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International Hospitality and Tourism Student Journal 6 (1) 2014 37-46

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An analysis of the potential of cycling tourism as a niche market to enhance the destination image in Japan.
Yik Man Tong
HTMi, Hotel & Tourism Management Institute, Srenberg, 6174 Luzern, Switzerland!


Abstract This study attempted to analyse the overall benefits and challenges in developing cycling tourism as niche market and also to explore the interrelationship between developing cycling as niche tourism and enhance the destination image. The literature of this study reveals the relevant models and there is lack of practical studies in terms of examined the application of destination tourism. Additionally, the research tends to rediscover the use of destination image and how can it implement with special interest tourism as a niche for example cycling tourism. The primary research of this study is focusing on Japan, however this research could be an inspiration for another country to develop cycling tourism as a new trait of its destination image towards tourists. In order to fulfil the aim, the author did the secondary research through different empirical studies in the field of cycling tourism, niche marketing and destination image. Quantitative primary research approach will be used to get a more accurate result. The author examined the cycling tourism development and which segments are more gladly with this new idea, therefore the surveys were conducted in three different countries. The findings indicated developing cycling tourism has a positive effect in enhancing the Japans destination image. International and domestic tourists are attracted by this cycling tourism concept to explore Japan in another way. Lastly this concept could be a new way to establish a stronger destination image and be sustainable with using cycling as microniche tourism.
Keywords: Cycling tourism; Niche tourism; Destination branding; Destination image; Destination marketing; Japan

2013 International Hospitality Research Centre. All rights reserved.


1. Introduction Japan has been chosen as one of the top ten countries to go in 2011 (Lonely Planet, 2011). This destination is familiar with its latest technology, shopping place, traditional Japanese culture and food. According to Scowsill (2012) Japan is the third largest travel and tourism economy in the world. However, nearby countries like South Korea, China, and Hong Kong are developing their own tourism industry aggressively. Also, the nuclear crisis in 2011 is heavily reported until now, unfortunately the negative image from this crisis is dominant in the tourists mind and lead to the decreasing number of tourists arrivals. In the face of a threatening competitive environment and current unpleasant image, how can Japan keep their tourism standing and developing further in the niche market in order to strengthen its destination image? The concept of destination image has been widely mentioned by different countries and related academic studies, there is common consensus that can heavily influence the tourists criteria of selecting a destination to go and also effect on the destinations marketing activities (Avraham and Ketter, 2008). In recent years, cycling tourism seems to be developing quickly in the Western country. Cycling tourism can be

viewed as a tool of transportation or sports, carrying different essential feature positively such as good for personal health and reduces the pollution for the environment (Page and Connell, 2009). Moreover, cycling tourism seems to be bringing profitable revenue and good value for some of the European tourism destination. According to Sustrans (1999), the profit from cycling tourism in UK has already reach GBP 635 millions in one year. Moreover, Sustrans (1999) mentioned cycle tourists represent a growing and valuable tourist market for local economies. Due to the above reasons, developing cycling tourism as a niche market may strengthen the Japans destination image and maximise the profit from this segment. The rationale of the author can be separated into two perspectives: Academic and Business. For the academic perspective, the author realised there are lack of research on understanding the development and the potential market size of cycling tourism (Australian Cyclist, 2007 and Victorias Cycling Tourism Plan 2011-2015, 2010). On the other hand, many authors have different concept of niche marketing, Novelli (2005) pointed out Niche tourism is representing the diversity and ways of making difference, however, Jobber (2010) considered it as pursuing a small market segment or even a segment within segment. Due to different authors

