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The impact of destination images on tourists’ decision making: A technological exploratory study using fMRI

Osama Sam Al-Kwifi (Department of Management and Marketing, College of Business and Economics, Qatar University, Doha, Qatar)

Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Technology

ISSN: 1757-9880

Article publication date: 17 August 2015




The purpose of this paper is to explore the influence of destination images on tourists’ behavioral intention to select a destination for their next vacation. Most of previous studies investigated this relationship by interacting with tourists during their stay in the destination. However, this research examines the impact of destination images before tourists visit a destination, using functional technological-oriented magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) approach to track brain activation during the decision to select a destination.


The proposed model is adopted from the theory of planned behavior. Study participants divide a set of hotel destination images into two groups: attractive and non-attractive destination images. A blocked design experiment was used during fMRI scan to track brain activities resulting from presenting the two groups of images to participants, and record the strength of their intention to visit the attractive destination.


The level of brain activation at the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) increased when participants were asked to assess the attractive destination images compared with the level of activation for non-attractive ones. Also, the positive attitude toward an attractive destination led to higher intention to visit that destination.

Research limitations/implications

This study enhances the authors’ understanding of how tourists analyze destination images to reach a decision on future action. It can also be used to help destination managers define an advertisement strategy that makes their destination more attractive.


Although the literature reports considerable research on destination image and its influence on tourists intention, this is the first exploratory study to use the fMRI technology to investigate tourists’ attitude toward destination images.



Al-Kwifi, O.S. (2015), "The impact of destination images on tourists’ decision making: A technological exploratory study using fMRI", Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Technology, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 174-194.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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