Koalas Are Smelly! Young Americans and Young Chinese-Malaysians Considering Australia As a Holiday Destination

ABSTRACT - International holiday travel represents a significant investment both to the tourist, in terms of time and money expended in the decision, and to the destinations, in terms of marketing and infrastructure investments needed to support an international holiday reputation. Traditional models of tourist decision making have previously only made cursory acknowledgment of the role of culture. However, there is considerable evidence from the literature that different cultures place different values on criteria important to such a decision. he results of this study show that considerable cultural variation exists between young Chinese-Malaysians and Americans in terms of how they choose a holiday destination and the type of holiday they choose. The findings support the notion that generic marketing approaches are inappropriate when attempting to attract tourists from different cultural groups.



Citation:

Jane Summers (1998) ,"Koalas Are Smelly! Young Americans and Young Chinese-Malaysians Considering Australia As a Holiday Destination", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 3, eds. Kineta Hung and Kent B. Monroe, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 188-194.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 3, 1998      Pages 188-194

KOALAS ARE SMELLY! YOUNG AMERICANS AND YOUNG CHINESE-MALAYSIANS CONSIDERING AUSTRALIA AS A HOLIDAY DESTINATION

Jane Summers, University of Southern Queensland, Australia

ABSTRACT -

International holiday travel represents a significant investment both to the tourist, in terms of time and money expended in the decision, and to the destinations, in terms of marketing and infrastructure investments needed to support an international holiday reputation. Traditional models of tourist decision making have previously only made cursory acknowledgment of the role of culture. However, there is considerable evidence from the literature that different cultures place different values on criteria important to such a decision. he results of this study show that considerable cultural variation exists between young Chinese-Malaysians and Americans in terms of how they choose a holiday destination and the type of holiday they choose. The findings support the notion that generic marketing approaches are inappropriate when attempting to attract tourists from different cultural groups.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

The question of cultural appropriateness of consumer decision-making models in general was raised in the late 1980s and early 1990s. These researchers questioned the logic of applying the traditional consumer decision-making models developed by Western researchers from investigations of western consumers, to non-Western consumers (Durvsula et al. 1993; Roth & Moorman 1988).

For many consumer researchers, cultural values are, to a large extent, shared by people within a particular culture, and are different from people of other cultures (Carman 1979; Durvasula et al. 1993; Grunert et al. 1989; Lynn et al. 1993; Munson & McQuarrie 1988; Tan & McCullough 1985). This issue of cultural variation has also one that has been extensively explored across a range of disciplines (Durvasula et al. 1993; Grunert et al. 1991; Lynn et al. 1993; McIntyre et al. 1991; Tansuhaj et al. 1991).

Cultural Values

Values are categorized as psychological variables that are used to characterize people in a certain group with regard to similarities in their psychological make-up (Grunert, Grunert and Beatty 1989). It is most commonly assumed that values are, to some extent, shared by people within a culture, and can hence be used to characterize the psychological similarities within and differences across cultures (Carman 1978). It is also widely accepted that cross-cultural differences in values do exist (Durvasula, Andrews, Lyonski and Netemeyer 1993; Kahle 1991; McIntyre, Meloche and Lang 1992). Thus values research is most useful in studies motivated by international marketing activity. They are particularly useful for cross-cultural research aimed at marketing applications of segmentation and positioning.

Destination Choice Decision-Making

The traditional models of consumer decision making suggest that decisions are made on the basis of five distinct stages: (1) need or problem recognition; (2) search for information; (3) alternative evaluation; (4) choice; and (5) post -purchase processes (Engel et al. 1993). The tourist buying decision is unique in that it is usually an investment with no tangible rate of return, and the purchase is often prepared and planned through savings made over a considerable period of time (Moutinho 1987). In spite of these unique characteristics, the specific stages of the decision process followed by tourists when making a holiday destination decision are not expected to differ from the traditional model as this traditional model has been well proven and tested over time (Engel et al. 1993; Loudon and Della Bitta 1994; Mowen 1993; Solomon 1994).