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have a different concept, it showed there is a difficulty in clarifying a definition for such a complexity topic. As well as the terms of cycling tourism, it can be viewed as different way, transportation or a kind of sport? Besides, destination image has been well defined by academic studies and have a general agreement by the marketing researchers that is an important factor of choosing vacation destination (Tapachai and Waryszak, 2000; Pavlovi! and Belullo, 2007). In spite of this, there is still paucity of framework and conceptualise it precisely (Beerli and Martin, 2004; Pavlovi! and Belullo, 2007). Moreover, as Qu et al. (2011) pointed out there is lack of understanding between the brand and image as a basis of destination brand, also there is no related studies in understanding the relationship between niche marketing and destination image. On the business perspective, cycling tourism is one of the potential valuable market, from a strategic perspective it is clear cycle tourism is a major niche tourism opportunity. (Cycling Tourism Strategy 2005-2010, 2010) The western countries give more concern on this market and the results are generally positive, however cycling tourism in Asia countries is still under development. The author understands being first on supporting this market with local tourism board will give an advantage to the country to maximise profit and the public awareness. In view of the above reasons, this motivated the author to do the further indepth study. The aim of this paper is to critically analyse the potential of cycling tourism as a niche market to enhance the destination image in Japan. In order to fulfil the aim, three objectives are defined as follow: to evaluate the strengths and opportunities of developing cycling tourism as a niche market in Japan; to assess the advantages and limitations of developing cycling tourism as part of the destination image in Japan; and to investigate the interrelationship between developing cycling as niche tourism and strengthen destination image in Japan. 2. Literature review 2.1.1. Niche Tourism as a Contested Concept When we talk about Mass Tourism, it seems like there is a common sense that everyone can understand the concept behind is equate size of the tourist consumption, also offering the standardised leisure activities to a mass consumers (Novelli, 2005). In terms of tourism, it is a contrast with mass tourism, Novelli (2005) stated this is abundantly based on the term niche marketing. McGaffin (2008) defined it as a marketing niche is a small, well-defined market whose members share specific characteristics and whose needs are not well served. Moreover, Novelli (2005) mentioned many authors give a widely credit with the niche market by explaining the characteristics and it can be used in different way. Giving a further determination, the niche market need to be balanced on being a large scale group also have to be small enough so that the competitors might be

neglect the selected segment. Hannan and Freeman (1977 citied Tisdell and Seidl, 2004) were agreeing that the idea of niche is rooted on what could be its own competitiveness. Novelli (2005), McGaffin (2008) and Kolter et al. (2010) gave almost the same idea that the market segment is considered as a macro niches like sport, rural etc. And then divided its market smaller and smaller as a micro niches such as cycling, gastronomy and so on. The idea behind is the micro segments will be difficult to split further but have a growth potential. In the meantime, considering the niche from the consumers view, niche tourism allows the specific segment to become special and building up a distant between them and the mass clientele (Novelli, 2005). Judging by Tisdell and Seidl (2004), the concept of niche is not yet well defined. Even there is no clear definition, the firm who niching its product will be a barriers for those who want to enter the certain market. On the other hand, Porter and Pepall (1992 citied Tisdell and Seidl, 2004) and Jobber and Ellis-Chadwick (2013) remarked that if the company wants certain product to be more profitable, the product differentiation needs to be emphasised because this is a key factor to build up the competitiveness. Likewise, even Tisdell and Seidi (2004) and Novelli (2005) have credited the niche tourism, however they are still questioning if the niche market have sustainability as a long-term market also doubting about the division between mass and niche tourism, once the niche tourism grow successfully as the needs of the consumers had been fill, it may come close to a mass situation. The last but not least, if there is not enough financial and physical support, it will lead to cost rise or failure in the niche market (Jobber and Ellis-Chadwick, 2013).

As the above sections mentioned about the characteristic of niche tourism, those authors are generally agreed that a niche must be small, clearly defined, have a potential to grow sustainably, profitable and the needs are not yet satisfied. Therefore the following will assess the concept of cycling as a niche tourism. Followed by Cope et al. (1998), Fraietta (2004), West (2008) and Tong (2011), they said that cycling tourism is a niche market, have a strong capacity to grow as a key profitable and sustainable tourism. Furthermore, Cycling Tourism Strategy 2005-2010 (2005) gave an in-depth study and research on supporting cycling is a niche market for tourism industry. Maine DoT (2001) brought out cycling is considered as a positive sport, conveyance or transportation, and it is very broad with clear niches. To quote from it, bicycle tourists have strong preferences for different types of experiences. It is suitable for most of the gender, age, nationality, which is match with the niche concept (ibid). Chang and Chang (2005) and Page (2009) identified the similarly idea on how can it be beneficial for the organisations, widely covered social, safety, environmental friendly, economical, political aspects. On the other hand, supporting by Jobber (2010) and Kolter et al. (2010), the Ansoff Matrix Theory (see figure 1) is a useful method to

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2.1.2. Cycling Tourism as a Niche Market

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examine the growth opportunities as well as the direction of the business.

As the literature discussed before about the benefit of cycling tourism, this theory is bearing out the cycling tourism can be developed based on its own advantages, Jobber (2010) mentioned the market development is about the current product get into the new market, this concept shared the same idea with developing cycling tourism as a niche market. Nevertheless, Regalados (2010) emphasised there is a bundle of potential group, which could be developed as a niche market, excluding cycling tourism. In addition, Prideaux (2000) pointed out there are only few studies strongly support it with powerful and authoritative data additionally enumerate many travellers still prefer the high speed transport system for instance bus, train as a better option, especially for the long distance touring. Besides, many research are focus on the field of adventure tourism rather than only concentrated on cycling tourism (Swarbrook and Horner, 2006; Novelli, 2005; ATTA, 2010; Tourism Queensland, 2011).

