Spoiled for choice! Which sites shall we visit: destination choice of heritage attractions in New Zealand's Bay of Islands
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This thesis studies tourist behaviour with respect to making decisions concerning the visitation of attraction sites within a single destination. In specific, the research aims to identify the primary factors for the differences in how tourists consume destination geographically and economically. Heritage tourism in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands was selected as the case topic area and location. The comprehension of tourists’ ‘doing the destination (DD),’ which is understood as their spatial and economic behaviour through multiple attraction visits within a destination, was developed through quantitative analysis. McKercher’s (2002, 2003) cultural tourist typology was utilised with the aim of evaluating its effectiveness at different site contexts and with the intention of analysing tourist behaviour within a destination. Critical factors were identified related to tourists’ DD and their underlying reasons (both physical and cognitive) for these decisions. Multi-phased comparisons were made to identify which variables are associated with which behaviours, including expenditure and spatial exploration. Combined effects related to origin (international or domestic) and visitation (first time or repeat) are elaborated upon. Moreover, the main reasons for the variations in tourists’ DD were ascertained as emergent themes from the dissimilarity of the critical variables among tourists with the different characteristics. The study identified that tourist origin is the most fundamental characteristic to be associated with the difference in tourists’ DD because it is related to many critical reasons for their dissimilar decision-making. These include financial constraint, the level of the destination and attraction knowledge, and assumptions concerning return visit. Domestic tourists tend to assume they have a chance to revisit the destination hence they tend to conduct goal-oriented touring. They are unlikely to expand their itinerary unless cultural activities match the aim of their trip. On the other hand, international tourists are keener to see as much as possible so that they will not ‘miss the chance’. However, their behaviour, including itinerary development, is constrained by their interest and knowledge related to the activity, particularly during their first visit. Emotional investment, which Lew and McKercher (2006) have suggested is very important, does seem to be a key concept to understand the tourists’ DD in this case. This study contributes to the understanding of the behaviour of domestic tourists, which has been scarce in academic research, as well as to the comprehension of the attributes of tourists’ decision making in a destination. Since this study is post hoc, further research is needed to identify the statistical causality. It is also recommended that tests be conducted in a different research setting so as to increase the breadth of the theory.