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School of Business | Department of Management Studies | MSc program in Management and International Business | 2016
Thesis number: 14391
In inward internationalization is everything reversed? Understanding critical knowledge flows and service quality in a sport tourism context
Author: Kuparinen, Tiia
Title: In inward internationalization is everything reversed? Understanding critical knowledge flows and service quality in a sport tourism context
Year: 2016  Language: eng
Department: Department of Management Studies
Academic subject: MSc program in Management and International Business
Index terms: johtaminen; management; palvelut; service; kansainvälistyminen; internationalization; kasvu; growth; matkailu; tourism; liikunta; physical exercise; markkinointi; marketing; viestintä; communication; kuluttajat; consumers; kulttuurierot; cultural differences
Pages: 91
Key terms: entry mode choice in services; inward internationalization; sport tourism; entry mode barriers; cultural sensitivity; word-of-mouth
Research done within services internationalization has demonstrated that compared to manufacturing industry the foreign market entry behavior of service industry is characterized by diverse patterns of internationalization. One special mode of internationalization is labeled in research as inward internationalization that is a market entry mode where a company can internationalize without actually going abroad as its customers are the ones relocating themselves across national boundaries to consume the company's services. A limited number of research has so far been done on inward internationalization, and therefore the objective of this thesis is to add to the existing knowledge in the field. Primarily this thesis aims to deepen understanding of the phenomenon of inward internationalization in a special case context in order to learn the ways in which a company needs to balance and address firm- and context-specific knowledge resources with its internationalization mode. The context of the study is the sport tourism market in Finland.

The study was conducted as a qualitative single case study with one case company: a Spanish high-end sports centre Club La Santa. Earlier research suggests that home and host country factors combined with cultural issues affect the inward internationalization performance of a service company, and therefore the choice of using case study as a research method can be justified to deepening understanding of the unique characteristics of the context. For the study five qualitative interviews were done to get relevant stakeholders' perspectives to the studied issue of inward internationalization in sport tourism. To strengthen theory-building the empirical findings were compared to existing studies and secondary data that consisted of quantitative surveys done on tourists' behavior and preferences, as well as strategic plans and customer satisfaction survey provided by the case company Club La Santa.

The findings of this study indicate that customer behavior on destination choice within sport tourism sector is strongly influenced by active search for pre-purchase information to assure that expected quality standards are met at destination. Especially word-of-mouth, informal communication from a trusted source, is found to be critical as prospective quality assurance for potential customers, but also from a company's marketing strategy point of view. This study contributes the earlier findings when it comes to acknowledging cultural issues as one important determinant for the perceived quality experienced by customer, and therefore suggests that a company should address the service personnel's cultural sensitivity as a strategic issue. Also, as service companies can grow internationally in inward mode by increasing either the number of foreign customers or the diversity of their home countries, the choices should be considered with regarding the effects on the existing customer base, since customers will influence each other's perceived service experience at service provider's home country.
Master's theses are stored at Learning Centre in Otaniemi.