Figure 1: Ansoff Matrix Theory (Jobber, 2010)

places political, socio-cultural, historical factors and so on (Echtner and Ritchie, 2003). There is no doubt image is invisible and intangible, even though the people have not been to a certain place, they still are able to shape an image for the certain place from different kind of sources (Lopes, 2011). Referred to Morgan and Pritchard (1998 cited Avraham and Ketter, 2008) the image of the place is more important than what the place actually is. Page and Connell (2009) also mentioned that image is a key motivator in travelling, however it is unnecessarily based on the reality or experience. The concept have not stated whether destination image is positive or negative, however in Phau et al.s (2010) findings supported that perceived destination image is the major way to predict the tourists intention which means there is a positive and significant influence on tourists decision making process. On the other hand, Kotler et al. (1993) stated a destination image could lead to negative, weak or mixed of positive and negative elements. Moreover Jrgensen (2004) supported Kotler et al.s (1993) view it is a challenges for the destination to create a positive and unforgettable image. Elizur (1987 cited Avraham and Ketter, 2008) defined two types of image which classifying as rich or poor. Rich image means the people generally know a lot about the place, usually from different sources and also from personal visits and knowledge (Avraham and Ketter 2008, p.26). In contrast, poor image means people rarely know about the place, and their knowledge and perception of the place are only from one source. Hence, a star model had brought up for demonstrating the types of image (see figure 2).

Destination image has been described as the main factor that influences the tourist selection process (Gunn 1972 cited Echtner and Ritchie, 2003; Yueksel and Akguel, 2007; Jrgensen, 2004; Baloglu and McCleary, 1999). Additionally, current studies stated that the image is not only influencing the selection process but also the post-visit evaluation and future intention (Jalilvand et al., 2012). Therefore there is a need for a destination to understand how its formulated and implemented in order to gain competitive advantages from destination imagery (Page and Connell, 2009). Interestingly, Kotler et al. (1993) and Kim and Richardson (2003) gave a same definition of place image is a blend of beliefs, ideas and impressions accumulated towards to a specific destination. Elizur (1987 cited Avraham and Ketter, 2008) also agreed that destination image is when one thinks of the place, it will immediately come up with a sum up of the places characteristics. Destination image is influenced by the

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2.2.1. The Concept of Destination Image

Based on the star model, each line represented a destination cognitive feature. More different features that the destination has, more lines will appear on the graphic and the richer image it represents. However not all the traits got the equal effect, some lines in the model are being thick while the others are being thin. It means each characteristic is playing different roles in terms of contributing the destination image. Once the place recognised an attractive facet, the proportion of each line can be adjusted by intensive marketing to develop the attractive one as a dominant part in the image (Avraham and Ketter, 2008). And then that trait become thicker afterwards, it will help to reduce the affect from the negative facet. As Avraham and Ketter (2008) supported that

Figure 2: A star model (Avraham and Ketter, 2008)

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it is a common phenomenon that more dimensions a destination gets, the tourists will give less attention to the negative aspect.

As Cai (2002 cited in Qu et al., 2011) and Pike (2009) identified destination should consider and evaluate the images component about the place before formulating the destination branding strategy also build up for a positive destination image (Qu et al., 2011). Destination image formation held the most important part in terms of the tourists decision-making process (Gunn, 1972 cited Echtner and Ritchie, 2003; Baloglu and McCleary, 1999). According to Gartner (1993), there are three components included cognitive, affective and conative that influenced the formation of image. Compare with Gartner (1993), Baloglu and McCleary (1999) gave a more comprehensive concept of it, figure 3 illustrated the image is formed by two main perspectives: personal and stimulus factors.

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2.2.2. Destination Image Formation

on the selection process. Besides, Qu et al. (2011) gave a slightly different point of view to the model of destination image formation. They argued that unique image should be added as a new component of destination image formation model. As their research has been demonstrated that unique image is the second-largest affection to the destination formation following the cognitive evaluation as well as the overall image of the destination (ibid). It is not difficult to understand the reason behind, destinations can provide similar characteristic such as majestic scenario, flourishing shopping street, and therefore a destination need to be differentiated from consumers mind. Also uniqueness becomes a basis for being more powerful in such an intensive industry.

