The Perception Of Tourists Tourism Essay

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The tourism industry has become a powerful engine for the economy in many countries. The impact of tourism on society is also related to the different kinds of tourists and a variety of host societies. Hence, their special interest is, in particular, based on their perception. Therefore, the present research will focus on the perception of international tourists, when selecting their World Heritage tourism destination, as this will help us establish the marketing strategy for the World Heritage sites in Thailand. In order to illustrate the heritage tourism in Thailand, this study will focus on the ancient capital cities of the kingdom of Thailand, in which long prosperous eras have been run. Quantitative and qualitative data obtained from questionnaires and an in-depth interview with a president of a world historical park will be the main sources of input for analysis.

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This chapter starts by outlining the topic and major constructs of the research. It also provides the reason why this information needs to be examined; this is in order for the Tourism Authority of Thailand to increase the number of travellers to Thailand, especially to the heritage sites. The chapter will provide the background information, which is related to the summary of the previous research, followed by the research aims and objectives and the proposed value on the current study.

Thailand is also known as the “Land of Smiles”, which is a reflection on the hospitality and friendly nature of the country as a tourist destination. Peleggi (1996) states Thailand is a country provided with rich culture, history and public museums containing valuable archaeological collections. Moreover, Baedekere (1997) elaborated that Thailand is a “must go destination” for everyone who has an interest in Asian culture, and for anyone looking for beautiful landscapes and a pleasant climate (Wongkerd, 2003).

Tourism represents one of the most dynamic economic sectors of the world. The tourism industry has also increased significantly in the developing countries, especially Southeast Asia and the Pacific. According to the World Tourist Organisation (WTO), tourism trends in Asia and the Pacific were only second after Europe as the most visited regions in the world. As a result, cultural tourism is the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry, so it’s clear that a trend is developing; an increased interest in more specialised activities among tourists. (This trend is evident in the rise in the volume of tourists who seek adventure, culture, history, archaeology and interaction with local people (Wikipedia, 2010).

As Thailand enters the 21st century, the tourism industry continues to play an important role in contributing to the growth of economic and social development. It has been reported that tourism makes up 6.7% of the Thai economy and 7% of the jobs. Thailand is also well known for the enduring hospitality of its people, its ancient culture and natural environment on offer to visitors. Hence, the number of tourists has steadily increased over the last ten years. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has stated that “Thailand is the myriad tourist destination as it’s a cultural, natural, exotic and historical site” (TAT, 2009). Thailand was ranked eleventh in International tourism receipts (US$ 15.6 billion), and eighteenth in international arrivals with 14.5 million visitors in 2007 (Tourismroi, 2008), (See Appendix 1). Moreover, Thailand wins four ‘Go Asia’ awards honouring the best service provided for travel to Asia at ITB Berlin 2010 (The World’s Leading Travel Trade Show), world’s best tourist country in eight consecutive years and also the Swedish Grand Travel Award 2010 (Tatnews, 2010).

This research will expand concepts and benefits for the tourism industry especially in the World Heritage sites in Thailand. It will provide essential information, which will improve the services provided not only for international visitors but also for domestic tourists. However, the global crisis, the rising cost of gasoline and the instability of political sense in Thailand, all can be contributing to the decreasing the number of flights and visitors. These issues have become more challenging for the tourism industry in Thailand in its ability to compete with others, in particular, its neighbouring countries like Vietnam and Laos.

Thailand Tourism Marketing Plan

Rittchainuwat et al. (2001) state that it is difficult to get rid of a negative image but it is easier to increase tourists’ positive attitudes. The authorities that are directly in charge with the tourism industry such as the Thai government and Tourism authority of Thailand need to make an effort to create positive images through promotional strategies. In addition, Chon and Sigh (1994) also explained that the government should be attempting to change its tourist image by promoting the cultural, natural attractions and the inexpensive shopping in Thailand rather than its sexual attractions.

