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Mature Travelers' Motorcoach Tour Selection and Satisfaction

Mature Travelers' Morotcoach Tour Selection and Satisfaction Submitted to The National Tourism Foundation for: 1998 CHRIE Grant By: Cathy H.C. Hsu, PhD Hotel, Restaurant, Institution Management and Dietetics 103 Justin Hall Kansas State University Manhattan, Kansas 66506 785-532-2209 cathyhsu@ksu.edu February 2000 Executive Summary
The purpose of the study was to identify criteria used by mature (55+) motorcoach travelers in tour selection and to evaluate their satisfaction with their most recent motorcoach travel experience. Data were collected from 817 Kansas mature travelers who had taken a motorcoach tour during the previous 12 months. Respondents were asked to rate the importance and satisfaction of 15 tour provider and 40 tour package attributes. They were also asked to report their overall satisfaction on and likelihood to recommend the tour provider and tour package based on their most recent experience. The five most important tour provider characteristics were reliability, safety precautions, reputation, emergency procedures, and empathy for health problems. The five most important tour package attributes were comfort of the tour bus, personal safety, value for the money, interesting tour guide, and quality of hotel accommodation. Respondents were very content with their most recent motorcoach tour experience. All attributes had mean scores of higher than 3.50 on a 5-point scale, 5 being extremely satisfied. On the same scale, respondents’ overall satisfaction with tour provider was 4.64 and with tour package was 4.62. The importance-performance analysis indicated that tour providers did very well on those extremely important attributes. When asked about their likelihood of recommending the tour provider and tour package to others, the response was very likely. The mean likelihood of recommending the tour provider was 4.72 and the tour package was 4.70. Various predictors of mature travelers’ overall satisfaction and likelihood to recommend were identified. The reoccurring themes were operator reliability, personalized attention, personal safety, comfort of the tour bus, and professionalism of tour guides. Mature travelers surveyed were categorized into three sub-segments based on their motorcoach tour provider and tour package selection criteria. The Dependents, who tended to be older and with lower income, rated everything as important. The Sociables were relatively young and had higher income. They liked to have social activities included in the tour package. The Independents were younger seniors with moderate income. They were the least demanding group. Understanding of mature travelers’ motorcoach selection criteria and satisfaction can enable operators to make positive decisions and resource allocations that would provide better services for the increased patronage from this market. This study provided an overall picture of the mature travelers’ motorcoach selection and satisfaction profile.
Background and Rationale
The United Nations recognized the fact that the older generation is growing rapidly with the declaration of 1999 as the International Year of Older Persons (Goggin, 1999). There are over 33 million Americans who are over the age of 65, and another 32 million between 55 and 64 (Mathur, Sherman, & Schiffman, 1998). Today, more than 80% of Americans live past 65 years. The number of Americans age 65 and over is projected to be 39 million in 2010 and 69 million in 2030. This is when the surviving Baby Boomers will become 65+. About 20% of the total population would be over 65 in 2030, compared to about 13% now (Day, 1996). In addition to the sheer number of senior citizens, Americans 65 years of age and older are the second most prosperous age group in the United States (US) population. Only the 55-64 year olds are better off (Javalgi, Thomas, & Rao, 1992). People over 55 control more than half of the US’s assets and more than half of the discretionary income (Moschis, Lee, & Mathur, 1997). A Congressional Budget Office study (1993) concluded that most Baby Boomers are likely to have higher real incomes in retirement than their parents now in retirement. As Anthony Marshall (1997, p. 17) accurately pointed out, the “the silver market is lined with gold.” Mature travelers are in a key position with respect to the economic health and sustainability of the tourism industry, making them an extremely important market segment (Zimmer, Brayley, & Searle, 1995). Modern Maturity magazine published the results of a 1992 study in which travel ranked as one of the top leisure activities for the over 50 American population (Goggin, 1999). According to the American Association of Retired Persons, seniors travel more frequently and stay away longer than non-seniors (Miller, 1996). Similar results ¾ seniors travel more, travel greater distances, stay away longer, and were more mobile ¾ were reported by Badinelli, Davis, and Gustin (1991) earlier. According to Dychtwald and Flower (1989), at least 80% of the luxury travel in America is purchased by people over 55. And, people over 55 years of age account for approximately 80% of all vacation dollars spent in the US (Shoemaker, 1989). However, businesses are generally operating with a lack of understanding of the characteristics and concerns of mature travelers (Wuest, Tas, & Emenheiser, 1996). Providers not well-versed in serving the elderly will be hopelessly behind their competition and will simply lose out on one of the largest and most steadily expanding age cohort markets in the first half of the next century. Success will belong to those businesses who take the initiative to address and meet the special needs of the mature population (Rager, 1991). Escorted motorcoach tour groups are one of the fastest growing areas of tourism. In 1992, the North American group tour industry generated $8.7 billion in direct expenditures. The average daily expenditure for multi-day group tour travelers in the US was $151.91, significantly more than the $98.91 spent by independent travelers each day (National Tour Association, 1993). Mature Americans are important to the motorcoach travel industry, as evidenced by Chacko and Nebel’s (1993) finding that over 50% of motorcoach tour patrons were senior citizens. Marshall (1997) also reported that mature travelers accounted for 70% of all bus trips. Senior markets have been viable options for tour operators in part because they are willing and able to travel during off-peak seasons to many destinations (National Tour Association, 1997). Today’s elderly travelers are significantly more likely than average to take tour-bus vacations (Forbes, 1994). Therefore, traditional package tours shall continue to persist in popularity. In addition, seniors are beginning, in ever increasing numbers, to seek out tours that are designed and operated specifically for the senior market (Gay, 1999).
