An Evaluation of Service Quality from Visitors' Perspectives: The Case of Niah National Park in Sarawak

By Said, Abas; Shuib, Ahmad et al. | International Journal of Business and Society, January 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

An Evaluation of Service Quality from Visitors' Perspectives: The Case of Niah National Park in Sarawak


Said, Abas, Shuib, Ahmad, Ayob, Norazirah, Yaakub, Fazlina, International Journal of Business and Society


ABSTRACT

This study assessed the quality of services in Niah National Park (NNP) located in Sarawak, a major ecotourism destination in Malaysia. The ECOSERV instrument developed by Khan in 2003 was modified to measure visitors' expectations and perceptions on services quality. Self-administered questionnaires were handed out to registered park visitors and collected back upon completion. The findings had revealed negative service gaps (differences between visitors' perceptions and expectations) pattern in almost all sixteen attributes and all six dimensions of services. This indicated that the levels of service quality in NNP are not meeting visitors' expectations, especially on the dimension of ecotangibles. In order to enhance visitors' satisfaction, there is a need to address deficiency in the quality of services in the NNP. This is to avoid a decline in competitive advantage of NNP as an ecotourism attraction and not to hamper visitors' experience and also to ensure continuous support to conserve the park's rich biodiversity and natural resources.

Keywords: ecotourism; service quality; visitors' expectations; visitors' perceptions and satisfaction

1. INTRODUCTION

Sarawak's tropical rainforest has been recognized worldwide for its richness in biodiversity (Whitmore 1984; Primack & Hall, 1992; Taylor, et al., 1994). Basically, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and nature reserves are established in Sarawak to conserve its rich biodiversity and protect environmental services. Besides, national parks and nature reserves are presently managed/administered to provide recreational opportunities and as ecotourism attractions to benefits local communities as well as to contribute to its economy. To date, Sarawak has established 18 national parks and 3 nature reserves managed by Sarawak Forestry Corporation. With increasing demand for ecotourism, Sarawak has also earmarked these national parks as its major ecotourism attractions to benefit local community and boost the state economy. Consequently, these national parks are faced with greater challenges and the national park authority is confronted with increasing responsibilities to meet goals desired. Apart from advocating protection and conservation of nature and enhancing the environmental services, the national park authority is also responsible to generate revenue for the economy, to benefit and protect local communities while at the same time enhancing visitors' experience and satisfaction. Thus in nature-based tourism such as ecotourism, service quality is considered a critical issue because overall satisfaction with an attraction and provision of high service quality is park management's ultimate goal.

In business sector, quality services have always been considered crucial for the firms' competitive advantage. Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry (1985, 1988) argued that service agencies always need to deliver high quality services in order to enhance their customer satisfaction as a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors and seek competitive advantage. Similarly, in the tourism sector service quality is gaining tremendous attention (Augustyn & Ho, 1998; Lam & Zhang, 1998; Khan & Su, 2003; Atilgan, Akinci & Aksoy, 2003; Pawitra & Tan, 2003; Juwaheer, 2004; Hudson, Hudson & Miller, 2004; Lau, Akbar, & Yong, 2005, Lau, Akbar & Yong, 2005) but research effort is still lacking (Fick & Ritchie, 1991; Khan, 2003; Hudson, Hudson & Miller; 2004, Eng & Niininen, 2005). Better understanding on quality of service is considered as a critical factor to enhance tourism sector success (Augustyn & Ho, 1998; Fick & Ritchie, 1991; Atilgan, Akinci & Aksoy, 2003; Khan, 2003; Hudson, Hudson & Miller; 2004). Besides, in tourism sector, providing quality facilities and services is likely to ensure satisfaction of visitors and possibility of getting return visits or repurchase (Hudson, Hudson & Miller, 2004; Tak, Wan & Ho, 2006). …

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