Achieving tourist satisfaction is one of the most important factors in terms of stewardship by the different actors in tourist destinations. Even though there is extensive literature that analyses tourist satisfaction, there is no final consensus regarding which variables influence its creation. This study proposes a model in which satisfaction is a consequence of the functional, hedonic and symbolic benefits. The hedonic benefit is considered a multidimensional construct. At the same time, we suggest that this triad of benefits is a consequence of cognitive perception and affective evaluation. For this study, a non-probability sample of 750 tourists was used, based on quotas distributed proportionally among the main Chilean tourist destinations. Once the psychometric properties of the scales used in the study were verified, a structural equation model was estimated and it was found that satisfaction is a consequence of the functional and hedonic, but not the symbolic benefit. It is confirmed as well that the functional, hedonic and symbolic benefits are a consequence of cognitive perception and affective evaluation.
- tourist destination
Tourist satisfaction is one of the most widely studied factors in literature on tourism and hospitality . From this perspective, specialized literature reveals the key role of tourist satisfaction at the time of choosing a tourist destination . In this regard, achieving customer satisfaction could lead to a successful tourism industry . As a matter of fact, considering the key role of satisfaction in a tourist destination, it has been argued repeatedly that, on one hand, the feeling of satisfaction experienced by the tourist in a destination will be a valuable antecedent to recommend or return to a place [4, 5]. In other words, satisfaction will be an explicit antecedent to tourist loyalty to a place. From this perspective, the findings show that such loyalty could be affective, cognitive or conative in nature . It has been revealed that different factors can create optimum levels of satisfaction; in a sense, they are directly linked to the tourist  and on the other hand, to the environment of the destination . It has been argued as well in literature on tourism that satisfaction can be the result of the value perceived by the tourist in the place . Similarly, it can be achieved as a consequence of emotional enjoyment , the perception of the destination’s image [10, 11] or the perception of the quality of the services provided in the place . Overall, satisfaction can be the result of the connection among various qualities of the tourist destination, coupled with positive perceptions by the tourist . In this regard, the benefits perceived in the place will be the principal components to determine tourist satisfaction . Nevertheless, even though there is extensive literature that analyses satisfaction, there is no final consensus regarding which factors determine tourist satisfaction in a destination. From this perspective, this study suggests that satisfaction is determined by the functional ; hedonic [15, 16] and symbolic benefits  perceived by the tourist. Emphasis is placed on the fact that the hedonic benefit, being considered a multidimensional factor, will have a fundamental role as antecedent to tourist satisfaction. Similarly, it is suggested that the functional, hedonic and symbolic benefits perceived by the tourist will be a consequence of the cognitive perception [18, 19] and affective evaluation of the place [20, 21].
2. Theoretical background and hypothesis development
2.1. Theoretical background
2.1.1. Tourist satisfaction
Specialized literature has revealed that satisfaction is a subjective opinion based on the assessment by the tourist after living different experiences in a place . In this regard, tourist satisfaction with a destination is essentially what the tourist expects. In other words, it is the fulfillment of an expectation , which can be expressed as an affective state  a cognitive state  or a combination of both , after living experiences in the place. From this perspective, it is a positive assessment by the tourist of the benefits obtained in the place , or a sum of judgments regarding the quality perceived by the tourist .
2.1.2. Functional benefit perceived by the tourist
It has been argued that a solution-oriented person tends to choose the alternative that best fulfills their needs . In this regard, facing different alternatives, the functional benefit perceived by the tourist is very important in the process of selecting a destination. Such benefit is created by fulfilling an individual’s cognitive need, as a consequence of their adaptation to the environment; it can be defined as the utility achieved through functional value . Therefore, the tourist achieves this by experiencing the qualities of the place . The more a destination fulfills the practical needs of tourists, the better the perceived functional benefit will be. The better the ability to fulfill the multiple needs expressed while visiting, the greater the effect on the tourist will be . Consequently, the functional qualities of the tourist destination will make it more likely to be chosen and visited .
