Macau is the world’s largest gaming destination as measured by gross revenue, boasting more than 30 casinos and home to some of the most iconic gaming resorts in the world.
While all that helps to attract tourists to the territory, the travel experience of those who visit Macau is likewise impacted by many non-gaming factors, finds a study by Anthony Wong Ip Kin – a former scholar at the Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT) – and IFT assistant professor Li Xiangping.
Their research suggests the exist- ence of “an intricate web of relationships between various destination services,” the two scholars wrote in their academic paper
Destination Services and Travel Experience in the Gaming Mecca: the Moderating Role of Gambling as a Travel Purpose Among Chinese Tourists, published in the Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing.
They said: “Findings from the current study show that the services of various destination attributes are central in creat- ing a favourable travel experience among Chinese tourists . . . Our findings show that while the glittering casinos may bring in mil- lions of Chinese tourists, and services of the gaming facilities rank at the top in Macau, the services of other destination attributes complement the ‘dragon head’ gambling industry and co-create favourable travel experiences for the Chinese tourists.”
The two authors identified a total of eight destination factors impacting visitor travel experience to Macau; namely, tour sites; entertainment facilities; gaming facili- ties; accommodation facilities; dining facili- ties; transportation facilities; environment and cleanliness; and overall service quality.
“For instance, overall service quality is correlated with the performance of the other seven service attributes, suggesting that each of the individual travel and hos- pitality service aspects don’t stand alone,” Mr. Wong and Ms. Li explained. “Each of these service offerings represents a value- added component to a destination’s overall tourism product mix.”
The study was based on the results of a face-to face survey of 300 ethnic Chinese visitors – including from Mainland China,Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia – to Macau. The questionnaire covered several areas, including travel purpose of respond- ents, and questions on destination service and respondent travel behaviour.
Casinos matter,but not much
An issue highlighted in the study was the role of gambling as a travel purpose and its impact upon the relationship between destination services and tourist travel ex- perience. For that, the authors divided the study sample into two groups, based upon whether they came to Macau for gambling purposes or not.
“While gamblers were more satisfied with the services of the gaming facilities
and visited Macau more often, the effect
of gaming services on travel experience . .
. [was] not significant,” they said. “Gaming services are still central to casinos but they become a hygiene factor (i.e.) important but not leading to satisfaction, in that gamblers take them for granted.”
The study findings showed that both gambling and non-gambling tourists were more likely to return to a gaming destina- tion if it could offer a high level of both gaming and non-gaming services. The research concluded that a successful gam- ing destination should include in its offering “excellent services within a wide range of travel and hospitality offerings such as din- ing, gaming and non-gaming entertainment, transportation and tour sites.”
The study also found that Chinese gamblers were less likely to recommend a destination to others than non-gamblers, even when they had a favourable travel experience relating to that place. “This may be attributed to the fact that Chinese society still perceives gambling as something nega- tive,” the authors opined.
The paper also suggested that “a trans- formation from the traditional hardcore gam- bling experience to a more diverse casino and gaming destination experience” was already evolving in Macau.
Mr. Wong and Ms. Li noted that their study highlighted the dangers of relying solely upon gaming to attract visitors, point- ing to the need to diversify tourism offerings and related infrastructure. “Since many of the Asian gaming destinations, such as Macau, Singapore and Manila, have a rich mix of culture and architectural offerings, they may also develop their own version of creative tourism as a complement to their gambling infrastructures,” the authors suggested.
“As Chinese tourists are travelling outside of their country like never before, gaming destinations should avoid relying solely on gambling as it could become mundane and the destinations could be deemed to be commonplace,” they concluded.