Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to analyse the most important economic factors that determine choice of distribution channel when booking a tourism service. The theoretical framework applied to meet this objective is agency theory, as it provides insight into the effects arising from problems such as information asymmetries and opportunism. Design/methodology/approach – The analysis of a sample composed of 805 tourists who made their reservation through either the internet or traditional channels has provided interesting conclusions, allowing different hypotheses to be contrasted using a structural equation analysis. Findings – This study has shown how the main source of uncertainty in the stages leading up to the choice of purchase channel is due to a lack of trust towards the internet. In this regard, the signals emitted by firms in order to mitigate information asymmetries contribute to generating trust towards the selected firm; however, they neither reduce the risk differential existing between channels nor the associated transaction costs. In addition, trust in the chosen firm shows that the buyer makes the reservation through the channel with the least perceived risk. Research limitations/implications – The research has underlined that the greater the differential in transaction costs between the internet and the traditional channels, the greater the propensity of buyers to make their purchases through alternative distribution channels. In addition, clients perceive greater internet transaction costs with respect to the traditional channels, a fact that may be contrasted with the purpose behind its creation. Practical implications – The differences between the information provided by economic agents and the information that is requested by the client reveal a need for greater awareness among those offering the services, in order for them to improve the way in which they target the consumer, especially in relation to the management of information flows. Furthermore, steps should be taken to improve internet security systems and undertake joint actions that are formalised and coordinated by all of the agents involved so that clients perceive internet as a secure channel. Finally, internet‐related skills should be developed to allow the consumer to search for information in a more efficient way. Originality/value – The study deals with a recent line of new research. It is also performed in the context of Mediterranean countries, which represents a further important contribution, given that very few empirical studies focus on this geographical region.
EuroMed Journal of Business – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 17, 2011
Keywords: Spain; Tourism; Consumer behaviour; Internet; Hotel and catering industry