Understanding mature travelers’ motorcoach selection criteria and satisfaction can help tour designers improve tour products and services to capture and maintain this important market. The purpose of the study was to investigate criteria used by mature travelers in selecting motorcoach tour and their satisfaction with their most recent motorcoach tour experience. Specific objectives of the study were to:
  • identify the importance of motorcoach tour provider and tour package attributes to mature travelers in their selection process,
  • assess mature travelers’ satisfaction of their most recent motorcoach tours,
  • investigate predictors of mature travelers’ overall satisfaction and positive word-of-mouth, and
  • examine the homogeneity/heterogeneity of the mature traveler market.
For practical purposes, especially in the case of travel and leisure services, 50 or 55 is the usual age threshold used to include people who may have special needs for a variety of travel products and services (You & O’Leary, 1999). Consistent with this convention, this research used 55 as the lower limit to define the mature travel market. Motorcoach tours were defined as all- inclusive tour packages that included transportation, lodging, meals, and some organized events and activities. Respondents were asked to answer the questions based on the selection of overnight motorcoach tours and the evaluation of their most recent overnight motorcoach tour.
A focus group of 10 mature travelers with motorcoach tour experience was conducted. Results of the focus group, along with a comprehensive review of literature, were used in the development of the questionnaire. The questionnaire consisted of three sections. Section one included 15 tour provider attributes and section two had 40 tour package attributes. Respondents were instructed to rate the importance of each attribute when selecting a motorcoach tour provider or tour package (5 = extremely important, 1 = extremely unimportant). Their satisfaction on each attribute was also measured based on their most recent motorcoach tour experience (5 = extremely satisfied, 1 = extremely dissatisfied). In addition, mature travelers were asked to rate their overall satisfaction with the tour provider and tour package with the same scale. Finally, respondents were asked to indicate their likelihood to recommend to others the tour provider and tour package from their most recent experience (5 = very likely, 1 = very unlikely). The third section of the research instrument consisted of demographic questions. Respondents were asked of their age, gender, education, income, marital status, retirement status, the number of overnight pleasure trips taken during the past 12 months, and the number of overnight packaged tours taken during the past 12 months, the number of overnight motorcoach tours taken during the past 12 months, their perceived health condition, their perceived income level, and the population of the community where they resided. All 45 tour providers in Kansas listed in a CD-ROM telephone directory were contacted to provide a list of their customers who had traveled with them during the previous 12 months. Of the 33 operators who can be reached by mail initially, 29 were reached by phone later. Of the 29 operators, 10 did not conduct motorcoach tours and 11 did not wish to participate. Therefore, 8 tour operators provided a total of 5,629 names and addresses. A systematic random sampling method was used to select 2,000 potential participants. A copy of the questionnaire was mailed to all selected individuals along with a cover letter explaining the purpose of the study. Of the 2,000 questionnaires mailed, 63 had undeliverable or incorrect addresses. After a follow-up, 932 questionnaires were returned (48.1%), of which 87 respondents indicated that they had not taken a tour in the past 12 months. Therefore, the usable response rate was 43.6% (n = 845). There were 28 respondents younger than 55 at the time of the survey. Their responses were excluded from further data analysis. As a result, findings reported were based on 817 respondents.