Stimulus factors included primary and secondary information as well as the previous experience, Beerli and Martin (2004) also pointed out information is the main authority in tourists perception. The primary information is based on the past travel experience, moreover the secondary sources can be divided into three aspects: induced, organic and autonomous image. The induced image means the people who are interested to travel and the image is created in their mind by reading information consciously from travel guide, tourism official webpage, brochure and so on. While the organic image usually developed by the people who have no intention to go to certain place, normally they collect the information from news, television, geographic book and so on. Move to the personal factors, Gartner (1993) stated different tourists perceived different image due to their personal background. There are three determinants were labelled by Baloglu and McCleary (1999) and Page and Connell (2009), they are motivations, information and sociodemographic factors. Kotler et al. (1993) and Gartner (1993) supplemented the interrelationship of cognitive and affective components of destination image will lead to strong forces

Figure 3: Destination image formation model (Baloglu and McCleary, 1999)

Referring to the concept of niche, it has been widely used in biological and ecological metaphors that informs business theory and practice (Lambkin and Day, 1989 cited Novelli, 2005 p.4). Therefore there are only few studies that had proved the success of niche marketing. Researches had been done by Tisdell and Seidl (2004), Jarvis and Goodman (2005), Nagashima (2007) and Hammervoll and Toften (2009), they found out the product differentiation strategy are helpful in order to gain sustainable competitive advantage. Moreover they spotted the same point that niche marketing giving better advantages for the small and medium enterprises also it is profitable and transferrable to other industry. Surprisingly, Nagashima (2007) illustrate the different way to measure niche marketing. He explained that those sub-segments are a guideline for the business to be successful, however his view is more suitable for Japan only because it is based on the restructuring process for Japanese economy. However, as the empirical research from him, the negative views on the consequences, limitation and failure for the organisations are outlined from his niche marketing strategy. Hence, there are few niche operators have been outlined by Jobber and EllisChadwick. (2013), Silverjet, MAXjet and Eos are only targeting the business-class consumers, however the effectiveness has been questioned due to the recent travel trend and increasing fuel costs. Furthermore, Hilton was announced the new concept hotel called Denizen Hotel, which targeted a niche market of stylish (Pine, 2009). However, two of the Starwood executive stealing and taking trade secret to Hilton due to the concept and design is highly similar with W hotel, at the end the Denizens development is already considered no longer alive (ibid).

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2.3. Review of Existing Industry Research 2.3.1. Niche Marketing Studies in Generic Business

The amount of literature shows there is a difference of developing cycling tourism between European countries and Asian countries. However the linkage between cycling tourism and niche tourism has not yet been researched and developed. Most of the current studies about cycling tourism

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2.3.2. Cycling Tourism as a Main Trait of a Destination Image

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are more focused on the European countries, cycling tourism is very common in those western countries, many countries are promoting it actively and gain a profitable revenue from this sub-segment. There is a significantly growth and success especially in United Kingdom, Denmark, Australia (Sustrans, 1999; Simonsen. et al., 1998; Maine DoT, 2001; Chang and Chang, 2003; Fraietta, 2004; Cycling Tourism Strategy, 2005). In addition, the star model adapted from Avraham and Ketter (2008, p.26) can acutely demonstrated the types of image that the one place has, therefore take Northern Ireland as an example, its image is clearly blend with unspoilt environment, outdoor activities (included cycling) and nightlife (Visit Britain, 2013), and cycling tourism is already generated around 635 million per year for United Kingdom by oneself especially from Northern Ireland (Sustrans, 1999). As the positive result from this, cycling made a rich contribution towards the country, Northern Ireland is heavily promoting cycling in order to increase the amount of arrival tourists also gain more profit from this through Cyclists Welcome scheme (Northern Ireland Cycling Strategy, 2000). In brief, cycling tourism is developing stably by United Kingdom so that to become a stronger profit generator and also benefit to the environment to gain the win-win situation in tourism sector. In contrast, regarding to national strategic tourism planning in Thailand 2012-2016 (Anon., 2012), it mentioned they aim to develop itself with its own nature, culture and local lifestyle, but it did not mentioned or related to any sport activities, although there are numbers of famous cycling organisations are existed in Thailand, such as Tour de Thailand which have already organise a lot of well-known international event for the tourists to bike from Chiang Mai to Phuket. Also the organisation believed cycling tourism is a profitable, sustainable for its business, also can bring the tourists discover the Thai culture, local lifestyle, heritage by cycling (Tour de Thailand, 2012) which is match for the aim of the strategic tourism planning in Thailand. Even the success had proved by the European countries, however there is no clear position for the future development and no relevant studies on analyse the effectiveness of cycling tourism in Asia.

stamp both in the locals and the tourists mind (UNWTO, 2012).!

