Journal of Travel Research 50(1) 27–45 © 2011 SAGE Publications Reprints and permission: sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0047287510362776 http://jtr.sagepub.com
Abstract The aim of this study was to develop an insight into the importance and impact of attributes which affect the competitiveness of tourism destinations. Using a general conceptual model of destination competitiveness, 36 competitiveness attributes were evaluated by “expert” judgment in the form of an online survey of destination managers and tourism researchers. These judgments were integrated and analyzed using the analytic hierarchy process (AHP). In addition to estimating the importance of the attributes of competitiveness, the results of the AHP were further analyzed to produce measures of attribute determinance. These measures were then tested statistically to identify which attributes were judged to exert the greatest determinant impact on destination competitiveness. Ten of the 36 attributes were found to have determinance measures statistically significantly greater than average. Keywords destination competitiveness, competitiveness attributes, attribute importance, attribute determinance, analytic hierarchy process
Introduction and Background
The Economist (1998, p. 10) noted that “there may be more tourists to go round, but there is also more competition between destinations as cities, countries and continents latch on to the charms of tourist revenue. . . . Like all consumer products, tourist destinations must persuade their customers that they have some combination of benefits which no one else can offer. Destinations are trying every bit as hard as airlines and hotels to establish themselves as brands, using all the razzamatazz of modern marketing. Every place tries to make the most of what it has got.” How tourism destinations develop, maintain, protect, or strengthen their competitive positions in an increasingly competitive and global marketplace is a challenge that has risen to prominence in the tourism industry (World Economic Forum [WEF] 2007a). This challenge is characterized by a number of significant complexities. The first of these is that a tourism destination, by its nature, is very different from most commercially competitive products. The product of the tourism sector is an experience that is delivered by a destination to its visitors. This experience is produced not by a single firm but by all players who impact the visitor experience; namely, tourism enterprises (such as hotels, restaurants, airlines, tour operators, etc.), other supporting industries and organizations (such as the arts, entertainment, sports, recreation, etc.), destination management organizations (whether private, public, or private–public partnerships), the public
sector (which provides public goods that serve tourists, such as roads, general infrastructure, etc., as well as government tourism departments or agencies), local residents, and other publics. The multiplicity of players involved in the supply and delivery of tourism services, and therefore the experience of the visitor, makes management of the destination product vastly more complex compared to the management of most simple products produced by single firms. An additional complexity is that the product itself consists of a vastly greater number and range of attributes. Each tourist experience is unique, because there are few individual, standardized tourism services, thus adding to the complexity. This ensures that every visitor takes home a unique experience. A further challenge to the management of destination competitiveness is that the goals of this competition are not always clear or congruent (Ritchie and Crouch 2003). There are often many diverse goals that are behind tourism development public policy and private enterprise. While some goals may address profit and economic...