The purpose of this essay is to assess the development of visitor attractions as a development product. It will begin by defining tourism. The classification, typologies and also the importance of visitors in the tourism industry will be discussed. It will finally conclude by highlighting how these tourist attractions could be managed to give tourism providers a competitive edge.
The core product for tourism and the main factors influencing the tourist's decision to travel are attractions, (Swarbrooke 2002). To put it more simply, tourism cannot exist without attraction. There are many definitions for the term visitor attractions; the British tourist authority quoted in (Swarbrooke, 2002:3) defines it as
"the attraction must be a permanently established destination, a primary purpose of which is to allow public access for entertainment, interest and education rather than been primarily a retail outlet, or a venue for sports, film, or theatrical performances. It must be open to the public prior booking and should be capable of attracting day visitors or tourists".
Fyall et al (2003) also quotes the definition given by (ETC, 2000b:24) as "a permanently established excursion destination, a primary purpose of which is to allow public access for entertainment, interest or education; rather than being principally a retail outlet or venue for sporting, theatrical or film performances".
Attraction may be classified into man-made or natural attractions and can be temporary or permanent. Examples of man-made attractions are Chatsworth, Warwick castle, Alton towers, Madam Tussauds, and others. Such attractions are purposely built and attract visitors who love image, for example who love appealing images like something that can be touched. On the other hand, it attracts groups of people for example, school children, families and also for special events. The natural attractions on the other hand are "not originally designed primary to attract visitors" (Leask and Yeoman, 1999:4) for example, The Peak District National Park and Grand Canyon.
According to cooper et al (2008: 321)"when contemplating attraction development the ideal process from a demand standpoint is one of market-imagescape-location". He adds that the process mentioned above is often not implemented but usually applied to 'footloose' attractions that have flexibility across all three aspects, the imagescape, the location and the market to generate economic success. Therefore, a more common process is one of location, image-scope and market.
However it is interesting to note that the visitor is the life blood of tourism and therefore needs to be placed at the centre of the development process (Lane: 2007). The visitor must have the feeling that their expectations have been met from the time they think about where to go right through to when they return home. The site of the attraction is analyzed as to whether it is appropriate. The environmental and the social impacts of the attraction are critically looked at. If both impacts are found to be adverse and inimical then how best can they be mitigated so that the ultimate benefits would not be undermined?
In addition the cost and benefit analysis are carried out to look at the attraction's benefit from the financial perspective and thus deserves to be executed. However this depends on the motive of the attraction; some attractions may be created primarily for social reasons while some may also be create out fundamentally for economic profit. For instance an attraction may be set up to prevent the extinction of the culture of an endangered tribe; such an attraction is of a social nature. Another area of concern is the target group to which the attraction is to be used by. Will it address the needs of the target population and if so how will it be done. When the feasibility indicates that the proposed attraction is viable then the next action is implementation.
Some Tourism products can be described as intangible because they cannot be seen but experienced. For instance a short break can be experienced but not seen. Bennet et al (2004) cited in (lane:2007) also argues that the customer will pursue a service encounter that went wrong for as long as they can even though only small amounts of money is involved. Some products are tangible: you can see and touch them. Therefore the developers of tourist product must understand that their customers are driven by emotions in their decision to purchase a tourism product.
Tourism product development usually involves co-ordinating effort behind viable, sustainable projects that will help to develop as a successfultourism destination. It includes:
- Developing tourism related products focusing on quality, sustainability and industry involvement to gain maximum economic benefit
- Ensuring a product matches and exceeds customer expectations
- Enhancing public product through provision of signage and interpretation
- Promoting local distinctiveness
- Creating new niche areas to entice and target new visitors to the region
- Looking at existing products in the region and improving their current offer to ensure visitors have a wonderful experience andmake repeat visits
- Improving the quality of the existing tourism accommodation product - to ensure visitors have a wide choice of quality accommodation in the region to choose from
- The way in which marketing, investment (including capital) and business development are aligned around product priorities to have a greater impact
- A coordinated response to evidence from research. (tourismnorthwest,2010)
The ability of an attraction to be able to attract people to it depends on several factors. An attraction must be supported by the local people in other words the people whose neighbourhood has the attraction must see the attraction as their own. It must be in the form of a "we feeling". In order to achieve this at the earliest stage of the design of the attraction, the local people must be actively involved. When this is done a fertile ground has been founded for the onward march towards success of the attraction. Therefore community ownership is critical for the success of the attraction.