2.4.2. Cycling Tourism Development in Japan

Japan is still in an early phase on developed cycling tourism. Operating by the government, there are certain number of cycling tourism projects are available for the visitors. The most buzz one is Kyoto Cycling Project. Since this project has gained a good reputation from the local as well as the foreigners through TripAdvisor. It provided a high quality bikes (the cheapest one around USD12) with different language supported, different routes to explore different feeling also providing cell phone in case there is any emergency help and GPS (Kyoto Cycling Tour Project, 2008). In addition, many Japan cycling organisations also offering some packages. Guiding by the cycling expert, cycling with the visitors who have the same interest. However, Chang and Chang (2005) gave a concern on the the islands topography and climate constraints may be less conducive for bicycle commuter. also Japan is a seismically active area known as The Rain of Fire in Pacific with many times of earthquake every year (Fact about Japan, 2012). In this case, Japan still has limitation and barriers to develop cycling tourism based on the unique geography.

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3. Methodology 3.1. Approach The author has decided to use the quantitative method for the topic. Quantitative approach have been described as a natural scientific model, the most common way to investigate the nature of the relationship between theory and research, it has logical sequence steps and more focusing on the number rather than words (Bryman and Bell, 2007). Moreover, according to Gil and Johnson (2005), quantitative is the way to develop the concept, testing the theory is it applicable for the case in order to examine the outcome and create new observation. Therefore, exploratory research will be used in this topic due to this approach has competency to observe and build up a clarification that is theorising (Ghauri and Gronhaug, 2010) also exploratory studies helps to seek for a new insight (Saunders el al., 2009). Correspondingly, it is very usual that leisure and tourism research are using this approach (Veal, 2011). As to achieve a reliable data, using quantitative research is more straightforward rather than giving a wide freedom for interviewees. Under those circumstances, quantitative is suitable for this topic, positivism will be more helpful to investigate the feasibility of develop cycling tourism as a strong part of the destination image in Japan. Besides, as the topic is developing cycling tourism in terms of enhancing the destination image in Japan, therefore the generalisability of the results is very important to determine is it possible to dominant this image in the tourists mind. Moreover, quantitative approach can help to determine this valuable element. However, the author is not going to use

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2.4. Background Information to Primary Research Context 2.4.1. Japan Tourism Industry Japan has a really rich image, a country famous for their culture also being well known about the beauty of nature, latest technology, geisha, gourmet and fashion as their image. Japan ranked 28th on the popular tourist destinations in the world, the government put quite a lot of resources to promote it globally. The number of the foreigners had been reach to 8.61 millions in 2010 due to the heavy promotion and government making the visa process easier for Chinese leisure visitors. However the people turned reluctant to visit Japan because of the crisis just happened on 2011, the international tourists arrival dropped -27.8% compare to 2010. Therefore, the nuclear crisis happened in 2011 is still

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qualitative approach for this topic. There is few reason that author are concerned. In order to fulfil the aim, an accurate data is very important to understand how different group of tourist perceive cycling tourism in Japan thus develop as part of Japans image, therefore qualitative approach has a the distinct possibility of researcher bias, subjective response (Saunders et al., 2010) and maybe only a few case can be used for analysing (Veal, 2011). Questionnaires-based survey will be used for the sizeable amount of respondents, also help to evaluate the potential of cycling tourism as a niche market to enhance the destination image in Japan.

Hypothesis 1: H0: Developing cycling tourism has no effect in enhancing Japans destination image. H1: Developing cycling tourism has a positive effect in enhancing Japans destination image. H2: Developing cycling tourism has a negative effect in enhancing Japans destination image. Hypothesis 2: H0: Developing cycling tourism as part of the destination image in Japan can attract any tourists to visit. H1: Developing cycling tourism as part of the destination image in Japan can attract more international mass tourists to visit. H2: Developing cycling tourism as part of the destination image in Japan can attract more domestic tourists to visit. H3: Developing cycling tourism as part of the destination image in Japan can attract more cycling enthusiasts to visit. Hypothesis 3: H0: There is no difference between urban and rural region in terms of perceiving cycling tourism as part of the destination image in Japan. H1: Urban region is more supportive in terms of perceiving cycling tourism as part of the destination image in Japan. H2: Rural region is more supportive in terms of perceiving cycling tourism as part of the destination image in Japan.

