Assessing key tour guide competences to co-create memorable tourism experiences
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Despite growing academic interest in memorable experiences, very limited research has examined how tourism frontline staff should be nurtured to become co-creators of memorable tourism experiences, particularly the tour guides. Limited research has to date also focused on this important topic from a developing country context. While tour guides, who are an important interface between the host destination and its visitors, have the ability to transform a tourist’s visit from a tour into an experience, it is ironic that the training of tour guides in Zimbabwe is noted by scholars to be lamentably weak, loosely coordinated and insufficient to develop a guide who is competent enough to deliver in specialised tourist nuggets. The main goal of this thesis was therefore to assess key tour guide competences required to co-create memorable tourism experiences in Zimbabwe and how they are developed. To help achieve the study’s goal, five objectives were formulated. The first objective, namely “a literature based analysis of memorable tourism experiences and how tour guides can influence their development”, was achieved in Chapters 2 and 3. The second objective on analysing Zimbabwe’s tour guide educational and training systems by means of a literature review was achieved in Chapter 4. Objective three, intended to provide an overview of the methodological approach followed in the empirical phases of the study, was fulfilled in Chapter 5 by using a concurrent mixed method approach. In this research approach, a seven (7) page questionnaire was administered to 384 tourists, while an interview guide was administered to 46 tour and field guides. The study’s fourth objective and its five sub-objectives regarding the results of both the quantitative and qualitative research phases were addressed in respectively Chapters 6 and 7. The study’s fifth objective: “to draw conclusions and make recommendations regarding tour guide competences for the co-creation of memorable tourism experiences in Zimbabwe” was achieved through Chapter 8. SPSS Statistics v23 and SPSS Amos v 23 were used to analyse the quantitative data with some analysis tools being employed which included the one-way analysis of viii variance, factor analyses, regression analyses and the descriptive statistics. Qualitative data was thematically analysed using Creswell’s six steps. The study’s results and the proposed model concluded that the key tour guide competences to co-create memorable tourism experiences are personality traits, emotional intelligence and cultural intelligence (PEC), with emotional intelligence contributing the largest positive influence. These three key competences were noted to comprise 22 sub-scale items as follows: personality traits (the ability to understand and manage others’ emotions, the ability to entertain, acting skills, counselling skills, leadership skills, interpreting skills), emotional intelligence (commitment, having a sense of responsibility, honesty and trustworthiness, adaptability and flexibility, optimism and positive thinking, knowledge of the destination and tourism products and right attitude with respect to service) and cultural intelligence (knowledge of cultural values and religious beliefs, legal and economic systems, marriage systems, the arts and crafts of the tourists’ cultures, knowledge of the rules for expressing non-verbal behaviour in tourists’ cultures, knowledge of the rules of tourists’ languages, ability to change non-verbal and verbal behaviour when interacting with tourists, and mindfulness of others’ cultural preferences and norms). About fourteen (14) of these PEC (personality, emotional and cultural) competences emerged from the qualitative phase and validated the quantitative findings. These emergent competences were “the ability to entertain, flexibility, knowledge of local culture, knowledge of local marriage systems, knowledge of destination and products, right attitude with respect to service, commitment, leadership skills, interpreting skills, problem solving, responsiveness, optimism and determination, mindfulness of others’ cultural preferences and norms and knowledge of the vocabulary and grammar of tourists’ languages”. All the competences were noted to be developable through education and training. The study recommends that the current tour guide training curricula and delivery methods in Zimbabwe be reviewed and strengthened by the adoption of apposite education and training approaches that promote the inculcation of the identified PEC competences ix among tour guides. These include, among others, the experiential training approaches. The most significant contribution is that this study removes the perceived ambiguity in tourism human capital development by proposing, to the best understanding of the researcher, the first ever model of key tour guide competences to co-create memorable tourism experiences. Tour guide trainers and tour companies will thus benefit by understanding the relevant competences they can prioritise during their education and training initiatives, leading to a more efficient allocation of their resources.