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Travel surveys are conducted worldwide every day, but ignore an important segment of the travel industry: children who travel with parents. This paper provides an insight into conducting surveys on vacationing children, why these should be considered more often, and what can be gained. Results show children have a higher response rate than adults, are slightly more satisfied about conditions at the destination than adults, and provide a perspective about planning and development to increase child satisfaction at the destination.
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The in¯uence of children on vacation
travel patterns
Norma P. Nickerson and Claudia Jurowski
Received (in revised form): 6th October, 2000
Anonymously refereed paper
School of Forestry, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812, USA
Tel: (406) 243-2328; E-mail: nnickers@forestry.umt.edu
Dr Norma Nickerson is an associate research
professor, director of the Institute for Tourism and
Recreation Research (ITRR) and faculty member
in the School of Forestry at the University of
Montana-Missoula. Dr Nickerson is president of
the Greater Western Chapter of the Travel and
Tourism Research Association and co-coordina-
tor of the research paper section of the interna-
tional TTRA annual conference. Her expertise
includes strategic planning, resident attitudes to-
ward tourism, travel behaviour, tourism marketing
and nature-based tourism.
Dr Claudia Jurowski is an associate professor
in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Manage-
ment at Northern Arizona University. She is chair
of the awards committee for the Travel and Tour-
ism Research Association and board member of
the Greater Western Chapter of the TTRA. Her
research focuses on the development of under-
standing of how residents formulate attitudes
toward tourism, the effects of tourism on the
community, environmental attitudes in relation to
recreation and tourism, and marketing tourist
destinations.
ABSTRACT
KEYWORDS: children travel surveys, desti-
nation research, satisfaction, children and
adult comparisons, vacation marketing, fam-
ily vacations
Travel surveys are conducted worldwide every day,
but ignore an important segment of the travel
industry: children who travel with parents. This
paper provides an insight into conducting surveys
on vacationing children, why these should be con-
sidered more often, and what can be gained.
Results show children have a higher response rate
than adults, are slightly more satis®ed about
conditions at the destination than adults, and
provide a perspective about planning and develop-
ment to increase child satisfaction at the destina-
tion.
INTRODUCTION
The role of the child in purchase decisions is
becoming increasingly important to vacation
marketers because of two important trends.
First, demographic and sociological changes
in American society indicate a growth in the
number of children and an intensi®cation of
the power of children to in¯uence purchase
decisions.1Secondly, family vacation trips
are on the increase as working parents with
more expendable income and less time to
spend with their children use the vacation as
a time to reconnect as a family. As a con-
sequence, parents actively encourage their
children to participate in purchasing deci-
sions for a number of products. This is
especially true for vacation and travel deci-
sions, where 60 per cent of the families
report adolescents are having an in¯uence on
the decision.2
Consumer behaviour models have dis-
cussed the role of the family as an important
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Journal of Vacation Marketing Volume 7 Number 1
Journal of Vacation Marketing
Vol. 7 No. 1, 2001, pp. 19±30,
&Henry Stewart Publications,
1356-7667
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information input factor in purchasing deci-
sions.3In like manner, travel and tourism
consumer behaviour models have recognised
the family as a communication channel in
the stimulus-response model of buyer behav-
iour,4have implied the role of the family in
interpersonal sources of information in An-
dreason's model of consumer behaviour,5
and have identi®ed the family as the main
attitudinal component in Moutinho's vaca-
tion tourism behaviour model.6
Studies on family vacation decision mak-
ing, however, have focused on the role of
the husband and wife, not the children.7A
study by Cosenza and Davis demonstrated
how the role of the wife in family vacation
decision making changed across stages in the
family life cycle.8In a later study of the effect
of family life cycle, Fondness found that the
family vacation decision is most often the
result of a joint decision-making process be-
tween husband and wife. The only child-
related aspect studied was the effect that the
existence of children within the family struc-
ture had on whether the wife or the husband
made the decision.9
The value of the child's opinion is well
recognised by marketing practitioners. In
fact, there are a number of advertising agen-
cies that specialise in market research for
children.10 Research has been conducted for
children's magazines,11 television shows,12
videotapes,13 and advertisements.14 Even car
makers have turned their marketing efforts
toward six- to 14-year-olds. A study by JD
Powers Associates found that 69 per cent of
parents talk to their child about vehicles
before shopping, 66 per cent go as a family
to the dealership, and 63 per cent of parents
said children in¯uenced the decision to
buy.15
However, for tourism there is a paucity of
studies that examine children's preferences.