However, a decline of tourist arrivals resulting from the global economic downturn, the 2009 flu pan epidemic and the instability of the internal political situation following the year of 2008 to 2010 have had a significant impact on the tourism industry as initially feared. According to Thailand Tourism Report (pr-inside, 2009), the number of international visitors has fallen down 3% from 14.58 million in 2008 to 14.4 million in 2009 and the total revenue also decreased by 2.8% in the year of 2009. Therefore, these situations have forced the Thai government to focus on stimulating demand and boosting exports in the travel industry.

Therefore, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) expects the tourism sector to recover as soon as possible. In June 2010 the TAT has set a budget 1.6-billion-baht, with 600 million baht targeting domestic tourism and 1 billion baht for international markets (Bangkok Post, 2010). The tourism authority of Thailand (TAT) launched the marketing slogan “Amazing Thailand” for promoting Thailand internationally in 1997. Then in order to react to the tourism crisis in 2009, TAT then re-launched the slogan again as “Amazing Thailand, Amazing Value” (Tat news, 2009). Thus, this program will help to increase the country’s tourist image and stimulate the number of tourists in order to stop the downturn of the tourism industry in Thailand.

1.2 Research Aim and Objectives

Research Aim

Since the tourism industry is a very important sector for generating huge revenue for Thailand, it is necessary to determine the relationship between visitors’ perception of Thailand and the image of Thailand as a country. Therefore, in this research we will examine Thailand’s image, which will affect the travellers’ destination choice. Moreover, this study will also step forward by examining the perception of tourists concerning the World Heritage sites as one of their destinations. Thus, the result of this study will be to obtain a suitable strategy in order to meet tourist’s expectations for their future journeys to Thailand.

The research objectives can be defined as:

Research Objectives

The main research objective is to determine what Tourists’ perception of Thailand is. This research study also examines the travel characteristics, what tourists are expecting when they are going to Thailand and the socio-demographic characteristics, which affect the destination choice prior to visiting a heritage site. Moreover, the research will examine whether the concept of “heritage tourism” is popular among the tourists. It also profiles tourists who travel to Thailand, discussing their reasons for travelling and particularly, on a socio-demographic level. The findings will identify a key element, i.e. the major motivation and socio-demographic differences involved between the heritage tourists and other activity participation groups in order to understand consumers’ travel perception and choice of destination. Subsequently, this will be essential data to develop appropriate marketing strategies to generate greater benefit for the tourism industry and the World Heritage sites in Thailand.

1.3 Value of the study

A lot of research is conducted in the study on the perception of visitors, concerning the attributes of the destination. There are rarely studies of literature on tourism regarding heritage sites, particularly in Thailand

This research will be helpful for the tourism sector and marketers to gain a better understanding of the visitors particularly in Thailand. It also can help to develop strategies, which will help the Tourism industry in a long business growth.

1.4 Organisation of the study

This study is divided into six main parts, which will be explained as follows.

Chapter 1: Introduction

This chapter provides an introduction to the current study. It is explaining the importance of the research aims and research objectives. A background of the topic, some of the previous research conducted and the value of this research will be contained in this chapter.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

The second important part is a literature review. This chapter will provide a better understanding about the topic. Moreover, this chapter will give detail and show the development of the research, which has been gathered for the topic. This information will help to clarify and construct this research, which then leads to the research model and hypothesis formulation.

Chapter 3: Conceptual Development and Hypothesis formulation

The third chapter is based on the literature review, which will be included in the conceptual model for this project. In addition, the formulation of hypothesis will also be explained.

Chapter 4: Research Design and Methodology

This chapter will give details on how the research is designed and how methodology will be used in order to carry out the research in its entirety.

Chapter 5: Results and Analysis

The result and analysis chapter will discuss the findings and results after conducting statistical analysis by using the statistical tool SPSS program. The results will be shown, analysed and discussed in this stage.

Chapter 6: Conclusion and Implication

The last chapter includes the discussions and implication of the study. The limitation of the study, further study and conclusion for the entire piece of research will also be included in chapter six.

