Do attractions attract tourists or simply satisfy needs?

Destinations seem to feel the need to build attractions to draw tourists. This argument is based on the traditional push theory of marketing based on the assumption that “if you build it they will come.” The assumption is that primary attractions are the reason why people visit. In some cases this may be true, but more recent marketing theory suggests people travel to have personal needs met rather than to visit specific attractions. At best, attractions are needs satisfiers, and rather than being and end in themselves, attractions serve as a means to an end.

And so, the question is raised about whether built attractions actually “attract” tourists, facilitate desired needs satisfaction, represent something that must be seen in the destination even if not part of the reason to visit or simply provide something to do to kill time between other activities? As a result a destination’s most popular attractions may not be reflective of the needs of tourists and instead may be popular for other reasons.

Do attractions attract tourists or simply satisfy needs?

To answer this question, you will need to:
a) Review relevant literature on attractions and attractions systems
b) Identify a number of attractions in a preferred destination (Hong Kong) and seek relevant information on them
c) Attempt to discern whether visitation is due to the extrinsic appeal of the attraction or due to its intrinsic appeal as a need satisfier.

Hints form professor:
This topic build on Leiper’s and others’ observations that attractions do not have any magnetic pull. Instead, the question to ask is whether or not attractions are the reason why people visit or if they provide the means for people’s needs to be satisfied when they visit? A parallel question with this, then, becomes how many attractions doesn’t destination need and at what point do attractions cannibalize each other, rather than build on the destinations appeal?
To do this assignment you will have to begin by defining what an attraction is and justifying this definition through the literature.
Again, there are many ways to address this problem and there are many possible answers. No doubt, some people, explicitly for some attractions and if they were not there, people would not visit. But, just as well, some people come for a more generic experience, with specific attractions played little in their decision to visit.
Some people have suggested a quantitative approach. Some people have suggested comparing to destinations, with a single product seasonal destination and a more complex destination like Singapore. Some people suggest looking more at the literature on segmenting the special interest tourism market to get an idea of the importance that specialist attractions played to different market segments. Others have suggested other ideas. The approach they take is the one that works best for you.
The key issue to consider is this:

“If the attraction was not there, would people still come to the destination?”

This issue is important, for there is a huge difference between volume of visitors and why people visit. It also goes to the heart of attraction development.

For example, Festivals (film festival, comedy festivals, etc) are developed to bundle a range of activities into an attraction that will draw people to a city. It is unlikely that people would go to toronto just to see a movie, but the Toronto International Film Festivals draws about 41,000 people and contributes about C$189 million to the Toronto economy. As a result, one could say that this event is the attraction that draws people. If it were not on, people would not visit.

Think as well about why you are studying for your doctorates and why you are taking this subject. My guess is that few if any of you came specifically because of ‘Theories and Concepts.’ Yet, all of you are taking this subject. Thus, it is hard to state that it is the reason why you studied. Instead, it is a means to an end of achieving your doctoral qualification.

Likewise, 7 million overnight visitors went to the Peak last year, making it one of Singapore’s most popular attractions. BUT, can we say that the Peak is the reason WHY people came to Singapore, or was it something that they did to satisfy a deeper reason why?

By contrast, about 20% of the 2 million Chinese Business Overnight Visitors (roughly 400,000) went to the Convention and Exhibition Centre. Most of these people would have gone to trade shows or to conduct business. So, one could argue that if Singapore did not have the Convention and Exhibition Centre, these people would not be in Singapore
Core readings:
Leiper N (1990) Tourist Attractions Systems Annals of Tourism Research, 17(3): 367 – 384

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