Jing Li

Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Health Promotion, Education and Behavior

First Advisor

Simon Hudson

Second Advisor

Kevin Kam Fung So


Experience is at the heart of the tourism and hospitality industry. One of the fundamental objectives of this sector is to create memorable customer experiences. For years, the sharing economy has been an essential industry phenomenon. Distinct from the traditional sector, Airbnb emerged as a disruptive innovation and a dominant online sharing-economy platform and has had a significant impact on the traditional industry. Despite growing interest in customers’ experiences in tourism and hospitality, limited research has provided insight into what constitutes the customer experience with Airbnb, how it can be conceptualized, and how it should be measured. In addition, Airbnb is a major competitor to hotels and is increasingly taking market share from the hotel industry. Empirical research is currently lacking in terms of an in-depth understanding of how this type of customer experience influences consumer behavior, especially when comparing Airbnb and hotels. Thus, this study aims to understand the nature and multidimensional structure of customers’ experiences with Airbnb. Further, this study examines the role of customers’ experiences with Airbnb in building brand loyalty (i.e., to Airbnb) and destination loyalty along with the moderating effects of involvement and customer generations on the modeled relationships.

Guided by a definitive research paradigm, this study incorporated two phases of quantitative research: scale development and research-model testing. Specifically, Phase 1 was intended to develop and validate a measurement scale of customers’ experiences with Airbnb. To achieve this objective, the author adopted Netemeyer et al.’s (2003) vi four-step scale development procedure, which includes (1) defining the construct and content domain, (2) generating and judging measurement items, (3) conducting studies to develop and refine the scale, and (4) finalizing the scale. The developed scale was then used in Phase 2 to assess the conceptual research model and test hypothesized relationships. Two studies were conducted concurrently in Phase 2: Study 1 assessed the research model with an Airbnb sample, while Study 2 examined the model with a hotel sample. The findings of Studies 1 and 2 were then compared.

Scale development results provided empirical support for the proposed multidimensional factor structure of customers’ experiences with Airbnb, scale reliability, and validity. Psychometric properties were further established by evaluating the scale across multiple samples (i.e., a confirmatory sample and validation sample). Followed by scale development, the hypothesized relationships between customers’ experiences with Airbnb, arousal, hedonic emotions, utilitarian emotions, destination attachment, brand attachment, destination loyalty, and brand loyalty were assessed via structural equation modeling. Results from the Airbnb sample supported the significant roles of customers’ experiences and emotions (i.e., arousal and utilitarian emotions) in cultivating customer attachment and loyalty to the brand Airbnb and to the destination. Similar results were found in the hotel sample. Furthermore, the model comparison demonstrated that the relationships between the customer experience and utilitarian emotions and between utilitarian emotions and destination attachment were each significantly stronger for the Airbnb group compared to the hotel group. By contrast, the relationships between utilitarian emotions and brand attachment and between destination attachment and destination loyalty were significantly stronger for the hotel group. This study makes several contributions to the literature. From a theoretical perspective, this research conceptualizes customers’ experiences with Airbnb and provides a reliable and valid corresponding scale.

The scale offers a foundation for the empirical development of a conceptual model of brand loyalty and destination loyalty formation in the lodging context. These results also promote a comprehensive understanding of the theoretical chain between customers’ lodging experiences and emotional responses and indicate how these constructs subsequently drive brand loyalty and destination loyalty. From a practical standpoint, results from tests of the proposed conceptual model offer Airbnb providers pertinent marketing strategies and shed light on hotel managers’ understanding of customer experience management in today’s competitive hospitality landscape. Lastly, destination marketing organizations can gain knowledge from these findings to manage destination loyalty more effectively.