While consumer satisfaction is, like service quality, an elusive and indistinct construct, it is crucial to the continued viability of any service business, including tourism businesses. Themed tourist attractions were chosen as the context in which to empirically measure local and non-local visitor satisfaction for this thesis. The research problem is: “How do visitors assess their satisfaction with themed tourist attractions? Specific objectives addressed in this research are to: · RO1: Identify and develop measures for the factors influencing visitor satisfaction with themed tourist attractions · RO2: Develop and test a model of visitor satisfaction with themed tourist attractions · RO3: Explore the differences that the following individual visitor characteristics might have on visitor satisfaction: The methodology for this research was comprised of three stages; firstly a literature review; secondly, a qualitative exploratory study using a combination of depth interviews and focus groups and finally; a survey of 412 visitors to four themed tourist attractions on the Sunshine Coast. This methodology provided good triangulation of the data. A review of related literature identified three key gaps. Firstly, although consumer satisfaction research is practised by nearly all businesses, and academic satisfaction research has been extensive, the empirical evidence on the relationship between factors that influence satisfaction has been equivocal and so there is room for further rigorous research in this area. This includes the identification of factors influencing satisfaction with themed tourist attractions, as limited empirical research has been conducted for this particular service type. Secondly, there is no standardised instrument for measuring satisfaction with this service type, and this study adds to the knowledge about which factors influence visitor satisfaction at themed tourist attractions. In essence, this research explores and describes the factors that influence visitor satisfaction with themed tourist attractions on the Sunshine Coast. Thirdly, an area that appears to have been largely ignored in the theoretical measurement of tourist satisfaction is that the local tourist is the most likely to display repeat business and communicate positive “word-of-mouth” to other friends and relatives. More needs to known of differences in the factors influencing visitor satisfaction between locals and non-locals. Service performance factors used to measure visitor satisfaction in previous tourism studies were drawn mainly from service quality research. This thesis used theoretical frameworks from the parent disciplines of services marketing; consumer behaviour and tourism to provide a more holistic empirical measure of consumer satisfaction. A model of visitor satisfaction was developed from a literature review and the results of four depth interviews and three focus groups and finally, the major study, a face-to-face survey. The model was then further refined using the results of an exploratory factor analysis (run on SPSS) of 412 cases, which found some strong similarities with the theorised seven (7P) factor model. The final stage of the research used confirmatory factor analysis (using AMOS) and confirmed that items measuring service performance did fall into factors similar to those of the “7P” marketing mix, and that these were strongly influenced by situational variables. However, some service performance factors had a relatively low influence on consumer satisfaction. Theoretically, this research extends consumer satisfaction theory, by testing the influence of a broader range of factors (including situational variables as well as service performance), on consumer satisfaction than has been previously used. In addition, this research adds to the existing body of knowledge by using a multi-disciplinary approach and structural equation modelling in consumer satisfaction with themed tourist attractions. The practical implications of this research are that tourist attraction providers have a better understanding of factors that influence visitor satisfaction; including an increased understanding of their “bread and butter” market (the local people), as well as non-local visitors. Future research was identified in three areas, delimitations of scope, the further testing and validation of the scales and models developed and finally, the methodology used.
Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Masters of Business by Research, University of the Sunshine Coast, 2003.