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3.2. Hypothesis

three countries and through the Internet. The population is included the international tourists, domestic tourists and cycling enthusiasts. The research will be conducted in three locations: Japan, United Kingdom and South Korea. Due to the population of the research is included the mass travellers and cycling enthusiasts, the author will reach the domestic tourists in rural and urban area of Japan. In 2012, within Asia continent, South Korea has topped the amount of tourist travelling to japan, while from Europe continent, the travellers visiting Japan are mainly from United Kingdom (JNTO, 2013) and therefore the research will also conducted in both countries. The research areas also may show the difference between how European and Asian perceived in terms of developing cycling tourism as a part of the Japans destinations image. Thus, the author will reach those groups by simple random sampling. For example stopping them in the main cycling route and in front of the travel agency in these three countries to do the street survey. The street survey will be used both in reaching mostly the domestic tourists, international tourists and maybe few of the cycling enthusiasts. It will be more convenience for the researcher to reach most of the population and the cost is considered low (Veal, 2006). Nonetheless, purposive methods will be used in reaching the cycling enthusiasts, it allowed the author to select the most valuable data and it is more representative to be generalised as a whole (Veal, 2011). The author will contact the global cycling tour association Bike Tour Direct to collect the information from its frequent consumers by using web-survey. As Bryman and Bell (2007) mentioned using the web survey could get good response rate, approximately 90% of total responses from web surveys are completed within the first 48 hours after the initial email notification is sent. (Vanderstoep and Johnston, 2009, p.87) Also, the sampling selection will be accomplished until the require amount of surveys have been reached. Measuring the potential of cycling tourism in Japan need to have a larger sampling frame therefore the web survey can help to reach this in an efficient way.

According to Saunders et al. (2009), sampling technique allowed the study to collect the data from a potential group to represent every possible group. Furthermore, random and non-random sampling will be conducted in the research. The size of sample is an essential element in terms of generating data, the type of questionnaire will be self-administered, and the author would like the respondents to complete the questionnaire by themselves. Thus, those questionnaires will be distributed in Internet and delivery and collection questionnaires methods as both of the approach can get the middle to high responses (Saunders et al., 2009). Besides, one-survey which is delivered to respondents by category questions and rating questions (likert-style rating scale) and minimum 600 questionnaires will be distributed equally in

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3.3. Sampling and Data Collection

Quantitative data need to be converted to meaningful and useful information; there are some techniques to turn it into information such as graphs, models, statistics (Saunders et al., 2009). Factor analyses have an ability that put the most frequent answer to be in the first priority. It also allows the author to investigate the interrelationship between each dimension (Ghauri and Gronhaug, 2010). As categorical and numerical data are dominant in the questionnaires, so coding could be used to convert those data into numerical codes. This allows the author to reduce the data analysing time and minimise the error at the same time (Saunders et al., 2009). Lastly, Pearson correlation can measure the relationship between the variables and it is easier for the author to generalise the entire population based on this method (Vanderstoep and Johnston, 2009).

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3.4. Data analysis

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3.5. Validity & Objectivity As the definition given by Veal (2011), validity is the level of the reality of the collected data, how can it accurately reflect the phenomenon being studied. In other word means it should be make sense (Saunders et al., 2009). Internal validity and Content validity needs to be considered, it is necessary to check whether the questionnaires will lead the respondents misunderstand the questions or respond with non-relevant answer, therefore providing the pilot test to test the method in advance to see if it can obtain the result that the author expected and prevent any misleading questions. Due to the research is root on the questionnaires that related to the theoretical concept also the research is involved a large amount of sample group. Thus, the questionnaires will not be subjective and the author will retain objective, unbiased, strictly in the numerical data during the analysing process and avoid any body language that may influenced the population in the research.

Reliability is the range of the consistency of the finding obtained in research, or the flexibility on transfer the finding to different sample (Veal, 2011; Gil and Johnson, 2005). In this topic, the image of Japan might change in their mind or cycling already dominant in their perception after the travellers experienced the cycling tour in Japan. In order to gain a more consistent answer and accurate number, the author will use test, retest method to get a more reliable result. The author will keep the respondents contact to acquire the second data after their experience. Generalisability refers to the ability of how well and how close that the findings from the chosen sample group can be representing the whole population (Vanderstoep and Johnston, 2009). Nonetheless, the author believed that the result can be apply and reflect to another Asian countries which are willing to develop cycling tourism as a strong part of their destination image.