The location of the attraction is also paramount in the determination of the success of the attraction. The location has to be easily accessible in terms of transportation. The best means of transport may be by road, rail, air, water or a combination of these. If the transportation to and from the attraction is easy to everyone who wants to enjoy the attraction then it can achieve success.
Information and communication in this technological age is inseparable in the success of many enterprises including attraction. People need to get in touch with relatives and loved ones anywhere on the planet. Business must not be terminated by visiting an attraction. It is therefore fundamental that an attraction has facilities to ensure that visitors to an attraction can still communicate to the world beyond the attraction. However it does not necessarily mean that the facility must be within the confines of the attraction but may be within a reasonable distance from the attraction since sometimes the nature of the facility might not permit that.
Government legislation can also enhance the success of an attraction. Tourism policy is difficult to implement without a supportive and appropriate legal framework (Dieke, 2000). In addition, indicated that the importance of legislation on areas like land use planning, immigration, employment of foreign nationals. When tourism is backed by political will then it can be helped to improve from its current state to an improved one. It may also create a framework that would make investing in attractions very lucrative. This will in turn create a positive image of the government at the international level that is if the attraction is able to attract international visitors. Government's taxation policies should be favourable to the attraction so as to make the attraction cheap to visit.
Security of visitors to an attraction is vital. No matter how presentable an attraction may be without guaranteed safety and security then the attraction would be "lifeless" since its purpose of establishment would be defeated. The state must therefore ensure that the atmosphere is generally peaceful enough to entice visitors to attractions.
Provision of infrastructure generally helps attractions to attract visitors. The State must provide adequate and right infrastructure like road, power and so on. The provision of these makes the attraction less expensive to the visitor since the cost of the attraction would be charged less the cost of the services provided by the state.
Operators of attractions must create an atmosphere of effective and cordial relationship with visitors to register their acceptance among visitors far and near. When the relationship is professional but friendly it is like to penetrate through any form of competition and would eventually emerge as the best. The marketers say the customer is always right, this implies the importance of the customer and the need to create an atmosphere that guarantees the best possible approach towards eliciting the confidence and acceptance of an attraction by a visitor. When attractions attract people there is the tendency for the culture of such people to be enjoyed by tourists
The success of a visitor attraction has to be supported by the state, the business sector and the individual. The blend of the efforts of these entities would ensure that attractions are success in their existence. The following suggestions are therefore provided to serve as a guideline to tourism providers in the development of tourist attractions. It would bring improvement in the life of the local community as well as the development of basic infrastructure to meet the expectation of visitors. A properly developed attraction has the tendency to attract visitors. The development of an attraction would enhance the development of the local economy.
"The UK visitor economy contributed about £52 billion representing 3.7 percent of Gross Domestic Product while creating 1.36 million jobs in 2007"(Hausmann et al, 2009). In Kenya, as of 1992, tourism accounted for 62% of foreign exchange earnings. Managing attractions has the propensity to attract a substantial amount of income for a country
- Assess the potential: by finding creative ways to stimulate the visitors' interest and provide them with a memorable experience. Provide interactive experiences that engage as many of the visitors' five senses as possible. Bear in mind the guidelines for safety, health and environment. Jutte (2003) gives the example of the sense and touch gardens in France that gives people another experience of botany by tasting, smelling or touching fruits and flowers
- Seek advice: from relevant authorities. Cultural heritage tourism brings together many different perspectives such as preservation, the arts, museums, Main Street, humanities, elected officials, public land managers and more. By working together, more can be accomplished than by working alone. It is important to involve the community in shaping tourism efforts. An example is given by Scheyvens (2002) as South Africa's strategic development initiative which gives priority to investors whose bids include places of encouraging local development.
- Examine the inputs: in terms of delivery, authenticity, proximity to resorts, road accessibility, ability to market and economic return. Set measurable goals in order to assess the viability of the project.
- Preserve and protect resources: Be sure that the historical, cultural and natural resourcesthat make up the cultural heritage tourism program are adequately protected for future generations to enjoy since these resources are irreplaceable.
This essay has looked at the development of tourist attractions as a tourist product. It has identified that visitor attractions have a lot to offer all kind of peoples. However a lot needs to be done to professionalise the structuring of service enterprises and the management of the service encounter in terms of designing tourism products and service delivery systems. As a result some suggestions have been made to serve as a guideline to tourism providers in their decision to develop the tourist's attraction product. This in the long run will ensure the sustainability and the profitability of tourist products to tourism providers and the industry as a whole. Attraction should not be only seen in the face of their commercial value but also their social aspect as the fusion of both features would help sustain the attraction into the foreseeable future. Attractions are contributing a lot to the development of many countries of the world.
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