|The existing research on city tourism indicates that not only tourist attractions and climate play a significant role in tourists’ assessments, but also the city environment, atmosphere and activities offered. The rapid development of the tourism industry in Riga has not always been followed by a rapid improvement of the facilities and the quality of the provided services. The aim of the research was to ascertain the tourists’ assessment of elements of the city environment in Riga. Questionnaires were used for the tourists’ survey. The sample consisted of 412 foreign tourists. The results of the research showed that hotel and restaurant services were evaluated the highest, while comparing basic tourism services (accommodation, catering, transport). The evaluation of the tourism information services (TIC, Internet, brochures), as well as other services (museums, entertainment) was also relatively high. Evaluations of 13 general infrastructure elements (transport, parking facilities, information signs, terminals, airports etc.) are lower than evaluations of tourism services and facilities. A lower evaluation of the tourism offer and city environment elements was observed in the other countries’ tourist group and, therefore, an in-depth research should be carried out in the future concerning the importance and performance of city environment elements of this tourist group. On the basis of the results of the research recommendations for municipality, entrepreneurs and city inhabitants have been worked out emphasising the significance of internal marketing and social environment.|
Key words: city tourism, tourism services, tourism infrastructure.
Over the last decade the city environment has become one of the most significant tourism destinations (Edwards, Griffin et al, 2008). It has been furthered by a variety of trends in the modern society, in particular, the increase in leisure time and disposable income (Law, 1996), as well as by such factors as international transport development, globalisation of economics and culture, inhabitants’ mobility (global interconnectedness). Riga is an important Latvian tourism destination that has appealed to the major part of local and foreign tourists. The rapid development of the hotel sector and increase in foreign tourists have changed not only the city’s physical, but also social environment and furthered communication between tourists and local inhabitants. With the development of tourism as a city function one should take into consideration that tourists are ever increasingly using not only tourism services and facilities, but also the city’s general facilities and services.
Riga is Latvia’s capital city with 700.1 thsd. inhabitants (CSB, 2011) and well developed tourism services – 115 tourist accommodations with 13 thsd. beds and 1.6 mln. visitor nights per year (CSB, 2010). There have been significant changes in the city since it was acknowledged that the city tourism in Riga was still in the early stage of development (Upchurch, Teivane, 2000). The growing demands, especially after the entry of Latvia into the EU, promote the offer of tourism services (the hotel capacity has at least doubled) and differentiation of tourism products (Rozite, Klepers, 2012).
The aim of the authors of the research was to obtain a comparative evaluation of the general and tourism facilities and services from the foreign tourists’ perspective. The following tasks were set to achieve the aim: 1) to evaluate the main tourism services from the tourists’ perspective for tourists with various trip motives, holiday types depending on the age and origin of tourist groups; 2) to evaluate the city’s tourism facilities and information services from the tourists’ perspective; 3) to obtain an evaluation done by the guests of the city environment and general infrastructure; 4) to work out recommendations for developers and planners of the city tourism in Riga.
It was already acknowledged in the 90’s of the previous century that tourism in the majority of cities has not been considered and not been planned, although tourists use city services such as accommodation, catering, shopping and transport. Tourism in post industrial cities in Europe in the 21st century will play a major role in it as a land use, an economic function, a provider of demand for urban services, and a participant in the shaping of new urban images and civic self-esteem’ (Burtenshaw et al, 1991, 220).
The concentration of primary resources in the city (resources that attract tourists to the city, mainly cultural heritage appeal) forms its ‘tourist-historic city’ (Ashworth, Tunbridge, 1990) independent of the desires of the city planners and developers. The secondary resources that support the primary are shopping, transport, recreation and entertainment facilities (Burtenshaw et al, 1991). Van den Berg, Van der Borg and Van der Meer divide the tourism products into primary (natural, cultural and historic characteristics, attractions and events) and complementary (hotels, restaurants, conference centres and exhibition halls). Describing the city tourism system, the authors highlight the significance of accessibility of tourism products that include the price and quality of transport services, parking facilities, safety, ambience and information concerning services (Van der Berg, Van der Borg et al, 1995).
