The study deals with the importance of destination attributes in tourism development and provides a glance on their role toward tourists’ satisfaction with a particular destination as Hanoi. By using the utility of mixed-method design as data collection, the study analyzed both quantitative and qualitative data.
In the quantitative research, the survey questionnaire was investigated the opinions and feedback from 246 foreign tourists who visited Hanoi between July and August in 2012. The HOLSAT model was applied as a valuable tool to elaborate the (dis-) satisfaction of tourists at the destination. Moreover, it has been inspired by the face-to-face interview with seven tour operators in mid-August to gain insights into the problems and contribution of their current business toward Hanoi tourism and international tourists to the city. Further, the research proposes some suggestions to improve the positive image of the city as an attracting tourist destination.
Key words: Hanoi, destination attributes, expectation, perception, satisfaction.
As a heart of Vietnam with the cultivation of thousands of year history, Hanoi has become a cultural center of the country with many attractions including natural landscapes, long-standing historical sites as well as the intangible cultural heritage, etc. Those elements have turned Hanoi into a popular tourist destination in the world. Since the country’s innovation, Hanoi tourism has grown significantly and offers many different types of service packages. In addition, Hanoi is the hub of international tourists to Vietnam. The number of domestic and international arrivals to Hanoi increases every year. Although the city tourism has improved over the years and turned into the fast-paced tourism industry, it faces many issues such as poor transportation system, traffic chaos, serious environmental pollution due to rapid urbanization, food hygiene and safety, etc. Hanoi tourism needs to overcome these issues to optimize its potential. Thus, the study of ‘‘Examining international tourists’ satisfaction with Hanoi’s tourism’’ was conducted to explore the relationship between the international tourists’ initial expectations and their perceptions to examine their (dis-) satisfaction level with the current tourism destination attributes in Hanoi. In addition, the researcher’s key objectives are to offer insightful recommendations to enhance the visitors’ satisfaction with an expectation to assist promote Hanoi tourism.
2. Literature Review
A city (Kolb’s 2006, p.60-61) can become a tourist product by offering a variety of core products (e.g., festivals, transportation) and supporting products (e.g., guidebook, souvenirs). Obviously, the tourist is an object which has an essential part for the development of tourism and its activities. If there is no tourist, the tourism industry cannot be thrived, and the operation of the travel business becomes meaningless. That’s why, Devashish (2011, p.29) considers tourism and its product as a supply side to meet the needs of a demand side as tourist in the marketing perspective.
2.1 Tourism destination attributes towards tourists’ satisfaction
According to Reisinger & Turner (1999, p.1), destination attributes are aimed to measure how tourists perceive a destination. Each destination has its own multiple attractive attributes that differentiate it from the others. Many scholars (Haahti 1986, Woodside & Mazanec 2004, p.288; Driscoll, Lawson, & Niven 1994) in the past have categorized different types of destination attributes, such as: money, accessibility, safety, scenery, activities, hospitality, night life and entertainment, cultural experience, tourist facilities, and so on. After exploring these previous researches, the author has identified and analyzed the relationship among nine attributes of a tourism destination and tourists’ satisfaction in terms of their demographic and travel behavior characteristics, including: price, culture, entertainment and recreation, environment, landscape, climate and weather, accessibility, safety and security, and local communities’ attitude.
2.2 Tourists’ satisfaction
In the study of Kandampully, Mok, & Sparks (2001, p.9-10) reveals that tourism product is as a combination of all goods, activities, and services provided to tourists in different areas of the tourism industry to meet their travel needs. Different people have different needs and seek different experiences or benefits from the same and products. Therefore, the tourists’ experiences and perceptions are diverse that may cause to the different outcomes of the level of tourist satisfaction.
In addition, tourist satisfaction (Kozak & Rimmington, 2000) is an important facet influencing directly to a success of the destination marketing because it impacts the choice of destination, the consumption of goods and services, and the decision to return. A study based on the concept of satisfaction (Tribe & Snaith 1998) found that tourists’ satisfaction with a destination is based on the level of assessment of tourist destination properties that exceed their expectations for these attributes. When consumer (Reisinger & Turner, 2003, p.176) has gained more experience that what they expected, they completely satisfy with their trip. In contrast, if experiencing at a destination makes tourist feel displeasure, then dissatisfaction occurs. Therefore, a HOLSAT model has been applied to measure the level of tourists’ satisfaction by examining the relationship between their holiday perception and their previous expectation (Tribe & Snaith 1998).