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3.6. Reliability & Generalisability

author would like to contact the Bike Tour Direct to reach the cycling enthusiasts, the association may not allow the author to reach their consumers under the privacy policy. In addition, the author may lack of financial support for the transportation and accommodation during the research. Also, language will be a key limitation in designing the questionnaires since the author is not familiar with Japanese and German. Convenience questionnaire may get in lower response even no response rate compare with the interview method (Veal, 2011). Furthermore, there is a risk of frivolous response, the people are not taking it serious and not telling the truth, poor questionnaires design may lead to misunderstanding, and lack of representative of the general population because different people have different behaviour (Vanderstoep and Johnston 2009). Moreover, Bryman and Bell (2007) also questioned that is it able to say the finding can be generalised for the whole particular context, it will be difficult to create a representative sample, however if the sample is not representative it will lead to bias. On the other hand, the questionnaire will be useless if the people do not complete it. Lastly, as the author will use street and web survey to collect the sample, however test, retest method will be a challenge for the author to obtain due to the respondents may not willing to leave contact and need to find the best period to do the retest (Cooper and Schindler, 2010). 4. Discussion 4.1. To evaluate the strengths and opportunities of developing cycling tourism as niche market in Japan. In the tourism development context, the author speculates that most of the destinations are rarely using the terms of niche marketing to develop their industry, however it could be highly profitable for the destination to focus on the potential segment due to the competitors may overlooked with this market and develop it intensively (Novelli, 2005). The author reflected the literature review in that Lumsdon (2000) and Maine DoT (2001) stated cycling tourism has a strong capacity to grow and suitable for most of the age. This speculates to the author that in the field of Japan, it may also have a capacity to develop further. In the case of cycling tourism in United Kingdom, it has already generated GBP635 millions per year also forecasting it could touch GBP14 billion per year in coming 20 years in the entire Europe (Sustrans, 1999). As different countries have its own different strengths and opportunities, it is difficult to ascertain the result of what are the strengths and opportunities in developing cycling tourism in Japan. Nonetheless, current researcher stated the critical success factors are the well infrastructure routes, secure low traffic, accommodation and convenient (Sustrans, 1999). Therefore Japan also has similar factors such as well signage routes both in urban and rural area, supportive tools for the cyclists and convenient for the tourists who visiting Japan by bike, also its already gain a lot of reputation only from the Kyoto Cycling Tour Project. Therefore the author believes those elements

Privacy is the first concern. During the data collection process, it may increase the confidential issue, for example how the data will actually being used, how the data will be storage, and problem of publication (Veal, 2011). Therefore the author will be aware of respect for persons, beneficence and justice. Nonetheless, the author will avoid asking the respondents identity and income due to the purpose of the study is test out if cycling tourism could be part of Japans image and willingness of tourists travelling Japan by bike.

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3.7. Ethical Issues

There are several factors that may limit the extent of true and barriers to step forward. Referred to Bryman and Bell (2007), they stated the business or population support, time and geography would cause abundant of limitations. As the

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3.8. Limitations

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are a path for Japan to step forward. Thus, Japan has bike escalators to connect the underground and the urban road (Kyoto Cycling Tour Project, 2008). It is an advisable assumption that Japan has great potential in terms of developing cycling tourism based on the observations. 4.2. To assess the advantages and limitations of developing cycling tourism as part of the destination image in Japan. Cycling is a way for the destination to achieve sustainable tourist transport (Page, 2009). As Sustrans (1999) pointed out cycling tourism has bought out several benefits towards United Kingdom, for example it boost local trade especially in the field of local lodging, village shops and increase the visitor of small-scale rural attraction, also cycling allows the tourists to explore the destinations culture, history and characteristics further (ibid). The author anticipate Japan will be able to enjoy the same advantages as what UK have while Japan also has a well build route and resources, additionally Japans image is blend of rich traditional, cultural and trendy country (Boniface and Cooper, 1994), it may allow Japan to attract more long stay and return tourists by emphasising cycling is the best way to explore and in the tourists mind may create a new component to discover Japanese culture and history by cycling and enhancing the original image at the same time. Conversely, high-speed transports are still considered as the convenient way to travel rather than cycling both in UK and Taiwan (Sustrans, 1999; Chang and Chang, 2005). Likewise, Chang and Chang (2005) stated the islands topography and weather may influence the effectiveness for Taiwan to develop cycling tourism, and therefore the author believed that the concern of Chang and Chang (2005) could be totally applied in this study since Japan is a island and also its unstable geographic conditions like earthquake and volcanic eruptions happened very often in every decade. Lastly, it is still important to give out the questionnaires to the potential group in order to get the true result. However the result might be totally opposite than the existing studies based upon the countries different geographic factors, culture or government policy. 4.3. To investigate the interrelationship between developing cycling as niche tourism and strengthen destination image in Japan. There is a common consensus that niche marketing is a way to target specific segment to better satisfy their need than the competitors do, and therefore dominant in the consumers mind deeply through the niche tourism (Novelli, 2005). In addition, cycling tourism is defined by different researchers that is a micro niche (Cope et al., 1998; West, 2008; Fraietta, 2004). Based on Novelli (2005) views that Niche is being differentiated from the competitors, accordingly the latter observation may supported by Novelli (2005) that developing niche is the basis of creating a unique image for the destination and turn it into consumers perception. As Baloglu and McCleary (1999) explained the process of destination image formation, stimulus factors

