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 Destination Development

ABSTRACT

Conducted by- University of Pretoria: Management Division

With the recognition of tourism destinations as amalgams of tourism products offering an integrated experience to tourists, the emphasis for tourism destinations should be to deliver unique, extraordinary and memorable tourism experiences (MTE) to target tourists in order to maintain a sustainable competitive advantage.

Although this area of study has begun to receive attention, our understanding of these determinants of tourism experiences remains poorly developed.  Using five sites as cases this study further investigated these concepts.  The overall aim of the study was to identify whether gaps exist between the expectations of tourists and their experience at major tourist attractions, based on established criteria of what constitutes a memorable tourist experience, with a view to developing the destination to serve the interest of visitors more effectively. These sites were Mpungubwe National Park; Augrabies Falls National Park; Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens; The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site and iSimangaliso Wetland Park. An analysis of the core product offering at each selected site was done as well as an analysis of the tourists' experiences at each selected site using pre- and post-visit surveys.

The surveys were based on established measuring instruments and MTE scales, with adjustments to serve the unique characteristics of each site.  A total of 1537 responses were generated from all sites more or less equally divided between the pre and post visitors.  Data analysis included exploratory factor analysis to reduce the numbers of factors against which MTEs were measured as well as tests of significance.  A scale for measuring expectations vs experiences was developed using established scales with appropriate adjustments. Questions were also designed to capture the motivations to visit and experiences per site. Overall, it was found that across all sites a negative gap existed between the experience of the attractions and expectations with sites differing across the various items and factors. While some general trends are exhibited which can be addressed at a policy level (e.g. emerging market tourism, service quality, visitor management issues) each report has a wealth of information and it is thus recommended that each site assesses their report in detail for adequate interventions.

TOPIC​: Destination development through understanding tourists’ expectations and memorable tourist experiences at major tourist attractions.