The tourist’s decision process involves the tourist’s motives and intentions as well as the stimuli that turn attention into choice of product or destination (Moutinho 1987). These motives and intentions are known to be culturally affected (Engel et al. 1993; Loudon and Della Bitta. 1994; Mowen 1993; Solomon 1994). Thus, whilst it is not anticipated that there will be variation in the decision process itself, we do expect variation in the factors that influence this process. Specifically we anticipate that there will be cultural variation in the areas of motivation to travel, perceived risk, decision criteria and cultural values. These considerations lead to research questions about onsumer decision making in two different cultures like Americans and Chinese-Malaysians visiting Australia.

Studies have suggested that consumer motives are an important key to truly understanding why and how consumers make their consumption decisions (Engel et al. 1993; Solomon 1994; Howard & Sheth 1969; Loudon & Della Bitta 1994; McCracken 1986). The emergence of a need to identify motives in order to explain the decisions made by holiday travelers has important implications for consumer behavior research. Specifically this implies a change in the approach used to identify decision criteria, as well as having implications for the interpretation of research findings.

Recognising a motivation to travel will trigger the first step in the decision process. Problem recognition occurs when a significant gap between the current situation and desired situation for a holiday is recongised. (see for instance Engel, Blackwell and Kollat 1993). Having a need recognized does not automatically result in the next step of search. In the case of holiday travel, the problem that is recognized may be something like the need to relax and escape the daily grind of working life. Of course, it is possible to satisfy this need by having a quiet day in bed reading a good book, going to a movie or going to a sporting event or equally, by taking a holiday. (Summers 1996).

Searching for information tends to be the next step in the process. This process is generally confined by the limits of budget and time commitments. Considerable variety exists in the terms of the search behavior of tourists particularly with regards to planning horizons and preparations differing markedly between tourists (Goodall 1988). For instance, impulse buyers may be attracted to special deals requiring immediate decisions to travel, whilst the 'meticulous planner’ considers a large amount of information from a variety of sources. Often the planning for this begins as soon as the last holiday ends (Goodall 1988).

Next in the process is the evaluation of alternatives. Here, the tourist uses two major categories of information, one dealing with the range of products/destinations available in the evoked set and two, the criteria for the selection. At this stage of the process the tourist weighs up the various alternatives available assessing such things as cost/value, attractions and amenities, travel opportunity and arrangements (Goodall 1988).

Once a potential visitor recognizes a desire for travel, they have searched for information from travel agents, friends and family members. They would then make a decision on the final destination and type of holiday, pay for it and then travel. Choice deals with the transformation of desires into purchasing actions (Solomon 1994). The type of holiday chosen is in fact, a sub-decision made by the intending traveler. In this study it expected that the type of holiday chosen would differ with the two cultural groups under study. Once the choice has been made the tourist undergoes a period of post purchase evaluation. Here tourists weigh up the actual experience with the expected, with the outcome generally being satisfaction, or dissatisfaction (Engel et al 1993).

The tourist decision process, particularly as it relates to international travel, is generally classified as a high-risk decision (Goodall 1988). The degree and type of risk perceived will vary with the degree of certainty that the decision will lead to satisfaction (Moutinho 1987). This is in part due to the fact that the tourist can neither directly observe what is being bought, nor can they try it out before the purchase. International holiday travel also generally represents a significant investment for the tourist in terms of time and money and this tends to further increase the levels of risk perceived by potential travelers.

This study therefore seeks to highlight the practical marketing implications of any cultural variations that are found to exist in the factors that influence the choice of Australia as a holiday destination, with specific reference to young Americans and Chinese-Malaysins. It will seek to identify whether there are any significant differences in the importance placed on motivation to travel, perceived risk, destination choice criteria used and the role of cultural values in the decision process between these two groups by addressing the following research questions:

1.  Will there be a difference in the factors that influence the type of holiday chosen by tourists and if so, can this difference be attributed to cultural variation?

