Variables contributing to satisfaction in wildlife tourism
Moreri-Toteng, Amanda Bobeo
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The study was undertaken to identify and evaluate variables that contribute to wildlife tourist satisfaction. Clark et al. (1999) argue that the hospitality and tourism industries are still relatively under researched. Therefore, this research is particularly important because it focuses on wildlife tourist satisfaction as opposed to customer satisfaction in general. According to Teye and Leclerc (1998), satisfaction is vital for ensuring sustainability of the tourism industry. Similarly, Bramwell (1998) argues that tourist destinations should offer exceptional and satisfying products and services in order to retain and attract more tourists. The study was conducted at the Chobe National Park (CNP), Botswana’s largest and most popular national park. CNP is popular for its abundant and diverse wild species. Following the arguments on the importance of wildlife tourist satisfaction the study sought to establish how wildlife tourists’ experiences impact on their overall satisfaction. The study also assessed the extent to which Chobe National Park contributes to wildlife tourist satisfaction in relation to the identified variables. The convenience sampling method was applied and the success of the pilot study indicated the usability of the research instrument. The research utilised the SERV-PERVAL scale (Petrick 2000). The scale was developed to assess service quality and perceived value. SERV-PERVAL measures quality as a measure of the supplier’s performance. The measurement of quality is crucial because quality is argued to be the best predictor of perceived value. Data was collected by the use of a structured self-completion questionnaire. The questionnaire was divided into three sections: demographic data, the SERV-PERVAL scale to assess questions on service quality, perceived value and satisfaction. The third section was a combination of a Likert scale and open-ended questions gathering information on expectations and motivations. The descriptive method of analysis, with tables and figures, was applied. The level of significance between variables was determined through the use of the correlation analysis, and the multiple regression model was utilised to investigate the contribution of variables to wildlife tourist satisfaction. The conclusion derived from the literature reviewed is that the concept satisfaction is core in the wildlife tourism industry because it involves feelings of wildlife tourists after experiencing wildlife tourism services. The literature has positively associated and it emphasised the importance of several concepts to wildlife tourist satisfaction. These concepts are: service quality, price and value for money, tourist experience and expectations. While the results of the survey condoned the significance of service quality, price, value for money and tourist experience to wildlife tourist satisfaction, they also indicated and emphasised the importance of wildlife-related variables. These are: safety measures from attack by wild animals, availability and diversity of wild species, condition of vegetation in the wildlife area and accessibility. It is through the use of these variables that wildlife tourists evaluate their experiences and rate their satisfaction levels. Some of the results are, however, in conflict with two arguments found in the literature. Firstly the results contradicted the argument that wildlife tourists assess their satisfaction on the basis of whether or not their initial expectations were met. Some tourists indicated they had a satisfactory experience and yet they did not have prior expectations before they travelled to CNP. As a result, tourists’ expectations were found not to be one of the critical variables that contribute to wildlife tourist satisfaction. Secondly, despite the argument that one benefit of tourist satisfaction is the revisits by satisfied tourists, satisfied wildlife tourists in this study indicated they were satisfied with their experience but would not re-visit CNP, mainly because they had other commitments.