Managing Visitor Attractions: An International Comparison of Management Practice

By Fyall, Alan; Leask, Anna | Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, June 2002 | Go to article overview

Managing Visitor Attractions: An International Comparison of Management Practice


Fyall, Alan, Leask, Anna, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management


By comparing and contrasting the management of visitor attractions in Scotland and Australia, this paper investigates the extent to which visitor attractions in Scotland can benefit from management "best practice" from a "leading edge" tourism destination. The thematic areas of pricing management, revenue management and the management of environmental impacts at attractions are explored. Thereafter, issues relating to management common practice, are identified, with the volume of visitors at attractions, the charge for admission and the perceived implementation of revenue management impacting significantly on management best practice, rather than in many instances the country of attraction origin. The paper concludes by distinguishing between the management of large-scale "first tier" and small-scale "second tier" attractions. In the future, the search for appropriate management strategies for small-scale second tier attractions is likely to take precedent over international comparative studies of best practice.

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With a real and continued projected slowdown in visitor demand and an acknowledged oversupply of attractions, Scotland's visitor attractions are set to face a challenging future (Leask, Fyall, & Goulding, 2000; Smith, 1998). With similar trends evident across the United Kingdom (UK) as a whole (Monteith, 2001), as well as a forecast transformation in the geography and typology of visitor attractions more generally (Stevens, 2000), the authors suggest that if the visitor attractions sector in Scotland is to have a lasting future, then it will have to find alternative ways of doing things, and develop a more strategic approach to managing its activities. This opinion runs parallel to the view expressed by Scottish Enterprise, Scotland's economic development agency, in their report Scottish Visitor Attractions Review (Scottish Enterprise, 1997). One of the key recommendations in the report was for operators of visitor attractions in Scotland to adopt management "best practice" from "leading edge" tourism destinations around the world. In response to this, the authors felt it appropriate and timely to conduct a study to compare and contrast the management of visitor attractions in Scotland with the management of visitor attractions in other countries, with previous research conducted by the authors serving as a foundation for the study.

Previous studies on heritage visitor attractions by Berry (1994), Carter and Grimwade (1997), Fyall and Garrod (1999), Leask and Goulding (1996), Markwell, Bennett, and Ravenscroft (1997), Thomas (1998), and Garrod and Fyall (2000) identified a variety of challenges for the future management of heritage attractions. A common theme throughout was the need for the sector to move away from its historical, curatorial perspective to a more commercially driven mindset in view of the changes taking place in the wider tourism environment in the UK. With specific regard to the broader visitor attractions sector, work by Johnson and Thomas (1990), Swarbrooke (1995), Wanhill (1998) and Whitehead (1999) shed light on a host of priorities for the future management of visitor attractions in the UK. Equally, studies conducted in Scotland by Fyan, Leask, and Garrod (2000), and Smith (1998) identified particular priorities for the management of visitor attractions in Scotland. Highly focused studies by Leask and Yeoman (1999), and Leask, Fyall, and Goulding (2000) explored the issue of revenue management practice among attraction operators in Scotland whilst the study by Fyall, Leask and Garrod (2001) explored the potential for collaborative approaches to the marketing and management of visitor attractions, again in Scotland. Thereafter, the study by Garrod et al. (2002) explored in considerable depth the specific challenge of managing visitor impacts at Scottish visitor attractions.

In response to the paucity of comparative research evident in the visitor attractions sector, particularly internationally, a recent study by Leask, Harvey and Fyall (2001), which compared and contrasted the management of pricing, revenue and environmental impacts at visitor attractions in Scotland and Canada, served as a catalyst for this study. …

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