2. Literature Review

2.1 Introduction

This chapter is aiming to give an overview of related theories and perceptions that affect to tourism industry. The review also includes the concept of beneficial image, the image of Thailand and heritage tourism and it also provides a concept which previously has been developed by different researchers who were undertaking the research study with a similar approach.

2.2 How Perception Affects Tourism

The term ‘perception of the tourism industry’ generally can be viewed in two ways. The first one is the mental image created by marketing and media. Another way of perceiving it can be developed by the consumers. In general, the destination will market itself as much as possible in order to persuade the traveller to buy a trip there (Tuohino, 2002 cited from Henkel et al, 2006). Travellers go to the destination in order to consume the products, services and experiences offered to them. Travellers will form their perceptions related to their expectations, which are based on their former experiences, friends, the internet, marketing and information from travel agencies (Kotler, Bowen & Markens, 2006). Thus, if the products or services at that particular destination exceed the traveller’s expectations, it means that they are satisfied. On the other hand, travellers are dissatisfied when their expectations are not met (Mcdowall, 2010).

According to Crompton (1979), people travel for four different reasons: personal business travel; corporate business travel; visiting relatives and friends or for pleasure. Therefore, tourists have stereotypical images and different perceptions of travel locations, so it is important for tourism marketers to promote the destination image in a way that will increase the number of tourists (Sirgy & Su, 2000). Moreover, the individual’s cultural belonging and heritage does not only affect the way people experience and interpret the products and services supplied to them, but it also influences their decision making in regard to choices of vacations and destinations. Furthermore, customers have different perceptions and individual needs, which hold different values to a destination. The collection of customer information is a way to discover the customer needs and their values. Thus, customers benefit the destination through their tastes and preferences, which can directly contribute to marketing new products and services in tourism industry (Reportforu, 2010).

Fakeye and Crompton (1991), has outlined the tourist’s image formation process (see Figure 1). It is clear to see from this Figure that the consumer’s organic images and the induced image of tourist destinations can be obtained from elsewhere, i.e. literature, friends or relatives. These messages play a significant role in influencing the evaluation of alternative travel destinations and finally in making a decision about the destination they will visit (cited from Henkel et al, 2006). Hu & Ritchi (1993) stated that the more tourists think that the destination will satisfy their vacation desires, the more likely the visitors will choose the destination.

Figure 1: Faye and Crompton’s Tourist’s Image Formation Process (Tuohino, 2002).

2.3 Conceptualisation of beneficial image

It was described by the previous study on destination image that a destination’s image could contribute to the destination-making process. During this process, travellers build a destination image based on the informative and persuasive information obtained from friends, news and travel agencies (Rittichainuwat, 2001). Thus, an effective destination image strategy will be very important in order to make the particular destination stand out from other countries.

Crompton (1979) states that not all images can influence the traveller’s decision-making process. The research examines the relationships between the attributes of a destination and the decision-making process of tourists. Therefore, understanding the evaluation of the characteristic image related to destination choice is needed in tourism marketing. Moreover, Kotler and Barich (1991) state that the consumer will form an image based on the benefit or value that they expect to get from those products or services. Sheth, Newman, and Gross (1991) suggested that marketing choice behaviour is a multidimensional phenomenon involving multiple values: functional, social, emotional, epistemic, and conditional (see Appendix 1). The study also states that these seven important factors are influencing market choice behaviour.

Based on the theory and marketing image concept, the beneficial image model was developed by Tappachai and Waryszak as shown below.

Figure 2: Beneficial image model (Tapachai & Waryszak, 2000)

Figure 2 shows traveller consumption values that are in the beneficial image model. These five consumption values include the functional characteristics of the destinations, Social perception about the destination, the emotions of the traveller in connection to the destination, (epistemic) of the destination meaning that the traveller can gain new experiences from the destination and conditional such as the accessibility to other countries. (Tapachai & Waryzak, 2000, cited from Henkel et al, 2006). By using Thailand as an example to describe the model above, Thailand’s functional values are the bargain shopping, the variety of food and the beautiful scenery. The social result is a destination that is suitable for all ages of people. The emotional value is that it is a place to relax and unwind. An epistemic value is that Thailand’s culture is beautiful and finally the conditional value is mainly about the location, the traveller can easily gain access to other countries.

