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Journal of Sustainable Tourism

Vol. 17, No. 3, May 2009, 337–355
Applying the means-end chain theory and the laddering technique
to the study of host attitudes to tourism
Robin Nunkoo
a∗
and Haywantee Ramkissoon
b
a
Department of Management, Faculty of Law and Management, University of Mauritius, R´ eduit,
Mauritius;
b
School of Sustainable Development and Tourism, University of Technology, Mauritius,
Pointe Aux Sables, Mauritius
(Received 3 December 2007; final version received 3 March 2008)
Scholars investigating local residents’ attitudes toward tourism have often used dif-
ferent types of measurement procedures based on positivistic paradigms, while very
few researchers have based their studies on purely qualitative approaches. This paper
introduces and discusses a qualitative method known as the means-end theory and
its associated laddering technique, which can be used to investigate host attitudes to
tourism. The laddering technique, based on the means-end approach is recommended to
understand values, which influence attitudes, since from a social psychology discourse,
values are considered as antecedents of attitudes and opinions. It is argued that through
an understanding of the personal values of the respondents, it is possible to have a
different perspective on their attitudes and opinions toward tourism. The authors are
not claiming that such an approach is superior to other measurement procedures and
research paradigms, but argue that the means-end theory and the laddering technique
have considerable potential to shed light on issues surrounding this research area. De-
spite the limitations associated with such methods, it is argued that laddering based
on means-end theory deserves further investigation and empirical testing by scholars
investigating local residents’ attitudes to development.
Keywords: host attitudes; tourism; values; means-end; laddering; qualitative technique
Introduction
Tourism is becoming an important pillar of the economies of many countries, and a large
proportion of the world’s population is becoming dependent on this industry and its contin-
ued viability. The existing literature suggests that residents are the focal point of tourism
development. Without the goodwill and cooperation of the local population, it is difficult
to develop tourism in a sustainable way. The long term sustainability of a destination de-
pends on the residents’ positive attitudes to the industry and their active support (Gursoy
& Rutherford, 2004). Evidence suggests that local residents’ attitude to tourists is one of
the most important factors contributing to the attractiveness of a destination (Var, Beck, &
Loftus, 1977) and affecting tourists’ choices (Hoffman & Low, 1981). Therefore, analyzing
the attitudes of the local population to tourism is an important component of sustainable
tourism (Sheldon & Abenoja, 2001). Such studies have gained increasing attention in the
tourismliterature (Choi &Sirayaka, 2005; Ko &Stewart, 2002), and during the past decade,
a plethora of studies has sought to investigate residents’ attitudes to tourism (e.g. Dyer,
Gursoy, Sharma, & Carter, 2007; Gursoy & Rutherford, 2004; Nunkoo and Ramkissoon,

Corresponding author. Email: r.nunkoo@uom.ac.mu
ISSN 0966-9582 print / ISSN 1747-7646 online
C
2009 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/09669580802159735
http://www.informaworld.com
338 R. Nunkoo and H. Ramkissoon
in press; Sirakaya, Teye, & Sonmez, 2002). Most of these studies have been based on
quantitative approaches while very few scholars have based their research solely on qual-
itative methodologies. With this in mind, this paper introduces a new qualitative method,
the means-end chain theory (MECT) and its associated laddering technique, which can
be used to investigate residents’ attitudes to tourism. To date, no prior host attitudinal
research has used such a methodology. Consequently, this study is a valuable introduction
to this new theoretical and methodological framework for work on residents’ attitudes to
tourism.
Residents’ attitudes to tourism
Research on host attitudes toward tourism is one of the most well studied and systematic
areas in the field of tourism (McGehee & Andereck, 2004). Several theories, such as
attribution theory (Pearce, 1989), dependency theory (Preister, 1989), social representation
theory (Andriotis & Vaughan, 2003), tourism area life cycle (TALC) (Butler, 1980) and
social exchange theory (SET) (Gursoy & Rutherford, 2004; Sirakaya et al., 2002), have
been used to assess the perceptions of the host population toward tourism. However, it is
the latter two theories that have been the most widely used. The SET is concerned with
“understanding the exchange of resources between individuals and groups in an interaction
situation” where “‘actors’ supply one another with valued resources” (Ap, 1992, p. 668).
Applied to a tourism context, the theory would mean that residents benefiting from tourism
are likely to perceive the industry as positive, and thus they would support the industry, while
those who perceive themselves as incurring costs as a result of tourism development would
display negative attitudes toward tourism, thereby opposing such development. Another
widely used model in host attitudinal research deserving attention is the TALC, originally
developed by Butler (1980). According to Butler (1980), destinations evolve through the
stages of exploration, involvement, development, consolidation and stagnation, followed
by either rejuvenation or decline. TALC also suggests that as the destination moves through
the first four stages, visitor numbers to the destination will increase, while at the same
time attitudes of the host population change from positive to negative as the destination
develops.
