Visitor attractions (VAs) are very important factors in choosing a tourist destination and have tremendous economic impact, resulting in VAs’ increasing numbers and higher competition. To achieve competitive advantages and positive economic effects for destinations and VAs, research evidence is needed regarding beneficial and operable VA success drivers. Research considers visitor satisfaction (VS) as the key to success.
Despite the high managerial relevance of VS drivers, no integrative analytical summary of quantitative-empirical findings in this field is available. To derive empirical generalizations about all VAs and insights regarding specific VA categories, a critical literature review of VS drivers including a meta-analysis based on 61 primary studies reporting 373 VS effects is provided. Based on these findings, detailed managerial implications and avenues for further research are described.
However, previous literature has three main gaps regarding the analysis of VS drivers at VAs. First, the manifold existing literature is quite diverse and features partially conflicting findings. Therefore, managers lack a detailed basis for and a holistic perspective on which drivers might increase VS at their VAs. Second, the existing literature does not present a relative comparison of the actual quantified impact (i.e., effect sizes) of all analysed drivers of VS at VAs. Thus, managers and researchers lack information on which of the identified drivers have the strongest influence on VS and should be given higher priority in their management and research activities. Third, the previous literature has not compared all analysed drivers of VS for different individual types of VAs (e.g., national parks, heritage attractions). Thus, as a consequence of the partially conflicting findings, managers and researchers lack specific evidence concerning which drivers of VS might have a strong effect depending on the specific type of VA.
Against this background, this paper provides for the first time an overall summary of previous literature.
This summary departs from synthesising where the field of VS at VA has come from within the last approximately 30 years of research. This part is infused by combining diverse elements including theoretically driven conceptualizations, expert interviews, and subject/-keyword-driven retrieval of the previous relevant literature (defined as step 1 in our methodological chapter).
Next, the extensive amount of previous (quantitative) literature is integrated by means of a meta-analysis to specify what is the current state-of-the-art in terms of quantitative-empirical knowledge on observed drivers of VS at VAs. Within this step we generalize existing quantitative-empirical findings of 61 quantitative studies published between 1986 and the beginning of 2018 by integrating 373 individual findings (i.e., effect sizes) of 29 different VS drivers at VAs.
Specifically, the 29 VS drivers were thematically clustered according to four different dimensions: service quality (visitors’ perceived service quality at the VA itself—e.g., quality of the service provided by employees providing general information at the VA), VA core experience (visitors’ perceived experience during the actual VA visit—e.g., entertainment aspects and the provision of information for knowledge increase), physical environment (visitors’ perceived quality of VA’s physical environment—e.g., cleanliness and restrooms), and visitor-inherent factors (visitors’ characteristics and visitor’s visit motivation—e.g., aspects of visitor-inherent behaviour such as a need for social bonding) (defined as step 2 in our methodological chapter).
Finally, we provide important aspects further research should cover as well as advice for tourism managers (defined as step 3 in our methodological chapter).
Correspondingly, the paper has the following structure: In the second chapter, we thoroughly introduce our methodological approach. In the third chapter, all identified VS drivers are introduced and structured within our conceptual framework. In the fourth chapter, we present the results of our meta-analysis. In the fifth chapter, we discuss those results and, thus, derive a future research and management agenda. Finally, in the sixth chapter, the implications of the findings are briefly summarized, and the limitations of our approach are mentioned.