The development and testing of a measurement instrument for regional tourism competitiveness facilitating economic development
Van der Schyff, Tanya
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Worldwide, the competitiveness of the tourism industry is utilised to measure its performance which is categorised as productivity, an encourager of economic growth, and economic development (Webster & Ivanov, 2013:137; Rizzi & Graziano, 2017:11; Teixeira, 2018:6). Even though competitiveness is a pressing matter, little research focuses on the measurement of tourism destination competitiveness. Lopes, Muñoz and Alarcón–Urbistondo (2018:1) identify problems with the measurement of regional tourism destination competitiveness in stating that the majority of proposals made by organisations and found in research have been implemented on a national level with very few focusing on a regional or local level. It is clear that the development of a measurement instrument is needed on a regional and local level, which will assist in the comparison between regions and as such, improve their competitiveness. In the current study, the problem is addressed by developing a measurement instrument that assists in the comparison between regions and as such, improves their tourism destination competitiveness. There exists the need for a regional (Baggio, 2018:1) and empirical measure of tourism destination competitiveness to guide the identification of well–informed strategic recommendations for relevant stakeholders. As the tourism industry is complex (Martín, Mendoza & Román, 2017:940), various research methods were required to performed adequate analysis. Therefore, in this study, a mix–method approach was followed by collecting primary and secondary data, quantitative and qualitative data. To achieve the primary, theoretical and empirical objectives the study was divided into four stages (methods) of execution, namely Stage A (literature review), B (development and testing of a measurement instrument), C (analysis of time–series econometrics) and D (SWOT analysis). Stage A was a literature review of four concepts. The concepts of (i) tourism development and (ii) competitiveness were explained by providing the definitions, types, advantages and disadvantages and relating theories. The review of tourism development and competitiveness concepts provided the groundwork for the discussion on (iii) the determinants and (iv) the existing models of tourism destination competitiveness. Stage B was the development and testing of the measurement instrument of tourism destination competitiveness. For the development of the measurement instrument, seven phases were followed. Phase 1, was the investigation of tourism destination competitiveness, which was found in Stage A. Phase 2, was the identification of 21 relevant determinants to represent tourism destination competitiveness into three dimensions. Phase 3 consisted of the pre–testing of the measurement instrument by 31 subject and industry experts. These experts were required to (i) ranking the priority, (ii) weigh the importance of each determinant and dimensions in terms of tourism destination competitiveness and (iii) give any inputs through face validity and content validity. The priority and weighing for the determinants and dimensions of the measurements instrument were provided by industry and subject experts. These subject experts were selected using purposive sampling, and this was based on their knowledge in the field of economic development and tourism development and the tourism industry. Phase 4, made any recommended changes by the subject and industry experts to ensure face validity and content validity of the measurement instrument, resulting in 16 determinants within the three dimensions. According to the importance weighting, the top five most important determinants in the measurement instrument were (i) safety and security, (ii) accommodation facilities, (iii) transportation facilities, (iv) food and drink facilities and (v) natural resources. In terms of the dimensions, Resources are the most important, followed by infrastructure and then enabling environment and authorities in achieving tourism destination competitiveness. For the testing of the measurement instrument, an index value was developed for each determinant and dimension through formula formulation by use of the importance weights provided by subject and industry experts. Phase 5, calculated the index value of the determinants and dimension through the use of the importance weighting values. The index value calculation was required as the determinants and dimensions were weighted differently and should be on the same scale to ensure accurate analysis. Thereafter, Phase 6 was the development of the measurement instrument that encompasses four sections. Section A demographics, Section B resources, Section C infrastructure and Section D enabling environment and authorities. The following stage, Stage 7, was the pilot study for the Sedibeng district municipality (sample 1). For this, the SPSS program was used to conduct an EFA (exploratory factor analysis) and (ii) SmartPLS was used to perform a CFA (confirmatory factor analysis). The purpose of these analyses‟ was to indicate validity and reliability test results of the measurement instrument in the district municipalities. This process was repeated for the Fezile Dabi district municipality (sample 2) to confirm the findings from sample 1. The results indicated that in Sedibeng and Fezile Dabi district municipalities, the measurement