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Lau, Anita and McKercher, Bob "Exploration vs. Acquisition: A Comparison of First-Time and Repeat Visitors
An article by Anita Lau and Bob McKercher examines the differences between the motivation and intended activities of first-time and repeat pleasure tourists to Hong Kong. Their study consisted of a questionnaire administered to travelers taking a commercial shuttle from the airport to downtown hotels. A total of 239 first-time and 173 repeat visitors responded to the survey, which was conducted between the months of June and August of 2001, several years after the handover of Hong Kong to mainland China. Results of the study show that the motivations of these two groups of travelers significantly differed, as did their intended destinations. The authors suggest that industry professionals stand to learn a lot from such research, as marketing and development efforts can be better targeted for each group.
First-time visitors tend to be more interested in adventure, exploring the wide range of activities and attractions available in the location, and visiting icon tourist attractions. Moreover, first-time visitors tended to be young, between the ages of 26 and 35, and also stayed for relatively short periods of time in Hong Kong. First-time visitors viewed Hong King primarily as a stopover or secondary destination as they intended to explore other parts of Asia. Furthermore, most first-time visitors were from long-haul destinations; likewise, tourists from long-haul points of origin such as Japan and North America were more likely to be first-time, rather than repeat visitors. On the other hand, repeat visitors tended to come from short-haul destinations like mainland China or Southeast Asia, as well as from medium-haul destinations like Australia. Representing an older demographic (between 36 and 45 years old, on average), repeat visitors were more interested in engaging in pragmatic activities such as shopping or dining, and were less concerned with visiting icon tourist attractions. Repeat tourists spent time with friends and family and were less likely to travel extensively throughout the region than first-time visitors were. Based on the results of this study, industry professionals can realize that first-time and repeat travelers indeed represent distinct markets.
Ideally, a tourist destination should achieve a balance between repeat and first-time tourists, according to the authors. Both groups spend money on and at their destinations, but each group focuses on different activities. For example, first-time visitors will funnel their monies more into tourist attractions, whereas repeat visitors will spend money on consumer activities like shopping or nighttime entertainment. Based on prior studies, first-time visitors also indicated more of a concern with quality of accommodations and transportation than the repeat visitors, who were more concerned with friendliness of the people, food, and infrastructure. First-time visitors were also more interested in exploring cultural activities and seeking to gain new experiences than repeat visitors, who were generally more interested in relaxation.
Hong Kong, as an urban travel destination, represents unique concerns for the travel industry and the authors assert that the current study pertains most of all to urban travel destinations because tourists are more likely to return to places that offer the wide range of shopping and dining experiences they seek. The authors note that repeat tourists represent a "stable source of tourist revenue," and should therefore be directly targeted with marketing techniques (2). Few prior studies have been devoted to exploring this distinct group of tourists because industry professionals generally assume that first-time and repeat tourists are similarly motivated and engage in similar activities at their destination sites. However, the current research indicates that these two markets are distinct demographically and motivationally. The results can help industry professionals better target their marketing efforts and help regional tourism professionals develop and promote their infrastructures.
Lau and McKercher's study can significantly help travel industry professionals improve the efficiency of their marketing efforts and help travel destinations increase their chances of success. Their thorough analysis of prior research indicates that their study uniquely examines the differences between first-time and repeat travelers. These groups represent unique, distinct markets, and this study shows that industry professionals should tailor their marketing plans accordingly. Destinations should lure both first-time and repeat visitors, with an aim for achieving a balance between the two groups. The first-time visitors will be a boon for existing tourist attractions, major hotels, and tour group agencies. However, repeat visitors will pour money into the local economy through shopping, dining, and nighttime entertainment. Therefore, destinations should focus more attention on repeat visitors than they currently do. This article illustrates the importance of understanding the motivations and needs of repeat visitors, which is a largely ignored sector. Further research should include similar studies performed for different urban and non-urban destinations; the current research focused only on tourists visiting Hong Kong but the article is a good starting point for further marketing research.
Further research on the differences between first-time and repeat visitors should also examine different budget classes. Both first-time and repeat visitors to destinations can and should be classified according to travel budget, for marketing practices can be tailored for these subgroups. Moreover, the current study dismissed the nature of prior trips for the repeat visitor group. The motivations of former residents, for example, would greatly differ from tourists who simply enjoyed spending their leisure time in Hong Kong. Therefore, future research should take such issues under consideration when designing their surveys.
Furthermore, future research should also include exit surveys, which would determine what activities the tourists actually engaged in vs. what they intended to engage in. Researchers should also try to more thoroughly determine what influences the choice to return to a destination. For example, if nightlife is a major factor in the decision to return to a travel destination, then more marketing efforts could be directed toward promoting nighttime entertainment. Publications and websites could be designed specifically with this market in mind. Resort and non-urban destinations around the world offer rich potential for luring repeat tourists, who can help local economies prosper and therefore lead to a general boon to the tourism industry.
The needs of first-time and repeat visitors to a destination differ greatly. Repeat visitors do not need the types of basic information that first-time tourists do, such as what major attractions to see in an area or what museums to visit. For more in-depth explorations of a given city or region, repeat tourists often derive little information or services from travel industry professionals. However, first-time visitors need and demand basic information about a city or region. If the tourism industry hopes to cater more to repeat tourists, marketing should be overtly geared toward the two distinct groups. Brochures and websites could be tailored overtly to either group, by including different types of information.
Article Summary: Dolnicar, Sara. "Beyond 'Commonsense Segmentation': A Systematics of Segmentation Approaches in Tourism
Dolnicar critiques the existing body of market segmentation reports with respect to the travel industry. According to the author, segmentation is "one of the most crucial long-term strategic marketing decisions a destination or organization makes," (248). Breaking up the market into subgroups helps to understand what would otherwise appear to be homogenous consumer groups. The author explains the two basic approaches to market segmentation reports: a priori and data-driven. With a priori segmentation, the researchers divide a given population according to some type of prior information, such as demographics. This type of segmentation is called "commonsense" because it would include basic distinctions between groups of people such as business vs. pleasure travelers. The author notes that the majority of tourism industry marketing research uses purely commonsense segmentations. However, relying exclusively on commonsense segmentation can be limiting and does not provide for a thorough marketing report. By segmenting the population, consumer bases are significantly restricted. Purely data-driven segmentations are the least common segmentation reports. Hybrid studies are frequently used, some of which first perform a commonsense segmentation and then split the segments into two data-driven subgroups, as well as studies that use a sequence of two commonsense segmentations. The current article reviews past segmentation studies in the tourism industry and through a systematics, proposes a set of potentially more useful types of segmentation reports.
The systematics produced by this literature review includes a proposal of two different types of segmentation reports. The first, "Concept 4," entails first performing a data-driven segmentation and then applying commonsense segmentations afterwards. Dolcinar bases the systematics on a study of summer visitors to Austria in 1994 and 1997. The study included twenty-two binary statements about the motivations for taking the vacation. Respondents were divided into six data-driven, psychographic segments that included those primarily interested in relaxation and those interested in sports and adventure. The author proposes that further analyzing each of these data-driven segments by following their behavior over time would be greatly helpful to determine how the needs and motivations of each group changed over time, and how the demographics changed over time. Moreover, studying each commonsense, a priori group would help researchers determine what other types of activities are correlated with…[continue]
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