2.1.3. Hedonic benefit perceived by the tourist
The hedonic benefit perceived by the tourist can be defined as the enjoyment of the experience in terms of service, associated to their fantasies and feelings . From this perspective, the hedonic benefit perceived by the tourist is relevant in the process of selecting a destination. The enjoyment derived from a place will be assessed through it. This is a result of psycho-sensory experiences, arising from the need of stimulation and sensation-seeking . This is a way to represent multisensory experiences, activated through sensorial stimulation. In this regard, tourist destinations consist of a mix of products and services , which are stimulating for the visitor, since they offer pleasurable sensory experiences. The better the multisensory experiences for the tourist, the greater the enjoyment of the visit . As a matter of fact, since tourist destinations are essentially aesthetic, visual contact with the landscape will be an important factor.
2.1.4. Symbolic benefit perceived by the tourist
The symbolic benefit perceived by the tourist can be defined as the benefit received through the multiple elements of self-concept which, to a large extent, results from the assessment of others, whether real or imagined  and consists of various representations by each person, linked to a particular set of social conditions . From this perspective, self-concept has tour different aspects: actual, ideal, social and ideal social . “Actual” refers to an individual’s self-image, “ideal” is what the individual would like to be, “social” is the way the individual thinks they are perceived by other important people, and “ideal social” is the way the individual would like to be perceived by other important people . So, tourists could adapt their behavior in a destination, either to reinforce or improve their self-concept. However, they could also visit places that convey a symbolic meaning to themselves and/or others . That way, through the symbolic benefit perceived, the tourist will be able to appreciate the sense of belonging provided by the place visited.
2.1.5. Cognitive perception of the tourist destination
In specialized literature on tourism, it has been argued that, on the one hand, cognition can be defined as objective knowledge of a place or the quality of the physical characteristics of the environment , and on the other hand as the set of people’s beliefs, ideas and impressions about a particular place . In the same vein, reviewing the literature on tourism reveals the wide range of studies related to tourist cognition in terms of defining a place, as well as an image [41, 42]. From this perspective, cognitive perception is relevant for tourist behavior, since tourism is a discretionary activity, with a higher level of choice and less limitations than most other human endeavors. Specifically, cognitive perception includes processes related to attention to stimuli and events, their understanding, remembering past events, assessments, and buying choices .
2.1.6. Affective evaluation of the tourist destination
In terms of tourism, the affective evaluation of a place by a tourist can be defined as the way they feel about the place [44, 45] or the assessment of the affective quality of the place . That way, visitors will be motivated by the appearance of destinations and their attractions, and also their emotional qualities, which will be helpful in terms of fulfilling their psychological needs . A destination is linked to its visitors and accounts for affective links, which can be positive, neutral or negative . From this perspective, such link between products and emotions evokes an image of the product in the consumer’s mind . Consequently, an affective evaluation can emerge from two different paths; one of them is innate and includes sensory/motor processes that generate primitive or partially formed affective assessments, while the other entails a conceptual outline and transformation .
2.2. Hypothesis development
2.2.1. Functional benefit perceived—tourist satisfaction
In terms of tourism, the functional benefit perceived has a positive effect on tourist satisfaction . Similarly, literature on consumer behavior notes that qualities that become functional benefits provide a greater level of consumer satisfaction [49, 50] and can be part of a product’s design and aesthetic. Likewise, the functional benefit attained by the tourist through the qualities of a place could improve tourist satisfaction . From this perspective, the following hypothesis is presented within the context of tourist destinations:
2.2.2. Hedonic benefit perceived: tourist satisfaction
In terms of tourism, the hedonic benefit perceived has a positive effect on tourist satisfaction . From a consumer’s perspective, hedonic experiences can increase the level of satisfaction . Hedonic consumers tend to look for pleasurable experiences that increase satisfaction . The enjoyment of leisure experiences influences tourist satisfaction . Similarly, the enjoyment derived from a place's visual attractions , could influence the level of tourist satisfaction. From this perspective, the following hypothesis is presented within the context of tourist destinations:
2.2.3. Symbolic benefit perceived: tourist satisfaction