Respondent Characteristics
Almost one-half (47.2%) of respondents were between 65 and 74 years old, with more than one-third (39.5%) 75 or older (see Table 1). The majority of respondents was female (75.4%) and retired (81.3%). Over one-half of respondents were married (52.4%), followed by widowed (39.3%). More than one-third (42.9%) of them reported high school as the highest level of education and 30.5% had some college education. Close to one-half (48.7%) had less than $30,000 as annual household income in 1998 and 28.8% had $30,000- $44,999. Approximately 80% of respondents perceived their health as good or very good. Almost all (93.6%) perceived their income level as adequate or better than adequate. The average number of overnight trips taken during the past 12 months was 3.12, of which 1.97 were pre-paid packaged tours and 1.85 were motorcoach tours. Table 1. Demographic Characteristics of Respondents Characteristics Percentage Age 55-64 13.3 65-74 47.2 75 or over 39.5 Gender Male 24.6 Female 75.4 Retirement Status Not retired 7.4 Semi-retired 11.3 Retired 81.3 Marital Status Married 52.4 Widowed 39.3 Not married 8.4 Education Less than high school 4.4 High school 42.9 Some college 30.5 College degree 13.1 Graduate degree 9.0 Income Less than $30,000 48.7 $30,000-$44,999 28.8 $45,000-$59,999 12.9 $60,000-$74,999 6.3 $75,000-$99,999 2.5 $100,000 or more 0.8 Perception of Health Very good 30.3 Good 49.1 Okay 17.0 Poor 3.5 Very poor 0.1 Perceived Income Better than adequate 18.3 Adequate 75.3 Barely make it 5.5 Inadequate 0.6 Worse than inadequate 0.3 Community Population Less than 2,500 23.9 2,501 – 10,000 24.9 10,001 – 100,000 27.1 More than 100,000 24.1 Travel Experience in Previous 12 Months All overnight trips Mean = 3.12 Range = 1040 Packaged overnight trips Mean = 1.97 Range = 1-25 Motorcoach overnight trips Mean = 1.85 Range = 1-25 Importance and Satisfaction The extremely important tour provider characteristics (see Tables 2-3) were reliability (Mean = 4.88), safety precautions (4.75), reputation (4.71), emergency procedures (4.59), and empathy for health problems (4.54). All the other attributes were rated as important, with means higher than 3.50. As for tour package attributes, 15 of the 40 were rated as extremely important, 24 were rated as important, and 1 (shopping opportunities) were rated as neither important nor unimportant. The most important tour package characteristics were comfort of the tour bus (4.82), personal safety (4.81), and value for the money (4.77). Table 2. Importance and Satisfaction of Tour Provider Attributes Mean Attributes Importance(a) Satisfaction(b) Reliability 4.88 4.71 Safety precautions 4.75 4.59 Reputation 4.71 4.60 Emergency procedures 4.59 4.37 Empathy for health problems 4.54 4.53 Cancellation policy 4.48 4.28 Senior discounts 4.34 4.22 Past experience with operator 4.30 4.45 1-800 telephone number 4.04 4.00 Name recognition 4.01 4.11 Friends/relatives recommendation 4.01 4.02 Travel agent recommendation 3.83 3.95 Personalized attention 3.80 4.04 Home pick-up and drop-off 3.69 3.87 Availability of travel insurance 3.68 3.80 Overall satisfaction with tour provider 4.64 (a)Scale: 5 = Extremely important 1 = Extremely unimportant (b)Scale: 5 = Extremely satisfied 1 = Extremely dissatisfied Table 3. Importance and Satisfaction of Tour Package Attributes Mean Attributes Importance(a) Satisfaction(b) Comfort of the tour bus 4.82 4.63 Personal safety 4.81 4.67 Value for the money 4.77 4.57 Interesting tour guide 4.67 4.50 Quality of hotel accommodation 4.65 4.53 Price of tour package 4.64 4.53 Non-smoking bus 4.62 4.72 Clear view of passing sites from seat on bus 4.61 4.48 Professionalism of tour guide 4.61 4.46 Luggage service 4.58 4.63 Comfortable tour pace 4.55 4.45 Friendliness of bus driver 4.54 4.62 Moving along with the planned schedule 4.54 4.54 Frequent comfort breaks 4.53 4.52 Quality of food provided 4.51 4.39 Long enough stops at interesting places 4.48 4.29 Attractiveness of destination(s) 4.45 4.46 Variety of planned activities 4.34 4.31 Multiple destinations 4.33 4.46 Friendly dynamics among fellow travelers 4.24 4.35 Schedule/itinerary flexibility 4.24 4.25 Price of products/services at destination(s) 4.23 4.18 Tour operator recommendation 4.22 4.31 Not being bored 4.20 4.36 Uniqueness of experience 4.20 4.23 Adventuresome 4.03 4.04 Seat rotation opportunities on bus 4.02 4.09 Time to relax 3.96 4.02 Comprehensiveness of promotional materials 3.91 3.99 Evening entertainment 3.89 4.08 Availability of free time 3.88 4.05 Educational value 3.86 4.03 Climate of destination(s) 3.86 4.17 Similar age of other participants 3.80 4.16 Attractiveness of promotional materials 3.80 3.93 Group activities 3.73 3.92 Distance from home 3.71 4.15 Social contact opportunities 3.70 4.00 Recreational activities 3.66 3.91 Shopping opportunities 3.10 3.56 Overall satisfaction with tour package 4.62 (a)Scale: 5 = Extremely important 1 = Extremely unimportant (b)Scale: 5 = Extremely satisfied 1 = Extremely dissatisfied Respondents were quite content with their most recent motorcoach tour experience. All motorcoach tour provider and tour