Both of these theories, though widely used, suffer fromserious weaknesses. The SEThas
been criticized by several researchers and its limitations have been well recognized (Pearce,
Moscardo &Ross, 1996). The theory assumes that the individual is a rational decision maker
and that humans process information in a systematic way, whereas psychological research
suggests that in some cases humans are more likely to be cognitive “misers” (Fredline &
Faulkner, 2000; Pearce et al., 1996). The latter depicts a mental characteristic where only
a small amount of information is actively perceived by individuals, with many cognitive
shortcuts used. In other words, humans use simple mental shortcuts that provide rapid but
inaccurate solutions, rather than effortful mental processing, which provide delayed but
more accurate solutions. Fredline and Faulkner (2000) further note that much of a person’s
individual knowledge is derived socially rather than from direct experience as postulated
by SET. In the case of the TALC, it has not been found to be easily applicable to any given
situation without modification to suit the destination’s specific characteristics (Choy, 1992).
The theory has been criticized on various occasions because its simplicity means that it
is difficult to define boundaries between stages and to assess tourism impacts (Haywood,
1986). The theory also assumes a degree of homogeneity in the host population, when in
fact the latter is heterogeneous in character, with people holding different opinions about
tourism (Faulkner & Tideswell, 1997).
Journal of Sustainable Tourism 339
To some extent, the popularity of these models results fromthe popularity of quantitative
methodologies adopted in host attitudinal research based on quantitative survey methods
(Horn & Simons, 2002). While such quantitative methods are very good for analyzing the
straightforward attitudes of a large number of people (Brunt & Courtney, 1999), they “are
less useful in understanding howpeople construct the meaning of this thing called ‘tourism’
and how that construction is influenced by the historical and social contexts in which it
occurs” (Horn & Simons, 2002, p. 134). In fact, Fredline and Faulkner (2000) argue that
people’s perceptions of tourism are formed within a historical and societal context. Unlike
qualitative approaches, quantitative methods in host attitudinal research do not allow the
researcher to understand the influence of history and the individual’s social context on
his/her attitudes to tourism (Horn & Simons, 2002). For instance, they do not allow an
understanding as to why residents in region X (e.g. where the economy is highly tourism
dependent) might have different meanings attached to tourism than residents in region Y
(e.g. where residents’ contact with tourists is very low). Neither of the above theories allows
for an understanding of how residents’ attitudes to tourism are influenced by historical and
social contexts. Nevertheless, understanding such attitudes and their antecedents is crucial
for local government, policymakers and businesses (Gursoy & Rutherford, 2004) as the
sustainable development of tourism in a destination requires the local population’s active
support (Gursoy, Jurowski, & Uysal, 2002). Active opposition has been found to hinder
or stop tourism development (Gursoy & Rutherford, 2004). It is therefore important for
researchers to develop new theoretical concepts and sound methodological frameworks that
are able to capture the complex attitudes and behaviors of residents toward tourism.
In view of the deficiencies of existing theoretical frameworks used in host attitudinal
research and the limitations of quantitative methods in capturing attitudes and behaviors,
the authors argue that qualitative methods are especially adept at capturing host’s attitudes
and related nuances. Brunt and Courtney (1999) also note that from an ontological perspec-
tive, investigating residents’ attitudes to tourism requires qualitative surveys. Yin (1993)
argues that data from qualitative studies can be represented by perceptual and attitudinal
dimensions and real-life events, and further notes that these events and dimensions are not
readily convertible to numerical values. Further, Crawford-Welch and McCleary (1992)
and Dann, Nash, & Pearce (1988) note that the use of qualitative research in tourism will
make a significant and valuable contribution to knowledge. Research based on qualitative
methods can also help researchers understand phenomenon in a different way (Denzin &
Lincoln, 1994).
In this context, this paper discusses how the MECT and its associated laddering tech-
nique can be applied to host attitudinal studies. Originally developed in marketing, this
qualitative approach was used to identify and represent the content and structures of con-
sumer models for products and brands (Christensen & Olson, 2002). The MECT is based
on the notion that customers purchase products because of their benefits and meanings, and
not because of their attributes (Kolar, 2007). MECT is based on the idea that products, and
the attributes they possess, represent the “means” by which consumers obtain important
consequences or benefits and reinforce important values or “ends” (Gutman, 1982). In gen-
eral, such values are considered to provide the basic guidelines by which people evaluate
their surroundings (Schwartz, 1992), and from this perspective values are determinants
of attitudes and behavior. Thus, measuring such values is important in understanding and
explaining human behavior and people’s attitudes to tourism.
