Central Australia Visitor Profile and Satisfaction Report: Summary and Discussion of Results

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1 Central Australia Visitor Profile and Satisfaction Report: Summary and Discussion of Results Introduction The Central Australia Visitor Profi le and Satisfaction (VPS) project was completed as part of the Destination Visitor Survey Program (DVS) managed by Tourism Research Australia (TRA), within the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism. This project was undertaken by TRA in partnership with Tourism Northern Territory to gain a better understanding of visitors to the region, including their motivations and satisfaction with their visit to the Central Australia region and attractions within the region. The intended outcome of this project was to provide more reliable and detailed information on the region, which will assist with destination management including planning, development and marketing. Method The Central Australia VPS project was conducted in Central Australia over two waves during May and August 2011 in order to capture both shoulder and peak season visitation. Forty four per cent of the sample is from the fi rst wave and 56% is from the second wave. The results are a snapshot of a specifi c time of the year, which needs to be taken into account when considering these results and in subsequent discussions and planning. Since 2006, 76 VPS projects have been completed in Australian regional tourist destinations. Data from these projects have been collated to establish the VPS Benchmark Database. Benchmarks are the average of all (unweighted) VPS destination projects with at least 50 respondents. Some destinations are surveyed during different times of the year in order to capture a broader range of visitors. In this event, only the most recent research for the destination is included. Comparisons against VPS benchmarks are made throughout this summary. Visitor profile The Central Australia region is predominately an overnight destination, due to the distance that most visitors need to travel to reach the region. Consequently, 97% of respondents were in the region for an overnight trip 24 points above the VPS benchmark. Visitor origin Three quarters of visitors (75%) were travelling domestically. Almost all domestic visitors (97%) were from interstate, mainly from New South Wales (27%), Victoria (27%) and Queensland (18%). A quarter of visitors (25%) were from overseas 13 points above the VPS benchmark. International visitors were mainly from European countries (67%) particularly Germany (35%) and the United Kingdom (24%).

2 Purpose and frequency of visit Eight in ten visitors (82%) visited the region for holiday/leisure purposes (includes travel for entertainment), while 11% were visiting friends and/or relatives (VFR). More than six in ten visitors (63%) were first-time visitors 32 points higher than the VPS benchmark. A higher proportion of domestic visitors were repeat visitors (45%), with seven in ten of these visitors travelling for holiday reasons, compared to international visitors (10%). Wave one visitors were more likely to be first-time visitors (69%) than those from wave two (59%). Life stage The highest proportion of visitors (32%) was between 55 and 64 years of age, with 19% aged 65 years or over. In terms of life stage, the highest proportion of visitors (30%) was in the older non-working life stage, with 24% in the family life stage and 24% in the young/midlife life stage. Domestic visitors were more likely to be in the older life stages (60%), compared to international visitors (28%). International visitors were more likely to be in the younger life stages (49%) than domestic visitors (16%). A quarter of wave two visitors (26%) were in the older working life stage compared with 18% of wave one visitors. Trip planning and booking More than six in ten visitors (65%) planned their trip more than three months in advance. The internet (67%) and Visitor Information Centres (50%) were the main sources of information on the region. The proportion of visitors who used Visitor Information Centres after they arrived in the region was 41%, while 9% used them before they arrived. Search engines (59%), airline operator sites (56%) and accommodation operator sites (44%) were the most common websites used for information. Over a quarter of visitors (27%) visited and 15% visited prior to their trip to Central Australia. The majority of visitors (59%) used the internet for booking, and 25% used travel agents. Airline company sites (61%) and accommodation operator sites (44%) were the most common websites used for bookings. Travel behaviour Overnight stays More than nine in ten visitors (97%) stopped for at least one night in the region, with the median stay being six nights. The majority of overnight trips (83%) were more than four nights. Domestic visitors stayed longer in the region than international visitors (median seven nights compared to four nights, respectively), as did drive visitors (eight nights) compared to other visitors (five nights). Towns visited Alice Springs (89%), Yulara (69%) and Kings Canyon (49%) were the towns most commonly visited. Almost three in five visitors (59%) visited both Alice Springs and Yulara. The majority of visitors to Alice Springs (87%) and Yulara (63%) spent more than one night there. Around 11% of visitors stopped in Yulara for a daytrip and over a quarter (26%) stayed only one night. A third of visitors to Kings Canyon (34%) stopped there for more than one night, while 44% stopped for only one night. 2

