A form of tourism that is increasingly seen as an opportunity for unique experiences is ethnic tourism (Wing Sun Tung & Ritchie, 2011). According to Yang (2011), the marketing of exotic tourism destination focuses more and more towards international tourists that search for these unique experiences, such as the promotion of Lombok. The Indonesian Ministry of Tourism has put Lombok on the list of key emerging destinations in Indonesia, causing increased international interest (Kirpalani, 2016). As tourists are motivated to find exotic cultural experiences, ethnic tourism experiences can provide the opportunity to experience unique cultures, landscapes and ways of life (Yang & Wall, 2016). Thus, Moscardo and Pearce (1999) state that it is important to understand that tourists differ in terms of the experience they seek in ethnic tourism situations. Adongo et al. (2015) add that even though business in tourism involves the selling and buying of experiences, it is quite essential to understand why certain tourism experiences are perceived as unique, spectacular or memorable. Ethnic tourism destinations should seek to provide a number of alternative experiences in one venue, so tourists can choose what they want to see and to what degree they want to have personal contact with the host (Moscardo & Pearce, 1999). Therefore, the Indonesian ethnic tourism village Sade Rembitan, located on the island of Lombok, is used as a case study.
As Lombok has become a key emerging destination in Indonesia with increasing international interest, the island is enduring tourism developments fully (Kirpalani, 2016). The ethnic village of Sade Rembitan has been promoted as a tourist attraction for both international and domestic tourists, and ethnicity has been used as a strategy to generate welfare for ethnic communities (Yang & Wall, 2016). Sade Rembitan is perceived as the most popular ethnic village, because it is one of the only two villages on Lombok that is still inhabited by its original people. Currently, Sade Rembitan does not plan for different group experiences and possible interest, especially between Indonesian tourists and international tourist. Both informal interviews and participant observations from this study have shown that Indonesian tourists are more satisfied with their experience in Sade Rembitan than international tourists. Literature states that it is important to understand its tourist background and values in order to provide a number of appealing experiences in one venue when operating as an ethnic tourism destination (Moscardo & Pierce, 1999). Therefore, the ultimate goal of this study is to provide recommendations for Sade Rembitan’s chief and village leaders on how to offer a successful tourist experience to domestic and international tourists, while being positioned in the context of a fast-growing tourism destination.
This study provides a deeper understanding of what the differences in perspectives between the two groups are (domestic and international tourists) and how to respond to them by providing recommendations. Only few authors have written about the topic of the tourist experience in an ethnic destination and it can be stated there is a gap in the literature as most studies talk about differences in tourist experiences caused by motivations and interest and not by the difference between domestic and international tourists in general. Thus, in order to understand the differences in tourist experience between Indonesian and international tourists, it is essential to know what ethnic tourist experiences consist of and how they are experienced by both groups. In this study, ethnic tourism is defined as a form of tourism motivated by the search for an ethnic group, or an indigenous group with a distinctive culture and is characterized by interaction with and participation in the living culture. Then, the ethnic tourist experience is based on the elements of ethnic tourism from previous literature (Yang & Wall, 2016; Moscardo & Pierce, 1999). All the relevant literature collected on the elements of ethnic tourism were clustered into three themes, as elaborated in image 1: the experience of information, the experience of activities and the experience of consumption. These themes became the baseline for the study and have the overall meaning of “ethnic tourist experience”. Then, the ethnic tourist experience is measured for both Indonesian and international tourists and differences are identified by using both quantitative and qualitative research methods.
This study is an empirical research, using both quantitative and qualitative research in the case of Sade Rembitan. The methodology can be explained by three phases: the situation analysis phase, the measurement of the tourist experience phase and the deeper understanding of differences in the tourist experience phase.
In the first phase, informal interviews and participant observations took place to allow the researcher to develop a sense of understanding of the situation and context, complementing the desk research. Convenience sampling was used as a form of non-probability sampling, using the inhabitants of Sade Rembitan and international and domestic tourists as a sample.
The second phase used a quantitative cross-sectional study: questionnaires. This phase was used to measure the tourist experience and to identify the differences in the experiences. Again, the researcher chose convenience sampling as a form of non-probability sampling, having both domestic and international tourists as a sample. A questionnaire was used in order to gather a large amount of information in a short time. The questionnaire consisted of seven items with open (age), dichotomous (nationality and gender) and scaling questions (the experience of information, activities and consumption and the overall tourist experience). The questionnaire was conducted over a ten-day period and the 181 questionnaires were analysed by IBM SPSS statistics 24.0. The quantitative analysis consisted of:
– a frequency analysis discovering demographic information
– a frequency analysis on the elements ‘experience of information’, ‘experience of activities’ and ‘experience of consumption’
– linear regression between the independent variable ‘nationality’ and the dependent variable ‘the overall tourist experience in Sade Rembitan’, and
– a moderation analysis of three different models, using ‘experience of information’ ‘experience of activities’ and ‘experience of consumption’ as moderator variables, ‘nationality’ as an independent variable and ‘overall tourist experience in Sade Rembitan’ as a dependent variable.