package attributes had satisfaction mean scores of higher than 3.50. Of the tour provider attributes, respondents were extremely satisfied with providers’ reliability (4.71), reputation (4.60), safety precautions (4.59), and empathy for health problems (4.53). All other tour provider attributes were rated as satisfied. Respondents were extremely satisfied with 11 of the 40 tour package attributes. These were: non-smoking bus (4.72), personal safety (4.67), comfort of the tour bus (4.63), luggage service (4.63), friendliness of bus driver (4.62), value for the money (4.57), moving along with the planned schedule (4.54), quality of hotel accommodation (4.53), price of tour package (4.53), frequent comfort breaks (4.52), and interesting tour guide (4.50). The remaining tour package attributes were all rated as satisfied. Respondents’ overall satisfaction with both the tour provider and tour package was also very high. On a five- point scale, the overall satisfaction with tour operator was 4.64 and with tour package was 4.62. Important-performance analysis (see Figures 1 and 2) is a popular technique used to provide a quick and easy visual presentation of consumers’ perceptions. The interpretation is fairly straightforward. Each quadrant can be summarized into specific directions for tour operators. Issues of importance to travelers and with excellent performance by the tour operator indicate that travelers are pleased with the work performed. Therefore, attributes in the “keep up the good work” quadrant represent opportunities for tour operators to promote their products and services (Duke & Persia, 1996). Important issues that are not handled well demand immediate attention, therefore is labeled as “concentrate here.” Tour operators should allocate resources to correct actions related to those attributes. Issues of lesser importance that are performed well might be considered for less emphasis because of the “possible overkill.” Resources could be better spent on “concentrate here” items. Finally, low performance on relatively unimportant issues may receive a little more effort when resources are available. However, those are usually “low priority” areas. The importance-performance grids in Figures 1 and 2 show that tour operators in this study did well on those important attributes, with most items fell into the “keep up the good work” quadrant. Tour operators should pad themselves on the back for having top-notch performance in those important areas. The “concentrate here” quadrant does not contain any attributes. Therefore, operators should continue to put their efforts on attributes rated as extremely important and keep them in the “keep up the good work” quadrant. Additional statistical techniques, such as MANOVAs, were used to identify differences among demographic groups on the importance of selection criteria and their satisfaction level. For the importance of tour operator and tour package selection attributes, there were no significant differences found among respondents of different gender, marital status, retirement status, income, health, perceived adequacy of income, population of community, and number of pleasure/pre-paid/motorcoach tours taken during the previous 12 months. However, respondents’ age and education level showed some influence on their rating of importance on several attributes. Generally speaking, when compared with the 65-74 and 75 and over age groups, younger respondents (55-64) rated the following attributes as less important: travel agent recommendation, availability of travel insurance, interesting tour guide, moving along with the planned schedule, quality of food provided, similar age of other participants, luggage service, attractiveness of destination (s), and seat rotation opportunities on bus. As for the impact of education, when compared to respondents with a college or graduate degree, high school graduates rated the following attributes as more important: tour operator name recognition, senior discount, safety precautions, emergency procedures, multiple destinations, tour operator recommendation, and price of tour package. For satisfaction on the 55 attributes, there were no significant differences among respondents with various demographic characteristics or respondents who had taken different number of trips. Results also indicated that all respondents, regardless of demographic profile and travel experience, had similarly high levels of overall satisfaction of and likelihood of recommending motorcoach tour provider and tour package based on their most recent experience. These results further illustrated the universal happiness of mature motorcoach travelers. Predictors of Satisfaction and Word-of-Mouth When respondents were asked about their likelihood of recommending the tour provider and tour package to others, the response was very likely. On a five-point scale, the mean likelihood of recommending the tour provider was 4.72 and the tour package was 4.70. Results of regression analyses indicated that respondents’ satisfaction with a tour provider’s safety precautions, reputation, emergency procedures, and personalized