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According to Echtner & Ritchie (1993), the destination image refers to the attributes’ base or holistic (imagery), with each component containing functional (tangible) or psychological (intangible or abstract) characteristics ( Echtner & Ritchie, 1993). The attributes perspectives include tourists’ perceptions through the characteristics of the vacation destination such as beautiful architecture and buildings, numerous cultural, historical attractions and psychological characteristics like a safe place to visit and also friendly people. Moreover, the holistic perspective of the destination relates to the destination’s image in terms of physical characteristics such as beaches, mountains, likewise the psychological characteristics are the destination’s atmosphere or mood (Echtner& Ritchie, 1993 cited from Henkel et al).

Rod Davies (2003) explained that every destination has its own brand image. Also, factors like cost and convenience play an important role in decision-making about the destination. However, the strongest influence and motivator is the image of the tourism destination (Davies, 2003). Therefore, images are the brand identity, which tourists can perceive. In addition, images can both increase and decrease the selection of the destination by the traveller (Henkel et al). However, Bigne et al. (2001) argued that image does not only influence the destination choice, but it also has an influence on the evaluation of the destination after the vacation. It can be clear whether or not the traveller will return to the destination (Bigne et al, 2001 cited from Henkel et al). Moreover, a high positive image of one particular destination means that it is more likely to be chosen by the tourist in the process of decision-making (Echtner & Ritchie, 1993). In conclusion, image plays an important role in tourist satisfaction and the preconceived image of the destination will influence the tourist’s decision on their vacation destination.

2.4 The image of Thailand

Destination image can be both positive and negative, if two destinations are offering almost the same characteristics for the traveller’s perception. Therefore, the more positive the image is of a destination, the more likely that the traveller will go there (Rittichainuwat, 2001).

Thailand is not only a “land of smile” as a result of the friendly people and the safety of the place, but also as a result of its cultural, natural and historical attractions. Due to the study of Yau and Chan on the image of Southeast Asia, Thailand has been perceived as a reasonably priced place with beautiful beaches and various attractions (Rittichainuwat, 2001). In addition, Tapachai & Waryszak conducted a study about the beneficial image characteristics of Thailand and grouped the results, showing that the functional attributes are the cheap shopping, variety of food, friendly people and historical sites as well as the epistemic attribute of experiencing the rich culture (Henkel et al, 2006). Furthermore, the research between Tourism Authority in Thailand (TAT) and Siam University showed the result that there was a positive image of its being seen as a natural and historical travel destination (Henkel et al., 2006). This positive image can be reflected by its being an award winning destination from the perspectives of different countries. For example, International Tourisms Bourse Berlin (ITB), awarded Thailand the four go Asia Awards honouring the best service providers for travel to Asia in 2010. The Swedish grand travel award has ranked Thailand as the “World Best Tourist Country”.

However, Thailand has also suffered from a negative image because of prostitution and pollution, which led to the decline of tourist attractions (Rittichainuwat et al., 2001). Prideaux et al (2004) has also stated that the image of Thailand is one of it being an erotic destination. In addition, the image of Thailand was also related to international news coverage being described as a place of prostitution. These negative images can, obviously, affect visitors and might make them not want to visit Thailand. This also leads to the cause of some health and moral issues in Thailand (Henkel et al., 2001). However, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) never promotes Thailand as a sex tourism destination (Prideaux et al., 2004). Suwanmoli’s study about international media coverage of prostitution in Thailand, revealed that foreign reporters usually report the negative side such AIDS and prostitution because this kind of news very easily gets attention from public. Moreover, Suwanmoli explained that there are a high number of as many as 2.8 million prostitutes working in Thailand (Rittichainuwat, 2001). Therefore, the government’s concern over this issue should be to minimize the pandemic diseases and prostitution. Alternatively, the Thai government must actively seek to reduce these negative images such as sex tourism, by positive image marketing of other tourism products and by trying to decrease the illegal activities such as prostitution within the country (Henkel et al, 2006).