This paper illustrates howthe MECTand laddering technique can be developed and used
to elicit the personal values which drive attitudes, thus leading to a better understanding
of residents’ perceptions of tourism. This is particularly important since many studies
340 R. Nunkoo and H. Ramkissoon
(e.g. Allen, Hafer, Long, & Perdue, 1993; Brougham & Butler, 1981; Mason & Cheyne,
2000; Williams & Lawson, 2001) have focused on demographic variables in order to
understand attitudes, even though research from psychology suggests that values influence
attitudes rather than demographic variables. The authors are not claiming that the MECT
and laddering technique are superior to other approaches used in previous host attitudinal
studies. Rather, it is argued that such qualitative techniques offer a different perspective
for researchers. They also have considerable potential to shed light on varied issues in
this research field, especially when most studies on host attitudes to tourism have taken a
positivistic approach based on structured questionnaires and quantification, with the notable
exception of a few studies that adopted purely qualitative methods (e.g. Brunt & Courtney,
1999; Dyer, Aberdeen, & Schuler, 2003; Horn & Simons, 2002; Lepp, 2007; Wall, 1996).
The authors also argue that if advances are to be made in this research area, then one should
understand values as much as attitudes.
Measurement procedures and impact analysis
A review of existing literature on host attitudes to tourism reveals that the primary focus
has been on measuring attitudes and evaluating their relationship to perceived impacts
(Lindberg, Dellaert, & Rassing, 1999). Pizam (1978) suggests that researchers have used
different dimensions in order to identify perceptions of tourism’s impacts. Such dimensions
include perceived social impacts, perceived environmental impacts, perceived cultural im-
pacts and perceived economic impacts. Liu and Var (1986) note that early studies of
residents’ attitudes to tourism have a “tourism impact” focus, and they were designed using
a series of questionnaire items covering several types of tourism impacts documented in
the literature, or else they focused specifically on social and environmental impacts (Ap,
1990; Brougham & Butler, 1981; Jurowski, Uysal, & Williams, 1997). Scholars have also
utilized sophisticated psychometric methods to design their data collection instrument. For
instance, Lankford and Howard (1994) make use of standard psychometric procedures to
develop their tourism impact attitude scale. When considering local residents’ attitudes to
tourism, other scholars take a “tourism attitude” or “tourism perception” approach (Allen,
Hafer, Long, & Perdue, 1988, 1993; Gilbert & Clark, 1997; Johnson, Snepenger, & Akis,
1994; Lankford, 1994). In this context, McGehee and Andereck (2004) argue that these
researchers make the valid proposition that residents’ perceptions of tourism development
are as important as the actual impacts of tourism development. They further argue that “the
difference between impact perceptions and attitudes appears to be a matter of semantics,
given that studies generally included the same types of measures” (p. 132).
Riley (1996) argues that most tourism marketing research has been based on structured
interviews and quantification. Decrop (1999) also notes the limited number of qualitative
research in tourism and argues that among the major tourism journals only Annals of
Tourism Research offers enough space to stand-alone qualitative articles. Riley and Love
(2000) discuss the state of qualitative tourism research and suggest that the limited number
of qualitative studies in tourism research may involve three issues. They argue, first, that
some journal editors and reviewers are reluctant to recommend the publication of research
based on qualitative approaches and, as such, studies are often treated with suspicion.
Secondly, quantitative scholars find it difficult to understand and accept qualitative studies
as reliable if the qualitative methods used are not fully explained. Finally, they note that
findings from qualitative research may be difficult to translate into policies.
A variety of measurement procedures and research paradigms are used to analyze the
local population’s perceptions and attitudes to tourismimpacts (Lankford &Howard, 1994).
Journal of Sustainable Tourism 341
Table 1 reports on the methodologies used in 66 studies dealing with host attitudes toward
tourism and related development published between 1997 and 2007 in the three major
tourism journals, namely Annals of Tourism Research, Tourism Management and Journal
of Travel Research. The table confirms Riley (1996) and Decrop’s (1999) statements about
the scarcity of studies based on interpretive approaches (use of qualitative methods). With
the exception of a few studies (e.g. Dyer et al., 2003; Horn & Simons, 2002; Lepp, 2007)
that adopted a purely qualitative approach (N =13), the table also confirms the statement
of McGehee and Andereck (2004) that most researchers use quantitative approaches and
a series of agreement scales to measure attitudes or perceptions, based on a variety of
statistical techniques and theoretical frameworks (N =46). These include factor analysis
(Choi & Sirayaka, 2005; Dyer et al., 2007; Hayley, Snaith, & Miller, 2005; Yoon, Gursoy,
& Chen, 2001), cluster analysis (Iroegbu & Chen, 2001; Perez & Nadal, 2005; Weaver &
Lawton, 2001), structural equation modeling (e.g. Gursoy et al., 2002; Gursoy & Kendall,
2006; Gursoy &Rutherford, 2004; Jurowski &Gursoy, 2004; Ko &Stewart, 2002; Lindberg
& Johnson, 1997; Yoon et al., 2001) and/or a priori conceptualization (e.g. Andereck,
Valentine, Knopf, & Vogt, 2005; Gursoy et al., 2002; Gursoy & Kendall, 2006; Gursoy &
Rutherford, 2004; McGehee & Andereck, 2004; Sheldon & Abenoja, 2001; Teye, Sonmez,
& Sirakaya, 2002; Upchurch & Teivane, 2000). Another set of studies (e.g. Andereck
et al., 2005; Ap & Crompton, 1998; Besculides, Lee, & McCormick, 2002; MacKay &
Campbell, 2004; Petrzelka, Krannich, Brehm, &Trentelman, 2005) adopt a mixture of both
qualitative and quantitative methods, but nevertheless the discussion in the paper actually
focuses on the quantitative findings (N =7). In such studies, the qualitative part is used as
a forerunner to the quantitative techniques, confirming the observation of Decrop (1999).
