VISITORS: WHAT THEY EXPECT/WHAT THEY GET
My qualifications for presenting this paper are brought about by the fact that I have conducted over 20,000 visitors through the caves over the past 15 years and have been on guided inspections of eight other cave systems in Australia, plus guided inspections of mines and industrial works. In the course of training new guides, I have accompanied at least 100 inspections and thus have been in a position to note visitor comment. I have been a guest speaker at numerous functions and over the period of my employment have talked to thousands of visitors. During holiday periods I have travelled extensively in Australia covering a wide range of areas.
"FACILITY": This term is a general reference to a Public Cave Area and the description could apply to all areas of natural resources.
To develop ideas to contrast what people expect and what they actually get, it is necessary to categorise them into the following:
A. VISITOR TYPE
- Organised tour by professional tour operator/package tour.
- Social or special interest groups.
- Educational tours.
- Peer group.
- Family unit.
- Retired People.
- General traveller.
- Repeat visitors.
B. WHY DO THEY COME?
- Because the tour package included it.
- Special purpose (photography etc).
- Because it is there, and to be able to say 'I have been there'.
- One of the family or peer group has been there before.
- 'Out for a nice day's drive and saw the sign post' (Dunkley, 1973).
- Geographical location of facility.
C. HOW DID THEY KNOW OF THE FACILITY?
- Surveys (K P Moffat MA) plus others currently being conducted, indicate that up to 85% of the awareness of the existence of a facility and its features is by 'word of mouth'. The remaining factors are not in any significant order as different surveys provide different results.
- Advertising - newspapers, television, etc.
- Have read an article on the facility.
D. One of the other major considerations to be aware of in the following observations is the expertise of the facility's staff, and their ability to supply or convey the following:
- Interpretation skills.
- Humour or ability to entertain.
- Satisfaction in occupation.
A. 1. ORGANISED TOUR BY PROFESSIONAL TOUR OPERATOR/PACKAGE TOUR
Visitors on organised tours are not generally aware of the facility until they have booked on the tour and have been given brochures relating to that particular facility. They expect to have an experience different to the last place that was visited. The idea of organised tours is to provide different types of experiences, although the degree of success depends on the expertise of the tour operator. The visitor does generally get a new experience, but usually not enough time to enjoy it because of the very tight schedule. As a result the impact is often lost.
A.2. SOCIAL AND SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS (Car Clubs etc)
This type of group often has a full day/weekend or at times, a complete week to spend at a facility. These groups generally do a lot of groundwork and have somebody within the group who is aware of what the facility offers. Often it is these people who suggest the visit. The requirements of this type of group are generally entertainment plus general knowledge of the facility - expertise in the staff can give these requirements and where the facility has the resources, added attractions and activities may be arranged.
A.3. EDUCATIONAL TOURS
Tours of this type are generally arranged by a teacher who has knowledge of the facility and its resources. As a result the tour is developed to suit, and generally lives up to expectations. Further development of teachers kits, resource and educational centres plus diversity of experience of each facility can add to overall gain from this type of tour.
A.4. PEER GROUPS (college friends, neighbours etc)
The requirements of this group are possibly the hardest to research because of their diverse needs, attitudes and expectations. Often these groups will view the facility as a leisure and recreational resource and depending on the facility's capabilities in meeting this need, they are usually satisfied. A contributing factor to meeting the requirements of this type of group is the ability of the staff to evaluate their needs and cater to it.
A.5. FAMILY UNITS
Visitation from family units is generally predictable due to public and school holidays determining their recreational time. This leads to the facility experiencing peak visitation periods which require planning for maximum output from available resources and in providing appropriate amenities e.g. BBQs, picnic areas and toilets. The main disappointment to the family units is that the facility is not capable of meeting demands placed upon it at this time, resulting in the visitor being denied access to the facility's resources e.g. lack of parking or all tours booked.
A.6. RETIRED PEOPLE
People in this group visit the facility for two reasons: they have been there before, in one of the other categories, and have fond memories of the facility. This is the first chance after a hard working career to enjoy such facilities.
The first of these two groups don't always get out of the facility what they expect because, at times, memories play tricks and they are inclined to have a highly romanticised view of their original visit. If the facility has developed new resources since their last visit this will compensate. The second group generally have no expectations beyond the facility's ability to meet requirements. In other words they accept what they get.
A.7. GENERAL TRAVELLERS
The term "general travellers" is intended to cover: those people who at every opportunity do travel; itinerant workers who travel frequently between job locations; travellers on prolonged trips to see the country as distinct from the normal holiday.
