An Application of the CERM Performance Indicators Program to Benchmarking in the Australian Caravan and Tourist Park Sector

Article excerpt

Benchmarking as a tool of performance measurement appears to have gained favourable recognition across many industries, including many sectors of the Australian tourism industry. The authors reviewed recent benchmarking literature, case studies from tourism, and developments from within the Australian leisure industry to identify a suitable program that may facilitate benchmarking in the Australian caravan and tourist parks sector. These reviews are reported on briefly in the paper. Furthermore, a broader framework is proposed to support and sustain any program to be adopted or developed. The importance of having a match between the program and its supporting framework is stressed. This need to match a program within an identified framework is argued as necessary to consider the issues of operational relevance, cost effectiveness and benefits of any adopted program to be provided to both the industry sector and individual organisational participants. The support of the tourism sector peak bodies, and the engagement of an impartial manager of a sector benchmarking process were also identified as potentially vital ingredients for the success of any benchmarking program to be adopted and sustained.

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The proposed program and framework draws heavily from a successful national benchmarking program within the Australian public sports and leisure sector. This program, the CERM PI[R] program, is based at the University of South Australia. The CERM PI[R] program is a self-funded, applied research program supported by numerous leisure industry partners. The industry partners include private, not-for-profit, and local and State government organisations. Although the program is only 10 years old it has gained significant, continuing self-generated support from within Australia, and has recently gained greater acceptance in both New Zealand and the United Kingdom under University-based, licence arrangements.

The program proposed in this paper for the Australian caravan and tourist park involves the generation of individual and sector indicators of organisational, operational performance. The organisational performance criteria included in the proposed program, involves both operational data from individual site staff, and perceptions of service quality from customers of individual parks. The concluding claim of the paper is for a credible third party manager with a track record to be a key player in future developments of any program, and a strong industry-based framework to support and sustain the program via a strategically developed framework.

Benchmarking as a tool of performance measurement appears to have gained recognition across many sectors of industry (Barber, 2001; Hiebeler, Kelly, & Ketterman, 1998; Howes, 1996; Liebfried & McNair, 1992). Although benchmarking has been introduced to the Australian tourism industry, few, if any sectors, have adopted processes for measuring business performance across the sector to provide a specific platform for continuous performance reviews at the level of the individual firm (Bergin, Jago, & Deery, 2000)

This article draws from the broader benchmarking literature and recent approaches to monitor "best practices" in tourism, as a context from which to develop a framework for benchmarking in one sector of the Australian tourism. The article has three objectives:

1. To briefly review benchmarking as a tool for improved business performance.

2. To examine the application of benchmarking programs to the caravan and tourist park sector.

3. To propose adapting and adopting the CERM PI[R] benchmarking program into a framework for use by the caravan and tourist park sector of the tourist industry.

Benchmarking for Improved Performance

It is important to understand benchmarking as a tool for improving business performance, before moving to develop its relevance for tourism. Bell and Morey (1995) suggest that the Japanese developed the concept in the 1950s by visiting a wide range of organisations and industries to learn how the most efficient organisations operated. …