Identifying Dimensions of Tourist Satisfaction for a Cultural Destination: The Case of Longhouses in Sarawak (Borneo)

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Cultural heritage sites are important tourist attractions for many tourism-oriented countries worldwide. As for Sarawak in Borneo, the traditional longhouses have been one of the key selling points of the in-bound tour operators nationwide and worldwide. Many tourists go to Sarawak to gain the unique experiences with these longhouses. This paper presents the findings of a survey which aimed to identify the dimensions of tourist satisfaction on the longhouses in Sarawak. Structured questionnaires were distributed to the visitors to gauge their perceptions towards the longhouses that they recently visited. The findings from 280 usable questionnaires show that the tourist satisfaction dimensions include the travel services, access, nature, safety, the longhouses' facilities, cleanliness, food and beverage, culture, people and overall longhouse experience. Implications for the cultural heritage site marketing (focusing on longhouses) and future research directions are also discussed.

Keywords: Tourist satisfaction, cultural destination, longhouses, Sarawak.

I. INTRODUCTION

Heritage sites which are rich in cultural value are commonly recognized as important tourist attractions and they continue to be a powerful motivator in tourists' journeys (Laws, 1998). However, managing them for maximized tourist satisfaction and loyalty is challenging. It is believed that the tourist satisfaction determinants need to be appropriately and holistically identified for more effective management.

In Asia, specifically the Southeast Asia region, there are many cultural heritage sites which in-bound tourists enjoy visiting and will like to revisit as well. The built heritage like museums, temples, ethnic houses have contributed significantly as attractions. In Borneo, the Longhouses have been the traditional tourist attractions. Specifically, they are very important for Sarawak ecotourism. The traditional longhouses of the Dayaks in Sarawak have been one of the key selling points of the tour operators. Undoubtedly, many tourists especially the adventurous ones, come to Sarawak because of wanting to see and experience the unique longhouses in Sarawak. The process of going to the longhouses also can be a memorable and eye-opening experience to most tourists. To a lot of foreign tourists, these unique longhouse experiences are only available in Borneo. Nevertheless, the different facets of the said wonderful or even terrible experiences need to be appropriate understood and used for effective and sustainable ecotourism development as well as the marketing purposes. Therefore, the main objective of this study is to identify, in a more holistic manner, the dimensions of tourist satisfaction on longhouses in Sarawak for more effective longhouse marketing. A reliable and valid measuring instrument for longhouse satisfaction is developed.

Visitor Orientation and Visitor Service for Satisfactory Longhouse Experience

The longhouse visitors are considered as the customers and their needs and wants have to be well understood and responded accordingly to maximize satisfaction and loyalty. The philosophy of organizing the organization's activities around a good understanding of customer needs is not recent (Deshpandé, 1999). The marketing concept emphasizes satisfying customers' needs, through the concerted or integrated efforts of all functional units in an organization, for the sake of the organization's performance or profitability. Customer orientation is one of the major components of market orientation theory (e.g. Narver and Slater, 1990) that can effectively impact the performance of organisations like longhouses.

A customer orientation requires that a seller understand a buyer's entire value chain (e.g. Narver and Slater, 1990). Recently, Yilmaz and Bititci (2006) even called for a value chain oriented performance measurement in order to measure and manage the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the tourism products and services in a more holistic manner. …