Saturday, May 24, 2008

"Connecting" with Visitors


While conducting research for my doctoral dissertation, my research supervisor told me an interesting story about the time he was in charge of the Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO) Office in Europe. He said that he was receiving a number of calls from people in a small English town, asking why bus loads of Japanese tourists were there.

"These folks are taking pictures of an apartment building...Why?"

"What is the big deal about this nondescript building in the middle of nowhere?"

Upon investigation, Professor Ogata found out the reason.

The famous Japanese writer, Natsume Soseki, had been a resident of this building during his stay in England.

Soseki (1867-1916) ranks along with Mori Ogai as one of two giants of early modern Japanese letters. Although Soseki began his career as a scholar of English literature, he later resigned from his position at Tokyo Imperial Univ. to devote his time to writing. His first published work, Wagahai wa neko de aru [I am a cat], a satirical portrait of human vanity, was followed by increasingly pessimistic, brooding novels such as Kokoro [heart] and his unfinished masterpiece, Meian [light and darkness]. Soseki's works often dwell upon the alienation of modern humanity, the search for morality, and the difficulty of human communication.

In 1900 Soseki received a government scholarship and went to England, where he stayed two unhappy, lonely years. However, his time Soseki spent usefully, writing, reading, and starting to develop a literary theory in which he tried to combine Japanese tradition with western psychological approach. Soseki’s reflections of his stay in England were published in the Asahi newspaper in 1909. On returning to Japan, he become professor at the Imperial University, succeeding the American writer Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904).

Professor Ogata explained that what drew the Japanese visitors to this spot was Yukari, or "connection" (in Japanese) that they felt with this destination. This destination did not have much of a meaning for others, but for the Japanese visitors who made their way to this spot, it had a meaning--one worthy of a visit, connecting them with one of their favorite writers of all time.

So how does this story apply to you and your destination? Yukari is important with visitors, and not just with the Japanese. We all should reflect on what our destinations can offer to our major source markets. In order to find out how your destination can maximize on Yukari Tourism, check with experts on your source markets who understand the culture and history as they apply to leisure-time pursuits such as tourism.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Is There a Place for Dark Tourism in Your Destination?

What is Dark Tourism, anyway?

Dark Tourism refers to the tourism involving sites of tragedy. This may be a recent growth area for the travel industry but it's not a new phenomenon. You can trace this as far back as the Dark Ages, pilgrims were travelling to tombs and sites of religious martyrdom. The Battle of Waterloo in 1815 was observed by nobility from a safe distance and one of the earliest battlefields of the American Civil War (Manassas) was sold the next day as a visitor attraction site. One of the most notorious destinations for dark tourism is the Nazi extermination camp at Auschwitz in Poland. More recently, Ground Zero in New York has become an essential part of the tourist itinerary for many visitors. Presently however, Dark Tourism is manifested in various forms and subsets. These include Holocaust Tourism, Battlefield Tourism, Cemetery Tourism, Slavery-Heritage Tourism and Prison Tourism. It is only recently that Dark Tourism, in its variety of shades, has become widespread and seemingly more popular.


It makes one wonder why these sites so popular. The motivations of visitors are murky and often difficult to unravel. There may be a mix of reverence, voyeurism and maybe even the thrill of coming into close proximity with death. It is important for sites to guard against the voyeuristic and exploitative streak that may overtake the primary motivation to increase revenue and generation. The operators of these diverse sites have become the custodians of history, and this carries with it certain responsibilities. Which parts of history do you choose to interpret and commemorate? How can this be done in an appropriate manner? This is where the expertise of a tourism consultant comes into play.


If your destination has the potential to participate in this form of tourism, it would be in the best interest of the visitors, the industry, and the community to thoroughly research areas such as the role of the media and the wider socio-cultural influences upon Dark Tourism consumption with appropriate scholars. That is the best way to determine what is acceptable and unacceptable as a tourist attraction.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Sustainability is Key to Guam’s Future

Congratulations to all Guam residents and to those who have contributed to the success of the island’s tourism industry over the past 40 years! The island has come a long way since the early years when tourists had limited choices for hotel rooms, shopping and other activities. We have grown over the years, in terms of population, visitor arrivals, room numbers, and activities. Guam’s economy has benefited from tourism dollars and the positive residual effects of hosting international visitors from a variety of neighboring countries. However, we now need to recognize that this growth cannot be expected to last forever. We are already seeing signs of declining numbers from certain markets and should pause to reassess where we are, and where we want to be as a destination. It is an opportune time to ask ourselves some important questions. Have we adequately managed the development of tourism on Guam over the years? Are we properly preparing for the future, involving all stakeholders, to shape the future of the industry for Guam and its residents? Should the future of Guam’s tourism industry be left only to developers and those directly working in the industry?