In terms of tourism, the symbolic benefit perceived has a positive effect on tourist satisfaction . The symbolic benefit attained by the tourist while visiting a destination is related to the level of satisfaction in a direct and positive manner . This positive effect, consequently, has an effect on positive behavior in connection to a place . According to literature on tourism, the symbolic benefit for the tourist could improve significantly the level of satisfaction derived from the destination . So, the link between the symbolic benefit and satisfaction can help improve the perception of hospitality services . In the same vein, the following hypothesis is suggested within the context of tourist destinations:
2.2.4. Cognitive perception of the tourist destination: functional benefit perceived
Good cognitive perception of the place is very important for the tourist to attain the expected functional benefit. From a marketing perspective, it has been pointed out that the functional benefit is primarily instrumental and cognitive in nature for the customer [18, 56]. Similarly, literature on consumer behavior has revealed that the functional benefit can be obtained as a response to a cognitive need . In this regard, a good cognitive perception of the qualities and features of the place could improve the attainment of functional benefits by the tourist. From this perspective, the following hypothesis is suggested within the context of tourist destinations:
2.2.5. Cognitive perception of the tourist destination: hedonic benefit perceived
It has been argued that, when it comes to consumers who look for an experience (high levels of stimulation), there is a close link between cognitive perception and hedonic benefit . As a matter of fact, even though the hedonic benefit is attained through the consumer’s experience of the most intangible features of the product and/or service, it is a consequence of the cognitive perception of the most tangible elements associated to the experience . From this perspective, good cognitive perception will stimulate the hedonic benefit of the consumer in a positive manner . In this regard, the following hypothesis is presented within the context of tourist destinations:
2.2.6. Cognitive perception of the tourist destination: symbolic benefit perceived
Based on the assessment of its qualities, a good cognitive perception of the destination is very important to have a positive effect on the symbolic benefit for the tourist. Literature shows that the symbolic benefit perceived by the customer can be cognitive in nature . In this regard, each representation of self-concept will depend on the tourist’s cognitive perception of the place , in order to be able to recreate such self-concept through what is already known, and also what is not yet known . So, good cognitive perception of the place by the tourist will stimulate the symbolic benefit expected. From this perspective, the following hypothesis is formulated within the context of tourist destinations:
2.2.7. Affective evaluation of the tourist destination: functional benefit perceived
The affective evaluation can be expressed tangibly through the functional benefit perceived by the consumer . The emotional characteristics created around a product have a positive effect on the functional benefit perceived by the consumer . A product that is attractive in emotional terms increases the functional benefit perceived by the customer . In the same vein, the following hypothesis is presented within the context of tourist destinations:
2.2.8. Affective evaluation of the tourist destination: hedonic benefit perceived
A good affective evaluation of the place will be an antecedent that will allow the tourist to attain the hedonic benefit expected. It has been argued that the affective evaluation has a direct influence on the possible hedonic benefit attained by the consumer in the process of choosing a product or service . In this regard, emotions are the main mechanisms through which hedonic value for the customer is created . The affective origin of consumption experiences is key in order to attain the hedonic benefit  expected by the tourist when visiting a destination. So, a positive affective evaluation of a place will be helpful in order to attain the hedonic benefit desired by the tourist. From this perspective, the following hypothesis is suggested within the context of tourist destinations:
2.2.9. Affective evaluation of the tourist destination: symbolic benefit perceived
According to literature, the affective evaluation is quite relevant, being an antecedent to the symbolic benefit . It has been argued that a close link exists with the affective evaluation as antecedent to the symbolic benefit perceived by the individual . The affective evaluation is key for the consumer to attain the symbolic benefit perceived . From this perspective, the following hypothesis is presented within the context of tourist destinations:
This can be depicted schematically ( Figure 1 ).
3. Research methodology
In order to identify the most appropriate scales to measure relationships in which satisfaction is a consequence of the functional, hedonic and symbolic benefits perceived by the tourist and this triad of benefits is a consequence of the cognitive and affective evaluation of the place by the tourist, with an appropriate level of reliability, validity and dimensionality, a process with different stages was developed .