Nevertheless, the table confirms that the use of qualitative approaches in studies dealing
with residents’ attitudes to tourism is still in its infancy and needs to be further developed
and tested. Attitudes can be quite nuanced and the methods that capture these nuances
should be advanced, and in this context the authors argue that the MECT and its associated
laddering technique are particularly helpful.
Table 1 further confirms that in tourism impact studies, the development and use of
impact assessment scales has been a very important topic addressed by many researchers
(Chen, 2000). However, the use of predetermined sets of items to capture community
attitudes to tourism is problematic for two reasons. First, the responses do not provide
deep insights into host attitudes and the needs of the community. Secondly, it may be
problematic to use predetermined sets of items as the researcher cannot guarantee that the
dimensions used to capture attitudes are those that are considered the most important by
the respondents. Also, rigorous statistical techniques, which are very common in studies
dealing with host attitudes toward tourism, as evident from Table 1, might not necessarily
always yield the best results. This is particularly true if the unwary researcher falls into
methodological pitfalls (Walle, 1997). Walle (1997, p. 525) further notes that
. . . . . . one of the drawbacks of employing rigorous scientific acceptable definitions lies in the
nature of society and humankind; strict guidelines for research often require the researcher
to refrain from using insight, intuition and other non-rigorous knowledge. This is a critical
dilemma facing researchers – including those in tourism – who often need to utilize diverse
forms of evidence and information when feelings of people are being studied and researched.
One way of overcoming such research biases arising from quantitative approaches
and from predetermined scales in attitudinal studies is for the investigator to utilize focus
groups. This can help the researcher to capture the dimensionality of the issues related
to tourism development and its related impacts in a destination area. While surveys using
342 R. Nunkoo and H. Ramkissoon
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Journal of Sustainable Tourism 343
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.
344 R. Nunkoo and H. Ramkissoon
structured questionnaires still remain the primary method of data collection, the use of
focus groups could help in a preliminary capacity. This would enable researchers to capture
new dimensions or research questions. Data collected from focus groups can be used to
develop the content of the structured questionnaire, making it more applicable and relevant
to the study site and the sample population. This approach could also help to augment
research based on “predetermined dimensions” drawn from previous studies. It enables the
researcher to explore what respondents say, and it also helps in providing insights into the
roots of complex attitudes, behaviors and motivations (Morgan & Krueger, 1993).
While combining focus groups with other surveys is a leading approach in collecting
qualitative and quantitative data (Morgan, 1996), problems with focus groups may also
arise. The potential weaknesses of focus groups “are linked to the process of producing
focused attention, raising issues about both the role of the moderator in generating the data
and the impact of the group itself on the data” (Morgan, 1996, p. 139). Pearce, Morrison,
and Rutledge (1998) note that the motives and feelings of the groups emerge through a
discussion led by the facilitator. In this context, Kelley (1955) points out that no two people
will construct the same meaning of a place or an event since the words used to describe
an event and the meaning of the event itself will be determined by the respondent’s unique
set of social circumstances. As such, each respondent will hold different meanings of the
place or an event. In this context, Ford and Heaton (2000) comment that the conformity of
ideas derived fromthe group interaction may limit the potential for capturing new ideas and
dimensions. Other weaknesses of focus groups have been well discussed by scholars like
Morgan (1996) and Agar and MacDonald (1995). The MECT and its associated laddering
technique may be used to reduce such biases in quantitative and qualitative methods used
in host attitudinal research, and it can also help to better understand residents’ attitudes to
tourism through analysis of the personal values driving such attitudes.