3. Research method
As the main purpose of the research is to study positive and negative tourists’ perceptions about their holiday in Hanoi and how their view may impact of Hanoi tourism. The analysis of the research was done using mixed-methods research which includes both qualitative and quantitative research. The combination (Creswell, 2003, p.18-21) allows investigators gain better understanding about the research problem by collecting either sequential or simultaneous data. In the quantitative research, the study was conducted by a survey questionnaire among 246 foreign visitors who had visited Hoan Kiem Lake and Van Mieu Temple in Hanoi during three weeks (from 20.07.2012 to 10.08.2012) whereas the author made face-to-face interviews with seven popular local tour operators in two weeks (from 15.08.2012 to 29.08.2012) to gain insights into the problems and the impacts of their current business on Hanoi tourism and international tourists in qualitative method.
4. Empirical findings
4.1 Applying HOLSAT model in Hanoi
To examine the level of satisfaction of international tourists, the author compares the difference between tourists’ expectations and perceptions/ experiences toward the nine parts of tourism destination attributes to Hanoi as a destination. Respondents were asked to denote their expectation, perception and general satisfaction with tourism products and services in Hanoi on a five-point liker rating scale where a ‘1’ response indicating ‘strongly disagree’ and ‘5’ correspond with ‘strongly agree’’.
By applying Paired-Samples T Test (t-Test) in SPSS program, the statistical significance of the differences between the scores has been tested. The below figure 1 describes the research results:
Figure 1: Segmentation analysis for foreign holiday satisfaction with Hanoi tourism
As shown on Figure 1, respondent had quite high expectation on their trip to Hanoi. However, their perception or experience has been changed due to the fact of their actual trip to the city. Additionally, there are 45 out of 61 elements of destination attributes, which are analyzed by the T-test results, gaining the statistical significance level of 5%. The others (C5, C8, C18, C20, C21, C26, C28, C30, C54, C55, C56, C57, C58, and C61 which are yellow highlighted) cannot achieve statistical significance (because Sig t > 0.05). It means that there is no difference between the two means of expectation and experience.
Based on studies of the Tribe & Snaith (1998), the HOLSAT model has been applied the experience/expectation matrix to measure the tourists’ satisfaction toward the given destination attributes by comparing the different between their expectation(Y axis) and perception/experience (X-axis).
The figure 2 below shows the respondents’ satisfaction toward some specific elements of the given destination attributes:
Figure 2: Expectation/ Experience matrix for positive attributes (satisfaction)
Among 61 given elements, only nine of them are lied on the ‘‘win’’ area of the matrix which illustrated the positive tourist’s perception and satisfaction. There are: ‘‘the easily reached destination’’ (C2), ‘‘the quality of accommodation’’ (C7), ‘‘the variety of local cuisine’’ (C10), ‘‘possibilities for shopping’’ (C11), ‘‘available of sport and recreational activities’’ (C12), ‘‘nightlife and entertainment’’ ( C14), ‘‘wellness and spa services’’ (C15), ‘‘dense built environment’’ (C22), and ‘‘lively nighttime’’ (C24). Having rated as the ten greatest street food cities in Asia by the CNN (2013), Hanoi is highly expected to a great place for eating authentic local cuisines. In fact, it has won the hearts of all international tourists that let them put it at very high level of their perception. Conversely, the city itself is not a well-known place for sport and recreational activities so respondents do not give them a high rate of their expectation. When visiting Hanoi, tourists have gained some positive experiences that have changed their pre-trip perception into satisfaction.