3.1. Scales development
The first stage consisted in creating scales with a level of validity in terms of content. With this in mind, a deep analysis of literature was conducted, considering the scales created in many previous studies; regarding satisfaction, for instance, [69, 70] were used as reference, [56, 71] were used for the functional benefit, [56, 72–74] for the hedonic benefit, [75, 76] for the symbolic benefit, [42, 44] for cognitive perception and [65, 77] for affective evaluation. Consecutively, a critical incident analysis was conducted, in which people had to describe the factors that were part of the constructs analyzed. 40 people from a non-probability sample (for convenience) took part in the study, and the previous scales of satisfaction, functional benefit, hedonic benefit, symbolic benefit, cognitive perception and affective evaluation were obtained. Then a second clearing process of this scales recommended by  took place. Immediately after, a series of focus groups were conducted, with regular tourists from different parts of Chile, as well as several interviews with experts on tourism and sales executives from travel agencies. These analyses added indicators that reflected each dimension more accurately within the context of the study, and allowed to adjust and/or eliminate those found to be conflicting or redundant. A variation of  was applied to do this. Each expert had to rate each item in terms of its dimension, considering three choices: clearly, partially or not representative. Conclusively, items with a high level of consensus were kept . Through these analyses, the scales were obtained, which were used to write the draft questionnaire. In the second stage, the final questionnaire was created. The draft questionnaire was used for a quantitative pre-test applied to a random sample of 40 people; then the data was used for an exploratory factor analysis and a Cronbach’s alpha was estimated for each resulting dimension. This preliminary analysis confirmed the existence of each of the dimensions from previous analyses. The items were written as assertions that were answered through a 7-point Likert scale (see Table 1 ). All of them were written so they could be understood and answered by every respondent.
|Satisfaction||Sat 1||This is the best place I have visited|
|Sat 2||This place is what I expected|
|Sat 3||This place fulfills my expectations|
|Sat 4||This place is exactly what I imagined|
|Sat 5||This place was my best choice|
|Functional benefit||Fube 1||Vacationing in this place was just what I needed|
|Fube 2||In this place, I found the vacation I was looking for|
|Fube 3||Vacationing in this place is always convenient|
|Fube 4||Compared to similar places, this is the best vacation spot|
|Hedonic benefit visual attractions||Hbviat 1||I love the appearance of this place|
|Hbviat 2||I love the aesthetics of this place|
|Hbviat 3||This place is a pleasure for my senses|
|Hedonic benefit escape from routine||Hbero 1||This place is an escape from routine|
|Hbero 2||This place makes me feel I’m in a different world|
|Hedonic benefit recreation||Hbere 1||This is a great place to have fun|
|Hbere 2||This place is very exciting, which is contagious|
|Hbere 3||This is a place to enjoy life|
|Hedonic benefit intrinsic pleasure||Hbinple 1||This place is fascinating to visit, compared to other possible activities|
|Hbinple 2||I wish I could be in this place all the time|
|Symbolic benefit||Sben 1||This place reflects who I am|
|Sben 2||This place is in tune with the way I see myself|
|Sben 3||I identify with the people who choose this place|
|Sben 4||This place is visited by people like me|
|Cognitive perception environment||Copen 1||This place is known to be very safe|
|Copen 2||This place is known to be clean|
|Copen 3||This place is known for its good transport system|
|Copen 4||This place is known to have adequate signage|
|Affective evaluation||Affev 1||This place is a lot of fun|
|Affev 2||This place is very lively|
|Affev 3||This place is very cheerful|
3.2. Data collection
A non-probability sample was used, based on quotas, proportional to the tourist destinations visited in Chile according to the National Tourism Service , divided into beaches (36%), lakes (25%) and other attractions (39%). The surveys were conducted in the main capital cities of Chile. Data were collected in the third and last stage. The survey was conducted on a total sample of 750 people, using the last tourist destination where they stayed as reference. A psychometric analysis of the data was conducted in order to obtain scales with a good level of reliability, validity and dimensionality. At the same time, a separate analysis of the multidimensionality of the hedonic benefit scale was conducted (see Table 2 ). The results of the partial analysis and the global model were both satisfactory.
