Connolly-Ahern, C., & Broadway, S.C. (2007). The importance of appearing competent: an analysis of corporate impression manage ment strategies on the World Wide Web. Public Relations Review, 33 : 343-345. Cutter, S.L., & Toro, C.L. (1990). Colombia: Miami Vice or terra incognitae? Focus, 40(1): 17. Dominick, J.R. (1999). Who do you think you are? Personal home pages a nd self-presentation on the World Wide Web. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 76 (4): 646-658. Echtner, C.M., & Ritchie, J.R. (1993). The meas urement of destination image: An empirical assessment. Journal of Travel Research, 31(3): 3-13. Elejalde-Ruiz, A. (2008, November 25). The magic of Cartagena, Colombia. Los Angeles Times Online. Retrieved December 14, 2008 from, http://travel.latimes.com/articles/la trwtrvm ain1-wk225-2008nov25. Esrock, S.L., & Leichty, G.B. (2000). Organi zation of corporate webpages: publics and functions. Public Relations Review, 26 (3): 327-344. eTurboNews. (2008a, October 8). El Salvador accelerates with .travel. Global Travel Industry News. Retrieved November 1, 2008 from, http://www.eturbonews.com/5468/el-salvador accelerates-travel. eTurboNews. (2008b, December 1). El Salvador to be seen the world over once again during E! Entertainment television s second special program. Global Travel Industry News. Retrieved December 1, 2008 from, http://www.eturbonews.com/6471/el-salvador be%09seen-world-over-once-ag ain-during-e-entertainment.

PAGE 85

85 Flores, A.B. (2008, September 25). El Salvador completes revision of 2014 National Tourism Plan; The Reflection Forum is the first pa rticipatory revision made to the 2014 National Tourism Plan to extend it to a 2020 time frame. PR Newswire. Retrieved October 22, 2008 from LexisNexis database. Fondo de Promocin Turstica Colombia. (2008). Colombia, the only risk is wanting to stay. Turisimo Colombiana Retrieved September 9, 2008 from, http://www.visitcolombia.com Forero, J. (2008, September). Colombia. Conde Nast Traveler Online. Retrieved September 7, 2008 from, http://www.concierge.com/cntraveler/articles/12982 Gardner, W.L., & Martinko, M.J. (1988). Impression management in organizations. Journal of Management, 14(2): 321-338. Gertner, R.K., Berger, K.A., & Gertner, D. (2006). Country-dot-com: marketing and branding destinations online. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 21 (2/3): 105-116. Giacalone, R.A., & Rosenfeld, P. (1989). Impression management in the organization. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Giacalone, R.A., & Rosenfeld, P. (1991). Applie d impression management: How image-making affects managerial decisions. Newbur y Park, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. Govers, R., Go, F.M., & Kumar, K. (2007). Promoting tourism destination image. Journal of Travel Research, 46: 15-23. Grunig, J.E. (1993). Image and substance: from symbolic to behavioral relationships. Public Relations Review, 19 (2): 121-139. Ha, L., & James, E.L. (1998). Interactivity reex amined: A baseline analysis of early business websites. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 42 (4): 457-475. Retrieved November 1, 2008 from, Communication & Mass Media Complete database. Hens, M. (2007, December 7). A new hot-spot for the tourism industry. BBC News Online. Retrieved September 7, 2008 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/nolpda/ifs_news/hi/ newsid_7120000/7120906. Hill, L.N., & W hite, C. (2000). Public relations practitioners perception of the World Wide Web as a communications tool. Public Relations Review, 26 (1): 31-51. Hooghiemstra, R. (2000). Corporate comm unication and impression managementnew perspectives why companies engage in corporate social reporting. Journal of Business Ethics, 27 : 55-68.

