This Insights piece was contributed by Dr. Mark Pelletier, Assistant Professor of Marketing, Cameron School of Business.
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
These results suggest that some specific factors creating a memorable experience can be readily controlled by tourism-based firms. Obviously, the physical environment, such as a hotel room or lobby, is a factor that is substantially under the firm's control.
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.
Robert T. Burrus, Jr., Ph.D., is the dean of the Cameron School of Business at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, named in June 2015. Burrus joined the UNCW faculty in 1998. Prior to his current position, Burrus was interim dean, associate dean of undergraduate studies and the chair of the department of economics and finance. Burrus earned a Ph.D. and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Virginia and a bachelor’s degree in mathematical economics from Wake Forest University. The Cameron School of Business has approximately 60 full-time faculty members and 20 administrative and staff members. The AACSB-accredited business school currently enrolls approximately 2,000 undergraduate students in three degree programs and 200 graduate students in four degree programs. The school also houses the prestigious Cameron Executive Network, a group of more than 200 retired and practicing executives that provide one-on-one mentoring for Cameron students. To learn more about the Cameron School of Business, please visit http://csb.uncw.edu/. Questions and comments can be sent to [email protected].