|Indicators||Recommended value||First order||Second order|
|Incremental||NFI||High (close to 1)||0.79||0.97|
|IFI||High (close to 1)||0.80||0.97|
|CFI||High (close to 1)||0.80||0.97|
|Normed ||[1; 5]||24.38||4.90|
Then, an exploratory factor analysis and a confirmatory factor analysis (SEM) were conducted, along with different reliability analyses applying Cronbach’s alpha, construct reliability and variance extracted (AVE). In order to identify items unattached to their dimension, principal component factor analyses were conducted with varimax rotation . Following this procedure, there was no need to eliminate indicators from the scales analyzed (see Table 3 ). In fact, they all featured a good level of unidimensionality, with factor loadings well over 0.4 . Considering the different scales, through structural equations, a confirmatory factor analysis was developed in order to confirm if the indicators or variables were adequate for an appropriate adjustment of the model. The requirements considered were the three criteria proposed by . The first is to eliminate the indicators with a weak condition of convergence with their corresponding latent variable. A Student’s
|Scales||Variable||Factorial load||Variance explained %||Own value|
|Functional benefit||Fube 1||0.86||73.54||2.94|
|Hedonic benefit visual attractions||Hbviat 1||0.91||80.09||2.40|
|Hedonic benefit escape from routine||Hbero 1||0.93||86.99||1.74|
|Hedonic benefit recreation||Hbere 1||0.85||74.51||2.93|
|Hedonic benefit intrinsic pleasure||Hbinple 1||0.89||70.54||1.59|
|Symbolic benefit||Sben 1||0.89||76.4||3.0|
|Cognitive perception environment||Copen 1||0.83||69.34||2.77|
|Affective evaluation||Affev 1||0.90||80.89||2.43|
Once the optimal model was verified, the reliability of each scale was confirmed. Three tests were applied for this: Cronbach’s alpha (limit 0.7), composite construct reliability (limit 0.7)  and analysis of variance extracted (limit 0.5) . Results show that, in all cases, the minimum values defined (see Table 4 ) by these parameters of reliability are met.
|Scales||Variable||Alpha by Cronbach||Construct reliability||Variance extracted|
|Functional benefit||Fube 1||0.88||0.92||0.73|
|Hedonic benefit visual attractions||Hbviat 1||0.87||0.84||0.64|
|Hedonic benefit escape from routine||Hbero 1||0.85||0.93||0.86|
|Hedonic benefit recreation||Hbere 1||0.82||0.90||0.75|
|Hedonic benefit intrinsic pleasure||Hbinple 1||0.74||0.88||0.79|
|Symbolic benefit||Sben 1||0.90||0.93||0.77|
|Cognitive perception environment||Copen 1||0.85||0.90||0.69|
|Affective evaluation||Affev 1||0.88||0.93||0.81|
Validity was confirmed in terms of content and construct. The scales show an adequate level of validity in terms in content, due to the deep analysis of the literature, a critical incident study with tourists and then a clearing process of this scale through different focus groups with tourists and interviews with experts and sales executives from travel agencies. In order to meet the construct validity, it was determined if the scales proposed, already cleared, meet the convergent and discriminant validity. Convergent validity was confirmed by observing that all the standardized coefficients of the confirmatory factor analysis (AFC) were statistically significant to 0.01 and higher than 0.5 . In order to verify the existence of discriminant validity, a confidence interval test was used . It consists in building the confidence intervals resulting from the correlations among the different latent variables that make up the confirmatory factor model (AFC) (see Table 5 ). According to this test, the model has discriminant validity since no confidence interval contained the value 1 . The methodological process developed makes it possible to conclude that the proposed model shows a good level of overall validity.
