School of Aviation

Tourist Dispersal and the Implications on Tourism and Transport Development
Tourist Dispersal and the Implications on Tourism and Transport Development

This study expanded the LCF classification model for multi-destination travel with strong emphasises on certain attributes embedded in multi-destination travel including: tourist flows, transportation corridors, the different roles of destinations, and the spatial/temporal characteristics of tourist dispersal patterns. An empirical study of international/national tourists travelling in South Australia was conducted to explore these attributes by utilizing two complementary analytical approaches, namely the Tourism Geographic Information System (TGIS) model and statistical methods. Based on the results of the empirical study, substantial managerial implications for pragmatic tourism management are gained and further discussed below.

First, spatial constraints of a geographical region have strong influence on tourist dispersal. The spatial and temporal patterns of international/national tourists travelling in South Australia strongly suggest that spatial constraints do have significant influence on the way tourists travel in that region. Trip patterns of national tourists suggest that this group has higher dispersal in regions possibly due to higher mobility. Although trip patterns of international tourists reveal high concentration at major tourism centres, it is speculated that international tourists use regional centres as travel hubs and conduct day trips to nearby destinations. The work by Tideswell and Faulkner (1999) about international tourists travelling in Queensland of Australia may support this inference, though not directly.

Second, the ‘nature’ of tourists also influences tourist dispersal. The characteristics of tourists travelling in South Australia reveal that 77% national tourists are from South Australia and self-drive is a prevalent travel mode, which leads to the wide spatial distribution of national tourists. Short tour length of national tourists suggests that two or three-day travel is the most popular trips for national tourists, while international tourists tend to stay longer to maximize travel utility. Although self-drive is a popular transportation mode for international tourists, other transportation modes are also widely used by tourists to travel in the region. This implies that for tourism operators, different marketing strategies and tourist services are needed for different groups of tourists, at least in the context of South Australia tourism. It is generally believed that longer trips benefit the local economies more, especially the hotel, restaurant and car rental industries. However, to increase the economic benefits to regional destinations beyond ‘gateway destinations’, high regional dispersal of tourists is required. This may be achieved by providing tourists at gateway cities the suitable tourism product information that facilitates tourist dispersal to regional areas such as long-weekend type tourism products with a theme, e.g. winery trips.

Third, entry routes are crucial for regional tourism development and tourism operators. From the study of South Australia entry routes to the Adelaide region, it reveals that no entry routes can be clearly identified for national tourists, while three entry routes for international tourists are identified and fully evidenced, being from the Outback South Australia in the north, from Finders Ranges in the northeast and from Mt. Gambier in the southeast heading towards the Adelaide region. This has important implications for tourism operators along entry routes because ‘gateway cities’ along the entry routes (either those close to the state border or those major regional towns) may help disseminate travel information and disperse tourists to regional destinations, which are nearby gateway cities or nearby entry routes but not directly on the main entry routes. With the increasing popularity of self-drive tourism in Australia, it is crucial for the tourism industry to identify which routes are popular to certain groups of tourists and what roles destinations along the routes may play to facilitate travel. A slight detour from the main entry routes to nearby destinations would bring significant economic benefits to local businesses. This could be achieved by providing tourists with more tourism product information along the detour tourist drives at tourist information centres at earlier major destinations.

Fourth, gateway cities play key roles in tourism marketing and tourist dispersal. Tourist dispersal in South Australia shows that regional centres are key travel hubs for international tourists and hence, play an important role in facilitating tourist dispersal during the long stay of these tourists. Though the ‘gateway-city effect’ is not that apparent for national tourists, dispersal patterns do imply that each regional destination itself is the gateway of trips in the specific region because of the shorter tour length and higher spatial dispersal of trips by national tourists. To attract more international tourists to regional areas, the combination of tourism products and transportation facilities provided at gateway cities plays a crucial role in tourism marketing and the dispersal of tourists in this group.

Fifth, transportation infrastructure and tourist mobility increase tourist dispersal in regions. Tourism operators need a better understanding of tourists’ spatial travel behaviour and more crucially the understanding of the business exposure to potential tourists under the influence of transportation infrastructure. This is also known as the ‘place accessibility’ factor, which has been an active research topic for transportation and geography researchers recently (see for example: Kwan, Murray, O’Kelly and Tiefelsdorf 2003; Miller 1999). Given the high mobility of national tourists, tourism operators should integrate tourism products with detailed transportation information of a specific region, so to facilitate tourists’ travel to regional destinations. Tourism managers should also pay attention to the different roles played by gateway destinations, so crucial transportation infrastructure, resources and travel information can be distributed at key locations to promote regional tourism and improve regional dispersal of tourists. State and federal governments need to understand how transportation infrastructure may facilitate regional tourism or may potentially hinder the growth of regional tourism due to inadequate ‘individual accessibility’ of tourists to regional destinations (Kwan et al 2003).

In summary, this study expanded the LCF multi-destination travel model and further emphasised on some embedded attributes of multi-destination travel. A holistic approach was used combining statistical methods and TGIS model to conduct an empirical study to explore tourist travel behaviour by explicitly considering the nature of tourists, transportation modes and spatial/temporal factors in multi-destination travel. Compared with the conventional statistical profiling of tourists data, the proposed approach provides us with a holistic view to tourists’ spatial and temporal travel behaviour. While the demographics and travel tastes of tourists affect the spatial dispersal of tourists to an extent, transportation and regional geography also show certain impacts on the spatial distribution and flows of tourists in a region. Substantial managerial implications for pragmatic tourism are further discussed, focusing on managing tourist flows, maximising destination exposure via tourism packages and transportation resources, and developing regional destinations depending on the roles played in tourist dispersal. The limitation of this study comes from the research data itself, because it does not contain detailed day-trip information. Hence, a future tourist survey is needed to obtain these data so the tourist dispersal behaviour can be investigated on a more microscopic level. The results of this microscopic study may further improve the body of knowledge on tourist dispersal, the use of transportation in multi-destination travel and the destination choice behaviour of tourists under the influence of transportation, geography and multi-destination travel.

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