A new tool developed at the University of Pretoria to measure memorable tourism experiences is helping tourist attractions around South Africa draw new visitors and improve the quality of their visit.
How do you measure the awe of seeing lions for the first time? Or put a value on the sense of rejuvenation and freedom you find when visiting new places?
While measuring these things may seem impossible, it is important to understand the intangible value of a tourist experience when building and running tourist attractions like The Cradle of Humankind or iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
With that in mind, the Tourism Management Division at the University of Pretoria (UP) set out to create a tool that could measure these subjective and intangible experiences. They built on the concept of a memorable tourism experience (MTE), recently developed by other researchers as a way to measure tangible and intangible tourist experiences.
“Understanding what makes up a memorable tourism experience is at the core of our study,” says Professor Berendien Lubbe, lead researcher for this study.
The researchers created a survey to gather data on how different intangible aspects like hedonism, novelty, refreshment and involvement combine to form a MTE, refined from a previously-developed MTE scale. At the same time, researchers created other surveys to measure gaps between tourist expectations and experiences in order to identify areas for improvement in tangible visitor experiences. They then took the surveys to five different tourist sites around South Africa to gather data.
This research, which was contracted by the National Department of Tourism (NDT), ultimately aims to provide guidance to the managers of various tourist attractions around South Africa to improve their offering, and ultimately attract more tourists.
Felicite Fairer-Wessels, one of the researchers involved with the project, says that the tool they developed is a success.
Researchers prepare to collect survey data at the Cradle of Humankind.
“Overall, the tool was validated; it is usable and the scale is reliable across all the sites,” she says. “This means that it can be used at any type of tourism attraction with minor modifications to address specific aspects of each site.”
The researchers say that they have already had some interest and requests from other tourist attractions around South Africa to use their tool, and they hope that the NDT will take it forward and apply it more broadly.
“Our main recommendation is that the tool should be a standardised instrument that can be used by managers of attractions and tourist sites to monitor performance over time,” says Lubbe. “It is now up to the NDT who invests in these sites to figure out how to do that most effectively.”
With the bounty of beautiful tourist attractions in South Africa, these findings will pave the way for better tourist experiences and a thriving tourism sector across the country.