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Posted on August 6th, 2013

Back to School – Tourist Movement Patterns

Researchers at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Hotel and Tourism Management recently studied tourist migration patterns across the country. The goal was to better understand how tourists move within the area and possibly predict those patterns to better serve tourists, decrease congestion and enhance access for all parties engaged in Hong Kong’s tourism sector. The study considered past research on inter-destination tourist movements between one tourist destination and another, but found the literature lacking in intra-destination movement. The authors’ stated that tourist movements’ can be influenced by three major factors: ‘human push’ factors such as tourist role, travel party and prior visits; ‘physical pull’ factors such as destination geomorphology; and time factors such as the length of stay at destinations and total time of travel.

Map of common tourist destinations in Hong Kong.

Using the World Trade Organization’s definition of a local destination, a ‘focal point in the delivery of tourism products and the implementation of tourism policy’, the researchers set out to understand the travel patterns of Hong Kong’s 25 million annual visitors. Building on past research done in the area, the authors laid out 6 categories of movement patterns. Single point which involves no diversions, i.e. traveling from point A to point B and back again, often using the same route each way. Multiple which consisted of three subcategories: base-site, travel starts from one location, always returning to the base-site before heading to a new destination; stopover, which focuses on one particular destination for the trip, but may consist of side trips en route; and chaining loop, where tourists go through several destinations without repetition, and often the stops are related in some manner. The final category was complex, and consisted of two subcategories: destination region-loop where tourists have a main destination point but proceed in circuitous routes surrounding the main destination; and complex neighborhood where tourists go from one destination to another without repeating any travelling leg.

Map of movement of 94 tourists on their first day in Hong Kong.

In the study, researchers analyzed the travel itineraries of 94 Australian and British visitors. They were then split into two categories, i.e. first-time and previous visitors. The 44 who were new to the destination primarily stayed in the central business district, whereas the 50 who had experienced the area before spread out much further. Their findings led them to believe that repeat visitors had the most diverse travel pattern on their first day in the destination city; whereas first-timers stayed close to the tourist bubble in the early days until they became more comfortable with the lay of the land, so to speak. As the days left on vacation decreased, both groups were more likely to stay near their base-site or primary destination. The average length of stay was about 5 days.

Since tourist motivations are based on attractions in host cities, the authors felt that this study should be reproduced in as many diverse environments as possible to see if their results could be generalized in any fashion. Since number of attractions and spacing of attractions varies as much as the destination locale, there might not be broad and applicable findings to attribute to all destinations. However, the analytic model is transferability to other host destinations.

Justin Harmon
Staff Writer

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