If we look at the current financial situation of the Government of Guam, those of us that have a stake in the industry (that includes all of us who call Guam home) should be reminded of the importance of participation, proper planning and sustainability. We need to be proactive in working toward a goal of pursuing Sustainable Tourism on Guam.

What is Sustainable Tourism?

The UN-World Tourism Organization (UN-WTO) defines sustainable tourism as an enterprise that achieves an effective balance among the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural aspects of tourism to guarantee long-term benefits to communities. According to UN-WTO, it should:

  • Make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity.

  • Respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance.

  • Ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation.

Challenges for Guam

We all face the dilemma of seeking economic growth on the one hand, but at the same time meeting the challenges of sustainable development on the other. Sustainable tourism has been described as a model approach and a preferable form of activity that improves the quality of life for residents and provides a high quality of experience for visitors. To achieve this balance, we first need to do an “environmental scan” to examine where we currently are as a destination. This needs to be done before determining where we want to be. Are we currently on the right path for a sustainable future? If not, what steps need to be taken to change the mind-set that had been established over the years, to creating and maintaining a more sustainable industry?

This does not mean that we can disregard the financial objectives of businesses, i.e. the economic sustainability of the industry. After all, businesses in Guam’s tourism industry are like any other business, and are not viable if they are not profitable. Although Guam’s businesses in the tourism industry are still experiencing major challenges due to fickle nature of our major markets, there can be a more concerted effort, or holistic approach, to tackling today’s challenges and preparing for the future. To that end, the Guam Visitors Bureau is to be applauded for the formulation of the recently-introduced Five Year Plan where industry leaders are encouraging community members for participation and support in implementing the plan.

Planning with Partners

Sustainable Tourism on Guam will not be accomplished with only the efforts of those working in the tourism industry. Tourism scholars argue that tourism planning and development horizons must by necessity take an increasingly longer look into the future, and the magnitude of today’s development decisions and their associated investments infers they will have impacts well beyond the lifetimes of those making the decisions. Thus it is clear that those who have a long-term interest in the future of Guam for themselves, their children and grandchildren, need to take more of an interest in the island’s tourism industry than what has been the case in the past forty years.

This takes educating the public about more than just the business aspect of tourism, but more of a holistic view of the various components that make the industry sustainable as described earlier in this article. To that end, the Tourism Education Council should be applauded for their efforts to get the message out to the public about the various components of tourism. Several media forums, such as K-57’s Tourism and You talk show have also taken on the refreshing approach of presenting diverse viewpoints and open discussions for the public to talk about tourism-related matters.

It is not too late for all residents to begin working together with partners in the inner-circle of industry leaders to plan for a Sustainable Tourism on Guam. One of the ideas used in various destinations to help small businesses and the general public to get more involved in the industry is the One Village One Product movement that was initiated in 1979 by former governor of Oita Prefecture, Morihiko Hiramatsu. The next column will feature this movement and how Guam can possibly adopt it as a way to integrate the community and the industry for a sustainable future.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Perceptions of Guest Satisfaction by Market: A Guam Case Study

Introduction

Small island destinations like Guam, Saipan and Palau are increasingly seeing a more diversified group of travelers visiting their destinations. While Japan still makes up a significant percentage of visitors, these island destinations are beginning to show signs of an increasing number of visitors from markets like South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. As do most hotels and resorts around the world, properties in these island destinations conduct guest surveys to ensure that guests are satisfied with their experience during their stay. This has generally been done for the primary market, which in the case of these destinations, has been the Japanese overseas visitor. Properties in these destinations also have available guest satisfaction surveys for English-speaking guests made up mainly of local residents and business travelers from the region.


A number of studies have been previously conducted concerning guest satisfaction as it relates to various factors such as hotel branding (O’Neill et al., 2006), factors influencing guest experience (Higgins, 2004), business travelers (Gundersen, 1996) and Service Encounters Involving Failure and Recovery (Smith, 1999). These studies generally view the guest experience from the perspective of guests that are assumed to have the same or similar perceptions as they relate to guest experiences with service, quality, safety, and other factors.