Page, based on the leisure product elements defined by Jensen-Verbekes in 1986, divides them into three element groups: primary elements which include the place of the activity (cultural facilities, sports facilities, amusement facilities) and leisure setting (physical characteristics and socio-cultural features); secondary elements which consist of hotel and catering facilities, markets, shopping facilities and the relevant infrastructure, and the third group which includes additional elements such as accessibility and parking facilities, as well as tourism facilities (information offices, signposts, guides, maps and leaflets (Page, 1995). Jansen-Verbeke emphasises such city tourism quality criteria as functional characteristics of the environment, quality of the environment and hospitability of the environment. The city’s hospitality, in its turn, is characterised by such dimensions as social, visual, physical, orientation, information, symbolism, identification (Jansen-Verbeke, 1991).
The tourism functions of large multinational cities develop in competition with other city functions for resources, investments and labour force (Law, 1996). Tourists use facilities created for the local inhabitants, the development of which offers mutual benefits. Tourism and recreational services are used both by local inhabitants as well as tourists, and it is often difficult to distinguish the users. Therefore, service providers are often unable to evaluate the tourism receipts (ibid, 5p). The image of the city and development of facilities should be emphasized while developing a variety of tourism products in the city that are of high quality and unique (Law, 1996).
Tourists are not passive elements in the city tourism system as they have a perception of which services, facilities and products they would like to use (Page, 1995). The quality of destination products has become a prominent issue. The city tourism products are multi-functional and multi-used and, therefore, a survey of the users’ needs is necessary for their enhancement (Bramwell, 1998). Bramwell in his tourist satisfaction research in Sheffield, UK used questionnaires to evaluate the quality of such tourism facilities and service elements as the city centre environment, range of eating places, shops, car parking, transport and its accessibility, tourist information, toilets (ibid, 40).
A survey of foreign tourists was carried out in Riga in 2011 during the tourism season (May – September). The sample (412 respondents) was formed based on the tourist overnight stays in Riga (population= 676 945), taking into consideration % distribution in terms of the tourist generating country, and based primarily on foreign target markets considered as a priority for Latvia. 11.58 % were tourists from Russia, 11.23% from Germany, 10.35% from Finland, 8.02% from Sweden, 6.3% from Estonia, 5.27% from Lithuania and 5.27% from Great Britain. The survey confidence level is 95% and margin of error is 4.83%.
The respondents were interviewed using face to face surveys, addressing them in places with a high tourist concentration in Riga.
The questionnaire on the whole consisted of 11 questions and the socio- demographic variables of respondents. Both open-response, as well as closed questions and Likert scale from 1-10 were included.
The statistical difference between the two groups was analysed applying a two sample t-test. The significance of differences between more than two groups was analysed applying ANOVA (analysis of variances) method.
On the whole, the tourists in Riga are satisfied with the tourism services, as the overall average evaluation of the trips is positive. The most frequent rating was 9 (Mo=9), and it was provided by more than half of the respondents. The arithmetic mean was 8.43 (scale 1-10). Basically no statistically significant difference was observed in the overall trip evaluations by the various tourist groups – neither in terms of tourist motivation (sig.=739), nor repeated trips (sig.=183), companions (sig.=276) and age of tourists (sig.=0.503). At the same time a difference in ratings among tourists from different countries can be observed. All the respondents were divided into four groups – namely, tourists from the Baltic states, former socialistic countries, Western European/Scandinavian countries, and other, mostly, distant countries, mainly, from the Southeast Asia. Tourists from the Baltic states generally evaluated the trip more positively than tourists from the other countries. The higher evaluations of the Baltic tourists can be explained by closer cultural links among the Baltic states and similarity in lifestyle, whereas a further in-depth research is necessary to ascertain the reasons of a lower level of satisfaction of the tourists from the other countries.
The evaluation of tourism services from the foreign tourists’ perspective is the highest, as indicated by the successful operations of the tourism sector enterprises. The highest evaluations were for catering services (mean=8.41, Me=9.00, Mo=9), accommodation (mean=8.09, Me=9.00, Mo=9), and entertainment (mean=8.06, Me=8, Mo=9). (See Figure 1).
|Figure 1: Evaluation of Riga’s tourism services and tourism information elements by foreign tourists (mean).|
The lowest evaluations were given to museums (mean=7.72) and tourism information centre operations (mean=7.45), although more than half of the tourists had rated them as 8 (Me=8), which is a very positive indicator. No statistically significant difference is observed in the ratings for tourism services, neither among tourists with different trip motives, repeated trips, nor age groups (in all cases sig.>0.05). There is a difference in evaluation among the tourists from different countries regarding souvenir shops (sig.=0.008) and entertainment (sig.=0.000). Tourists from the other countries had the lowest evaluation for souvenir shops (in all cases t-test p-value <0.05) in comparison to other tourist groups whose average arithmetic mean ranged from 7.77- 8.15. A further in depth-analysis is required to explain the difference in these evaluations.