Values and attitudes to tourism
An important part of this paper is its focus on the relationship between values and attitudes
to tourism. Attitude is defined as “a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating
a particular entity with some degrees of favor or disfavor. . . evaluating refers to all classes
of evaluative responding, whether overt or covert, cognitive, affective or behavioral” (Eagly
& Chaiken, 1993, p. 1). Williams and Lawson (2001) also indicate that an evaluative
component (an assessment of “goodness”/“badness” or “desirability”) is important when
conceptualizing attitudes. They further argue that “attitude toward an object is taken to be
(some function of) the aggregate beliefs about the object and the corresponding evaluations
of them” (Williams & Lawson, 2001, p. 272). Values have been defined by Rokeach (1968,
p. 160) as “an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or end-states existence is
personally and socially preferable to alternative modes of conduct and end-states existence”.
These end of states existence and modes of conduct are referred to as goals or outcomes
(Lindberg & Johnson, 1997). Values, which can be viewed as abstract attitudes (Eagly &
Chaiken, 1993), are beliefs that transcendentally influence actions and judgments across
specific objects and situations (Thyne, 2001), and they can be considered as being a more
enduring and all-embracing concept than attitudes. According to Lindberg and Johnson
(1997), a value reflecting preference for an end of state existence can be considered as
equivalent to an attitude in favor of that end of state. They further argue that these end
of states (e.g. comfortable and prosperous life) are more abstract than concrete attitude
objects, such as tourism.
Journal of Sustainable Tourism 345
Values (End states or Modes of conduct)
1. Minimal disruption to daily life
2. Net economic gains
3. Adequate recreation facilities
4. Aesthetically pleasing environment
5. Satisfying interaction with non residents ATTITUDE TO TOURISM
6. Satisfying interaction with residents
7. Affirmation of community culture
8. Influence over community decisions
9. Need for security
10. Need for self esteem
Source: Adapted from Lindberg and Johnson (1997)
Figure 1. Relationship between values and attitude to tourism.
Rokeach (1973) suggests that values can be further divided into terminal and instrumen-
tal. Terminal values are the final end states that individuals seek in life, or in other words
they are the goals an individual seeks, while instrumental values are behaviors (modes of
conduct) that lead to terminal values (Veludo-de-Oliveira et al., 2006). In Figure 1, values
(end states), which might influence attitudes toward tourism, include net economic gains,
minimal disruption to daily life, adequate recreation facilities, aesthetically pleasing envi-
ronment, satisfying interaction with residents and nonresidents, affirmation of community
culture, influence over community decisions, need for security and self-esteem (Figure 1).
Additional values (instrumental values or modes of conduct) might be added to the list
to expand on the model. For instance, it might be worth considering instrumental values
relating to tourist–resident interaction (Lindberg & Johnson, 1997). Lindberg and Johnson
(1997) observe that two sets of models can be used to understand the relationship between
values and attitudes. The first set includes the value–attitude (VA) models, which focus
on interattitudinal structure (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993), while the second set includes ex-
pectancy value (EV) models, which focus on intra-attitudinal structure and directly evaluate
outcomes affecting attitudes. Nevertheless, both sets of models are based on the general
concepts described in Figure 1.
From a social psychology perspective, values are considered as antecedents of attitudes
and opinions (Rosenberg, 1956; Williams & Lawson, 2001). Williams and Lawson (2001)
further suggest that because values refer to abstract and all-encompassing objects, and
thus influence a much wider range of attitudes, they are especially important in attitudinal
research. They argue that higher order principles (values) are more of a determinant of
attitudes than are, for example, sociodemographic factors. It has been shown in the literature
that the latter are important antecedents of attitudes to tourism, and this includes factors such
as gender (Harvey, Hunt, &Charles, 1995; Mason &Cheyne, 2000; Nunkoo &Ramkissoon,
2007), age (Bastias-Perez & Var, 1995; Fredline & Faulkner, 2000), education (Caneday
& Zeiger, 1991; Husbands, 1989), income (Andriotis & Vaughan, 2003; Haralambopoulos
346 R. Nunkoo and H. Ramkissoon
& Pizam, 1996), length of residence (Lankford, 1994) and proximity to tourist zones or
contact with tourists (Sheldon & Var, 1984).
From the VA perspective, while it is not expected that gender is a direct antecedent of
opinion about tourism impacts, a more reasonable explanation for this gender difference
might be that there are differing emphases on various guiding principles and desirable
end-state existences (values) for males and females. These in turn influence their attitudes,
opinions and perceptions (Williams & Lawson, 2001). Similarly, other factors influencing
attitudes to tourism can be considered as exogenous, that is, they will influence attitudes
via the values noted in Figure 1. For instance, social status, age and education might affect
the perceptions of economic benefits and the level of knowledge and thus attitudes to
tourism. Place of birth and period of residence may be substituted by the importance of
interactions with residents or affirmation of culture as perceived by the locals. Cultural
background and differences between residents and tourists might influence attitudes to
tourism through satisfaction gained by the local people through visitor interaction. In fact,
most determinants of attitudes to tourismdiscussed in the literature can be taken to influence
attitudes to tourism via the values listed in Figure 1 (Lindberg & Johnson, 1997).