3 Visitors who did not stop at Alice Springs, Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park or Watarrka (Kings Canyon) National Park indicated reasons for not doing so. The most frequent reasons given for not stopping at Alice Springs were: because their main reason for visiting Central Australia was to visit Uluru because Alice Springs was not included on their tour itinerary because they did not have enough time. The most frequent reasons given for not stopping at the Uluru/Kata Tjuta or Watarrka (Kings Canyon) National Parks were: because they did not have enough time it was too far from Alice Springs they had been there before the cost of petrol that these National Parks were not included in their tour itinerary. Transport About half of visitors (49%) travelled to Central Australia by air; over a third (37%) were self drive; and 13% travelled by rail/coach. The highest proportions of visitors who travelled for holiday/leisure purposes were rail/coach visitors (95%) and international visitors (89%). More fly visitors travelled for VFR purposes (16%) than other profile types. The highest proportions of older non-working visitors were drive visitors (40%) and rail/coach visitors (42%) compared to 18% for fly visitors. Rail/coach visitors were more likely to be first-time visitors (79%) than fly or drive visitors (66% and 54% respectively). Travel routes About a third of drive visitors arrived and left the region along the same route. The most popular drive routes into the region were along the Stuart Highway up from South Australia (45%) and down from Tennant Creek (28%). Similarly, more than two in five drive visitors (42%) left Central Australia down the Stuart Highway to South Australia and 33% left the region up the Stuart Highway to Tennant Creek. Accommodation A third of visitors (34%) stayed in commercial caravan or camping grounds 10 points higher than the VPS benchmark. Twenty one per cent of visitors stayed in standard hotels/motels and 16% in luxury hotels/resorts. Drive visitors were more likely to stay in caravan park accommodation (67%) compared to other visitors. Fly visitors used a range of accommodation options 28% stayed in a standard hotel, 25% in a luxury hotel, 13% with friends and/or relatives and 13% in a caravan park. International visitors were more likely to stay in backpacker accommodation (27%) or standard hotel accommodation (27%) in the region than domestic visitors. 3

4 Motivations for visiting Central Australia Reasons for visiting The single most important reason for choosing to visit Central Australia was to visit an iconic Australian destination (33%). The most common reason for choosing to visit Central Australia was also to visit an iconic Australian destination (66%). Figure 1: Reasons for visiting Central Australia To visit an iconic Australian destination was also the main reason for visiting Central Australia across both waves, and the main reason for both domestic and international visitors. Domestic visitors were significantly more likely than international visitors to have chosen the region for reasons such as: the variety of things to see and do (29%) relaxing (22%) spending time with others (14%) attending specific events (9%). Comparatively, international visitors were more likely than domestic visitors to have chosen the region for the following reasons: it was iconic (83%) to experience nature (40%) to learn about Aboriginal culture (25%) it was recommended to them (21%). Just under half (48%) of wave one visitors chose the region in order to visit a specific attraction, which was a significantly higher proportion than wave two visitors (7%). Wave two visitors were significantly more likely to have chosen the region for a range of reasons compared with wave one visitors. This could be explained by the higher proportion of repeat visitors in wave two (41% of visitors compared to 31% in wave one). Expected experiences Visitors expected a range of experiences around nature, attractions, history, adventure, art and culture. All of the experiences that visitors expected the region to deliver were above the VPS benchmarks, except for relaxation and rejuvenation and to spend quality time with others. Visitors most expected Central Australia to offer nature based experiences (expected by 90% of visitors; 32 points above the VPS benchmark). 4

5 Figure 2: Experiences expected in Central Australia When compared to the VPS benchmarks, all experiences that were expected by visitors were rated as better than expected. Visitor expectations and how well their expectations were met varied according to different visitor profile types (see Table 1). Table 1 Top five experiences expected and those which exceeded expectations, by visitor profile Visitor origin Domestic visitors expected to experience history and local attractions, but were also significantly more likely than international visitors to expect experiences related to relaxing, luxury, something the kids would enjoy, and spending quality time with others they were also significantly more likely to have their expectations exceeded for these types of experiences. Experience local attractions ab Experience our nation s/australia s history Spend quality time with others a International visitors expected an adventure and were significantly more likely than domestic visitors to expect experiences linked to learning new things and Aboriginal culture. b ab b Experience Aboriginal arts and culture ab b b Experience local attractions 5

6 Transport mode Fly visitors expected experiences intrinsic to the local area including Aboriginal culture and local history. They were significantly more likely than drive or rail/coach visitors to expect to spend quality time with others their expectations for the local attractions were also significantly more likely to be exceeded. Experience Aboriginal arts and culture b Experience local history and heritage Experience local attractions Drive visitors had similar expectations to domestic visitors focused on history, learning and local attractions as well as family and friends. Their expectations for touring and bush tucker experiences were significantly more likely to be exceeded than for fly or rail/coach visitors. Experience local attractions b Experience our nation s/australia s history b ab b Experience our nation s/australia s history b Rail/coach visitors were more likely to expect an adventure, and their expectations for learning, history and luxury experiences were significantly more likely to be exceeded than for fly or drive visitors. b Experience local attractions b b ab b Experience our nation s/australia s history ab b Wave Wave one visitors were significantly more likely to expect a range of experiences than wave two visitors mainly due to the higher proportion of first-time visitors in the region during wave one. ab ab Experience local attractions b Experience our nation s/australia s history b Spend quality time with others Wave two Experience local attractions Experience our nation s/australia s history b Spend quality time with others a b Differences between visitor profile types are significant at the 95% confidence level, e.g. domestic visitors were significantly more likely than international visitors to expect to relax and rejuvenate. The proportion of visitors who expected the experience, or rated the experience as better than expected, was more than three points greater than the proportion for all Central Australia visitors. 6