Finally, Thailand’s image has suffered from a decline of tourist attractions, pollution, traffic jams, a lack of new tourist attractions and the image of sex tourism. Additionally, Ahmed states, “once a negative image is established in the minds of potential travellers, even a full range of marketing activities cannot entirely reverse it”. Thus, Marketers can do little to eliminate the negative image. In contrast, marketers can offset the negative perception by creating positive images through promotional strategies, including advertising, arranging events, and hosting international conventions and exhibitions (Rittichainuwat, 2001).

2.5 Heritage Tourism

The vast majority of literature on heritage, apart from the philosophical and intellectual, has concerned itself with heritage tourism, a sector that has grown globally and also created the revenue and employment for “undeveloped countries” (Misiura, 2006). The World Tourism Organisation (1992) defines heritage tourism as “an immersion in the natural history, human heritage, arts, philosophy and intuitions of another region or country” (Laws & Pan, 2004). Moreover, Rowan and Baram (2004) describe heritage tourism as a consumerist phenomenon and hence the marketing of this phenomenon is bound to be driven by capitalist tendencies. (cited from Chabra, 2009). Thus, the core of heritage marketing is to find out what the customer wants and to deliver it. Particularly, in relation to built environment, i.e., the marketing activity should be designed to stimulate demand and to satisfy the customer but not to the detriment of that which needs to be preserved for future generations (Misiura, 2006, p.2).

Yale (1991), explains that heritage tourism is centred on what we inherited, from “historic buildings, to art works, to beautiful scenery”. Ashworth’s (2000) defined the “commodification” and the “past” in heritage tourism as that which is based on the commoditized, buildings, memories and experiences of the past (cited from Grace Yan et al). From a demand aspect, heritage tourism is about finding something, which is linked between the present and the past and the traveller’s emotional experiences (Richards 1997 and Prentice 1993). However, Poria et al. (2001) argued that the relationship of heritage tourism should be based on the individual and the heritage presented rather than on specific site attributes. In addition, they described heritage tourism as “a subgroup of tourism, in which the main motivation for visiting a site is based on the place’s heritage characteristics according to tourists’ perception of their own heritage” (Poria et al., 2001, p. 1048). Also, in order to combine both supply and demand in that “heritage tourism relies on the strength of both the push and pull factors of the resources located in the area in order to appeal to the potential tourists” (Apostolakis (2003, p. 800) Cited from Grace Yan et al).

Heritage visitors, try to find the different benefits from trips. Poria et al. (2004) pointed out that the reasons for visiting heritage sites for travellers can be grouped into three categories which are under the headings of “heritage experience”, “learning”. These explain that there are people who are “emotionally involved” with a “sense of belonging to the site”. In contrast, for some tourists, heritage tourism is more than an educational or recreational experience. Something further suggested by Martin et al. (2004, p.131), is that “determining the potential of heritage tourism and the possible impact and the marketing direction needed to attract these visitors will be less speculative if the nature of the tourist is better understood”.

World Heritage is the programme administered by the UNESCO, the programme aims to catalogue, name, and conserve sites of outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity and to raise awareness of how to maintain the sites to last for future generations of humanity (Thaiwh, 2010). In Thailand, there are The World Heritage sites of Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, Si Satchanalai and Kamphaengphet provinces. It is the rich heritage and magnificent architecture that make them World Heritage sites that are listed in 1991 by UNESCO (UNESCO, 1992).

Therefore, the marketing of heritage, especially heritage tourism will help to serve the products and services to customers related to those World heritage sites in Thailand. It can be seen that strategic planning has been used within many organizations. In order to be successful, travel and tourism industries must not only understand who the customers are but also know how to market them in order to satisfy the needs of their customers. In addition, tourism organisations should identify groups of customers with homogeneous characteristics and behaviours and try to adapt their offers to the unique needs and desires of the segment members. Heritage marketing, therefore, is both management philosophy and a set of business techniques. It is very important to recognise that the management of tourism will be ineffective without an understanding of the way tourists make decisions and act in relation to the consumption of tourism products. This research not only provides an opportunity for people to fulfil their individual needs, but to exceed their expectations and ensure that it brings benefits to the World Heritage sites in Thailand (Reportforu, 2010).