This type of person is generally quite aware of what a facility can offer but they often make comparisons between facilities. This can lead to disappointment. The distinction between what they expect and get in this instance really comes to the point of what is the best (sic) - or beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
A.8. REPEAT VISITORS
Repeat visitors come because of their enthusiasm for the facility or because the facility is so placed as to suit the visitor economically and/or geographically. Whatever the circumstances, because they are repeat visitors, they are well aware of what the facility can offer. If development of new and diverse uses of the resources available can be planned and implemented, this will add to the enjoyment and possibly encourage repeat visits. However care has to be taken that during peak visitation times, facilities such as number of available resources equal the amount available during an off peak time, as their original visit may have been then. At this point in the paper, earlier statements may be repeated in order to emphasise particular issues or points.
WHY DO THEY COME?
B. 1. BECAUSE IT IS INCLUDED WITHIN THE TOUR-PACKAGE
Tours are arranged, because of obvious necessity, around where one eats or sleeps. If the facility offers these services, that is an advantage. If they can spend less time with one or other of activities such as sleeping, eating, drinking, the group can concentrate on the facility's other resources. But because, at times, the group are not physically capable of making use of the main resource the comment is often heard "I'm only here because the bus comes this way." Future planning and development could of course overcome this problem.
B.2. SPECIAL PURPOSE (e.g. filming segments of TV productions, books etc)
Visitors to a facility for "special purposes" are well aware of what the facility offers because that was the original attraction. Any disappointment in this area is generally due to lack of complimentary services.
B. 3. BECAUSE IT IS HERE AND TO BE ABLE TO SAY "I HAVE BEEN THERE"
The self-explanatory nature of the title does not give any answers, Experience is that this type of visitor tends to be a disruptive influence within the facility, their boredom being expressed in a desire to make clever remarks at the expense of the staff member, instead of listening to what the staff member has to say. Little observation as to their needs has taken place.
B. 4. ONE OF THE FAMILY OR PEER GROUP HAS BEEN THERE BEFORE
The statement "one of the family has been there" quite often refers to the fact that one of the family visited the facility on an organised tour, school excursion etc, resulting in he/she relating the experience through the eyes of the group. Expectations are often created that cannot always be met, particularly as the group may have visited low visitation period and as explained earlier, the family most likely visited during high visitation period with its associated problems. This can be balanced by the fact that when one of a peer group have been there before, even though some of the same problems occur, they tend to relate their experience better as they come back with spouse, girlfriend etc.
B.5. "OUT FOR A NICE DAY'S DRIVE AND SAW THE SIGN POST"
The equivalent to this is the spontaneous purchase bought because it was there and all similar connotations could apply. Some would be happy with the article and some would not. But like the purchaser, if they do like the package, they would tend to recommend and purchase the same article again.
B.6. GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION
This does not necessarily have any effect on expectations but the following geographical points do control the amount and type of visitor:
- Proximity to centres of population.
- Topography of facility.
- Services offered by facility.
- Availability of public transport to facility.
- Road conditions in and out of facility.
- Type of vehicle either owned or rented by the visitor.
- Climatic conditions.
HOW DID THEY KNOW OF THE FACILITY??
C.l. WORD OF MOUTH
This, as mentioned earlier, is the main source of knowledge of the availability of a facility. It can reflect whether the facility lives up to its expectations and whether it will or will not be recommended as a place to visit.
C.2. SIGN POSTING
Can be of direction and distance type and/or billboard type. Either will attract only if they have correct information suitably displayed e.g. Woop Woop tells you that something is there, whereas Woop Woop Caves or Woop Woop Waterfall is more definitive as to what is there.
C.3. ADVERTISING - PAPERS, TV, ETC
Advertising through media tends to highlight major attractions within the facility and if the recipient of the advertising happens to make the visit during peak periods of visitation or major attractions are not available due to safety, maintenance or other reasons, they often feel cheated.
C.4. HAVE READ AN ARTICLE ON THE FACILITY
Articles written about facilities of natural resources generally attract the reader who is interested in such a facility and so to follow that interest they, as circumstances allow, will visit such a facility. Depending upon the quality of the article the visitor may or may not have their expectations met.
EXPERTISE OF FACILITY'S STAFF
D.l. INTERPRETATION SKILLS
These are of major importance because the visitor relies on those skills for eventual understanding and satisfaction. The skill can be imparted both orally and visually. Oral interpretation needs to be at a level of understanding to cover the diversity of the visitors and the staff member needs to have a good overall knowledge of the subject to impart this. In contrast, visual interpretation allows more time for the visitor to absorb the supplied information by repeating the process, e.g. re-run of films or looking at display two or three times.
D.2. HUMOUR OR ABILITY TO ENTERTAIN
"The world's a stage and we are all actors". This is a quality that should be expanded upon in the training of staff particularly because basically, they are offering a form of entertainment. If this can be done with witticism and not cynicism it is an advantage to all.
D.3. SATISFACTION IN OCCUPATION
Job satisfaction is essential as it reflects quality of service and the administration of the facility should ensure that staff are motivated.
All issues raised in this paper are from observation and conclusions that are not as clear cut as the paper may infer because there is a tendency to stereotype the visitor into one of the forementioned categories.
The idea of the paper is to stimulate further work and research and to delineate resource usage.