2.  Are there differences in the motivation of tourists to travel to Australia and if so, can this difference be attributed to cultural variation?

3.  Do differences in the levels and types of perceived risk in the decision to choose Australia as a holiday destination exist, and if so can this difference be attributed to cultural variation?

4.  Is there a difference in the cultural values of holiday visitors to Australia?

5.  Is there a difference in the destination choice criteria used to choose a suitable holiday destination, and if so, can this difference be attributed to cultural variation?

METHOD

To answer the research questions, data was collected using a quantitative study conducted by way of a mailed questionnaire to representatives from the two groups under study (Young Americans and Chinese-Malaysians). Recipients of the questionnaire had previously been pre-selected based on a desire to travel to Australia. A series of four focus groups (two with representatives from the cultural groups under study) was conducted after the results of the quantitative study to confirm the results. The findings of the focus groups will be used to add depth to the discussion and to highlight the practical marketing implications of the quantitative results.

Sample

In order to meet the objectives of this study the sample used needed to consist of people who were considering Australia as a holiday destination before they arrived in the country. This would remove bias from the responses that may occur due to post-purchase dissonance. That is, if respondents are sampled before they have committed to travel and before they have left the country, then this should result in a more accurate reporting of perceptions and beliefs about a destination.

In order to test for the presence of any cross-cultural variability it was decided to choose typically diverse groups such as a Confucian based culture and a western based culture. These were Chinese-Malaysians and North American citizens. The rationale for these two groups being selected was as follows:

* these groups represent significant proportion of international travelers to Australia (Malaysians -7% and AmericaB11% (ABS, 1993));

* the travel time from Los Angles to Sydney and Kuala Lumpur to Sydney are relatively similar (13 hrs flying vs 10 hrs flying);

* Australia was seen as an attractive destination for young people from these countries; and

* these groups represented a Confucian and a Western based culture.

Sample characteristics are shown in Table 1.

Thus, the sampling frame consisted of young Chinese Malaysian and North American business students studying in Malaysia and The United States, respectively. Business major students were selected in both cases as it was reasoned thatthese groups of young people would have relatively homogeneous demographic characteristics and experiences and this would minimize the influence of other extraneous variables that could impact on the decision-making.

Although there is a larger proportion of females in the Chinese Malaysian group than in the American group, the issue of gender variation has been tested and controlled for with no significant differences found in the responses of the two groups based on gender.

Data Collection

One hundred and fifty questionnaires were mailed to America and Malaysia (300 questionnaires in total) to be completed by business major students in each country. Only those students who had an interest in travelling to Australia for a holiday were invited to participate in the study. A total of 124 useable questionnaires were returned. The response rate of 41 % (60 from Malaysia and 64 from America) was far better than the average anticipated for mail questionnaires of 25% (Aaker and Day 1990; Zikmund 1991). The characteristics of the respondents are shown in Table 1.

In this study, a self-completion mail questionnaire was used in an attempt to gain an appropriate amount of information with an acceptable level of accuracy, given the study’s time and finance constraints (Yau 1994). A self-administered design for this survey was required due to the nature of the information sought (personal opinions and beliefs) (Zikmund 1991). Where possible published scales were used in the survey instrument, however some scales needed to be developed (see Summers and McColl-Kennedy (1995) for a full account of the scale development process). Where interval data was required for analysis, 5-point Likert scales were used, where 1 was very important and 5 was very unimportant.

RESULTS

Cultural values

The cultural values of the two groups under study were measured using the 'List of Values’ (LOV) scale (Kahle & Timmer 1983). A manova was conducted on the responses with the result indicating that there was a highly significant difference in the respondent’s ratings of cultural values based on their nationality (F=3.9775, p<0.001). Table 2 shows that this difference is most notable with the values, 'a sense of accomplishment’, 'excitement’ and 'fun and enjoyment’. 'Being well respected’, 'warm relationships’, 'self-fulfillment’ and 'self-respect’ were also significant, but at a higher P value.