A search of the travel and tourism literature
resulted in ®nding only one study that inter-
viewed children. Cullingford conducted in-
depth interviews with children ages 7±11
to uncover attitudes and perceptions about
overseas travel. He concluded that there are
two levels of children's attitudes that should
be investigated. The ®rst level measures
awareness of the speci®c type of activities
and attractions offered by destinations. The
second, and subtler, level is the evaluation of
the meaning and value of the holiday experi-
ence from the viewpoint of the child.16
Except for this one study, all the tourism
marketing studies the authors found were
based on the responses of one adult member
of the travel party. As a general rule adult
respondents were intercepted at tourist desti-
nations or information centres,17 were part of
an adult consumer panel,18 received surveys
through the mail directed to an adult mem-
ber of the household,19 were students,20 or
responded to a request via telephone for an
interview with an adult member of the
household.21
The lack of research on children may be
based on the belief that children are not the
target audience for the tourism industry,
because it is assumed that children generally
submit to whatever choices their parents
make and do not exert an important in¯u-
ence on parents' choice of destination.22 A
second reason for the lack of research on
children may be related to dif®culties re-
searchers face in securing data from minors.
The human subject approval process may be
complicated by stringent parental consent
requirements.
Vacation marketing professionals may
need to ®nd the means to overcome the
obstacles and follow the lead of other mar-
keting professionals who have recognised the
important in¯uence children have on pur-
chasing decisions. There is suf®cient evi-
dence to suggest that the family vacation
market is growing and that the children's
impact on purchase decisions is becoming
increasingly strong. But what do destinations
know about their young market? Can un-
derstanding what children feel and think
about a destination help in destination plan-
ning, development and marketing? This
study is based on the theory that children are
an important communication channel in the
stimulus-response behaviour model of travel
and tourism buyer behaviour. It was de-
signed to partially ®ll the void in research on
children's viewpoints on tourist attractions.
Its purpose was threefold:
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Ð to assess receptivity of surveying children
about a destination experience by com-
paring response rates of children to adults
Ð to compare destination satisfaction be-
tween children and adults
Ð to gather the child perspective on the
destination through open-ended ques-
tions.
RELATED RESEARCH
Evidence to support growth in
importance of child market
Nearly half of all US family vacation trips
included children in 1998, an increase of 5
per cent over 1997 and 55 per cent since
1992.23 According to the Travel Industry
Association, more parents are taking their
children with them on both business and
pleasure trips.24 The growth in the number of
children accompanying parents on business
trips has increased by 255 per cent since 1990,
and the number of people who are taking
their grandchildren on vacation has almost
doubled. The TIA's outlook report forecasts
that three-generational travel will continue to
grow over the next ®ve years, and recom-
mends that travel industry professionals take
advantage of this growth segment.25
While theme parks have always catered to
the younger generations, more recently ho-
tels, cruise lines and resorts are adding ame-
nities and activities designed for younger
guests.26 Hyatt was one of the ®rst to develop
a marketing programme for children with its
Club Hyatt programme.27 More recently,
more hotels, including Radisson, Holiday
Inn and Four Seasons, have focused on the
youth market by adding children's pro-
grammes, amenities and activities.28 The
forerunner in the hotel children's market,
Hyatt, sponsors a `Camp Kid Council' made
up of 12 members ages 7±13. They use the
council to conduct focus groups and test
new menu items and activities.29
Research with children
Surveys of children are relatively common in
many other ®elds. For example, youths were
surveyed on their preferences for drugs,30
attitudes toward politics,31 how they rated
their own physical health,32 their attitudes
toward and involvement in delinquency,33
and on personal issues of concern.34
The value and importance of research that
focuses on children is well recognised in the
®eld of marketing and acknowledged by the
large number of market research ®rms that
concentrate solely on the youngest segments
of the population.35 The most popular re-
search technique is the focus group. Focus
groups are frequently composed of parents
and children, sometimes comprised of just
parents and less frequently comprised solely
of children.36 CD Clark, who directs a chil-
dren's research company that uses role play-
ing and simulated shopping, cautions
researchers on using focus groups. She said:
`Children can be valuable focus group parti-
cipants if moderators tune into them prop-
erly and researchers re®ne how to talk with
kids on their own terms.'37
A scienti®c study examined choice behav-
iour of children with food products, and
concluded that patterns of choice behaviour
differ by age group.38 This study and a report
by Kermit recommend that researchers
choose a niche within the children's market
to increase effectiveness.39 The scienti®c