Unlike figure 2, the figure 3 below illustrates 35 factors which are currently disappointed tourists about Hanoi tourism:
Figure 3: Expectation/ Experience matrix for positive attributes (dissatisfaction)
As it shown in figure 3, all elements are in the ‘’Loss’’ area of the matrix because most of the tourists’ actual experience is lower than their expectation. There are a number of reasons why respondents gave ridiculous low rates to these elements. First, it includes the alarming level of air pollution, water pollution, or even noise pollution in the city (Nguyen, 2012). Second, it is difficult for tourists to go around city by local bus because the information is not available in foreign languages and bus workers only speak Vietnamese. There is also one issue with a taxi as the taxi driver may not well-versed in English, some would try to impose an inflated rate instead of relying on the meter or even having a defective meter. Then, in many cases, tourists visit a street stall or check some snack items of a street vendor, they may be paid twice or three times than the actual value of the goods, especially food items, beverages. Last, it may cause by the poorly preserved conditions of the historical sites that are different from description and recommendations on newspapers or online webpages.
4.2 Face-to-face interview
The researcher used semi-structured interviews to have in-depth interview and guide respondents with discussion topic without any limitation of the communicated discussion area (Ghauri & Gronhaug 2005, p.132). During the interview, seven tour operators agreed that Hanoi has a good impression of a city’s tourism with its rich culture, historical and traditional value. Not only Hanoi known as a safe destination, but it also boasts a peaceful status that promise to bring tourists a peace of mind and enjoyment to explore the city. However, the city’s tourism development has still not matched with its potential. First, there is lack of synchronization between government sector and private sectors in Hanoi tourism development to attract foreign visitors. Many travel companies have to make tour discount and find new markets in order to attract tourists to visit Vietnam in general and Hanoi in particular. Second, the tours around Hanoi and its surrounding areas are monotonous and low service. Last but not least, un-safety and insecure situation including: pick pocketing, purse snatching, bad slashing, which have negatively, impacted on even full package tourists.
As a blessed location with an overwhelming beauty and rich natural resources, Hanoi clearly have a great potential for its tourism development to turn it into a spearhead economic sector. Not only does the city have many famous relics (e.g., Hanoi Imperial Citadel, Duong Lam Ancient Village, etc.), but it also has beautiful natural surroundings with numerous tree-lined boulevards. The challenge is how to effectively expand Hanoi tourism while support preserving the current natural wonders. First, the Hanoi Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism should establish a close relationship with travel agencies and other local service providers in order to provide better products and services of Hanoi to its customers. Not only does the Hanoi Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism have a tight relationship with private sectors, but it also need to cooperate with other departments such as Department of Transportation, City Police Department, and Department of Nature Resources and Environment, to have a better plan for improving Hanoi image as a safe and friendly destination to tourists. The tourism services in Hanoi should be cooperated and connected to other areas to offer various options in term of satisfying customers’ need. Second, Hanoi needs to establish its tourism logo and slogan to promote its brand to international market on different media channels and world tourism trade fairs. These factors support to convey the sector’s message as well as to bring quick perception and positive feelings for visitors toward Hanoi tourism. Third, it can be said that the construction and maintenance of the infrastructure facilities such as road system, water supply and sewage disposal, urgently need reconstructing and renovating to create a better image and life quality for Hanoi. Next, the service attitude should be improved because it is the dominant element to decide the quality services in a strategy to attract customers. The government should take strict action against unsettled problems, forcing customers, raising prices, or tourist scams. Then, the city government should have some solutions to reinforce and certify food hygiene and issue a formal rating for each restaurant, vendor to gain tourists’ trust on the healthy quality of local street cuisine. Together with developing tourism, improving the environment in the destinations should also be emphasized. By regularly implementing sanitary requirements in tourist areas and even making heavy fines and strict penalties for littering behavior, it supports create a clean environment and raise awareness of hygiene to both locals and visitors.
In conclusion, Hanoi has many beautiful landscapes and tourist relics which are promising conditions to develop tourism into a spearhead economic sector. However, due to the inappropriate management and exploitation of tourism, the city has not been promoting its existing potential characteristics to be a key economic sector in Vietnam generally, and in Hanoi particularly. Therefore, the study was to find out what foreign tourists expected their trip to Hanoi and reflected to what they truly perceived at the destination as well as to examine how satisfied and dissatisfied they were with the current tourism offerings in the city.
In a nut shell, the study would provide useful insights to local government and tour operators in better planning and managing tourism activities to maximize both visitors’ satisfaction and profitability of tourism enterprises, and at the same time sustain natural resources in long term.
By Quach Phuong Giang
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