McKercher, B., Wan, S. M., and Tse, S. M. (2006). Are Short Duration Cultural Festivals Tourist Attractions? Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 14(1), 55-65.


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McKercher, B., Wan, S. M., and Tse, S. M. (2006). Are Short Duration Cultural Festivals Tourist Attractions? Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 14(1), 55-65.
  Are Short Duration Cultural Festivals TouristAttractions? Bob McKercher, Wan Sze Mei and Tony S.M. Tse  The School of Hotel and Tourism Management, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong SAR  Thispaperexaminesthevalueofshortdurationculturalfestivalsastouristattractions,with special emphasis on their role in attracting and retaining international tourists.The study examined visitors to three festivals held in Hong Kong during spring 2004.Relatively few tourists attended these events. Moreover, most were unaware of thefestivals prior to arrival and about 80% made the decision to participate only when inthedestination.Tourismattractionsystems’theoryreinforcestheimportanceofaware-nessbuildingpriortodepartureandsuggeststhatin-destinationawarenesscreationisineffectiveingeneratingdemandforthesetypesofevents,especiallyamongshortstaytourists. However, the costs associated with creating awareness in generating regionsmay not produce sufficiently valuable results, given the small window of opportunityfor participation and the specialist nature of the market. Keywords:  festivals, attractions, markers Introduction DestinationMarketingOrganizations(DMOs)promotelocalculturalfestivalsas tourism attractions (Felsenstein & Fleischer, 2003), for they are felt to possessattributesthatmakethemappealingtovisitors.Likeotherculturaltourismprod-ucts (Copley & Robson, 1996), these festivals can provide an opportunity toshowcasethedestination’srichintangibleheritage,localtraditions,ethnicback-grounds and cultural landscapes. Community festivals, in particular, celebrate bothgroupandplaceidentity(deBres&Davis,2001),leadingGetz(1989:125)toobserve that ‘their special appeal stems from the innate uniqueness of eachevent . . . and their ambience which elevates them above ordinary life’. As such,these events are thought to provide an opportunity for international tourists toexperience authentic cultural ambience, meet local residents, and partake insomething authentically indigenous (Getz, 1989). Moreover, they provide a lowcost way for destinations to extend their product portfolio, as their successdepends on the enthusiasm of local volunteers and not on funding or expertisefrom government agencies (Gursoy  et al.  , 2004).Theyarealsobelievedtobeexcellentexamplesofsustainabletourismpractice.That festivals satisfy the sustainability criterion is not in question. These eventsare organised by and for the benefit of the local community. Historically, theyhave marked their local calendars with social events that celebrated importanthistorical, religious and cultural events commemorating birth, marriage, death,theharvest,andsalvationfromperil(UNESCO,2004).Manyhavebeenrunningforyears.Bytheirnaturetheyareinclusive,invitingthegeneralpublictopartici- 0966-9582/06/01 0055-12 $20.00/0 © 2006 B. McKercher  et al . JOURNAL OF SUSTAINABLE TOURISM Vol. 14, No. 1, 2006 55  pate in public cultural rituals. Tourists often represent an opportunistic,incrementalusergroupwhocanmakeanetsocialandeconomiccontributiontothe event at minimal cost. Moreover, festivals provide opportunities to learnaboutothercultures,customs,andwaysoflife,whichinturn,encouragegreaterunderstanding of and tolerance for cultural diversity (Douglas  et al.  , 2001; Hall,1993).Indeed,tourismmayprovidetheimpetusforcommunitiestoconserveorresurrect cultural traditions.However,theyalsoneedtosatisfyasecondaspectofsustainabletourism;theymustbetourismattractionsintheirownrightthatappealtonon-localvisitors.If theyfailtoappealtotourists,thentheycannotbecalledtouristattractions.Localleisure or recreational attractions may be the more appropriate term. In theory,theyshouldhavethepotentialtobeattractions(Getz,1991),andintheory,somepeople assert that festivals can extend peak season or create new seasons(Derrett,2004).Gunn(1994)ascitedinBenckendorffandPearce(2003)indicatesthatattractionsservetwokeyfunctionsinanydestination.Themostimportantisto act as a demand generator that induces visitation or causes tourists to extendtheirstays.Alternatively,theycanhaveutilityiftheyprovidehighqualityexpe-riences that enhance satisfaction levels. This study examines a number of shortdurationculturalfestivalsheldinHongKongduringSpring2004todetermineif,indeed,theyplayaroleindrawingtouriststoadestinationorencouragingsometo extend their stays. Festivals as Tourist Attractions Festivalsconcentrateanumberofactivitiesaroundaspecificthemewithinafinite time frame, thereby creating a critical mass of experiences that mayappeal to tourists (Saleh & Ryan, 1993). Destinations have been pursuing festi-vals as a core product for more than 20 years (Getz, 1991). Today, a number of places have carefully crafted their image as festival and event destinations,including Edinburgh, Scotland (Prentice & Anderson, 2003), Tamworth inregional Australia (Gibson & Davidson, 2004), Goteburg, Sweden (Mossberg,1997) and Stratford and Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada. They do soprimarily through hallmark events, large-scale, high profile activities, stronglysupported by government and often created with an overt tourism objective(Dimmock & Tiyce, 2002).PrenticeandAnderson(2003),however,warnagainstbeingoverlyenthusiasticabout the drawing power of festivals. They illustrate that not everyone at a desti-nationduringafestivalcanbeassumedtobeafestivalgoer,andimportantly,theycaution about making the assumption that all festival attendees are motivated tovisit the destination to participate in the festival. Instead, they suggest that festi-vals,likeotherattractions,attractabroadspectrumofvisitorsrangingfromthosewho travelled specifically to participate in the event, to those for whom it repre-sents an ancillary or complementary activity. Indeed, festival and special eventorganisers themselves often question their economic value (Gursoy  et al.  , 2004),withmanyviewingthefestivalnotasamoney-makingtouristattractionbutasanenjoyable community-based event (de Bres & Davis, 2001).Thisassertionisespeciallytrueatcommunityorlocalfestivals.Theytendtobeeclectic, narrowly focused on neighbourhoods or minority communities, very 56 Journal of Sustainable Tourism   local in nature, and often celebrate highly personal events, albeit in a publicforum. Community festivals often last only for a day, therefore providing anarrowwindowofopportunityfortouristswhowishtoparticipate.Manyorigi-nated as events organised by and for the local residents. They may have longtraditions whose srcins are obscured by the mists of time and myth. Invariablythey were not designed with a tourism goal in mind, even though many nowwelcome outside visitors and endorse promotion by tourism organisations.The type of short duration cultural festival promoted by the Hong KongTourism Board (HKTB) is typical of those found in most destinations. While thenamesmayseemexotic,attheircoretheyarenodifferentfromthescoresoflocalfestivals that celebrate traditional lifestyle and intangible culture around theworld. The HKTB promotes 17 short duration traditional Chinese festivals heldthroughout the year, including: the birth of Che Kung, a Sung Dynasty generalwho became a Taoist deity after he saved local inhabitants from a plague; the birth of the goddess of the sea Tin Hau; Tam Kung, another patron saint of fish-ermen; the birth of Kwan Tai, the God of War and the patron of Hong Kong’spolice and gangsters; the Monkey God Festival; the Hungry Ghost Festival andthe Ching Ming and Chung Yeung Festivals, where families journey to thegravesoftheirancestorstoperformcleansingritesandpaytheirrespects(HKTB,2004a). According to its website (HKTB, 2004a):experiencing a major Chinese festival in Hong Kong is an enchanting andmesmerising adventure . . . at which thousands upon thousands of people . . . come together in a variety of combinations to create a uniquelyfestiveatmosphereseennowhereelseintheworld.Thefestivalsareamongthe best ways to experience the unique culture of this modern East-meets-West destination.Festivals satisfy Pearce’s (1991) definition of a tourist attraction as ‘a namedsite with a specific human or natural feature which is the focus of visitor andmanagement attention’. Indeed they are similar to other attractions in theirimpactonvisitation.Tourismattractionsystemstheoryillustratesthatthemorepowerfultheattraction,thegreateritsabilitytodrawvisitorsto,orretaintheminadestination(McIntosh&Goeldner,1990;Mill&Morrison,1985).Lesserattrac-tions, on the other hand, may provide ancillary activities, but will do little toattracttourists.Attractionscan,therefore,formanintrinsicpartofatripandbeamajormotivatorforselectingadestination,ortheycanbeoptional,discretionaryactivities engaged in while at a destination. While visits to primary attractionssatisfy a core travel motive, visits to lower order attractions are typified by lowinvolvement purchase decisions, convenience or by happenstance. Visitingthem, therefore, involves some type of formal or informal assessment of the benefits of participation resulting in a decision made to trade-off one event foranother that is felt to be of greater value. If the trade-off is not seen to be worth-while, the tourist will engage in a different activity. Method This study examined three cultural festivals that were held in Hong Kong inSpring2004:theTinHauFestivalheldon11May,theCheungChauBunFestival Are Short Duration Cultural Festivals Tourist Attractions?   57  andParade(BunFestival)heldon26MayandtheDragonBoatFestival,heldon22June.Theseparticulareventswereselectedbecauseoftheirlocalnature,deepculturalconnectionstohostcommunities,popularity,andthereforehighprofileand the involvement of the local DMO (Destination Marketing Organisation) inpromoting them to the international marketplace. The group was also felt to berepresentative of the type of local festival held in the region. The sample waslimited to three events to coincide with the second author’s data collectionwindow for her dissertation.Tin Hau is thegoddess of thesea. Tin Hau festivals were celebrated tradition-ally to bring safety, security, fine weather and full nets during the coming year.Eachvillagecelebratesitsownfestivalatdifferenttimesduringtheyear.TheTinHauFestivalandparadeinthefarnorthwesternNewTerritories’communityof Yuen Long is the largest festival of its type and is the only one promoted toinboundtouristsbyalocaltouroperator.Thedaylongfestivaliscentredarounda street parade that snakes through the town to a local sports ground beforeproceeding to the Tin Hau temple.TheBunFestivaliscelebratedontheoutlyingislandofCheungChau.Itbeganover 