TABLE 1

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE RESPONDENTS.

In particular, the Americans were found to value 'self-fulfillment’, 'a sense of accomplishment’ the need for 'excitement’, 'self respect’, 'warm relationships’, 'being well respected’ and 'fun and enjoyment’ more highly than did the Chinese-Malaysians in the study. These results suggest that the Americans in the study had different cultural values from the Chinese-Malaysians with a high degree of internal consistency between the cultural values within the groups.

Perceived Risk

As expected, the nature and degree of perceived risk varied significantly between the two sample groups. The results of the focus groups and depth-interviews suggested that there were three main types of risk relevant in the decision to choose Australia as a holiday destination for Chinese-Malaysians and Americans. These were performance risk, social risk and financial risk. The dimensions of these types of risk are shown in Table 3.

A Manova was used to test whether the nine perceived risk variables (and their dimensions) used in this study differed in the degree of importance placed on them, baed on the respondent’s cultural values (F=5.536, P<0.000). On closer examination of the univariate F tests, the difference in perceptions of risk is most significant for the performance risk and financial/time risk dimensions

Americans perceived more risk in the performance risk category than did Chinese-Malaysians, whilst in contrast, Chinese-Malaysians perceived more risk in the financial/time risk dimension than did the Anglo-Americans. Even though the social risk dimension did not appear to be significant in its entirety, one dimension of this type of risk was more important to the Chinese-Malaysians than to the Anglo-Americans. This was that, 'Australia would be a popular place for a holiday’. To Chinese-Malaysians who place considerable value on the perceptions of others, this was an important influence on their holiday destination decision.

Choice criteria

To test whether decision criteria used by the two groups differed according to their cultural value system, twenty-four destination choice criteria, shown in table 4, were used in this study (see Summers and McColl-Kennedy (1995) for full details of scale development).

A Manova analysis indicated that there was a significant difference in the two cultural group’s overall ratings of destination choice criteria (F= 1.448, P<0.008). On closer examination of the results, the most significant differences occurred in relation to the existence of a stable legal environment, the provision of a wide variety of food choices and levels of service (see table 5).

Specifically, a stable legal environment, availability of a wide variety of food options and the number of tourist attractions (more being seen as better) were all more important to the Americans than to the Chinese-Malaysians. By contrast, the Chinese-Malaysians, rated the tourism supply and marketing influence factors more highly than did the Americans. Specifically, they valued the levels of service available and the range of cultural attractions as more important to them.

DISCUSSION

As anticipated, this study showed that the cultural values of young Chinese-Malaysians and Americans did differ significantly across a range of value dimensions. Whilst in general terms this is not surprising, there was some speculation that the sample frame chosen (young, mainly single university students), might result in a less significant variation of cultural values. Progressive Westernisation of cultures is a very popular theme with cross-cultural researchers (Berry 1980; Bell 1980; LeVine 1984). However, these results suggest that whilst certain western values and past-times may be adopted rapidly in a culture, that the main bases of that culture do appear to remain entrenched.

TABLE 2

SUMMARY OF THE LIST OF VALUES (LOV) USED IN THE STUDY

TABLE 3

PERCEIVED RISK

Many studies that have previously compared Asian and Western cultures have concluded that oriental or Confucian cultures, favor a more external locus of control than western cultures (Kluckohn & Strodtbeck 1961; Lynn, et al. 1993; Tansuhaj et al. 1991). This results in their believing more in luck, chance and fate than western cultures. (Tansuhaj et al. 1991). Certainly, the values of 'self-fulfillment’, 'accomplishment’ and, to a lesser extent, 'fun and enjoyment’, are values that reflect a belief in control over one’s destiny. One would expect then, as was found in this study, that these values would be favored more by the Western culture of the Americans than by the Confucian culture of the Chinese-Malaysians.