|Confidence interval test|
|Bi-variate relationship||Confidence intervals||Difference |
|Hedonic benefit—functional benefit||0.84–0.86||1957.7 (1)||1955.9 (385)|
|Cognitive perception—functional benefit||0.47–0.50||1961.6 (1)|
|Cognitive perception—affective evaluation||0.41–0.42||1988.7 (1)|
|Symbolic benefit—affective evaluation||0.47–0.48||1992.7 (1)|
|Hedonic benefit—cognitive perception||0.51–0.53||1971.0 (1)|
|Satisfaction—affective evaluation||0.53–0.55||1972.6 (1)|
|Hedonic benefit—satisfaction||0.82–0.85||1956.4 (1)|
|Satisfaction—functional benefit||0.81–0.85||1966.3 (1)|
|Satisfaction—cognitive perception||0.50–0.54||1955.9 (1)|
|Symbolic benefit—hedonic benefit||0.72–0.75||1959.8 (1)|
|Hedonic benefit—affective evaluation||0.66–0.67||1996.4 (1)|
|Symbolic benefit—functional benefit||0.60–0.63||1958.4 (1)|
|Affective evaluation—functional benefit||0.61–0.62||1979.3 (1)|
|Symbolic benefit—cognitive perception||0.42–0.45||1962.0 (1)|
|Hedonic benefit visual attractions—hedonic benefit escape from routine||0.65–0.67||139.8 (1)||139.3 (29)|
|Hedonic benefit visual attractions—hedonic benefit intrinsic pleasure||0.70–0.72||142.0 (1)|
|Hedonic benefit visual attractions—hedonic benefit recreation||0.71–0.73||157.7 (1)|
|Hedonic benefit recreation—hedonic benefit escape from routine||0.85–0.88||162.7 (1)|
|Hedonic benefit recreation—hedonic benefit intrinsic pleasure||0.78–0.79||160.7 (1)|
|Hedonic benefit intrinsic pleasure—hedonic benefit escape from routine||0.60–0.61||142.6 (1)|
4. Analysis and results
The hypotheses presented were confirmed through a SEM model, for which the software AMOS version 23 was used. The values obtained for the indicators of adjustment of the model were within acceptable levels: IFI 0.910, CFI 0.910, RMSEA 0.072, Normed
5. Discussion and conclusion
This study includes an analysis of certain factors as antecedents to tourist satisfaction. Specifically, the functional, hedonic and symbolic benefits the visitor perceives. The findings provide a basis for concluding that the functional and hedonic benefits play a key role in creating tourist satisfaction. On the other hand, the symbolic benefit has been found not to be a fundamental factor in order to achieve tourist satisfaction. The hedonic benefit has been confirmed to be a multidimensional factor, based upon the perception of the tourist destination in terms of: (1) visual attractions; (2) escape from routine (3) leisure; (4) intrinsic pleasure. At the same time, the functional, hedonic and symbolic benefits perceived have been determined to be a consequence of cognitive perception and the affective evaluation of the tourist destination by the tourist. Considering the strong link between tourist satisfaction and their likelihood to recommend or return to a place , the different stakeholders involved in the industry must create activities and spaces aimed to fulfill the basic needs of tourists. Cancun, Mexico could be a good example; a place that offers a variety of good restaurants and accommodations. Undoubtedly, this could help a tourist destination to establish a link to the functional benefit perceived by the tourist. On the other hand, it is imperative to stage a comprehensive, consistent setting in the destination, with an emphasis on providing an enjoyable visit. “Torres del Paine” national park in the south of Chile could be taken as an example. The tourist chooses to visit this place for the majesty of its beautiful visual attractions, as a great chance to escape routine, have fun and derive intrinsic pleasure from contact with nature. Evidently, this virtuous cycle will be the best way to link the place to the hedonic benefit perceived by the tourist. Even though the symbolic benefit perceived by the tourist is not a fundamental factor as antecedent to satisfaction, it is still important. Therefore, it becomes necessary to take care of the environment for the place to fit the sense of social belonging expected by visitors. Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic, could be an example of this. Visitors expect to find first-class resorts and hotels and are not willing to stay in a place which does not fit their social standing. Taking care of this concept will be helpful to establish a better link between the place and the symbolic benefit perceived by the tourist. Linking a destination to the benefits perceived by the tourist will be pointless if such a place cannot offer a high level of public safety, cleanliness, an adequate transport system and adequate signage. The Riviera Maya in Mexico is a good example. Here the tourist can move around safely, knowing the police are constantly patrolling and seeing the clear signage indicating the different places of interest, in a clean, quiet setting. Attention to detail is the best way to link the cognitive perception by the tourist to the triad of benefits perceived. Similarly, the place should strive to offer positive emotional experiences for the tourist. This requires recreational activities that offer a fun, lively and cheerful atmosphere. Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, could be an example of this. Here the tourist expects to find events and activities that showcase the cheerful nature of Brazilian culture. This is a way for the destination to establish a closer link to the affective evaluation by the tourist.
6. Limitations and future research
This work is mostly a cross-sectional study, so bias in terms of common variance could be significant. Therefore, it would be advisable to conduct it again as a longitudinal study in order to confirm if the results derived from the proposed model can be extrapolated to other tourist and geographical contexts.