Small island destinations in Micronesia with growing percentages in multiple markets need to be aware of how perceptions may differ. This is especially true in hotels and resorts that must maintain their competitiveness against other properties on the same island or in nearby destinations. In fact, due to the increasing numbers of guests from other markets, it is imperative that properties measure the perception of satisfaction of guests from these markets. Perceptions may differ between when measuring various aspects of the properties’ products and services.


This article will use a case study of an 800-room waterpark resort on Guam to examine who the property measures perceptions of guest satisfaction and breaks down the satisfaction ratings by source market.


Background Information

Guam, an unincorporated territory of the United States, is the largest island in the Mariana Archipelago. It is located in the northwest Pacific Ocean approximately 6,100 kilometers west of Hawaii, 2,400 kilometers south of Japan and 3,200 kilometers east of Hong Kong. The land area of Guam is approximately 549 square kilometers. The island is 48 kilometers long and ranges from 8 to 14 kilometers in width. Guam was formed by undersea volcanoes and is surrounded by coral reefs near the shore. Hagatna, the capital city, is located in the central section of the island, which also serves as the center of commercial and industrial activities for the territory. Tumon Bay, the major tourist resort area, is located in the central section of the island. The northern section of Guam is relatively flat and is the location of Anderson Air Force Base. The southern section is mountainous and is sparsely populated. Apra Harbor, the commercial port and main naval base, is located in the southern section. Much of the interior of Guam is covered with dense jungle and vegetation.


The climate is tropical, but is tempered by the northeast trade winds with temperatures ranging from 26 to 30 degrees Celsius throughout the year. Guam is frequently affected by typhoons and mild earthquakes. Average rainfall is between 2,509 and 3,136 millimeters per year. Guam has two seasons—rainy (June through October) and dry (November through May). The current population of the island is approximately 160,000, which is made up of a rich mixture of people from various areas of the world. The mix of peoples from the Pacific Islands, Asia, Spain, America, and the Philippines, has created a unique blend of cultures on Guam. The native Chamorro population has been reduced in recent years due to migration to the U.S. mainland and the great influx of other ethnic groups. The Chamorro inhabited Guam before its discovery by Europeans, starting with Ferdinand Magellan on March 6, 1521. Spain took possession of Guam, along with other Marianas Islands, in 1565 and used Guam as a stopover point for the Spanish trade route between Mexico and the Philippines. In 1688, missionaries arrived to convert the population to Christianity while famine and European diseases devastated the Chamorro population during the early period of Spanish rule. Guam was ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Paris after the Spanish-American War in 1898. The U.S. Navy administered the island until 1950 except for the period of Japanese occupation during World War II when Guam became the first American territory occupied by Japan. Guam was liberated from Japan after a campaign from July 21 to August 10, 1944. Guamanians[1] today are U.S. citizens but may not vote in national elections. In 1950, the Organic Act of Guam established a civilian administration under the Department of Interior.


The growth of tourism on Guam began with the liberalization of Japanese overseas travel in 1964, when Japan relaxed foreign travel restrictions at a time when there were also substantial falls in airfares. During the early liberalization period, Guam was receiving visitors at an extremely rapid growth rate. The majority of visitors were from Japan (approximately 60 percent), with a substantial increase noted in the late 1960s resulting from the introduction of flights from Japan by Pan American, the world’s largest airline at that time. The proportion of Japanese visitors was 74 percent by 1980. During this period, economic factors and favorable government policies, as well as the aggressive marketing efforts of travel agencies, contributed to the growth of Japanese overseas travel. A combination of these factors is still influential today in the highly volatile and competitive tourism industry, with many destinations working hard to get a larger share of the Japanese visitors’ spending power. In fact, by 1989, Japan had become the world’s leader in spending on international tourism. In the year 2000 following nearly a decade of poor economic performance, the more savings conscious Japanese overseas travelers were still the fourth largest group of spenders on international travel in the world, after the Americans, the Germans, and the British (Mak et al. 2004).


Well-known international and Japanese brands, especially in the lodging industry, have established a presence on Guam to capitalize on the tourism industry dominated by Japanese consumers. The major international resorts on Guam today include Guam Marriott and Resort and Spa, Hilton Guam Resort and Spa, Hyatt Regency Guam, Outrigger Guam Resort, and the Westin Resort Guam. Large Japanese chains with a presence on Guam are Guam Hotel Okura, Hotel Nikko Guam and Palace Hotel Guam. Japan’s Leo Palace Corporation has also made a substantial investment in the Leo Palace Resort (http://www.leopalaceresort.com/), a multi-faceted condominium, hotel, spa and world-class sports compound, which is located in central Guam approximately 20 minutes away by car from the tourist district of Tumon. The total number of hotel rooms as of the end of 2006 was just over 8,000 (Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association, http://www.ghra.org).