The existence of this variation in cultural value systems is consistent with the rationale used by cross-cultural researchers (Berry 1980; Durvasula et al. 1993; Grunert et al. 1989; Lynsonski and Netemeyer 1993), who espouse the value of such research for international arketing applications. Certainly, the different travel motivations (identified in study one), different cultural values and different evaluative criteria identified for the two groups in this study will have significant implications for Australian destination marketers.

Motivations for travel were highlighted in the focus group sessions and the individual motivations for travel do appear to be culturally based. For instance, the Americans in this study indicated that their main motivations in considering Australia as a destination would be as an educational and cultural experience as well as looking for fun and adventure. 'It is great to see new things and learn about other countries’, 'We love your wildlife and national parks!’ and 'we can’t wait to see Ayres Rock and the Outback’.

In contrast, the Chinese-Malaysians in the study, suggested that they would be motivated to travel to Australia as a reward for hard work either already done or about to be done, and as an escape from their work-focused lifestyle. 'If I finish my studies in 2 years then my family have promised me an all expenses paid holiday in Australia for 2 weeks...’ and 'My family considers that a holiday here in Australia would be a good reward for me before I have to start my working life...’. 'In Chinese families the father will work until 9 or 10 every night and most of the day on Saturday. Sundays are the only item he will spend with his family. If he wants to spend some quality time with his family, away form work pressures, then he needs to take them away, preferably overseas where they can relax’.

TABLE 4

DESTINATION CHOICE  CRITERIA

TABLE 5

RESULTS OF MANOVA EXAMINING NATIONALITY AND DESTINATION CHOICE CRITERIA DIMENSIONS.

Another implication of the study is that the types of perceived risk felt by the travelers in considering Australia as a holiday destination also appear to be culturally based. Specifically, this study identified that the Chinese-Malaysians were more inclined to feel social risk (doing the socially acceptable thing was very important) and safety (personal safety) than the Americans, who were more likely to feel performance risk (that the holiday would be as expected and 'deliver the goods’). This trend was also highlighted in the results of study one, particularly in the post-purchase discussions. The implications of this for destination marketers is that they need to be able to identify what types of risk are most likely to be perceived by the various national, and thus cultural, groups they are targeting, in order to address some of these risk issues.

Using the results of this study in relation to Americans perceiving high levels of performance risk when considering Australia as a holiday destination, Australian destination marketers should endeavor to ensure that the marketing information does not create any inappropriate expectations of the possible holiday experiences. Even simple educational exercises will help to reduce the possibility of expectations not matching the actual holiday experience.

One example of this problem occurring was reiterated in a focus group discussion. An American holiday maker who arrived in Sydney ready to rent a car to drive to Ayres rock and then on to Cairns, down to the Gold Coast and back to Sydney, all in four days, was very disappointed and disillusioned to find they couldn’t have the holiday they had planned.

Another example was of a father and son who were keen to explore the 'outback’ of Australia and found some information on Carnarvon Gorge. They went there expecting a beautiful rainforest wilderness, which they got, but they also assumed that there would be some infrastructure there to support this 'wilderness’. Unfortunately, they were somewhat disappointed because '...firstly we had to drive for ages on a one-track road, and there were big trucks and lots of cars using it. man it was terrifying! and when we got there....(Carnarvon Gorge)...there was nothing there!!! Absolutely nothing!!’. These people appreciated the beauty of the place, and it was certainly wilderness, but their (American ) perceptions of wilderness and the (Australian) marketer’s were obviously very different.

The findngs from the focus groups indicated that reference group influence was important for both these groups in relation to their holiday decisions. More significant however, was the fact that the relative influence of these reference groups appeared to differ for the two groups. The Chinese-Malaysians placed a great deal of importance on the recommendations and advice of their peers, friends and family, while the Americans seemed to be more influenced by how impressed their peers would be with their holiday choices. Similarly, the Chinese-Malaysian group placed considerable emphasis on the marketing literature available when selecting a destination. They were also more likely to accept that the images shown in the brochures and other visual mediums were 'true-to-life’.

