Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Geopark Ecotourism Product Development: A Study on Tourist Differences

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Geopark Ecotourism Product Development: A Study on Tourist Differences

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study is to explore the tourists' perceived satisfaction on tourism products and services offered in Kilim Geopark. Tourism development in Kilim Geopark has been spurred by an active involvement of the local community and the assistance of the local government. Marketing initiatives taken by the local government, together with community cooperation, have successfully attracted an increasing number of tourists to visit Kilim Geopark. The influx of international and local tourists every year resulted in a dilemma between environmental sustainability and economic benefits to the local community. Nevertheless, the high economic yield from the tourism activities is determined by tourist satisfaction. The data were collected questionnaire survey where respondents have been met directly. Using random sampling approach, the questionnaires were distributed to the visitors randomly. The target respondents in this research were visitors of Kilim Geopark, including both domestic and international tourists. During the survey period, only a total of 341 tourists completed the questionnaires. A significant difference was found among the satisfaction with ecotourism product and services of three groups of Kilim Geopark visitors. In many cases, international tourists reported high satisfaction levels compared with local travellers and those coming from ASEAN countries.

Keywords: ecotourism, geopark, product development, tourism products and services

1. Introduction

The tourism industry is one of the most important sectors that has driven modern economic development throughout the world; it plays a vital role in invigorating economic growth in many developed and developing countries (Chaiboonsri & Chaitip, 2008). Furthermore, tourism is considered a vital dimension of global integration and trade activities and has, therefore, become the world's largest source of income. For many tourism industries in the world, tourism is economically significant as a source of income and employment. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (2012), the tourism industry directly contributed to the global economy, reaching USD 2 trillion and generating more than 100 million jobs in tourism-related sectors. Taking into account the impacts induced by auxiliary sectors, the number of jobs has increased to 260 million, with 9% yield of global gross domestic product (GDP). The most relevant component of total tourism flows is the domestic one, which generated 70% of tourism GDP in 2011.

The tourism industry in Malaysia highly encourages annual development and is a catalyst of the Malaysian economic renaissance. The industry is the fifth largest in the Malaysian economy and continues to be at the forefront of economic development. In addition, according to the National Key Economic Area, the tourism sector contributed a total of RM 37.4 billion to the gross national income in 2011. The tourism sector an important economic generator, which contributes in terms of establishing businesses, increasing income, creating job opportunities, improving the standard of living, reducing poverty, and promoting rural development (Mohamed, 2005). The number of tourist arrivals in Malaysia grew from 24,577,196 in 2010 to 24,714,324 in 2011, representing an increase of 137,128; meanwhile, the number of receipts reached RM 58.3 billion compared with RM5 6.5 billion recorded in the previous year, representing an increase of RM 1.8 billion in a year (MOTOUR, 2012). Furthermore, the tourism industry provided 451,000 employment opportunities in 2005, which increased to 520, 700 in 2010 (10th Malaysia Plan, 2011).

At present, the development of the tourism industry has brought innovative and exciting tourism products, with geoparks being a focal area of development. A geopark is a territory with a particular geoheritage of international significance, rarity, or aesthetic appeal. To realize the aspiration of a geopark, three different approaches are used, namely, preservation/conservation, education, and sustainable development (Newsome, Dowling, & Leung, 2012; Farsani, Coelho, & Costa, 2011; Komoo, Mokhtar, & Aziz, 2010). …

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