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especially the secondary information is the main authority in tourists perception. It is make sense that what the destination developed and that will automatically turn to the secondary sources in the destination image formation, so if Japan is going to develop cycling tourism further, it may turn this activity as part of the destination image. Moreover Qu et al. (2011) supplemented unique image should be involved in the destination image formation process because it is the second largest factor that influence the overall image of the destination. Supported by Qu et al. (2011) point of view, the author speculates that even if Japan developed cycling tourism but not develop it as niche tourism to be a main trait of the place, it may resulted as questionable in the effectiveness of strengthen the destination image in Japan. With the suggestion from the author, Japan could enhance its destination image by taking the advantage of developing cycling tourism as niche tourism and it may help to decrease the negative image that already marked in the tourists mind, for example the nuclear crisis that happened on 2011. 5. Conclusion and recommendations This study is designed to test out the potential of developing cycling tourism as niche tourism and also to investigate the advantages and limitation of it in terms of enhancing the destination image. As destination image is playing an important role in the consumers selecting process and future intention (Jalilvand et al., 2012), it is impossible to attract more tourists to participant the cycling tourism without considering the destination image it is because image is representing the places characteristics. As Qu et al. (2011) mentioned the unique image is the second important issue that influenced the destination image formation in the tourists perspective, therefore cycling tourism is a potential way to develop in Japan further since it has a competency to implement with its traditional image such as Japanese culture, landscape and tradition to enhance its own image. With this, the benefits had been resulted that will mainly generate more revenue from rural side to make a more balance income from urban and rural region. Meanwhile, the studies also showed the potential of developing cycling as niche tourism (Australia national cycling strategy, 2005-2010) although there still lack of practical example at the moment. The author has examined the secondary research in the literature review that able to fulfil the three objectives, however the research is only in a bound scale which are not able for the author to clarify the objectives comprehensively. In brief, this study aim to prove that there is a interrelationship between the component of formation process and niche marketing. If the author able to do the primary research, it definitely can carry out different dimensions and perspectives in this topic. Also, it is still paucity of understanding and studies about enhancing destination image by special interest tourism like cycling tourism. Finally, the author would like to rediscover the importance of destination image and bring out the importance of the new component unique image in the

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destination image formation (Qu et al., 2011). Also, hopefully this study can contribute to the new theoretical concept in the interrelationship between niche marketing and destination image formation as well as the benefits of taking special interest tourism in part of the destination image. And the author believed it could be transferred and applied in different destination to enhance its own image and reduce the influences cause by the unpleasant image, which had already dominate in the tourists mind. This study brings up the concept of developing cycling tourism intensively and makes it as part of the destination image. The study recognised developing cycling tourism as niche tourism would be benefit to Japans destination image as well as the local accommodations providers and business. Due to the geographical and time limitation, the research sample is only targeted two nationalities to represent the West and East region on how will they perceived cycling as a destination image in Japan. The author suggested the further researcher could be investigating deeply and the research sample could be wider to provide a better generalisability result. In terms of develop this topic in the future, the future researcher can investigate the difference between rural and urban area cycling, it would be great to understand how the different regions cycling would affect the tourists of perceiving a new destination image and how is this may influence cycling tourism development and the tourists motivation in Japan at the same time. As the existing studies had already mentioned destination image is the aim of destination branding, it is advisable to do the further research in the field of destination branding strategy to investigate how to build up a destination image through national branding strategy. In addition, the study is more focus on the tourists perspective rather than the local business. It would be interesting and able to gain a better understanding in the cycling tourism context also understands how the local organisations perceived this term. The last but not least, as tourism is a ever changing industry, once the destination decided to develop the special interest tourism and niching it, it is vital for the government and the relevant business to maintain its competitive advantage, make it sustainable and establish it as a strong trait of the destination image. References
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