The literature on destination image spanned over four decades. Despite this long period of knowledge accumulation, there is not yet a generally accepted measurement for destination image. This paper seeks to determine the underlying structure of tourism destination image and to investigate the effect of destination image on visitors’ future intentions. An emerging tourism destination in Nigeria (Cross River State) was used as the study area. A systematic sample of 367 onsite visitors was recruited for the study. A well-structured and written questionnaire containing 35 destination image attributes was used to elicit data for the study. Exploratory factor analysis, t test equality test and regression analysis were utilized to identify attributes that underpinned destination image and underlying structure. The exploratory factor analysis produced six dimensions: destination quality of life, natural attractions and facilities, quality of public services, destination product quality and education, industry hospitality and environmental ambience, communication and security. Tourism destination image index of the destination was rated somewhat poor. Inferential statistic shows that there is significant difference in the tourists’ perception of four destination image dimensions (destination quality of life, natural attractions and facilities, quality of public services, destination product quality and education, industry hospitality and environmental ambience and communication and security) based on whether they are domestic or international tourists. Two of the dimensions (quality of public services and communication and security) did not indicate significant difference based on place of residence. The study also shows that there is a significant relationship between tourism destination image dimensions and visitors’ behavioural intentions. Specifically, two destination image dimensions were found to predict visitors’ future intentions (industry hospitality and environmental ambience and natural attractions and facilities). The result of this study is expected to influence the formulation of destination product development and branding strategy which is necessary to create and grow the number of visitor arrivals in the destination.
Key words: Tourism destination image, destination attractiveness, future intentions, visitor attraction, social construction, destination attributes.
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