quinta-feira, maio 08, 2014

How does gender affect visiting a World Heritage Site? The case study of Guimarães

Until present few studies have been undertaken in Portugal dealing with the attitudes, motivations, and profile of tourists who visit World Heritage Sites. Also, few studies have dealt with destination image (e.g., Agapito, Mendes & Valle, 2010; Lopes, 2011). As far as we know, none have approached the issue of gender differences in the choice of a Portuguese heritage destination.

Since cultural tourism destinations need to differentiate themselves from each other, appropriate market segmentation must be based on a deep understanding of the customers’ motivations and preferences. Keeping in mind results from empirical literature (e.g., Silberberg, 1995; Beerli & Martin, 2004; Richards, 2004; Pérez, 2009; Sheng, Shen, & Chen, 2008), gender seems to be a possible approach to market segmentation, whether for Guimarães or for other cultural tourism destinations around the world.

Guimarães, located in the north-western region of Portugal, is a city of strong symbolic and cultural significance, and the nomination of its historical centre as a World Heritage Site in 2001 enhanced its tourism potential. This study investigates the possible relation between gender and attitudes and motivations towards a World Heritage Site, such as Guimarães. Additionally, the empirical approach used in the study tries to capture differences in the perceived attributes of the city. Commonalities and distinctions within and between groups of tourists, by focusing on the specific characteristic of gender, were analysed.

The study addressed two main questions: first, whether males and females have similar or different preferences in choosing the city as their destination; and, second, whether there are gender differences in the perception of the attributes of Guimarães. A better understanding of the gendered nature of the destination is a valuable cue for shaping products and services according to visitors’ preferences.

Based on the objectives for this research, a survey among visitors to Guimarães was conducted during three different periods over a year’s duration in 2010 and 2011, bearing in mind the seasonality of the visitation rates. Also, the city’s tourist potential is not equally distributed as, in a municipality of 69 parishes, only eight have at least two tourist facilities, and they are mostly located in the historic centre of Guimarães. Therefore, this study’s population was composed by visitors to all destinations within the city that have tourist potential. A questionnaire was administered to a sample of those visitors.

The questionnaire was applied in the two tourism offices in the city. One of these is inside the World Heritage area, and the other is in the city’s historical centre. The questionnaire was self-administered, although each tourist was asked to complete it in the presence of tourism office employees, who would answer any questions for the tourists while they were completing the questionnaire.

The questionnaire integrated ten structured questions with dichotomous and multiple-choice formats, requiring only a short time to complete. It was divided into two parts: one connected directly to the research subject (motivations of tourists), and the other with demographic indicators that made it possible to define a demographic profile of the respondents (e.g. gender, age, marital status, education). Of the 300 questionnaires completed, 276 were validated and submitted for statistical analysis. The remaining 24 had incomplete answers and were not considered.

Since we had many variables (21) to measure tourists’ perceived image of Guimarães, it was decided to partially adapt Meng and Uysal’s (2008) and SooCheong and Liping’s (2002) process for data reduction of destination attributes, transforming the original set of variables into four composite factors. To create the composite factors, the responses for several variables were combined into one composite variable, considering and adapting the results of the factor analysis of the aforementioned authors. Independent sample t-tests were used to examine gender differences regarding perceived factors and individual attributes.

From the survey results, the most important distinguishing factors were the profile of the visitors in terms of gender (female: 63%) and education (university degree: 55.2%). These results follow the analysis of Silberberg (1995), who found a predominance of females and more highly educated individuals travelling to such places. Regarding age, respondents under 45 years old predominated in this study, contrary to what is generally common in cultural tourists. However, it seems useful to consider the claim of Richards (2006 and 2007, cited by Pérez, 2009) that the segment of tourists between 20 and 29 years old has been increasing lately.

The results suggest that both men and women were aware of the main elements responsible for the city’s World Heritage status, and that the destination is a Heritage Site that also offers the opportunity to tour the region, which has shown to have a significant positive effect on male tourists’ choice of Guimarães. Regarding the perceived attributes of the city, results indicate minor gender differences with one exception: women expressed more apprehension than males regarding the perceived security of the destination. This finding is consistent with other previous gender research stating that women have also shown more concern about security (Mieczkowski, 1990; McGehee, Loker-Murphy & Uysal, 1996; Meng & Uysal, 2008). Due to the nature of this issue and the way it can affect the image of the destination, it should have the attention of local authorities, even when it is only necessary to deal with a perceived problem and not necessarily a real one.

With regard to limitations, the study was not able to clearly differentiate tourists from other types of visitors. In addition, only visitors who directly contacted the tourist information offices were asked to participate in the survey. Therefore, many potential sources of selection bias could be present and the non-probability nature of the sampling procedure limits any definitive or conclusive statements about the results. However, the main limitation of this study is that it is solely a quantitative study. The narratives, preferences, and behaviours of male and female tourists as envisaged previously were not present in the survey. This gap should help to investigate further differences using gender. Furthermore, open questions were not included to allow female and male participants to clarify the reasons behind their various answers.

Keywords: Tourism motivations, Gender differences, Cultural tourism, Guimarães.

PAULA CRISTINA REMOALDO [cris.remoaldo@gmail.com]
LAURENTINA VAREIRO [lvareiro@ipca.pt]
JOSÉ CADIMA RIBEIRO [jcadima@eeg.uminho.pt]
JOSÉ FREITAS SANTOS [430jfsantos@gmail.com]

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(reprodução de resumo alargado de comunicação apresentada em Gentour 2014 - Gender in Tourism 2014, 2nd edition, a de correr na Universidade de Aveiro, entre 7 e 10 de Maio de 2014)

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