The third and final phase was a qualitative cross-sectional study using semi-structured interviews and photography. This phase was designed to gain a deeper understanding of the previously found quantitative data. The semi-structured interviews and photography took place face-to-face using convenience sampling as a form of non-probability sampling with visiting tourists. All 17 interviews were transcribed and analysed through thematic analysis (University of Auckland, 2019). In each interview, 3 photos were taken, which resulted in 51 photos. All photos were analysed by a content analysis, called the 4A approach (Echtner, 2002). The 4A approach focuses on a thorough analysis of the verbal component of the interviews and the visual component of the photographs and puts attention on the attractions, actors, actions and atmosphere. The content analysis and the thematic analysis supported each other, by finding the similarities between what was said in the interviews and what was shown on the photographs as a form of triangulation.
The results from the questionnaires show quantitative proof that Indonesian tourists indeed experience a visit to Sade Rembitan differently than international tourists, an assumption that was based on observations and informal interviews. The tourist experience in Sade Rembitan is generally rated with 7,75 on a 11-point Net Promotor Score (Likert, 1932). Thus, it was found that Indonesian tourists rate the overall tourist experience 1,268 higher than international tourists on that same Net Promoter Score. Then, when elaborating whether this comes from the elements information, activities or consumption, as determined in the literature review, results show that only the relationship with the experience of activities is significant. When the experience of activities increases, the overall tourist experience increases with 2,601 for international tourists and 0,926 for Indonesian tourists. Therefore, it can be stated that the relationship between the experience of activities and the overall experience is stronger for international tourists. To be more specific, results have shown that the participation in traditional activities is the only variable that causes an increase in the tourist experience for Indonesian tourists, while for international tourists three variables cause an increase in the tourist experience: participation in traditional activities, visits to native houses and contact with indigenous people.
These findings are supported by the findings from the semi-structured interviews and photographs. The results from the interviews were clustered into 7 themes: sustaining uniqueness by keeping traditions alive, happiness creates happiness, human connection sticks, a real-life experience, keeping it small and traditional, the art of craftmanship and the tourism infrastructure. It becomes clear that international tourists indeed have a stronger desire for the experience of activities than Indonesian tourists. Indonesian tourists explain in the interviews that the main factor for a unique tourist experience is keeping traditions alive and creating a positive atmosphere: “It has to be like this. Not too much technology in here. Because, that’s the point of unique this place for tourism. To get the tourists come to here.” (Interviewee 14, domestic tourist). For international tourists, creating a human connection, interacting with the local community and having a real-life experience is seen as the most important for a tourist experience: “I think that I am not that into museums, but into things like this. When I can really see the people who actually live here. So I can see how their life goes, this is what I like. So I think this is like, really important. Maybe not just museums, but yeah, stuff like more where you can take part in, actually.” (Interviewee 11, international tourist). Currently, not being able to communicate with the local community is seen as an obstacle, as tours are not always offered in English. Furthermore, international tourists mention there is a lack of real-life experiences, such as cooking classes or traditional food. Mainly international tourists mention more extensively there is a need for more interaction, a need for a guide to be used as a mediator and translator and a need for becoming part of the real lifestyle of the local community. The results from photography are in agreement with the interviews. From photography, it becomes clear that Indonesian tourists find handwork an essential element, while international tourists took photos of activities and interaction, which relates to the previously found data in the semi-structured interviews.
The findings directly connect to the literature review, as the results show that indeed a unique experience for international tourists consists of several experiences in one venue, which should contribute to becoming part of the real lifestyle. Thus, when looking at the results of the study, the fast-growing context of the destination has to be kept in mind, as results might change rapidly according to what was found now. A limitation of the study could be the language barrier, as all international tourists were asked in English, which was mostly a second language, while all Indonesian tourists were asked in Indonesian, their mother language. In the future, it would be interesting to conduct further research in different villages in other fast-growing destinations to see if similar findings occur. Mainly in countries where national tourism policies are not directly translated to local tourism destination such as Sade Rembitan, international tourists might not feel as satisfied with their ethnic tourism compared to domestic tourists.
To reach the goal of this study on how to offer a successful tourist experience to domestic and international tourists, while being positioned in the context of a fast-growing tourism destination, Sade Rembitan should offer the opportunity to have a number of alternative experiences in one venue. This way, tourists can choose which activity they want to participate in and to what degree they want to have personal contact with the host. The first explicit action that could be taken into account by Sade Rembitan’s chief and village leaders is to anticipate to the Indonesian tourism strategy by creating a connecting experience for international tourists. For example, increasing the interaction and mediation between tourists and residents by offering a fixed guided tour in English would be an action that international tourists are looking for. International tourists are looking for a human connection, which means the ability to actually communicate and interact with the local community would enhance the experience. Furthermore, creating food experiences would enhance the tourist experience for international tourists, as it gives insight into the Sasak lifestyle and interaction with the local community. Finally, both domestic and international tourists claim that maintaining the traditional lifestyle, house construction and craftmanship is essential, as this is the reason to visit an ethnic village. An element that could enhance the experience is to actually provide interactive information about construction styles and craftmanship.
Read the response by Elisa Droll (HZ University of Applied Sciences) here