attention were positive predictors of respondents’ overall satisfaction with the tour operator (see Figure 3). However, respondents’ satisfaction with tour provider’s cancellation policy was found to have a negative impact on their satisfaction with the tour provider. The unsuccessful cancellation may have caused respondents’ dissatisfaction with the policy. However, as some respondents were “forced” to participate in the tour, operators were given a chance to showcase and provide various services to satisfy the needs of senior travelers during the trip. Valid predictors of overall satisfaction with the tour package included respondents’ satisfaction with interesting tour guide, comfortable tour pace, friendliness of bus driver, frequent comfort breaks, value for the money, and comfort of the tour bus. The numbers located on top of each arrow pointing to the overall satisfaction are statistical indices (Beta) that allow for a direct comparison between predictors as to their relative explanatory power. For example, interesting tour guide, followed by comfortable tour pace, was the most powerful predictor of travelers’ overall satisfaction with the tour package. Likelihood of recommending the tour operator can be predicted by respondents’ satisfaction with tour operator reliability, their past experience with operator, and tour provider’s personalized attention (see Figure 4). Respondents’ likelihood of recommending the tour package can be predicted by their satisfaction with personal safety, comfort of the tour bus, and friendly dynamics among fellow travelers. Heterogeneity of the Mature Traveler Market A statistical technique, called cluster analysis, was used with the intention to identify unique groups within the mature traveler market based on the importance of motorcoach selection attributes. When distinctive groups are identified, sub-segments among mature travelers can be analyzed and specific marketing strategies could be developed accordingly. Results of the cluster analysis showed three distinct groups: Dependents, Sociables, and Independents, which represented 51%, 19%, and 30% of the respondents, respectively. Attributes discriminating the groups are listed in Table 4, and the three groups rated all discriminating attributes significantly different. Table 4. Discriminating Attributes of the Senior Tour Market Attributes Dependents Sociables Independents 1-800 telephone number 4.54a 3.20 3.70 Name recognition 4.47 3.53 3.51 Friends/relative recommendation 4.45 3.65 3.49 Travel agent recommendation 4.40 3.57 3.04 Personalized attention 4.30 3.50 3.12 Empathy for health problems 4.79 4.55 4.10 Availability of travel insurance 4.25 2.93 3.19 Safety precautions 4.92 4.73 4.47 Availability of free time 4.29 3.56 3.37 Group activities 4.18 3.86 2.88 Evening entertainment 4.22 4.20 3.15 Attractiveness of promotional materials 4.26 3.87 2.97 Comprehensiveness of promotional materials 4.27 4.09 3.21 a. Scale: 5 = extremely important 1 = extremely unimportant The Dependents had the highest importance mean scores on all attributes, while the Independents had the lowest means on 11 of the 13 discriminating attributes. As for the Sociables, which represented 19% of the respondents, evening entertainment and comprehensiveness of promotional materials were rated as very important. Although means were significantly different, safety precaution and empathy for health problems were the top two most important attributes for all three clusters. The Dependents tended to be older, retired individuals without a college degree, and having lower income (Table 5). The Sociables were younger seniors with higher income; and the Independents had higher education, younger age, and moderate income. Tour packages should be designed with seniors’ age and income in mind and marketing activities should be designed accordingly. Table 5. Demographic Characteristics of the Three Distinct Groups Characteristics Dependents (%) Sociables(%) Independents (%) Age 55-64 10.9 16.2 16.7 65-74 43.7 53.5 50.0 ³ 75 45.4 30.3 33.3 Retirement Status Not retired 5.6 13.9 7.2 Semi-retired 11.4 12.5 10.4 Retired 83.0 73.6 82.4 Education Less than high school 6.3 2.2 2.3 High school diploma 46.1 47.4 33.0 Some college 29.2 32.8 32.1 College degree 10.7 12.4 18.6 Graduate degree 7.8 5.1 14.0 Income < $30,000 55.0 41.0 41.3 $30,000-44,999 24.8 28.7 36.4 $45,000-59,999 11.9 13.9 14.7 $60,000-74,999 5.2 12.3 4.9 $75,000-99,999 2.1 4.1 1.6 ³ $100,000 0.9 --- 1.1
Conclusions and Recommendations