7 Activities undertaken The motivations and expectations of Central Australia visitors were reflected in the activities visitors undertook while in the region. Visitors were more likely to participate in a range of activities around nature, history, arts and culture compared with the VPS benchmarks. Figure 3: Activities participated in by visitors to Central Australia Attractions visited On average, respondents visited seven out of the 36 attractions listed in the survey. Domestic visitors visited significantly more attractions than international visitors, and drive and rail/coach visitors visited significantly more attractions than fly visitors. The natural attractions were the most visited attractions in Central Australia: The majority of visitors visited Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park (76%), Anzac Hill (57%) and Watarrka (Kings Canyon) National Park (47%). Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park was also the most visited attraction for all visitor types, with international visitors significantly more likely to visit these three attractions than domestic visitors. Drive visitors were more likely than other visitors to visit the Alice Springs Desert Park and the gorges and waterholes, including Glen Helen Gorge, Ormiston Gorge and Ellery Creek Big Hole. Rail/coach visitors were significantly more likely than other visitors to visit some of the local attractions in Alice Springs, including the Royal Flying Doctor Service Visitor Centre, Alice Springs School of the Air Visitor Centre and Alice Springs Reptile Centre. 7

8 Satisfaction with Central Australia The figure below shows where Central Australia ranks in overall satisfaction compared to all other participating VPS destinations. About 53% of visitors were very satisfied with Central Australia; a similar proportion to the VPS benchmark of 51%. When comparing domestic and international visitors, this result varies significantly with 56% of domestic visitors very satisfied with their trip overall, compared with 45% for international visitors. Fly and drive visitors were more satisfied with their trip (54% and 53% very satisfied, respectively) than rail/coach visitors (46%). Overall, visitor satisfaction levels between waves was similar (52% very satisfied in wave one; 54% in wave two). Figure 4: Overall visitor satisfaction - all VPS benchmark destinations When comparing NET 1 satisfaction between VPS destinations, the result for Central Australia is more positive. About 90% of visitors were satisfied with their visit to Central Australia, four points above the VPS benchmark. Overall satisfaction drivers There were four key drivers of overall satisfaction: Variety of things to see and do (89% NET satisfied; 58% very satisfied) Customer service in attractions (85%; 43%) Customer service (82%; 37%) Value for money (60%; 18%; 15% dissatisfied) With the exception of variety of things to see and do, the proportions for each of the key drivers were less than the VPS benchmarks for NET satisfied and very satisfied. In other words, excluding visitor satisfaction with the variety of things to see and do, the attributes driving overall visitor satisfaction in Central Australia were not competitive with the VPS benchmark and can explain in some part why overall visitor satisfaction in Central Australia (53% very satisfied) was not higher. 1 Results for Very satisfied and Fairly satisfied visitors combined 8

9 Satisfaction drivers by visitor profile Overall, the survey results show that visitors were happy with Central Australia s attractions and with the variety of things to see and do. However, drivers for overall satisfaction varied depending on the visitor profile. Table 2: Overall satisfaction drivers by visitor profile Visitor origin Domestic International Transport mode Fly Drive Rail/coach Wave One Two Satisfaction levels driven positively Variety of things to see and do (61% very satisfied) Attractions (60% very satisfied) Variety of things to see and do (47% very satisfied) Variety of things to see and do (54% very satisfied) Friendliness of the locals (43% very satisfied) Customer service in attractions (51% very satisfied) Customer service in attractions (44% very satisfied) Variety of things to see and do (55% very satisfied) Satisfaction levels driven negatively Value for money (13% dissatisfied) Value for money (21% dissatisfied) Shopping (9% dissatisfied) Value for money (15% dissatisfied) Local atmosphere (10% dissatisfied) Personal safety and security (10% dissatisfied) Visitor comments Open ended comments revealed that visitors were unhappy about the perceived expensiveness of the area; quality and cost of some accommodation; cost of food and some attractions; personal safety and security; and public amenities particularly ease of access and availability of public toilets. Visitors also commented on experiencing lower service levels than expected, particularly with some staff not acknowledging complaints or being willing to go the extra mile. Some visitors also stated that given the history and culture of the area, there should be more Indigenous involvement in the industry. Central Australia commercial attractions and product development Understanding visitors travel behaviour and knowledge about attractions in the region is key to identifying product gaps and improving the visitor experience in the region. Knowledge of attractions Over a quarter of visitors (26%) stated there was a lot more to do in Alice Springs than I expected, and 23% stated Alice Springs was better than I expected. However, two in five visitors (40%) were not aware of the range of things to see and do in Alice Springs prior to their visit, and a third of visitors (34%) would have extended their stay in Alice Springs if they had been aware. Over a quarter of visitors (27%) to Alice Springs did not visit a commercial attraction during their trip, mainly because of the lack of time available to them (47%), or they felt there was nothing there that would interest them (21%). Eleven per cent of visitors were not aware of the commercial attractions. 9