Capturing values: means-end chain theory
One research method that can be used to capture values in host attitudinal research and
to overcome the problems with focus groups is the MECT and its associated laddering
technique. The central idea behind the MECT is that goods, services, destinations and
ideas have meanings to consumers who evaluate these meanings when making purchase
and consumption decisions (Gutman, 1982). The MECT is defined as “a model that seeks
to explain how a product or service selection facilitates the achievement of desired end
states” (Gutman, 1982, p. 60). Means are objects, products or activities that people engage
in. Ends are valued states of being, such as happiness, security and self-esteem, including
all those values listed in Figure 1.
The MECT provides an effective and convenient way of conceptualizing the basic
pattern of relationships by which the attributes or physical features of a product or service
gain personal relevance and meaning for the individual consumer. Therefore, observable
aspects of the world or attributes are personally relevant to consumers as they allow the
individual to achieve some desired consequences, which in turn are important means
for people to achieve a desired end of existence or personal value (Gengler, Mulvey, &
Oglethorpe, 1999).
The MECT was originally developed in order to supply a theoretical structure capable
of linking values to human behavior and attitudes (Veludo-de-Oliveira et al., 2006), and
it can be considered as representing three levels of cognitive structure or three basic
levels of abstraction (Klenosky, Gengler, & Mulvey, 1993; McIntosh & Thyne, 2005). The
first level is characterized by the attributes used to describe the physical or observable
characteristics of the product or service (tourism). The second level of cognitive structure,
which is more abstract than the first level, refers to the consequences associated with
experiencing and using the product or service. This means that individuals select products
or services with attributes that produce desired consequences or benefits and minimize
undesired consequences or costs. The most abstract of cognitive structures is the final
level of meanings. This includes personal values that are centrally held and enduring
beliefs about desired end-state existence, such as minimal disruption to daily life and net
economic gains, including all end states (values) listed in Figure 1. Such values are assumed
to influence attitudes and behavior (e.g. toward tourism) (Khale, 1983; Rokeach, 1973;
Journal of Sustainable Tourism 347
Verhoff, Douvan, & Kulka, 1981) and are in line with previous research in psychology (e.g.
Rokeach, 1973; Rosenberg, 1956) and leisure behavior (Beatty, Khale, Homer, & Mirsa,
1985; Klenosky, 2002; Madrigal & Khale, 1994). The three elements are therefore seen
as being fundamentally related to each other, where attributes (means) are considered as
crucial for the benefits (consequences) they provide, both of them(means and consequences)
being functions of the personal values (ends) they are associated with (Klenosky, Frauman,
Norman, & Gengler, 1998).
The three elements (means, consequences and ends), when viewed collectively, repre-
sent a type of memory known as the means-end chain (Klenosky et al., 1998). Applied to
this study, means-end chain would link the attributes of tourism as a product or service
(A) to the consequences of experiencing tourism (C) and to the local resident’s (respon-
dent) personal values (V), forming an A-C-V sequence, conceptualized as the means-end
chain by Gutman (1982). Such attributes of tourism are therefore perceived as means to
achieve a set of specific consequences (e.g. income) that will help the individual to achieve
a small set of personal values (e.g. self-esteem), the latter influencing his or her attitudes
to tourism. Botschen, Thelen, & Pieters (1999) argue that product or service attributes do
not themselves explain why individuals buy or use a product or engage in some activities.
From the perspective of the individual, the product attributes do not matter but the prob-
lem solution comes from the consequences or subsequent personal values. Gutman (1982)
argues that consequences can be either positive or negative depending on their relationship
with personal values. For instance, the desire for positive consequences and the acceptance
of negative consequences from tourism are determined by the personal values they are
associated with. In this context, the MECT goes beyond an understanding of the functional
properties of tourism, and thus it can provide a better understanding of residents’ attitudes
to tourism and/or why and how tourism is important for the local population.
Laddering
The discussion has emphasized the importance and role of values in understanding resi-
dents’ attitudes to tourism. Different approaches have been used in measuring the concept.
Such techniques include the Rokeach value survey (RVS) (Rokeach, 1968), the list of value
scale (LOV) (Kahle & Kennedy, 1988), the value and lifestyle (VAL) tool (Mitchell, 1983)
and the laddering technique (Gutman & Reynolds, 1979). The RVS details two sets of
values: 18 instrumental and 18 terminal, each of which are ranked by respondents in order
of the importance of the values. The LOV scale has been developed because the RVS was
criticized as being too general. The former method is considered to be more related to
the values deriving from life’s major roles, such as marriage, parenting, work and leisure
(Thyne, 2001). VAL, on the other hand, was developed out of a combination of information
on values and lifestyle, together with demographic data.