There is a significant statistical difference in the evaluation of Riga’s entertainment offer among the tourists from the Baltic states (mean=8.69) and those from other groups (mean=6.80) with t-test p-value=0.002, among the tourists from the Baltic states and western European/Scandinavian tourists (mean=7.91) with t-test p-value=0.035, and among the former socialistic block tourists (mean=8.34), and the tourists from other countries with t-test p-value=0.012. The difference in evaluations of entertainment offer of the tourists from the other countries and Western/Scandinavian countries indicate that a further research should be carried out to evaluate the importance and quality aspects of entertainment elements in the various geographical tourism segments.
A significant statistical difference can be observed in the evaluation of Riga’s accommodation offer among tourists who travel together with friends, and tourists who travel as couples (t-test p-value=0.008). Those accompanied by friends evaluate the accommodation services lower (mean=7.77) than tourists - couples (mean=8.58).
On the other hand, no difference in the evaluation of tourism information elements was observed among the tourists from different countries. The highest evaluation was for the tourism information available on the Internet, and the lowest - for tourism signposts and directions (see Fig. 1).
It was already indicated in the theoretical part that indirect tourism factors such as general facilities and city environment elements are indeed important factors in forming the tourism experience. The evaluation of elements characterising the general and tourism infrastructure and city environment (mean amplitude from 6.23 – 8.08) can be seen in the Fig.2.
|Figure 2: Tourists’ evaluation of elements characterising the general and tourism infrastructure and city environment (mean).|
The tourists have given the lowest evaluation to such general infrastructure elements as public toilets, parking facilities, bus terminal services, signposts and directions, although more than 50% of respondents had evaluated such elements on average as 7 (Me=7), which is positive. It should be acknowledged that the information signs in Riga are in Latvian and could be one of the reasons for dissatisfaction of the tourists.
The shopping facilities in Riga centre (mean=8.08, Me=8.00, Mo=9), local transport (mean=7.42; Me=8.00, Mo=8) and the airport (mean=7.94; Me=8.00, Mo=9) were rated the highest.
The average evaluation of individual infrastructure and city environment elements differ among the tourists from various countries - signposts (sig.= 0.037), city centre shops (sig.=0.005) and bus terminal (sig.=0.013). A statistically significant difference (t-test p-value 0.049) can be observed between the Baltic states tourists (mean=7.63) and Western European/Scandinavian tourists in the evaluation of signposts (mean=6.84). Tourists from the Baltic states (mean=8.4) and former Socialistic block (mean=8.35) rate the city centre shops higher than tourists from the other countries (mean=7.06) which confirms the opinion that Riga’s shopping offer is not suitable for tourists from the Asian countries.
Tourists who were first time visitors to Riga have evaluated signposts (mean =6.78) and railway terminals (mean=6.84) lower than repeated visitors. On the other hand, organised group tourists have evaluated the city centre environment (sig.=0.002) lower than couples, and ability to travel around Riga on foot (sig.0.005) lower than the families with children.
The airport has received the highest positive ratings and bus terminals - the lowest (mean=6.95), among transport terminals. A difference (test-p-value= 0.039) can be observed in the evaluation of the bus terminal by tourists from the Baltic states (mean= 6.52) which is the lowest, and tourists from the former socialist block countries ( mean =7.51) which is the highest. Ascertaining the overall tourist satisfaction with Riga’s tourism offer and satisfaction with certain tourism services, facilities and general infrastructure with which tourists are in direct contact, it is possible to determine those elements that have to be improved, as well as those that have to be highlighted in marketing as an advantage of the destination.
From the marketing point of view an important indicator characterising consumer satisfaction is the desire to return to the destination and word of mouth activities. More than ½ the respondents have rated the possibility of repeated trip to Riga as 9 on a 10 point scale with a mean of 8.45. Respondents had evaluated the possibility of recommending Riga as a destination to others with a mean= 8.56 which is a bit higher than the evaluation for repeated trips and can be logically explained by the fact that nowadays tourists are attracted to new destinations, and, consequently, destination loyalty is lower even when satisfaction is high. The situation with Riga is very positive as only 5% of respondents indicated that they would not return and 70% indicated that it is very much possible that they would come on a trip again (evaluations 8-10). There is a statistically significant difference (t-test p-value= 0.004) in the evaluation of repeated trips between the evaluations of tourists from the Baltic states who have evaluated the possibility higher than tourists from the Western/Scandinavian countries which can be explained by the neighbouring country factor.
