The perceived value of scuba diving tourists at a marina destination
Seymour, Kiéra Danielle
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Tourism activities set in coastal and marine environments have evolved far beyond the traditional passive leisure experiences of the classic resort holiday. While the traditional beach holiday remains a contemporary mass tourism phenomenon. Marine tourism now extends far beyond beach activities to a wide spread spectrum of activities including scuba diving with over 20 million certified divers worldwide. The tourism product carries both the characteristics of the service product and the characteristics unique to the tourism industry, which makes the tourism product different from physical/ tangible goods. Therefore tourism destinations involve a multiple of industries (e.g. hospitality, transportation, entertainment) that contribute through their value-added activities to the overall competitive position in the marketplace. Tourism value can be seen as a combination of a product’s (destination’s) perceived quality and associated price which a visitor will summarize as the value received. Value in tourism has been seen as a definite option to improve a destination’s competitive edge. Tourism development is about adding value in a way that is consistent with market demand. As tourism value is created within the destination it holds various benefits including that destinations will achieve high market growth and hence become more competitive due to successful value-added programmes. Destinations are winning competitive battles by careful analysis and response to the core values and needs of the segmented travel marketplace. This study was based on four distinct value dimensions developed by Sweeney and Soutar (2001:211) that are termed emotional, social, quality/ performance and price/ value for money. Sweeney and Soutar’s model (2001:211) was examined to determine its appropriateness for an intangible product in the service sector namely scuba diving. Two modifications to Sweeney and Soutar’s model (2001:211) were required for this study. The modifications which were used in this study included perceived risk value which was introduced by Hall, Robertson and Shaw (2001:350) and epistemic value developed by Sheth, Norman and Gross (1991:160). The primary goal of this dissertation was to determine the perceived value of scuba diving tourists at a marine destination. A literature study was undertaken to contextualise Marine Tourism and perceived value since a review of existing literature on perceived value provides insight as to why the value concept is so crucial for the success of marketing researchers. Thereafter an empirical study was undertaken to obtain relevant data for analysis. A nonprobability sampling method namely convenience sampling was used to conduct the survey due to the absence of a structured list of divers visiting Sodwana Bay during this time. A destination-based survey was undertaken at Sodwana Bay from the 29th of March to the 8th of April 2012. Five hundred (500) self-administered surveys where distributed by field workers among scuba divers who were available and willing to complete the questionnaire. Of the 500 questionnaires distributed a total of 402 were completed and could be used for collation of data. Microsoft™ Office™ Excel 2007 was used to capture the data, which was then statistically analysed and processed by means of descriptive statistics using the SPSS 20.0 programme. More specifically, factor analysis and ANOVAs were done to analyse the value created. In order to achieve the goal, the study was divided into two articles. Article 1 aimed to determine the perceived value of a tourism experience, in this case for the scuba diving tourists at a marine destination, namely Sodwana Bay. Results revealed that the demographic profile of the scuba divers, are middle aged Afrikaans speaking men who are well educated, earn a high income, and originate from Gauteng. To examine the factors underlying the value scale, a principle axis factor analysis with oblique rotation (direct oblimin) was undertaken. The twenty-two factor aspects yielded five factors with eigen values greater than 1.0. These factors explained 64% of the variance and were labelled: ‘Emotional value’, ‘Functional value’, ‘Social value’, ‘Perceived risk value’ and ‘Epistemic value’. Twenty-one aspects had loadings of over 0.418, with only one item having a factor loading of 0.251. With the highest mean (3.43) Epistemic value revealed that respondents consider curiosity, acquiring knowledge, providing novelty and broadening knowledge as key in a valued experience. Reliability (Cronbach’s α) was computed to verify the internal consistency of aspects with each factor. All factors with a Cronbach Alpha above 0.63 were deemed acceptable for the purposes of this exploratory study. Bartlett’s test of sphericity was significant (p<0.001) and the Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin measure sampling adequacy (KMO) was 0.874, which are acceptable for the purpose of this study. Article 2 aimed to determine the factors which influence perceived tourism values of scuba divers at a marine destination, namely Sodwana Bay. To achieve this, ANOVAs were developed and correlations were drawn between age, gender, province, income, level of education, marital status, number of times dived, number of nights stayed in the area, travel group size and media (including, websites, shows, friends, radio, T.V., magazines, previous visits and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter). Correlations were discovered between language, province, marital status, income and media (including, websites, shows, friends, radio, T.V., Magazines, Previous visits and Social Networks such as Facebook and Twitter). The perceived values which were rated highest in each case were emotional value, perceived risk value and perceived functional value. Since this is the first study of its kind in South Africa, it can benefit marine destinations all across the country. The perceived values which were rated highest in both articles should be of high priority in marketing efforts for marine destinations, especially where scuba diving activities are taking place. Assessing and understanding these values will help scuba diving destinations to gain a competitive advantage and provide a more tailor-made product which will improve the value experienced. It is recommended that this study is repeated at other diving sites and also various other tourism products to determine difference and/or similarities between tourism values. Marketing strategies can be utilized through the identification of these and various other values which will improve current marketing efforts.