Guam offers a variety of leisure activities as well as historical and cultural attractions. Guam’s beaches are known for their clear water and white sand that are perfect for sunbathing, a practically required activity for visitors to tropical beach resort areas. There is also duty free shopping and a varied nightlife, including a nightclub, which hosts top quality Las Vegas-style shows for families. Guam has at least seven world-class golf courses with breathtaking views for golf fans. For ocean lovers, Guam has some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling in the world. There are also underwater parks (Underwater World, http://www.aquariumteam.com/) where visitors can pet sharks, and Fish Eye Marine Park, (http://www.fisheyeguam.com/), an underwater observatory that allows for viewing a variety of fish species that exist on Guam’s reefs. In addition, Guam offers submarine tours, sunset dinner cruises, jet skiing, wind surfing, kayaking, parasailing, sky diving, and deep-sea fishing for those who enjoy these ocean-related activities. Visitors to Guam often take an optional trip to the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas (CNMI) to enjoy similar activities in a different environment.


This case study focuses on The Pacific Islands Club (PIC) on Guam. It is a part of PIC Resorts (http//:www.picresorts.com), which caters to a diverse clientele including individuals, couples, families and tour groups. PIC Resorts is the largest resort chain in Micronesia with a combined 1100 rooms, including 800 rooms on Guam and 300 rooms on the island of Saipan. PIC Guam attracts families, incentive and conference groups, both large and small, and offers services and facilities perfect for family fun and relaxation, business meetings and informal receptions. Guests typically enjoy the beach or waterpark environment for relaxation and activities. Activities include waterslide, archery, windsurfing, snorkeling, tennis, racquetball and a host of others.


Guam typically receives approximately 1.3 million visitors per year, with 80% arriving from Japan. The second largest market is South Korea, with approximately 10 to 12 percent of arrivals. The rest of the arrivals are from other markets such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Philippines, and U.S. Although these numbers are not quite balanced for the island as a whole, PIC Guam has had a strong mix of Korean guests along with Japanese. At times these markets are equally strong in guest representation on property. This is mainly due to the management’s proactive measures from the early 1990’s to mix the target markets as a way to counter the high and low seasons of various source markets.


Case Study

PIC Guam has conducted a Guest Satisfaction Survey for over the past decade to measure not only overall guest satisfaction, but also to measure responses by markets. In order to do this, surveys are provided in various languages (Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, and English). Survey forms in the appropriate language are provided in rooms on the departure date for a guest from each room to complete and to drop off at the front desk. Participants in the survey are provided with an opportunity to win a vacation back to PIC (round-trip air fare and accommodations).


In December 2006, PIC Guam had a total of 18,928 paid rooms and completed the month with an occupancy rate of 80.4%. The total number of responses received was 1779, or 9.4% of the paid rooms. During the month of December 6935 rooms or 36.6% were sold to the Japanese market, while 9128 rooms or 48.2% were sold to the Korean market. The breakdown of responses by nationality is listed below.


Responses by Nationality:

Japanese = 10.6%

Korean = 11.3%

Chinese = 9.0%

Other = 1.2%


Further, by examining a small sampling of the latest results, we can see how perceptions concerning guest satisfaction differ between markets.


GUEST ROOMS



17. Everything in Working Order

Total

China

Korea

Japan

Other

75%

71%

80%

68%

81%

18. Room Comfort



Total

China

Korea

Japan

Other

76%

72%

78%

74%

80%

19. Room Cleanliness


Total

China

Korea

Japan

Other

75%

75%

78%

71%

80%

20. Housekeeping Staff Service

Total

China

Korea

Japan

Other

79%

79%

83%

74%

85%

21. Sufficient Information in the Room

Total

China

Korea

Japan

Other

76%

74%

77%

74%

78%


In the area of guest rooms, it is apparent that gaps in perceptions concerning cleanliness, service, and state of working order for items in the rooms exist between Korean and Japanese guests. In terms of information available in guest rooms, there appears to be a relatively consistent perception between all markets.