2.6 Conclusion

The literature reviewed has provided general information about the perception of the tourists through the image of Thailand and Thailand’s image dimensions. However, the review has also identified both positive and negative imaging, which affects the tourists’ destination choice. It is worth noting that the concepts described in previous articles, journals and text book, are pertaining and believed to have a direct effect on to the research model which is proposed in the current investigation.

Therefore, the proposed research model and hypotheses formulation will be discussed in the following chapter.

3. Conceptual Development and Hypothesis formulation

3.1 Introduction

This conceptual development and hypothesis chapter aims to clarify the relationship between offering destination characteristics and the perception of the traveller through the image of Thailand toward its heritage sites. Moreover, the study will define whether particular perception will have a relationship with the decision-making of the traveller as to the choice of destination. This research will provide the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) with an understanding of how the perception of tourists will affect the destination. Therefore, the TAT can be able to launch alternative promotion strategies for particular destinations that need to be considered. Therefore, the research model and formulation of hypothesis that are results from the literature review in chapter two will be explained as seen below in order to maintain these sites for future generations of humanity (Thaiwh, 2010).

3.2 Research Framework

How tourists go about choosing their destination, the relationship of independent variable, factors like offering characteristics and tourist perception through Thailand’s image and the effect this has on the traveller’s destination choice. Also, the moderator variables such as demographic are used to determine the effect on tourist destination choice. Therefore, the research model has been constructed as shown below.

Research Model

Research Questions:

H1: There is a significant relationship between offering characteristics and the destinations chosen in Thailand

H2: There is a significant relationship between tourists’ perception of Thailand’s image and the destination choices.

H3: There is a significant correlation with the demographics of tourists in relation to the destination choices?

3.3 Hypothesis Formulation

According to the research model and existing hypotheses in the literature review that were formulated and clarified. Later, the hypotheses will be tested for the significant relationships under analysis.

3.3.1 Construct 1: How does the fact the trip offers characteristics have an effect the destination chosen?

RQ1: What important characteristics are travellers expecting on their trip when

visiting Thailand?

H1 : There is a significant relationship between the offering of characteristics and the

destinations chosen in Thailand

A traveller goes to the destination in order to consume the products, services and experiences that that particular destination offers. Travellers will form their experience related to their expectations, which are based on their former experiences, friends, the Internet, marketing and information from travel agencies (Kotkew, Bowen & Markens, 2006). In addition, the study of Crompton (1979) states that not all images can influence the traveller’s decision-making process. The research examines the relationship between the attributes of a destination and the decision-making process of tourists. Therefore, understanding the link between the destination’s characteristic related to the destination choice is needed in tourism marketing. Thus, this research will discover the relationship between offering characteristics and destination choices.

3.3.2 Construct 2: What are tourists’ perceptions through the images presented of Thailand?

RQ2: What are tourists perceptions through the images presented of Thailand?

H2 : There is a significant relationship between tourists’ perceptions of Thailand’s image and destination choice.

The second major hypothesis is about the image perceived by visitors when making choices about a destination to visit within Thailand. Destination image can be both positive and negative, if two destinations are almost offering the same characteristics. Therefore, the more positive the image is of a destination, the more likely that traveller will go there (Rittichainuwat, 2001). Due to the study of Yau and Chan on the image of Southeast Asia, Thailand has been perceived as a reasonably priced place with beautiful beaches and various attractions (Rittichainuwat, 2001). In addition, Tapachai & Waryszak conducted a study about the beneficial image characteristics of Thailand and grouped the results, the research showed the attributes as the cheap shopping, the variety of food, the friendly people and historical sites as well as the epistemic attribute of having a chance to experience Thailand’s rich culture (Henkel et al, 2006). However, Thailand also has a negative image because of

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