Effective communication in developing rail tourism in Cape Town, South Africa
Kayster, Daphine Dawn
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Introduction This research explores effective communication within tourism to answer the research question “What are the communication needs of the same day rail visitor in Cape Town?” The research sub-questions are namely: Who is the same day rail visitor in Cape Town? What are the same day rail visitors’ communication needs? What are the same day rail visitors’ information search preferences? How does the same day rail visitor perceive rail tourism communication? What are the same day rail visitors’ product attributes? Literature review Using a theoretical framework anchored by Lumsdon and Page’s (2004) tourist-transport interface, Fodness’s (1994) tourism motivation theory, as well as information search (Fodness & Murray, 1997), this quantitative research considers how the same day rail visitor obtains tourist destination information and the influence of that information on their transport decisions to reach the tourist destination. Destination image (Beerli & Martin, 2004a) plays a key role in influencing the purchase behaviour of tourists as those destinations with a strong positive image, have a better chance of being selected by tourists in their travel decision process. Furthermore the literature explores effective communication and its ability to link the tourist with the destination (Hall, 1999), and the role of public relations in establishing rail tourism in Cape Town (Stacks, 1992; Grunig & Hunt, 1984: Van Ruler, 2004). Design and methodology A quantitative empirical, research design was selected for this limited scope thesis. The study used a single, structured, self-administered and pre-tested questionnaire. This questionnaire was distributed to convenience samples of same day rail visitors on board the tourism train to either Simon’s Town or Stellenbosch. While the non-probabilistic sample cannot be generalised into a broad overview of the same day rail visitor; it can offer insights into the communication needs of the rail tourist. Key findings The key findings to this research were: The same day rail visitor in Cape Town is mainly local South African, travelling in a family or friend group and using rail for the first time. • Understanding ‘information search’ behaviour is the key to meeting the communication needs of the same day rail visitor as while both men and women seek information, but they seek information differently and use different information sources, with the message and channel being important. • The same day rail visitor uses a variety of communication channels to find information. • The same day rail visitor was disappointed in some of the promotional communication as it over promised on the destination image (trip). • Cape Town rail service is doing an ‘average’ but not a good job in communicating rail tourism information. • Effective communication channels for trip experience and feedback were email and social media (Facebook and Twitter). • The same day rail visitor uses a variety of communication channels to communicate with, and to receive communication from, Cape Town rail service. • The same day rail visitor requires relevant information that enables them to make a purchase decision. • The majority of same day rail visitors obtained knowledge about the tourist service via promotions on Groupon and thereafter from family, friends and the internet. • Personal safety and security are very important product attributes (88 %). • Cross-transport inter-connections, preferably at railway station, were essential to 90% of the respondents. • The same day rail visitors’ product needs are matched by their experiences. Recommendations Future study is recommended to consider whether improved communication on the trains and stations to the ‘to work’ commuters and ‘anything but work’ commuters, would extend their patronage to include same day rail visitor. It is recommended that further studies explore whether a causal relationship exists between the prices of the Groupon same day rail visitor package and purchase decisions of rail tourists in Cape Town.