How will South Africa judge the success of the World Cup? Will it be ‘how satisfied ‘ the visitors were with their experience in the Rainbow Nation or will they be looking for a response that will enable them to assess the potential for growth in the tourism sector and the economic benefits that accrue from increased visitor expenditure.
How they go about that research is vital according to Ray Sleeman Managing Director of The Tourism & Leisure Group. Asking people how satisfied they are is not a good indicator of potential growth and business profitability. To understand the future benefits that the World Cup can achieve for South African tourism, it needs to be asking whether visitors will recommend others to visit. Will visitors be willing to put their personal reputations ‘on the line’ to recommend South Africa.
Sleeman says that research in New Zealand indicates that high levels of satisfaction doesn’t equate to high levels of recommendation. Currently in New Zealand there are large discrepancies between satisfaction scores and recommendation scores from the same visitor samples, both domestic and international. This leads to misinterpretation of the data suggesting that the experience for visitors as perceived by industry operators is better than the visitors believe it to be.
For the Rugby World Cup in 2011 it will be important to find out how visitors from many countries that currently have a low profile in New Zealand, but are from large populations, rate their experience in New Zealand. Sleeman says the reason for this is that we need to understand what we do well and particularly what we don’t do well, if we are to attract more visitors from existing markets and new visitors from new markets.
The degree to which people will recommend New Zealand to friends and colleagues needs to be determined through a comprehensive research programme. Ray said it’s about time that we gave the traditional satisfaction survey the ‘red’ card and started using the recommendation question to identify customer loyalty leading to word of mouth referrals, repeat visitors, business growth and profitability.
We have just over one year to set a benchmark for the visitor experience. Currently we don’t have one measure that provides us with the benchmark to make a judgement on whether visitors to the Rugby World Cup are likely to receive a ‘World Class Visitor Experience’ and New Zealand will have a lasting legacy from the tournament.