Photo credit: Bradley Pearce/UNCW
In celebration of the newly-designated Travel and Tourism Week, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper stated that the travel and tourism industry supported over 225,000 jobs in the state and visitors to the state spent more than $23.9 billion in 2017.
With this positive tourism-based economic news from the governor and the inaugural Travel and Tourism Week, it is a prudent time to ask the questions, What exactly makes for a successful and highly memorable tourism experience? What makes tourists go back to a tourist destination year after year?
These are questions that I looked to examine in my research. I wanted to ask, What makes one purchased experience more memorable than another?
Purchases of tourism experiences – like beach vacations, music festivals or theme park visits – are very different than purchases of tangible products or perishable services. With a traditional product, one can touch it to get a sense of its quality and judge its utility on how well the product does its intended job. With a service, like a haircut or a carwash, one can generally see the outcome and decide how well the service was performed.
After a tourism experience, however, all one has to judge its effectiveness is the strength of the memories stemming from and the sensations felt during the experience.
So what factors make for a memorable tourism experience? After surveying over 2,000 experience-goers, five primary contributors to experiential purchase quality were identified.
These five factors were:
- The amount of fun and enjoyment felt during the experience
- The quality of the physical environment where the experience took place
- The level of uniqueness of the experience
- The ability of the experience to take you away from your everyday stress
- The degree to which you felt a similarity with others going through the experience with you
Other factors, however, are more difficult to influence. For example, other tourists can have a considerable impact on the quality of the experience. Think of watching a UNCW basketball game in an arena surrounded by angry people cheering against your team or wanting a relaxing beach vacation but being surrounded by annoying beach-goers playing loud music.
How can a tourism-based business control these more variable factors? Some savvy experiential-based businesses already do. Several sports stadiums have family-only sections where excessive drinking and harsh language are not allowed. Certain movie theaters have started child-friendly screenings, in which crying babies are not seen as a distraction, but rather the norm. The key for tourism firms is understanding how important these factors can be in creating positive memories for consumers.
And make no mistake, tourism firms should be actively trying to create these positive memories, as they can lead to extremely positive results. Highly-memorable tourism experiences lead to the consumer not only wanting to return but also aggressively trying to get others to visit the same location. Equally as important, consumers will be less focused on price when it comes time for the return visit and may be willing to pay more than before.
So, as we celebrate the increased level of tourism in our state and city, let's focus on making the best possible tourism experiences for our visitors. If we do that, we can expect Wilmington to be a thriving tourist destination for years to come.