Delegation in Tourism Decision Making: Toward an Understanding of the Role of Social Surrogate
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Tourism is often a group-based activity, but tourism decision-making research has primarily focused on individual decision making and who makes decisions in families. However, there are numerous situations in which individuals do not make decisions for themselves, effectively delegating decisions such as where to visit, stay, or eat to others in their travel party, called “social surrogates.” Unlike traditional surrogates described by prior researchers, social surrogates are not part of a formal business relationship and often participate in consumption. The purpose of this study was to investigate delegation of decisions to social surrogates and to determine which attributes lead to delegation. A nationwide web-based survey (n=404) found that decision delegation to social surrogates frequently occurred in travel environments. The study also revealed that there are two separate factors comprising decision delegation: the desire to defer a decision and the desire to make a choice (“choose”). Two structural equation models were tested. The first model found that decision-making style affected decision delegation. Additionally, results provided evidence that desire to defer decisions and desire to make a choice are not clear opposites, but are separate components of decision delegation. A second model revealed that high purchase involvement, desire to control others, relinquishing control, and propensity to make risky decisions led to the desire to choose. A desire to relinquish control led to deferring decisions, as did low purchase involvement. Decision delegation also was found to be more likely in situations in which the decision-maker felt that others had more relative experience and expertise. Decision delegation to social surrogates was found to be common in tourism. Results suggest it would be incorrect to assume that individuals make all of their decisions, so all customers may not be of equal importance to tourism marketers. Some individuals may have little to no role in choice (as they defer decisions), while others (social surrogates) may hold great influence over others (by making decisions). Results suggest that individuals may defer about half of restaurant and activity decisions in tourism. Thus, identifying who actually made the decision may be an important prerequisite to understanding tourism consumer behavior.
Stone, Matthew John (2014). Delegation in Tourism Decision Making: Toward an Understanding of the Role of Social Surrogate. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from