From the marketing point of view word of mouth advertising is an essential indicator, as recommendations of friends and relatives is one of the significant information sources in modern day tourism that influences the choice of tourism destinations. 78% of respondents indicated that they would definitely recommend Riga to others as an attractive destination and only 1% indicated that they would rather not recommend it. There is no significant statistical difference (sig.>0.005) between word of mouth advertising among the various tourist groups (in terms of motivation, repeated trips, tourism companion, age etc.). The research results indicate that tourists to Riga are themselves a very successful tool for popularising Riga as a destination.
The results of the research reveal that, on the whole, foreign tourists are satisfied with Riga’s tourism offer, although tourists from the Baltic states have expressed a definitely higher evaluation in comparison to tourists from the other countries (tourists from far away countries such as Southeast Asia and South America) who have a lower evaluation in terms of tourist satisfaction level. The evaluation of entertainment, souvenir shops and city centre shopping possibilities in Riga is also lower in the opinion of tourists from the other countries. Further research should be carried out to analyse in-depth the reasons of a lower evaluation of certain tourism products and infrastructure elements by tourists from the other countries.
It is possible to determine those elements that have to be improved, as well as those that have to be highlighted in marketing as an advantage of the destination by ascertaining the overall tourist satisfaction with Riga’s tourism offer and satisfaction with certain tourism services, facilities and general infrastructure with which tourists are in direct contact.
The results of the research reveal that, on the whole, foreign tourists highly evaluate direct tourism services and infrastructure elements, whereas the general infrastructure and city environment elements are evaluated lower which indicates that the tourism enterprises and institutions related to the development of tourism in Riga understand the needs of tourists. However, institutions responsible for the general infrastructure and the city environment should be informed about the needs of the tourists in future, thereby ensuring that improvements in tourism environment could lead to the improvement in the general infrastructure and confirming Burtenshaw’s (Burtenshaw et al, 1991, 219) opinion that ‘Urban development should not be tourism project led, but tourism projects can play a vital role in urban development’.
Taking into account that catering and accommodation services have been most highly evaluated by tourists, the quality aspects of these elements should be used for popularising Riga as a destination, highlighting them as Riga’s strengths. On the other hand, lower evaluation of Riga’s entertainment offer by tourists from the Western/Scandinavian countries and other countries should be considered as a definite weakness in Riga’s tourism offer, and its improvement should be perceived as a serious challenge in the development of Riga as an attractive destination in the future. Firstly, an in-depth evaluation of entertainment possibilities should be carried out to ascertain the weak points, and then enhancement/development measures should be worked out.
The expressed desire of foreign tourists for repeated trips is evaluated highly, and taking into consideration the desire of the tourists from the Baltic states for repeated visits the popularisation of new tourism products should be carried out on these markets to transform the desire to return again into real repeated trips.
The high evaluation of the tourists’ desire in word of mouth advertising indicates that foreign tourists evaluate Riga as an attractive destination, and tourists can be one of the sources for popularising Riga. Therefore, brand consolidation activities for the Live Riga brand should be carried out with existing tourists to strengthen Riga’s desirable image in the tourists’ perception and to promote brand awareness.
Regular monitoring of foreign tourists’ satisfaction should be carried out in the future in Riga to ascertain not only the evaluation of tourism services and infrastructure elements, but also the evaluation of the general infrastructure, as well as local inhabitants’ attitude towards tourists, in particular, the satisfaction of tourists from the Western European, Scandinavian and far away countries (Japan, Brazil etc.).
Tourist satisfaction evaluations should include not only performance evaluation of the tourist offer elements, but also the importance evaluation of the elements to enable the determination of significant city environment and tourism product elements and their evaluation in the tourists’ perception and, thereby, ascertaining the essential/priority areas for improvement and enhancement.
The limitation of the research done is that the size of the chosen survey does not allow an in-depth analysis of the countries included in the other countries' group separately. The other countries' group can possibly include different segments in terms of tourist behaviour, such as tourists from the Southeast Asia and South America.
On the basis of the research done the authors have worked out recommendations for Riga tourism developers and enterprises regarding the enhancement of tourism services and facilities, as well as general infrastructure.
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