One widely used qualitative research method used to research means-end theory is
the laddering technique. Originally introduced by Hinkle (1965) in clinical psychology,
the laddering technique attempts to model individuals’ belief structure in a simple and
systematic way while establishing a person’s superordinate personal constructs (Bannister
&Mair, 1968; Veludo-de-Oliveira et al., 2006). The technique is of great use in research that
elicits hierarchical constructs, and it is popular in studies attempting to investigate personal
values (Botschen et al., 1999; Dibley & Baker, 2001; Lin, 2002; Vriens & Hofstede, 2000;
Wansink, 2000, 2003). Wansink (2000, p. 30) suggests that the laddering probe is similar to
that of the work of a psychologist: “a laddering interview is similar to the classical picture
of a psychologist interviewing a patient on a couch and uncovering insights into their
348 R. Nunkoo and H. Ramkissoon
lives that are not apparent to even the patient”. Laddering has been successfully applied
in the field of psychology, marketing, advertising, architecture, information technology,
organizational management (Rugg et al., 2002) and tourism(e.g. Jansen-Verbeke &Rekom,
1996; Klenosky, 2002; Klenosky et al., 1998; Thyne, 2001). So far, however, its use is still
tentative in host attitudinal studies.
The laddering technique indicates guidelines for collecting primary data (Veludo-de-
Oliveira et al., 2006), and it involves the conduct of semistructured, one-to-one interviews
where, at the start, probing questions are used (commonly associated with the means-end
technique) to analyze why a particular factor is important to the respondent (Klenosky, 2002;
Klenosky et al., 1993, 1998). The responses are then used to formulate the next question:
“Why is that important to you?” Rather than forcing the respondents into predetermined
value categories (as often is the case in host attitudinal studies), this approach enables them
to define and express their personal values and attitudes in their own words. Laddering thus
guides the respondents up or down the ladder of abstraction, facilitating an inductive per-
spective on understanding the relationship between personal values and attitudes (Klenosky
et al., 1993). Wansink (2003) summarizes the main elements that should be prioritized in a
laddering interview as follows: (1) ask those questions that can reveal personal reasons, (2)
ask questions that are going to encourage the interviewee to think rather than just respond
with a “yes” or “no”, (3) keep asking “why”, (4) question the individual’s reasons for the
responses he/she has provided, (5) allowa logical flowof questions, (6) ask questions which
will allow the interviewee to answer in a way that is appropriate and convenient to him/her
and (7) watch the facial expression of the respondent as he/she is answering the questions
and listen to his/her tone of voice.
In analyzing residents’ attitudes to tourism, the interviewer can ask the respondents to
describe tourism’s impacts in their own words. For example, questions such as “In your
opinion, what are the most important impacts of tourism development in your area?” can
be put to the respondent. “Income generation” and “traffic congestion” could be the re-
spondent’s answers. Income and traffic congestion can therefore be considered as attributes
of tourism development. It is to be noted that answers relating to the initial questioning
can also refer to consequences or personal values rather than attributes (Veludo-de-Oliveira
et al., 2006). However, previous experiences have shown that it is more likely that responses
to the initial questions would be more related to attributes than consequences or personal
values (Woodruff & Gardial, 1996). Following the respondent’s initial answer, the value
hierarchy begins where the researcher tries to find out the reasons as to why the attributes are
important to the respondent by asking probing questions such as “Why is traffic congestion
or income generation important to you?” or “What does this mean to you?” Such questions
can be asked repeatedly with the goal of understanding the consequences resulting from the
attributes and the values resulting from the consequences. Answers to such questions can
be “I am able to live a better life as a result of earning income from tourism” or “I waste
a lot of time driving as a result of traffic congestion”. These answers can be considered
as the consequences. Following this response, the respondent can be asked questions such
as “Why is it important for you to live a better life?” or “Why is it important for you not
to waste a lot of time as a result of traffic congestion?” Further responses to the probing
questions of the interviewer can lead the respondent to give answers such as “I feel better
about myself as a result of living a better life” (self-esteem) or “Traffic congestion causes
disruption to my daily life”. Such responses given by the respondent can be taken to be his
or her personal values influencing his or her attitudes to tourism. In fact, the interviewer
should continue asking probing questions until the respondent reveals personal values or
end states such as those listed in Figure 1.