Most respondents perceived their health as in good or very good condition and their income as adequate or better than adequate. Although 48.7% of them had an annual household income of less than $30,000 in 1998, they were at the stage of their life when financial obligations, such raising children and paying mortgage, had decreased; and they could allocate more time and economic resources available to leisure and travel (You & O’Leary, 1999). Of the 3.12 trips taken in the previous 12 months, 1.85 (59.3%) were motorcoach tours. These findings further confirmed the viability of the senior travel market in general and the motorcoach tour in particular. Almost all attributes listed in the questionnaire were rated as either extremely important or important, which is a common occurrence when conducting consumer surveys. Respondents usually indicate most things as important. On the other hand, an uncommon finding, and a pleasant surprise, was the overwhelmingly high level of satisfaction among respondents on all attributes. An importance-performance analysis was conducted to graphically display the relative importance and satisfaction of all criteria. The importance- performance grids confirmed that tour operators had done an excellent job in serving the senior market by performing especially well on those extremely important attributes. The recommendation is to keep up the good work on those items. Different variables were found to be predictors of satisfaction and positive recommendation. However, the reoccurring emphases were on operator reliability, personalized attention, personal safety, comfort of the tour bus, and professionalism of tour guides. Of the tour provider attributes, the three most satisfied items (reliability, reputation, and safety precautions) were also the most significant predictors of overall satisfaction and positive word-of-mouth. Tour operators should focus on these aspects of their business when communicate with current and potential customers to capitalize on their assets. By doing so, tour operators should be able to meet mature travelers’ short-term satisfaction and earn their long-term loyalty. Because the cancellation policy was a negative predictor of the satisfaction with tour provider and respondents were relatively happy with the existing policy, maintaining the current policy seemed to be the proper strategy. Personalized attention was a valid predictor for both tour provider satisfaction and recommendation. Even though respondents were somewhat pleased with this attribute, improvements can be made to further secure future satisfaction and positive word-of-mouth. Interesting tour guide was found to be the strongest predictor of satisfaction with tour packages. An interesting tour guide can definitely make the experience more enjoyable and fun. Tour guides could also be instrumental in creating friendly dynamics among fellow travelers, which was a predictor of tour package recommendation. Therefore, the hiring, training, and retaining of charismatic and qualified tour guides are essential to the success of tour operators targeting the mature market. Hosting a social function prior to or at the beginning of a trip may help participants get acquainted with the tour guide and fellow travelers. Tour guides and drivers can also take advantage of this opportunity to know the participants on a personal level to initiate personalized attention. In addition to the human touch, physical and psychological comfort, including comfort of the bus and the tour pace as well as frequent comfort breaks, were also important predictors of tour package satisfaction. This finding supported the statement by the Hotel & Resort Industry (“The mature market,” 1990) that seniors are more concerned about comfort. Cothran (1990) and Lago and Poffely (1993) also reported that seniors prefer flexible and open schedules so that they have enough time to take care of their personal needs. The article in the Hotel & Resort Industry (“The mature market,” 1990) also indicated that security and safety are central to seniors’ purchasing demands. This study also found that personal safety was the strongest predictor of tour package recommendation. Respondents indicated a high likelihood of recommending the tour operator and tour package to others. It is wise for tour operators to take actions and turn likelihood into actual positive word-of-mouth. Incentives could be provided to encourage referral. Programs, such as “bring along a friend” package or “new customer drive” sweepstakes, could be offered. Collateral materials, such as brochures, fliers, and newsletters, could be used to maintain contact with previous tour participants as a form of positive reinforcement. Those materials should be designed to show tour participants enjoying activities as a group. The group dynamics and context displayed, along with textual encouragement of referral, may urge previous clients turn their recommendation intention to actual behavior. Cluster analysis results concluded that seniors can be grouped into three distinct sub-segments. Each sub-segment showed different tour operator and package selection criteria and had different demographic characteristics. Everything was important to the Dependents, however on the top of the list, other than safety and health, were 1-800 telephone, name recognition, and friends and travel agent recommendation. To attract seniors in the Dependents group, which accounts for 51% of the respondents, tour operators should offer toll-free telephone numbers and maintain a good reputation among consumers and travel agents to maximize the positive word of mouth. Referrals from previous customers should also be encouraged, with incentives provided, if necessary. Tour operators also need to make sure