PAGE 86

86 Hosany, S., Ekinici, Y., & Uysal, M. (2006). Des tination image and destination personality: An application of branding theories to tourism places. Journal of Business Research, 59: 638 642. Huertas, A. (2008). Public relati ons and tourism: fighting for the role of public relations in tourism. Public Relations Review, 34 (4): 406-408. Jo, S., & Kim, Y. (2003). The effect of Web characteristics on relationship building. Journal of Public Relations Research, 15 (3): 199-223. Kahn, J. (2006). A brand-new approach. Foreign Policy, 157 (2): 90-92. Retrieved October 22, 2008 from Academic Search Premier database. Kang, D.S., & Mastin, T. (2008, May 21). An Ex amination of Interna tional Tourism Public Relations Websites Using Hofstedes Cultu ral Dimensions. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the In ternational Communication A ssociation, TBA, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Kang, D.S., & Mastin, T. (2008). How cultural di fference affects international tourism public relations websites: a comparative analysis using Hofstedes cultural dimensions. Public Relations Review 34: 54-56. Kaplanidou, K., & Vogt, C. (2008). A structural analysis of destin ation travel in tentions as a function of website features. Journal of Travel Research, 45 : 204-216. Kent, M.L., & Taylor, M. (1998). Building dial ogic relationships through the World Wide Web. Public Relations Review, 24 (3): 321-334. Kent, M.L., & Taylor, M. (2002). Toward a dialogic theory of public relations. Public Relations Review, 28 : 21-37. Kent, M.L., Taylor, M., & White, W.J. (2003). The relationship between website design and organizational responsiveness to stakeholders. Public Relations Review, 29: 63-77. Kim, H. & Fesenmaier, D.R. (2008). Persuasive design of destination websites: An analysis of first impression. Journal of Travel Research, 47 : 3-13. Kirschke, H. (2008, July 18) Colombia: A new beginning. Worldpress.org. Retrieved September 14, 2008, from http://www.wordpress.org/print_article.cfm ?article_id=334&dont=yes Kunczik, M. (1997). Images of nations and international public relations. LEA's communication series. Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum. LEtang, J.L., Falkheimer, J., & Lugo, J. (2007). P ublic relations and tourism: critical reflections and a research agenda. Public Relations Review, 33 : 68-76.

PAGE 87

87 Leary, M.R., & Kowalski, R.M. (1990). Impression management: A literature review and two component model. Psychological Bulletin, 107 (1): 34-47. Ledingham, J.A. (2001). Government-community relationships: extending the relational theory of public relations. Public Relations Review, 27 : 285-295. McCartney, G., Butler, R., & Bennett, M. (2008). A strategic use of the communication mix in the destination image-formation process. Journal of Travel Research, 47 : 183-196. Mickey, T.J. (1998). Selling the Internet: a cultu ral studies approach to public relations. Public Relations Review, 24 (3): 335-349. Miles, P. (2008, August 31). From cocaine to kayaking. The Observer Online. Retrieved September 14, 2008 from, http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2008/aug/31/ canoeingandkayaking.colom bia/ Molleda, J.C., & Suarez, A. (2005). Challenges in Colombia for public relations professionals: a quantitative assessment of the economic and political environments. Public Relations Review, 31 : 21-29. Morgan, N., Pritchard, A., & Pride, R. (2004). Destination branding: creating the unique destination proposition (2nd ed.). Oxford [England]: Else vier Butterworth-Heinemann. Morrison, E.W. (1991). Impression management in the feedback-seeking process: A literature review and research agenda. Academy of Management Review, 16 (3): 522-541. OMalley, M., & Irani, T. (1998, August). Public re lations and the Web: Measuring the effect of interactivity, information, and the access to information in websites. Paper presented at the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Baltimore, MD. Office of Travel and Tourism Industries. (2008). Latest Statistics/Outreach. Retrieved December 14, 2008 from, http://tinet.ita.doc.gov/outreachpages/index.html Ong, B.S., & Horbunluekit, S. (2001). The im pact of a Thai cultural show on Thailands destination image. American Business Review, 15 (2):97-103. Park, Y.A., & Gretzel, U. (2007). Success fact ors for destination marketing websites: A qualitative meta-analysis. Journal of Travel Research, 46 (46-63). Piche, K.L. (2008, December 19). Tourism ge nerates $720 million for El Salvador. Central America Data Online. Retrieved November 1, 2008 from, http://www.centralamericadata.com/en/ar ticle/hom e/Tourism_generates_720_million_fo _El_Salvador.

