This study has adopted a critical theory paradigm as the methodology using in this paper will primarily focus on the qualitative analysis of data, whereas there is some quantitative analysis applied in this paper. The critical theory philosophy aims to study, transform knowledge and discover oppressed group within the critical thinking framework and offer effective actions to cause some change (Jennings, 2010). This study’s research questions, which is to identify the gap between the destination image and the destination identity of Slovenia and make suggestion for the The Slovenian Tourist Board (STB) of how strategic communication could be improved in order to make the destination image align better with its identity, will utilizing within the critical theory paradigm. As a consequence of the critical theory paradigm on the research, this paper is planed within the framework of the inductive approach. According to Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill (2009), this approach mainly relates to the collection of qualitative data with the need to understand and analyze the meanings behind, therefore this approach was suggested to more focus on a small sample of data.
The primary data using to examine the destination image of Slovenia was travel videos broadcasted on Youtube which had been defined by researchers as an appropriate online marketing research tool where the website has offered video materials with around 10 million users accessed monthly (Konijn, Veldhuis & Plaisier, 2013). As the aim to identify the destination image, 7 videos were chosen with the finding keyword “visit Slovenia” from 199.000 results in total (as on January 5th, 2018), whereas the finding keyword “Slovenia” would only lead us to the non-tourism related and not support our research questions. This research had selected videos posted by non-official tourism organization with the views more than 50.000 as the video would have created more influenced in term of eWOM and the destination image perceived by tourists (Pan, MacLaurin & Crotts, 2007). The details of each video were listed in the case description section.
Qualitative data using to examine the destination identity of Slovenia was collected from marketing tools used by The Slovenian Tourist Board (STB) as a destination management organization (DMO) and the main stakeholder of Slovenian tourism who has a duty to plan and conduct the strategic communication of the country’s tourism offering to tourists. The problematics of destination identity was identified as websites and strategic plans by DMO might not be consistent and true representations in order for tourists to project images of the destination (Govers & Go, 2014). Therefore, we had chosen the primary data as text data from Slovenia’s Brand book, which offered to promote and structure Slovenian tourism plan, and the official Slovenia tourism website (https://www.slovenia.info/en) including all main pages: main index page, “Things to do”, “Places to go” and “Plan your trip”. Even though there were 8 languages available on the official Slovenia tourism website (as on January 5th, 2018), we had focused only on the English version in this research. Both sources of text data were presented by The Slovenian Tourist Board (STB) or DMO and considered to be appropriate and align with this research in which aiming to make suggestions for the Slovenian Tourist Board (STB).
In order to understand the destination image of Slovenia, we used the semiotic approach to analysis all videos. The semiotic approach was used to interpret qualitative data from each video in order to identify common patterns sharing between Slovenia travel videos. The next process was the categorization of sign from the video into natural and cultural landscape elements which has been discussed in the theoretical framework section.
The text data collected from Slovenia’s Brand book and the official Slovenia tourism website was analyzed using the NVivo software which allows the user to analyze qualitative data retrieved from sources and detect most frequently used words. To begin the analysis process, words which not contain a significant meaning but rather be in the sentence to fulfil the meaning such as “where”, “are”, “they” were eliminated from the analysis. The word with different grammatical forms such as singular and plural words were identified as the same. Once the most frequently used words were identified by the software and transferred into quantitative data which are more measurable, we then qualified by grouping each word based on their meanings and characterizing according to the instruction of categories between natural and cultural landscape. This mixed-model research method had allowed us to analyze data qualitatively with the aim of comparing the result to another qualitative study (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2009).
Two separate parallel approaches, which were designed for this study, are summarized in the figure X below.
In an attempt to answer our research questions, the qualitative findings in the destination images and the destination identity of Slovenia were analyzed and compared to identify the gap. Using a critical theory paradigm, the findings would be criticized with the aim of answering research questions and making suggestions based on the findings.