Grading Procedures in the Tourism Industry: The Case of New Brunswick

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper provides a framework for the evaluation of existing and planned tourist facilities. We review a number of appraisals made by or for the Province of New Brunswick and show how they fit into our general framework. We then outline a method that allows us to measure the robustness of the evaluations.

Resume

Le present article propose un cadre pour l'evaluation d'installations touritiques exisantes et planifiees. On y etudie plusieurs methodes d'evaluation concues par la province de Nouveau-Brunswick, ou a son intention. On demontre comment elles s'inserent dans notre cadre d'evaluation. On esquisse enfin une methode permettant de mesurer la robustesse des evaluations.

Since the Second World War, tourism has emerged from being little more than a cottage industry to become a major player in most countries' economies, an industry that generates no less than $3.4 trillion worldwide (Tourism Canada, 1997). In 1994, 1.3 million people were employed in tourism-related businesses in Canada, constituting 9.7% of Canada's total employment. In the same year, tourism spending in Canada was a $35 billion industry, and it was growing almost twice as fast as the GDP (Canadian Tourism Commission, 1995).

However, the tourism industry has shown itself to be very sensitive to changing economic conditions and customer tastes. Clearly, being a nonessential product, it is among the first activities to be affected by an economic downturn and the changing interests of tourists. Furthermore, as most visitors travel by personal vehicle (see, e.g., Witt & Moutinho, 1989), they are highly mobile. If they encounter an unpleasant experience such as poor service or unclean facilities, they can quite easily avoid the facility in the future, or worse, avoid the area altogether. Worse yet, the bad news gets around by word of mouth, hurting not only the facility that caused the problem, but other facilities as well. This makes it extremely important to ensure that tourist operators offer a high quality product. As Haywood (1983) pointed out, visitor disappointment is the result of a discrepancy between expectations and reality, a relation further explored by Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry (1985). A general expression for this fundamental equation is

Disappointment =f (Expectation - Reality)

with some function f that increases in its argument and where reality is measured as perceived by the customer. A critical discussion of these concepts is found in Ryan (1995). One way to prevent unmet expectations and disappointment is to change expectations by bringing them more in line with reality. Another way is to change the reality by increasing standards.

While attempts to lower customer expectations to more realistic levels do indeed decrease customer disappointment, they do not necessarily generate business. Even if tourists learn about substandard facilities in advance and hence would not be disappointed if they were to patronize them, they will tend not to do so. Today's travellers demand higher standards of accommodation, parks, and tourist sites in general. As a result, long-range planning will have to include attempts to improve standards and publicize them in an appropriate fashion. One tool to provide customers with realistic expectations and provide incentives for the upgrading of facilities is to evaluate and grade tourist facilities.

Evaluation and grading procedures are applied in two different areas of the tourism industry: first by or for facility designers in order to make decisions regarding the planning of facilities, and later by or for facility operators as a quality control mechanism. For example, facility designers may be interested in the location of a new facility, the selection of provincial parks to be kept by the government in a consolidation/downsizing operation, or the evaluation of historic buildings in the establishment of a historic downtown core. …