Relationship intention as a mediator between relational benefits and customer loyalty in the tour operator industry
Relationship and customer loyalty management have been an important field of research in marketing for decades. However, the focus for many years was mainly on the benefits of relationship marketing for companies. This article contributes to a deeper understanding of the benefits of relationship marketing for customers in the travel industry. It investigates the effects between relational benefits, relationship intention and intentional loyalty using the tour operator industry as an example. Relationship intention will be introduced as a variable influencing intentional loyalty. The role of relationship intention in the customer benefit-intentional loyalty context will be analyzed by testing different path models. The measurement model is estimated, based on a confirmatory factor analysis using LISREL with a sample of 1,702 tour operator customers. The structural model as well as the estimate path coefficients were analyzed applying a partial least square approach (PLS) using SmartPLS. This article not only contributes to the further development of models explaining intentional loyalty, but also to the development of practical insights about the influence of different measures and tools on intentional loyalty from a customer benefit perspective. It can be concluded that the intention of a customer to invest in a relationship is dependent on the perceived level of relationship benefits. Further, the results show, that the buying behavior of customers is influenced by the perceived relational benefits. With the management of customer relations, a provider can influence the behavior of the customer to exploit the earning potential efficiently. Therefore, a provider has to be successful in creating new relational benefits for his customers through measures of customer relation management.