TOURIST SATISFACTION WITH CULTURAL / HERITAGE SITES: The Virginia Historic Triangle
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Cultural/heritage tourism is the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry because there is a trend toward an increased specialization among tourists. This trend is evident in the rise in the volume of tourists who seek adventure, culture, history, archaeology and interaction with local people (Hollinshead, 1993). Especially, Americans' interest in traveling to cultural/ heritage destinations has increased recently and is expected to continue. For example, cultural/heritage sites are among the most preferred tourism experiences in America. (Virginia Department of Historic Resources, 1998) The recent studies about cultural/heritage tourism focused on the characteristics of tourists who visited cultural/heritage destinations. The study attempts to investigate the relationship between cultural/heritage destination attributes and tourist satisfaction, and to identify the relationship between cultural/heritage destination attributes and tourist satisfaction in terms of selected tourists' demographic characteristics and travel behavior characteristics. The expectancy-disconfirmation theory provided a conceptual framework for this study. The expectancy-disconfirmation theory holds that consumers first form expectations of products or service performance prior to purchasing or use. Subsequently, purchasing and use convey to the consumer beliefs about the actual or perceived performance of the product(s) or service(s). The consumer then compares the perceived performance to prior expectations. Consumer satisfaction is seen as the outcome of this comparison (Clemons & Woodruff, 1992). The study area for this study was Virginia Historic Triangle (Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown). Virginia Historic Triangle has been called the largest living museum in the world. Furthermore, it is one of America's popular vacation destinations, attracting more than 4 million tourists each year. The data of this study were collected from the on-site survey method. The sample population for this study was composed of tourists who visited Virginia Historic Triangle between June and August in 2001. The survey was conducted at five different sites in the Virginia Historic Triangle. Out of 300 questionnaires, 251 were usable. Therefore, the data from 251 respondents were analyzed in this study. Appropriate statistical analyses such as frequencies, descriptive, factor analysis, correlation analysis, multiple regressions, Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA), Analysis of Variance (ANOVA), and Multivariate Analysis of Covariance (MANCOVA) were used according to respective objectives and descriptors. The factor analysis was conducted to create correlated variable composites from the original 25 attributes. Using factor analysis, 25 destination attributes resulted to four dimensions: General Tour Attraction, Heritage Attraction, Maintenance Factors, and Culture Attraction. These four factors then were related with overall satisfaction. Correlation analysis revealed that four factors were correlated with tourists' overall satisfaction. The multiple regression analysis revealed that there was relationship between cultural/heritage destination attributes and tourists' overall satisfaction. MANOVA revealed that there was significant difference between derived factors in relation to only total household income and the length of stay among 10 demographic and travel behavior characteristics. ANOVA revealed that there is a significant difference in the overall satisfaction of tourists by gender, past experience, and decision time to travel. Finally, MANCOVA revealed that only one of the control variables (past experience) controlled the relationship between the overall satisfaction of tourists and derived factors. Based upon the results of this study, several recommendations can be made to increase tourists' satisfaction with the Virginia Historic Triangle. First, comprehending what tourists seek at cultural/heritage attractions will help tourism marketers better understand their customers. Second, identifying which attributes satisfy the tourist who visit cultural/heritage destinations will help tourism planners develop appropriate strategies to attract their customers and serve them effectively. Third, knowing who the satisfied tourists are may help reduce marketing costs and maintain cultural/heritage destinations' sustainability.