MEASUREMENT OF THE ATTRACTIVENESS OF TOURIST DESTINATION
3.3 MEASURING DESTINATION ATTRACTIVENESS
The tourism products encompass elements such as attractions, infrastructure, services, accessibility, price, and other superstructural components. These elements, together, comprise the overall or the global appeal of natural and human-made characteristics that exist in the area. Since these elements differ in nature, researchers have found it difficult to develop a measurement that is capable of examining, evaluating, and comparing their various diverse characteristics. As Formica (2000) states for example each museum or lake is unique in its features and appeal and cannot be appraised as identical to other tourism resources labeled with the same
category. However, according to the previous studies, there are two ways of measuring attractiveness of the destination. The first can be achieved by studying the attractions and second by exploring the attractiveness perceptions of tourists who are attracted by them.
To study the attractions, the supply approach to tourism attractiveness which investigate and measure tourism resources and their spatial distribution is utilised.
Essentially, attractions measures based on supply indicators are qualtitative in nature.
The supply perspective determines the overall attractiveness of the area by performing an accurate inventory of existing tourism resources. As conducted by Smith (1987), cottages, marinas, campsites, golf courses, horse riding establishments, and historical sites are variables that he used in analysisng tourism regionalisation in Canada.
More specifically, tourism attractions and resources can be examined by using different measures, such as square metres (forested land), degrees (temperature), miles (roads), and bedrooms (hotels). The existence of tourism resources in a region is a necessary element of tourism attractiveness but it cannot predict the magnitude of the attraction of that region. Otherwise, by simply increasing the number of museums, lodging facilities, and hiking trails we would be able to increase the overall attractiveness of a region. As emphasised by Formica (2000, p. 352), ' the pulling force of a region depends on not only the number of tourist resources located in a given area but also on how these resources are valued and perceived by tourists.'
Essentially, the second means of examining destination attractiveness has been considered. These demand studies include the investigation of the actual visitation
patterns, and the measures of the perceived attractions generated by a single or multiple resources or by a region or destination. The investigation of perceptions is more subjective in nature and uses primary data. The measures include a number of visitor arrivals or numbers of participants, tourism expenditures or receipts, length of stay or tourists night spent at the destination site, travel propensity indexes, and tourist preferences (Leiper, 1995; Pearce, 1988).
Among the measures of destination attractiveness from a demand perspective, tourist preferences appear more accurate than actual visitation or tourist receipts because visitation might be influenced by variables other than simply attractiveness of the destination. In essence, 'tourists are the ultimate judges in determining the level of attractiveness of a region' (Formica, 2000, p. 351). Tourists' perceptions about a given area determine its success or failure as a tourist destination because perceptions are reality in the visitors' minds. It does not matter how many tourism resources are available in a given area when its overall attractiveness has already been judged by the tourists (Echtner & Ritchie, 1993).
However, there is a limitation of tourist preferences as attraction measures. In essence, human perceptions are based on many factors, such as personal and cultural beliefs, socio-demographics, and psychological factors (Milman & Pizam, 1995). As seen in the discussion of previous studies on measuring attractiveness, many studies have investgated attractiveness from the single demand perspectives. These include those of Ritchie and Zins (1978), Goodrich (1978), Tang and Rochananond (1990), Hu and Ritchie (1993), and Chen and Hsu (2000). These studies subjectively assumed that the areas under the investigation have certain resource attributes and no inventory of attractions was performed.
Importantly, some authors claim that studies including both experts' evaluations and visitors' surveys have the highest degree of accuracy (Nyberg, 1995). As demonstrated in the discussion of previous studies, the only case that included both criteria is Ferrario's study (1979). He inventoried the South Africa resources by using the tourist guides, then asked visitors about their preference and interest in each attraction. He also employed experts to determine the degree of availability and utilisation of tourist attractions.
However, since this method consumes both much time and research funds, there have been more likely that the measurement of attractiveness from a demand standpoint has a relatively modest impact upon the existing body of knowledge although it seems to be less consistent, methodologically sound, and validated analysis (Ferrario, 1979). Evidently, the studies that measure attractiveness from a demand perspective only (for example, Hu & Ritchie, 1 993) have a high degree of variance in terms of methods and variables used (Formica, 2000).
As such, due to the limitation of time and research budget, this present study has employed the single demand perspective in measuring destination attractiveness.
Moreover, the study of particular characteristics of tourists in terms of country of origin, motivation, travel purpose, gender, age, eduaction level, occupation, income, marital status, and family size to capture the relationship between tourist's characteristics and the perceived attractiveness of a destination have been also investigated.
Ideally, the present thesis is an attempt to identify the attractiveness of a tourist destination with the application of some techniques used in the previous studies. For example, the scales selected for assessing attractiveness, similar to the Hu and Ritchie study (1993), a five-point Likert scale ranging from not attractive (1) to outstandingly attractive ( 5) for measuring the attractiveness and ranging from not at all important (1) to most important (5) for evaluating the attribute importance.
Additionally, this study adopted the attributes constructed and developed by Gearing et al. (1974) and that of Ritchie and Zins (1978) as determinants of the attractiveness of the tourist destination.
Also, this attempt aims at filling the gap in the previous studies by determining whether the internal and external characteristics of tourist segments influence the perceived importance of tourist destination attributes. Moreover, the Fishbein model has been applied to obtain the overall or global attractiveness of the tourist destination. In addition, a different focus has also been marked in this study. While most previous attempts have mainly centred on studying attractiveness of multiple tourist destinations through travel and trade/experts' and/or tourists' perspectives without the involvement of their place of residence, this effort has concentrated on examining attractiveness of a single tourist destination such as a province through visitor perspectives from specific geographical origins.