Journal of Sustainable Tourism 349
This process enables the researcher to better understand why the respondent might sup-
port or oppose tourism development. It also allows the interviewer to move the responses
to an abstraction level matching the consequences and personal values. In this way, the
interviewer is able to guide the respondent along a ladder of abstraction where the links
are uncovered between the relatively concrete attributes of tourism (income or traffic con-
gestion), the more abstract benefits or costs those attributes provide (better life or waste
of time) and the personal values (self-esteem or disruption to daily life) important to the
respondent, and this results in a better understanding of the respondent’s positive or negative
attitudes toward tourism. The laddering process thus ensures that the value dimensions are
captured since responses to questions asked can mean that they are more similar to values
than attitudes as they could be regarded as the guiding principles in a larger set of social
cognitions.
The MECT and its associated laddering technique can therefore be considered as very
useful for the study of host attitudes to tourism. With the help of the laddering technique it
is possible to determine the intrinsic values that can influence or determine such attitudes.
The laddering methodology allows the researcher to link a concrete attribute of tourism
(A), to a more abstract level of cognitive structure, that is, the consequences associated
with experiencing tourism (C), and to an intrinsic value associated with the respondent
(V), forming an A-C-V sequence, conceptualized as the means-end chain. Lindberg and
Johnson (1997) note that such levels of abstraction enhance planners’ and decision makers’
understanding of the antecedents of specific attitudes to tourism, which can eventually help
them in decision making.
The MECT and its associated laddering technique are, however, not free from limita-
tions. Means-end models have been criticized as they assume that knowledge is organized
in a hierarchical sequence from concrete to abstract thoughts, and from means to end state.
The theory has also been criticized as forcing the relationship between values and attitudes
(Thyne, 2001). For instance, asking questions to find out the “Why” of a response given by
the respondent might lead to artificial levels of abstraction as the respondent can answer in
a “rational way”, trying to find arguments to justify his/her attitudes or behavior (Botschen
et al., 1999). Woodruff and Gardial (1996) suggest that by asking repetitive questions,
the interviewer can make the issues too obvious to the respondent and that the interview
might become exhaustive for the respondent. For instance, use of laddering to have a proper
assessment of attitudes to tourism requires several items of measurement, and this could
place excessive cognitive demand on the respondent. Other problems may arise from this
kind of interview process. Reynolds and Gutman (1988) argue that the respondent may
lack previous thinking or he/she might not be able to reflect on the reasons for its sig-
nificance and as such may not be able to answer. They further suggest that questions can
become too personal and this might prevent the natural flow of conversation. Nevertheless,
the MECT and the laddering technique are important in attitudinal research and deserve
further attention both in development and application.
Conclusion
This study emphasizes the importance of values in host attitudinal research and argues that
values can be a better predictor of attitudes to tourism. It discusses the potential of the
MECT and the laddering technique as qualitative approaches to understanding personal
values and their influence on the host population’s attitudes to tourism. Notwithstanding
their limitations, the study claims that MECT and the laddering techniques are advanta-
geous methods for understanding residents’ attitudes to tourism in that they are helpful in
350 R. Nunkoo and H. Ramkissoon
discovering hidden meanings and behaviors, which influence such attitudes. In this con-
text, these techniques can be used not only to examine the relationship between residents
and tourism, but also to analyze this relationship in the context of what residents consider
as important community or personal issues. Indeed, “by studying the interaction between
these two relationships a clearer picture of the underlying nature of host opinion is possible”
(Williams & Lawson, 2001, p. 270).
It is recommended that researchers attempting to study residents’ attitudes to tourism
make use of the laddering technique as a way of determining the means-end chain associated
with such attitudes. It could either be used as the sole qualitative data collection method
or as a forerunner to quantitative methods, such as structured questionnaires, which are
increasingly used in the analysis of host attitudes to tourism. In the latter case, such
qualitative techniques provide information to further develop the quantitative part. Such
approaches can therefore enhance our understanding of residents’ attitudes to tourism,
especially when research on this topic has suffered from biases in favor of quantitative
approaches. The model is therefore important in host attitudinal research and deserves
further attention. Future researchers should aim empirically to test the MECT and its
associated laddering techniques in their studies of host attitudes, and they should explore
the opportunity of studying laddering not only as a one-to-one interview technique but also
through using groups of people when collecting data.
Notes on contributor/s
Robin Nunkoo is a Lecturer in the Faculty of Law and Management, University of Mauritius. He
holds a BA in Economics, and MAs in Development Administration and Tourism Management, both
from the University of Westminster, UK. He is conducting doctoral research in tourism. His writing
interest is in sustainable tourism.
Haywantee Ramkissoon is a Lecturer in the School of Sustainable Development and Tourism, Univer-
sity of Technology, Mauritius. She holds a BA in Philosophy and an MSc in Tourism, Conservation
and Sustainable Development. Her writing and research interests include tourist behavior, information
research and sustainable tourism. She is conducting doctoral research in tourism.
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