100 years ago, when plague and famine affected the islanders. Villagersdisguised themselves as different deities, and walked along the main streets of the island to drive away the evil spirits (Chan, 2001). They also adopted a vege-tarian diet for the duration of the festival. Over time, the rituals have evolved toinclude a parade of gods, the display of huge bun towers, lion dances and ahighly distinguished parade called ‘Piu Sik’, in which small children dressedup as well-known historical and contemporary characters ‘float’ in the air. Thehighlightistheparade,whichattractedanestimated23,000peoplein2004(Hui,2004).TheDragonBoatFestival,alsoknownasTuenNg,commemoratesthedeathof a popular Chinese national hero, Qu Yuan, who drowned himself over 2000years ago to protest against the corrupt rulers. Legend says that as townspeopleattempted to rescue him, they beat drums to scare fish away and threw dump-lingsintotheseatokeepthefishfromeatingQuYuan’sbody.Todaythefestivalrecalls these events, with the highlight being dragon boat races (HKTB, 2004b).Dragon boat races are held in numerous locations throughout Hong Kong, withStanley being the most popular venue. It was chosen as the survey locus.Thequestionnaireconsistedofthreeparts.Thefirstpartgatheredgenerictripdata relating to purpose, length of stay and prior visitation history. In addition,respondentswereaskedquestionsabouttheimportanceoflearningaboutHongKong’s cultural heritage and the depth of experience in order to classify theminto one of the five types of cultural tourist defined by McKercher and du Cros(2002).Thesecondpartofthesurveyfocusedontheparticularfestival.Informa-tion was sought on prior festival visitation history and the importance of attending the local festival in the overall decision to visit Hong Kong. Respon-dents were asked about when they became aware of the festival, whether theyhad extended their stay to participate, and, if not, what activities they wouldhaveparticipatedinhadtheynotvisitedthefestival.Aseriesofquestionstestedmotivations and satisfaction levels. The survey concluded by collecting demo-graphic information. 58 Journal of Sustainable Tourism   Thetargetpopulationwastouristsvisitingthefestivals.Betweeneightand15peoplewereemployedtoconductface-to-faceinterviews.Thenumberdependedon the anticipated size of the event and availability of interviewers on the day.Each interviewee received training in how to conduct interviews and how toselect potential candidates before entering the field. Interviewers were super-vised by two of the authors who also attended the events. A total of 36interviewer-dayswerespentgatheringdata.Eachinterviewerwasgivenatargetof a minimum of 20 successful interviews each.Since the population of tourists was unknown and since most venues hadmultiple entry and exit points, a non-random sampling technique was adopted,in accordance with standard sampling methodology. The authors employed a judgemental, convenience sample. It was judgemental to the extent that inter-viewers were instructed to target likely tourists and avoid local residents. HongKong residents were likely to be Cantonese speaking Chinese, while touristswere more likely to be either Western looking, English or European languagespeakersor,inthecaseofvisitorsfromMainlandChina,Putonghua(Mandarin)speakers. Potential respondents who were approached had to satisfy a quali-fying questions to verify that they were non-Hong Kong residents before theinterviewcouldcommence.Thesamplewasaconveniencesampleinasmuchasinterviewers were distributed at high traffic areas throughout the venue. Thestudy team was on-site from 10.00 to about 20.00.Asampleof700respondentsfromthethreefestivalswastargeted.Intheend,the researchers completed 323 interviews. Nine were subsequently excludedfrom the data set as they involved long stay respondents (six months or more)who were either working or studying in Hong Kong, leaving a usable sample of 314 respondents. This sample included 25 from the Tin Hau Festival, 127 fromthe Cheung Chau Bun Festival, and another 162 from the Dragon Boat Festival.The profiles of the Tin Hau and Bun Festival participants were similar and theyweredifferentfromthesampleofvisitorstotheDragonBoatFestival.Theyhave,therefore, been aggregated. Findings Few tourists attend Sampling is always challenging in tourism research where the majority of participants are local residents (Ralston & Stewart, 1990). It proved to be espe-cially challenging for these events, as it became apparent that far fewer touristswere in attendance than srcinally expected. Analysis of visitor arrival figures(HKTB,2004c,2004d)indicatedthatabout25,000Westernand130,000mainlandChinese tourists should be in Hong Kong on any given day during the studyperiod. Given that festivals should be popular attractions, that each waspromotedbytheHKTBandhadatleastonecommercialtouroperatorinvolved,theauthorsexpectedlittledifficultyinmeetingthetargetofbetween150and300successfulinterviewsperevent.Inactuality,thesamplewasmuchsmaller,eventhough the survey period was extended into the evening, the interviewers dili-gently approached people and they were relocated frequently during the day tolocations that hopefully held greater prospects of capturing visitors. The smallsample size was also not due to reluctance on behalf of visitors to participate. Are Short Duration Cultural Festivals Tourist Attractions?   59
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