Digital Marketing's Impact on Rural Destinations' Image, Intention to Visit, and Destination Sustainability

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Frederico Branco
Ramiro Gonçalves
José Luís Martins
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The relevance of the tourism industry to the overall sustainability of rural territories grows along with the demand for rural tourism destinations. Likewise, as the digital transition of rural tour operators takes place, their marketing initiatives also evolve towards a digital nature, which is why it is crucial to comprehend how the overall calibre of these activities might affect the perception of rural places, while also motivating tourists' travel intentions and, as a result, promoting the general sustainability of the destination. Thus, in this paper, we propose a novel conceptual model based on Delone and McLean's representative model of Information Systems Success Model, on Tan and Wu's arguments on tourism destinations' image relationship with tourists' visit intentions, and also on Verma's tourism destination brand equity concept. To validate the proposed model, an online focus group was developed involving several specialists whose opinions and perspectives corroborated the potential adequacy of the proposed artefact and, consequently, assumed its contribution and value. From this validation process, it was possible to highlight that digital marketing initiatives' overall quality influences both rural destinations' image and tourists' intention to visit these territories, that a positive image will trigger tourists' visit behaviour, and that these behaviours represent a valuable asset to rural destinations' global sustainability.