The relative importance of the destination choice criteria used by the Chinese-Malaysians and Americans also varied due to cultural values. The results of this study showed that a stable legal and political environment and the availability of a wide variety of food options were more important to the Americans in the group than to the Chinese-Malaysians. Similarly, when the overall destination dimensions were examined, the types and number of tourists and the cultural attractions available in Australia were more important to the American group than to the Chinese-Malaysian group. The American’s higher importance ratings for legal and political stability and for tourist and cultural attraction criterion is consistent with their higher perceptions of performance risk and their cultural orientation preferring an internal local of control. That is, the tangible elements of the decision process are more relevant to them as they feel more able to control and manage these. The concern about a stable legal and political environment by Americans is not surprising, given the general concern of American travelers with recent incidents of hijackings, kidnappings and other terrorist activities.

By contrast, the Chinese-Malaysians were more influenced by the marketing literature relating to the destination and whether the destination had efficient tourism supply infrastructure (road systems, accommodation options, ancillary services and so on) than were the Americans. This too, is consistent with their higher perceived levels of physical and social risk as well as their more fatalistic cultural orientation. Thus, they and their families needed to be assured that the level of tourist infrastructure would be enough to ensure safety, yet they were less interested in the tangible criterion of attractions and political orientation.

The focus group results suggested that the type of holiday chosen did differ between the two cultural groups under study. Specifically, the Americans preferred individual, self-styled holidays where they could experience the outback and 'real’ people and cultures of the destinations they chose. The Chinese-Malaysians on the other hand, preferred well-organized tours where they could be assured of other members of their race, as well as being assured that all possible embarrassments due to cultural variability would be avoided. For example, 'I would prefer an organized tour where I had the least amount of free-time, that way I would know I wouldn’t do or say the wrong thing’.

Therefore, by knowing a potential traveler’s types of perceived risk and their nationality a reasonably accurate prediction may be made regarding the level of importance that will be placed on these choice criteria. These results are consistent with the information gained from the Chinese-Malaysian focus groups conducted in study one. For instance common comments such as, 'I would prefer a pre-arranged tour that was recommended to me, as it would mean that I would know that I would get a least one 'good’ Asian meal a day... and I would know that I would be well looked afterI would be more comfortable if I knew that I would see a few other Asian faces’ were recorded.

LIMITATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH

The results of this study, whilst useful for Australian destination marketers, have limited significance for other destinations. Similarly only two national and cultural groups were examined in this study, further limiting its generalisability. In spite of this, the core findings that culture does impact the decision processes and choice criteria of holiday travelers is very relevant and useful to all destinations wishing to attract international tourists. Future such studies should consider comparing a wider range of cultural groups and possibly even a range of competing destinations in order for the findings to be validated for general application.

The characteristics of the sample could also be an influencing factor in the results of this study. This is particularly evident in the case of the levels and types of perceived risk that were identified. That is, that these types of perceived risk may be more likely in younger adults than in older adults [Table 1 showed that 90% of the sample were under the age of 25 and single.] (see Table 1). It may well be that social risk, particularly, would decrease as one’s age increased.

CONCLUSIONS

This paper shows that the generic decision making model can be used to represent the process followed by tourists when making destination choice decisions. However, it also shows that there was considerable cultural variation in the factors influencing the process (specifically motivations and perceived risk) and in the choice criteria used to make the final destination decision.

Americans and Chinese Malaysians do rate destination choice criteria differently when considering Australia as a holiday destination. They also seek different types of holidays (packages vs FIT) and different destinations within Australia. They also reference and value different information sources in their decision and they have quite different levels of perceived risk attached to the international holiday decision process.

Finally, the results of this study will help to confirm to Australian and other destination marketers the need to understand that their international markets will have differing travel motivations, different types of risk and different cultural values all of which will impact on how destination criteria are rated in terms of their importance in the travel decision. This is turn, should be incorporated into any marketing strategy that is developed to appeal to these markets.

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Authors

Jane Summers, University of Southern Queensland, Australia



Volume

AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 3 | 1998



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