PAGE 88

88 Pike, J. (2008, August 13). Stay on t op of Colombia travel warnings. Travel Agent Central. Retrieved September 14, 2008 from http://www.travelagentcentral.com//colombia/stay on-top-colombia-travel-warnings-9675 Reilly, M.D. (1990). Free elicitat ion of descriptive adjectives for tourism image assessment. Journal of Travel Research, 28: 21-26. Ross, S.S. (1995). Public relations in cyberspace. Public Relations Journal, 51 (1): 36-38. Retrieved October 27, 2008 from, Academic OneFile database. Ryan, M. (2003). Public relations and the web: organizational problems, gender, and institution type. Public Relations Review, 29 : 335-349. Sallot, L.M. (2002). What the public thinks a bout public relations: An impression management experiment. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 79 (1): p. 150-171. Schlenker, B.R. (1980). Impression management : the self-concept, social identity, and interpersonal relations. M onterey, CA: Wadsworth, Inc. Seltzer, T., & Mitrook, M.A. (2007). The dialogic potential of we blogs in relationship building. Public Relations Review, 33: 227-229. SENATUR. (2008). Welcome. Paraguay, you have to feel it Retrieved September 9, 2008, from http://www.senatur.gov.py/index.php?language=2 Sha, B. (2006). Cultural identity in segm entation of publics: an emerging th eory of intercultural public relations. Journal of Public Relations Research, 18 (1): 45-65. Spicer, C.H. (2000). Public relations in a democratic society: value and values. Journal of Public Relations Research, 12 (1): 115-130. Strizzi, N., & Meis, S. (2001). Challenges faci ng tourism markets in Latin America and the Caribbean region in the new millennium. Journal of Travel Research, 40 :183-192. Taylor, M., & Kent, M.L. (2006). Public relatio ns theory and practi ce in nation building. In Botan, C. H., & Hazleton, V., Public relations theory II (p. 341-359). LEA's communication series. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Taylor, M. (2000). Toward a public relations approach to nation building. Journal of Public Relations Research, 12 (2): 179-210. Tierney, P. (2000). Internet-based evaluation of tourism website effectiv eness: Methodological issues and survey results. Journal of Travel Research, 39 : 212-219.

PAGE 89

89 Tourism Ireland. (2008). Global Site St ats. Retrieved April 13, 2009 from, http://www.tourismireland.com/Home/re sources-for-you/e-studio/Our-website-statistics.asp x Tourism Ministry. (2008). Home. El Salvador Impressive! Retrieved September 9, 2008, from http://www.elsalvador.travel/eng United States Tour Operators Association. ( 2008). USTOA Press Room : Trends & Statistics. Retrieved December 3, 2008 from, http://ustoa.com/pressroom/trends.html Vorvoreanu, M. (2006). Online organization-pub lic relationships: an experience centered approach. P ublic Relations Review, 32 : 395-401. Wakefield, R.I. (2008). Theory of international public relations, the In ternet, and activism: a personal reflection. Journal of Public Relations Research, 20 : 138-157. Wells, L. T., & Wint, A. G. (2000). Marketing a country: promoti on as a tool for attracting foreign investment Washington, D.C.: IFC-Internat ional Finance Corporation. White, C., & Raman, N. (1999). The World Wide Web as a public relati ons medium: the use of research, planning, and evaluation in website development. Public Relations Review, 25(4): 405-419. Wimmer, R.D., & Dominick, J.R. (2003). Mass media research: An introduction (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning. World Economic Forum. (2008). Travel & tourism competitiveness report. World Economic Forum. Retrieved October 5, 2008 from, http://www.weforum.org/en/initiativ es/gcp/TravelandTourismReport/index.htm WTO. (2000). Tourism market trends 2000: l ong-term prospects. Retrieved November 2, 2008 from, http://www.worldtourism.org/market_resea rch/facts&f igures/market_trends/long t_prospects.htm

PAGE 90

90 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Jennifer Michelle Valdes was born to Reinaldo an d Maria Victoria Valdes during the year 1985, in Miami, Florida. In 2007, she received he r bachelors degree from Cornell University where she majored in communication, minored in applied economics and management, and concentrated in Spanish. During her undergra duate studies, Jennifer also spent a summer semester studying at the Univer sidad de Salamanca in Spain. In 2009, Jennifer graduated from the University of Floridas College of Journalis m and Communications with a masters degree in mass communication and specialization in public relations. During her graduate studies, Jennifer had the honor of presenting her thesis research at two conferences: the 12th Annual International Public Relations Research Conference in Miam i, Florida and Cornell Universitys Regional Identity in Times of Globalizati on and Diaspora Conference in Ith aca, New York. Jennifer is also a member of the Public Relations Society of Amer ica and hopes to earn the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) designation in the near future.