By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
Being dubbed the “Las Vegas of the East”, Macau may have portrayed an image of an “ideal destination with attractive hotels and restaurants”, which eventually influences tourist satisfaction level as their holiday experiences have fallen below expectations, a recent survey has suggested.
The International Tourism Research Centre (ITRC) of the Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT) for the first time ever announced the Macau Tourism Satisfaction Index (MTSI) for the first and second quarters of 2010 at a press conference yesterday.
The index measures the satisfaction level of Macau visitors across 10 tourism-related service sectors, namely casinos, events, heritage attractions, hotels, immigration services (customs), non-heritage attractions, restaurants, retail shops, tour guides/operators, and also transportation.
The tourist satisfaction for each sector is measured with three indicators – confirmation of expectations, comparison with the ideal as well as overall satisfaction. The indices are shown on a 0- to 100-point scale, and the higher the index the more satisfied the tourists for the corresponding sector.
Since data collection began in the third quarter of 2009 until the second quarter of this year, nearly 2,000 tourists, with a majority coming from mainland China, followed by Hong Kong and Taiwan, were interviewed randomly at major attractions or border checkpoints in Macau.
The MTSI for the four quarters counting from the third quarter of 2009 were respectively 70.4, 69.2, 71.2 and 72.2, which are translated into an average score of 70.7.
As for Hong Kong and Singapore, they scored respectively 73.94 and 72.14 in the same investigation also carried out in recent months.
Looking at the average index of each sector, hotel and restaurant scored the lowest at 65.6 and 67, while heritage has topped the list at 74.5, followed by the events sector at 73.1.
According to Don Dioko, director of the ITRC, the differences in the satisfaction scores of different sectors can be attributed to the discrepancies between tourists’ expectations and perceived performance, as well as between the value they expect and the actual value they receive.
Macau has a lot of five-star or luxury hotels to choose from, but Dioko said Mainland Chinese tourists usually don’t prefer to spend much on accommodation, thus creates a “gap” that affected the satisfaction level of visitors.
In addition, he pointed out that since tourist expectations will influence the satisfaction level, the MTSI may suggest that Macau may have portrayed itself as an “ideal destination” with high-standard hotels and restaurants.
When asked whether it implied that Macau’s image has been exaggerated and the reality is indeed quite the opposite, Dioko said the problem is more about the marketing campaigns launched by the operators.
“The performance [of hotels and restaurants] can actually be very good. But if somehow you over-marketed yourselves, I wouldn’t use the word ‘exaggerate’ … then they [tourists] would have higher expectations than the performance that they can get,” he said.
Meanwhile, the findings showed that the MTSI was the lowest in the fourth quarter of 2009 – a typical peak travel period – at 69.2, but hit to the highest point in the second quarter of this year – a typical low travel period – at 72.2.
The ITRC said the results seemed to suggest an “inverse relationship” between tourist satisfaction and tourist inflow, and also a “bottleneck effect” where tourist satisfaction would decline when Macau’s tourism capacity reach a threshold.
However, Dioko did not agree that Macau is not capable to deal with a large number of tourists.
“It’s too early to say. Until we can collect more data then we can confirm if Macau has the capabilities,” he said.
Yet, based on the findings in hand and in comparison with the performances of Hong Kong, Singapore and Shenzhen, he said Macau’s transportation in particular needs to improve in order to boost tourists’ level of satisfaction.