10 Information sources Visitors mainly found out about the commercial attractions via a travel book, guide or brochure. Other common information sources were the Visitor Information Centre and word of mouth. Very few visitors found information about commercial attractions in Alice Springs via the internet; in fact, no more than 5% of visitors sourced information from the internet for any of the commercial attractions. Satisfaction with attractions Visitors were very satisfied (61%) with Central Australia attractions (natural and commercial), which is 12 points higher than the VPS benchmark. Attractions were a very important attribute of their visit to two in five visitors (39%); 21 points higher than the VPS benchmark. Across all commercial attractions, visitors were very satisfied with the friendliness and knowledge of staff, and the maintenance of activities/displays and facilities. Across all commercial attractions, visitors were mainly dissatisfied with value for money and entry fees. For most visitors, the commercial attractions compared favourably to other attractions in Australia, although visitors generally stated that commercial attractions in Central Australia were difficult to compare to others in Australia, due to the uniqueness and the distinctive atmosphere of Central Australia. Visitor suggestions When asked how the commercial attractions could be improved, visitors were mainly concerned about: accessibility signage (road and directional signs outside of the attractions and also interpretative signs within the attractions) parking public toilets value for money. Visitors also suggested: combining entry fees into multiple admittance/day passes not charging entry fees to the national parks increasing Indigenous involvement and giving traditional owners more opportunity to interact with visitors to share their culture. Recommendations Despite the reasonable overall satisfaction score, there is clearly scope to improve offerings (including quality) such as accommodation standards, public amenities and the cost of attractions. This is particularly important if the region s focus is to encourage more repeat visitors to the region. The local industry should consider adapting their products and services to better meet visitor expectations, and encourage increased Indigenous involvement in the industry to remain competitive both domestically and internationally. The following recommendations are made for further consideration to assist the local industry with improving the region s productive capacity. 1. Stimulating consumer demand A key strength of Central Australia is the fact that the region is an iconic Australian destination with many iconic attractions. However, while most visitors were happy with the variety of things to see and do and the quality of the attractions, some visitors noted the low level of Indigenous involvement. By increasing the opportunity for Indigenous Australians to share their culture, the region s attractiveness as an iconic Australian destination will strengthen. This will also have the effect of adding value to the existing product by offering visitors a unique Australian experience delivered by Indigenous Australians. 10

11 2. Improving product and service delivery The internet is a key source for information and booking before a visitor s trip. The local industry should be encouraged to become more proficient in digital marketing and distribution, ensuring visitors can access information on the region and its attractions easily online. Most visitors stated that they did not visit different towns in the region because they did not have enough time. Improving the information available about the region on the internet particularly information about the region s attractions will help visitors to better plan their trip prior to leaving home and encourage visitors to disperse into more areas and visit more attractions. Improved visitor information services, signage and roads are also other ways of achieving this. Delivering quality tourism experiences is more than just delivery of the tourism product. The delivery needs to encompass all factors that contribute to the whole visitor experience including accessibility (not limited to physical access but also including factors such as value for money); supporting infrastructure; services and amenities; quality service delivery; the natural or urban environment; and Indigenous involvement. 3. Product development and diversification Central Australia visitors expect a range of experiences when visiting the region. With the exception of relaxation and rejuvenation experiences and being able to spend quality time with family and friends, the experiences were all rated as better than expected compared with the benchmark. Future tourism development aimed at these experiences should be sympathetic to the key characteristics of the region, and aim to reinforce the region as a unique destination. Consider adapting tourism products and experiences to respond to the ever-changing competitive environment, particularly around changing consumer attitudes and travel behaviour. Tourism Research Australia Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism GPO Box 1564 Canberra ACT 2601 ABN: Publication date: March 2012 Phone: (02) Web: Image:Alice Springs Township Courtesy of Tourism NT This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia licence. To the extent that copyright subsists in third party quotes and diagrams it remains with the original owner and permission may be required to reuse the material. This work should be attributed as Central Australia Visitor Profile and Satisfaction Report: Summary and Discussion of Results, Tourism Research Australia, Canberra. Enquiries regarding the licence and any use of work by Tourism Research Australia are welcome at 11

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