International Choice Modelling Conference, International Choice Modelling Conference 2017

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Checking the nonlinear impact of children’s satisfaction in the choice of family attraction: an SP experiment with hybrid choice-modeling
igor sarman, Riccardo Curtale

Last modified: 28 March 2017

Abstract


Introduction For some tourist destinations, the role of family tourism and the demand it generates assume a crucial importance in the definition of leisure activities and marketing projects. In fact, destinations that consider the family as a fundamental generator of tourism demand spend their organizational and marketing efforts in order to create and promote an offer of leisure activities aimed at such a market segment. In this respect, attention is paid to the role of young children in the family unit. Modern tourism literature highlights how children represent one of the main influences on family leisure choices considering the relevance of their role in family decisions. Children’s satisfaction or dissatisfaction in leisure activities generate contrasting feelings on parents and hence they will take decisions based on the outcome on children’s sentiments. Notwithstanding the relevance of kids’ influence and parents’ willingness to accommodate their preferences, the impact of children’s feelings related to leisure alternatives on parents’ decisions may vary drastically with a series of factors. In particular, kids’ influence may be mediated by the relevance that parents assign to their role in the family unit and the level of acceptance of their negative responses.

Aim of the research The present article aims to investigate what is the role of children satisfaction on parents’ leisure-related decisions. In particular, our work specifically examines the role of parental attitudes in fulfilling children satisfaction or accepting negative reactions. In our specific framework, we do not assess a direct interaction between different decision-makers (children and parents) rather we consider the children as decision-influencers (through their levels of satisfaction for the different choice alternatives) while the parents act as decision-makers.

Methodology We adopt SP data and apply discrete choice modeling in order to test two hypothesis concerning the role of children satisfaction on parental decisions. The first hypothesis relates to the non-linear effect that children satisfaction has on parental choices, implying that different levels of satisfaction related to a specific activity lead to different marginal utilities of the decision maker. The second hypothesis relates to the impact that parents’ attitudes concerning children satisfaction have while taking leisure-related decisions. This aspect is investigated interacting an attitudinal latent variable with the attribute representing children’s level of satisfaction, in order to detect if the non-linearity in marginal utility is enhanced or moderated by parents’ attitudes towards kids’ satisfaction.The importance of assessing the effect of parents’ attitudes in the evaluation of kids’ satisfaction is crucial when considering the specific framework of family leisure activities: these represent a moment of joy and relaxation aimed at creating good memories and children’s feelings affect the experience of the whole family.

Data collection and results The SP experiment have been conducted in Ticino, the Italian-speaking Canton of Switzerland, a touristic region that counts more than 2 million of overnights every year. A total number of 172 families, either tourists or residents, have been interviewed through the use of paper-questionnaires and tablets. The location of the interviews were public areas like parks or beaches on river and lake or touristic activities with the “family destination” label, that includes all the attractions addressed to families. The methodology of the data collection was the following: firstly, three pictures representing different activities available in the Ticino Canton were shown to the children, who had to declare the best and the worst activity from the three. Then, children had to evaluate the activity with a 5-point smiley scale (very unhappy, happy, indifferent, happy, very happy), secondly, the preferences declared by the children have been used to adapt the design of the SP experiment for the parents. The SP experiment was conducted to one of the parents, or, in a few cases to both parents together. The choice tasks were composed by 3 alternatives belonging to the same category of activities shown to the children and characterized by 3 attributes: the cost of the activity, the distance from the interview location and the satisfaction of the children regarding that kind of activity. Preliminary results show that price and cost impact negatively on the choice of alternatives, while children’s satisfaction affects positively. The satisfaction of the children has a non-linear impact on the utility, meaning that passing from unhappy to indifferent and from indifferent to happy has different impact on parent’s utility. We estimated a 4 piecewise linear impact, with two different pieces for positive and two for negative preferences of the children. The slope for the extremely negative preference is much steeper than the one of the extremely positive, that can be expressed as a higher gain in the utility function for the parents to have moderately unhappy children rather than very unhappy if compared to the gain obtained by passing from moderately happy to very happy children. Furthermore, through an hybrid model we expect that parent’s attitude towards education and parenting style have an important role in determining the importance of children’s satisfaction in the choice of activity and the levels of parents to accept unhappy children.

Conclusion Results of this research can help tourist and marketing operator when we translate the asymmetry of the utility function in terms of the willingness-to-pay for the parents to choose an activity that children like, with respect to the willingness-to-accept a lower price to choose activity that children don’t like.

Limitation and future research Our approach consider an overall prior evaluation of the children to certain activities and parent’s stated choices considering children’s prior preferences. Although is very difficult to find parents that prefer to choose activity with very unhappy children, is very likely that a bargain-phase is present before taking choices and, after a discussion, the final preference of the children could change depending on the age of the children and the persuasive approach of the parents. Future research will be addressed on the bargain-phase pre-choice to better understand the dynamics of family choices.


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