HOTEL SERVICES






6. Efficiency







Total

China

Korea

Japan

Other




82%

77%

82%

81%

90%

Guest Service/Bell staff

82%

78%

84%

78%

87%

Front Desk


81%

77%

82%

80%

87%

Concierge


80%

72%

84%

76%

83%

Housekeeping

80%

81%

82%

77%

89%

Telephone Operator

84%

84%

86%

80%

84%

Security Staff


In terms of efficiency in hotel services, we can see a relatively wide range of satisfaction levels in some of the areas. The most notable gap is seen in the way guests from various markets view the efficiency of Guest Services and Bell staff, ranging from 77% satisfaction level from the Chinese market, to as high as 90% satisfaction for those from other markets. Expectations for service on the telephone from the property’s telephone operator were highest from the Japanese guests as indicated by the lowest score here. This may indicate not only a potential language training issue for the property, but also an issue of telephone etiquette expectations from guests who are accustomed to telephone business practices in Japan.


For the overall property, examining perceptions of areas outside of the guest rooms, we can observe how various markets rate specific components of the resort.

PROPERTY IN GENERAL


22. Cleanliness of Property


Total

China

Korea

Japan

Other

77%

84%

79%

75%

86%

23. Safety of Property


Total

China

Korea

Japan

Other

83%

88%

84%

80%

88%

24. Security Visible and Alert


Total

China

Korea

Japan

Other

82%

91%

84%

78%

90%

25. Attractiveness of Landscaping

Total

China

Korea

Japan

Other

89%

84%

89%

87%

93%

26. Overall Staff Attitude


Total

China

Korea

Japan

Other

86%

83%

87%

85%

91%

27. Overall Impression


Total

China

Korea

Japan

Other

85%

83%

86%

83%

89%

28. Value for Money



Total

China

Korea

Japan

Other

81%

84%

81%

80%

86%


It is interesting to note that in terms of value for money, there is little variance in the perception of source markets. With globalization, growing competition, and the increasing frequency of travelers, we may see more narrowing of this component between markets in properties around the world as the perception of pricing and quality service become less distinguishable. Results with the Japan market indicate the importance of the perception of safety/security and cleanliness that remain to be such important factors for travelers from this market.


Conclusion and Implications

For any business that wants to maintain competitiveness, it is important to measure customer satisfaction. Hotels and resorts must also keep a finger on the pulse of their guest satisfaction levels. Hotels and resorts in Micronesia, which have highly segmented markets for guests, must not only examine the perceptions of their major market, but they must also examine differences in perception and how services can be fine-tuned to improve quality.


With the brief sampling of PIC Guam’s guest satisfaction survey results, we are able to see the variance in perception when it comes to satisfaction levels for components in the guest rooms and the overall property. This will allow the resort to fine-tune its products and services to improve satisfaction levels for all of its important markets.


Because abrupt changes in products, procedures and services may positively affect one market’s score while causing a decline in another’s score, it is extremely important that the proper balance is in place to weigh the pros and cons of changes, and that an adequate review takes place prior to implementing such changes. Management of hotels and resorts may consult with experts on source markets to gather important information on how to properly manage the balancing of markets as well as the offering of products and services.


References

Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association (2007) GHRA 2006 Hotel Statistics, GHRA Website. www.ghra.org viewed March 2, 2007.

Guam Visitors Bureau (2007) Monthly Visitor Arrivals, Tumon: Guam Visitors Bureau.

Gundersen, Marit G. (1996) “Hotel guest satisfaction among business travelers.” Cornell Hotel & Restaurant Administration Quarterly, Apr96, Vol. 37 Issue 2, p72.

Higgins, Stacey Mieyal (2004) “Guestroom at forefront of guest satisfaction.” Hotel & Motel Management 9/20/2004, Vol. 219 Issue 16, p4-22.

Mak, James, Lonny Carlile, and Sally Dai (2004) Impact of Population Aging on Japanese International Travel to 2025. Honolulu: East-West Center Working Papers, Economic Series, No. 73, October 2004.

O'Neill, John W., Mattila, Anna S. Qu Xiao (2006) “Hotel Guest Satisfaction and Brand Performance: The Effect of Franchising Strategy.” Journal of Quality Assurance in Hospitality & Tourism, 2006, Vol. 7 Issue 3, p25-39.

Pacific Islands Club Guam (2007) Guest Satisfaction Survey, December 2006, Human Resources Department: Tumon, Guam.

Smith, Amy K., Bolton, Ruth N. and Wagner, Janet (1999) “A Model of Customer Satisfaction with Service Encounters Involving Failure and Recovery,” Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 36, No. 3 1999-08 pp. 356-372.


[1] A term referring to those who are long-term residents of Guam, usually holding U.S. citizenship. These include people from one or a mixture of a variety of ethnic backgrounds, such as Filipino, Caucasian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Chamorro, etc.