that every detail of the tour package is well thought out and this information should be communicated to the potential Dependents travelers via attractive and comprehensive promotional materials to minimize their concerns. Due to their limited income, tours should be reasonably priced to stay within their price range. Considering their age and educational level, information provided should be clearly stated to prevent any misunderstanding. As for the Sociables, promotional materials should be attractively designed to indicate all the social activities planned for the trip and the personal attention individual participants will receive. Because of the relative young age of this group, more active social programs can be included in the itinerary to target the Sociables. When the number of activities included in the tour increases, the package tour price may also increase. Nevertheless, this still could present a value to the Sociables and they can afford the slight price increase because of their higher income. Positive word of month can also help obtain business from this group. Other than the health and safety issues, the Independents did not report any particular demands on tour operators. As long as the operators provide a toll-free telephone number and have a recognizable name, members of this group were indifferent about other tour provider and tour package attributes. Even though the Independents represented only 30% of the senior market, this sub-segment may represent significant value to tour operators because it appeared to be the least demanding market. The Independents had higher education, younger age, and moderate income. Therefore, they may be more interested in planning some of the activities and explore the destination on their own. Information can be provided about the destination and local culture in a welcome kit for the participants to read at their leisure. Limited group activities can be planned to allow free time and to reduce the package price. The understanding of mature travelers’ motorcoach selection criteria and satisfaction level can enable operators to make positive decisions and resource allocations that would provide better services for and increased patronage from this market. This study provided an overall picture of the mature travelers’ motorcoach selection and satisfaction. Important criteria were identified and implications were discussed. Tour operators can use the results of this study to confirm or enhance their practices, or to follow the research methodology and replicate the study with their own clients to more precisely evaluate their selection and satisfaction. Results of those provider-specific or tour- specific studies should be more applicable to their specific situation and market. Limitations Data were collected from Kansas mature travelers. Mature travelers in other states may have different motorcoach tour selection criteria and different levels of satisfaction with their motorcoach travel experience. The satisfaction measures were evaluated based on the most recent trip taken by respondents in the current study. Specific destinations, duration of travel, or type of motorcoach tours (e.g., budget vs. luxury) were not specified. These variables may have an impact on travelers’ expectations, selection criteria, and subsequent evaluation of their satisfaction.
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About the Author
Cathy Hsu, PhD is a hospitality and tourism Associate Professor at Kansas State University (KSU). She received her PhD in Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management from Iowa State University. She has taught at the university level for 11 years. Dr. Hsu has worked with many hotels and CVBs on research and consulting projects. Her research foci include travel behavior and destination marketing. She has also conducted research on the economic and social impacts of casino gaming. She is the editor of the book, Legalized Casino Gaming in the US: The Economic and Social Impact. In addition, she has more than 70 publications, has given more than 60 presentations at international professional conferences, and serves on 5 journal review boards. Dr. Hsu is a member of the Travel and Tourism Research Association; International Society of Travel and Tourism Educators (ISTTE); and Council on Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education (CHRIE). She served on the CHRIE board of directors and is currently on the ISTTE board of directors.
Author’s Note
Several undergraduate and graduate students at KSU assisted with this project. The Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management and Dietetics (HRIMD) department at KSU offers BS, MS, and PhD degrees. Many graduate students are in need of industry research projects and support. Please contact me if you have the need to complete a project. I will be glad to work with you and our graduate students to best serve the needs of the hospitality and tourism industry.
Cathy Hsu, PhD Department of HRIMD 103 Justin Hall Kansas State University Manhattan, KS 66506 Phone: 785-532-2209 Fax: 785-532-5522 E-mail: cathyhsu@ksu.edu