instrument is validated and reliable with Cronbach‟s Alpha above 0.7. The results indicated that the measurement instrument is reliable and validated in both Sedibeng and Fezile Dabi district municipality. The results from the measurement instrument developed could be seen as accurate. The testing of the measurement instrument indicated that the tourism performance percentage is 37.42% and & 36.86% for the Sedibeng and Fezile Dabi district municipality, respectively. Indicating average performance, this could improve extensively. Predominantly, the trends of tourism in the Sedibeng and Fezile Dabi district municipality indicated a possible upward trend in the future. However, the global COVID–19 pandemic, could negatively influence these trends. Stage C was the analysis of time–series econometrics with the use of panel data from 2001 to 2019 for the Sedibeng (57 observations) and Fezile Dabi (76 observations) district municipalities. The purpose of the time–series analysis was to investigate the relationship between tourism (dependent) and related variables,– social, political and economic environments (independent). First, correlation analyses were done to indicate the linear relation between tourism and related variables. The unit root test results (a mixture of stationarity) indicated the use of an ARDL (autoregressive distributive lag) model for both the district municipalities. The ARDL model indicated that in the long–run, there is a positive relationship between tourism and the population density, GVA, HDI and the number of health facilities for the Sedibeng district municipality. Negative long–run relationships exist between tourism and criminality, tress index, unemployment and the exchange rate. For the Fezile Dabi district municipality, in the long–run, a positive relationship exists between tourism and GVA, HDI, tress index, exchange rate and the number of health facilities. On the contrary, negative relationships were present between tourism, criminality, population density and unemployment. The diagnostic tests indicated a stable model for the Sedibeng and district municipalities. Stage D provided the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunity and threats) analysis for the Sedibeng and Fezile Dabi district municipalities. The information for SWOT analyses was gathered from industry experts within the district municipalities in the form of interviews. These respondents were selected based on their knowledge of the district municipalities. Three respondents in the Sedibeng district municipality and three respondents in the Fezile Dabi district municipality participated in the interviews as respondents. The SWOT analysis indicated that in the Sedibeng district municipality, the strengths are (i) strategic location, (ii) limited traffic and strong business chamber. The weaknesses are (i) pollution of the Vaal River, (ii) ignorance of tourism potential and (iii) poor tourism promotion. The opportunities are (i) available land for development, (ii) connectivity to high–density areas and (iii) tourism routes available for utilisation. The threat to tourism development in the Sedibeng district municipality was identified as (i) COVID–19 disease, (ii) magnetic mine and (iii) criminality. The SWOT analysis indicated that in the Fezile Dabi district municipality that the strengths are (i) natural resources, scenic routes, (ii) UNESCO world heritage site and (iii) water sports events. The weaknesses are (i) poor condition of infrastructure, (ii) criminality and (iii) high business property rent. The opportunities that the Fezile Dabi district municipality should capitalise on are (i) agro–processing,(ii) skills development opportunities and (iii) marketing. The threats are (i) COVID–19 disease, (ii) inactive government participation and (iii) non–compliance with legislation. In order for a tourism destination to generally improve its competitiveness, ten determinants or factors of success were identified as (i) proper accommodation facilities, (ii) essential services, (iii) historic and cultural resources, (iv) food and drink facilities, (v) natural resources and strategic location, (vi) local leadership and political stability, (vii) safety and security, (viii) Transportation facilities (ix) technology, innovation and communication and (x) entrepreneurship, the business community and workforce. To improve tourism performance, the Sedibeng district municipality should consider the conservation of the natural environment, incorporation of technology and safety and security measures. To improve tourism performance, the Fezile Dabi district municipality should consider the promotion of water sports, incorporation of technology and government participation. As such, this study‟s contributions were (i) the development and validation of an empirical and regional measurement instrument, (ii) the identification of tourism performance rating for the Sedibeng and Fezile Dabi district municipalities, (ii) time–series statistical analysis for the Sedibeng and Fezile Dabi district municipalities, (iii) SWOT analysis for the Sedibeng and Fezile Dabi district municipalities and (iv) strategic recommendations for the Sedibeng and Fezile Dabi district municipalities. The recommendations provided will set out to improve the level of tourism destination competitiveness in the district municipalities of Sedibeng and Fezile Dabi district municipality. The most relevant being the participation of the local community and local government to drive tourism destination competitiveness.