study and Hyatt's Camp Kid Council used
games as a format for investigating children's
preferences and choices.40 Another popular
research technique is the use of online tech-
nology that allows children aged six to 12 to
select their favourite commercials.41
Marketing researchers offer schools incen-
tives to allow them access to children's opi-
nions. Students have participated in taste
tests and opinion polls, and have provided
marketing research ®rms with valuable data
on how students browse the Internet.42 In
exchange, schools have received computer
labs, software, access to the Internet and
other forms of remuneration.43 However,
this type of research is not without contro-
versy. The Student Privacy Act is a US
congressional proposal that would require
parents to give informed consent before
companies can collect information on
schoolchildren.44 McCarter points out the
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risks involved in recruiting children for mar-
keting studies that may not exist with adult
respondents. She warns that researchers need
to `become familiar with laws and liabilities
governing child labor, school-hour con¯icts,
on-site injuries, parental consent, health de-
partment requirements, the proper release of
children, child abuse and negligent hiring
practices'.45
In¯uence of children on purchase
decisions
A study by Marketing News found that ado-
lescents in¯uenced family decisions on vaca-
tions and travel, magazine subscriptions,
videocassette recorders, stereo equipment
and groceries.46 Yet the in¯uence of children
may be limited. Children have little in¯u-
ence over speci®c types of decisions, includ-
ing how much to spend, where to make the
purchase and the ®nal decision of whether or
not to purchase.47 Some ®ndings have sug-
gested that teens believe they have more
in¯uence than their parents think they have
and that they have the most in¯uence over
purchases for their own use.48 The Beate and
Talpade study determined that the extent of
adolescent in¯uence is dependent upon par-
ental employment status and product impor-
tance and usage.49
Travel marketing and children
A Hong Kong study by the PATA revealed
that there are a large number of people in
the Asia-Paci®c region between the ages of
ten and 19 who are `most likely to be the
new market' in the tourism industry. This
report suggests that the young market is not
interested in price or quality, but instead is
looking for something new presented with a
fun and humorous approach.50 The ®gures
are just as impressive for the US domestic
market. The value of play and leisure pur-
chases directly in¯uenced by children was
estimated to be $16.86bn in 1991.51
Within the last decade, the travel industry
has focused an increasing amount of market-
ing toward the family and children.52 Club
Med North America has added new pro-
grammes to six of its family villages, and a
number of cruise lines are now catering to
families. Westin Hotels and Resorts has
launched a Kid Club and Hilton Hotels
created a `Vacation Station' promotion
aimed at families with children.53 Other hotel
properties catering to children include Holi-
day Inn, Radisson and Four Seasons.54 There
are several tour operators that specialise in
family travel, including Educational Family
Adventures, Families Welcome!, Grandtra-
vel, Let's Take the Kids, Rascals in Paradise,
Rosenbluth and Vistatours.55
The family market is so strong that the
American Express Publishing Corporation
and Time Inc's Parenting Group published
new magazines in 1998 that focus on family
vacations.56 There are numerous articles in
travel magazines that offer suggestion as to
where to take the `kids' and how to make
family travel more pleasant with less stress.57
However, most of these `hot tips' are a result
of experience and gut feelings, not scienti®c
research.
Consumer behaviour models for children
vacationing need to focus on the child as the
core of the model, not the parent. As seen
here, other models have included families or
parents and their beliefs about children's in-
¯uence in travel. The result of this literature
review points to a lack of a theoretical
foundation in children's behaviour related to
travel decisions within a family setting, chil-
dren's travel-related consumer spending be-
haviour, and children's motivation for travel
activities while on vacation. Research to date
provides little, if any, theoretical foundation.
There is a need to begin focusing on the
child.
STUDY AREA AND METHODS
Virginia City and Nevada City, Montana,
are historic gold-mining towns about one
mile apart and located approximately 115
miles northwest of Yellowstone National
Park on state highway 287. Virginia and
Nevada Cities were purchased by the state of
Montana in 1997 to help preserve the char-
acter and history of gold mining in the state.
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However, after the state purchased the
towns, it was realised that very little know-
ledge of the people who visit the gold-
mining towns existed. The two gold-mining
towns used for this report were part of a
larger study to determine the number of
visitors to the communities and to assess
visitor characteristics and satisfaction.
Methods
The survey method involved intercepting all
visitors leaving both Virginia and Nevada
Cities during a four-day sampling period. All
privately owned vehicles (excluding com-
mercial and government vehicles and local
residents) were ¯agged off the highway (ten
hours each day) to a pull-out area for a brief
interview regarding current place of resi-
dence, number of adults and children in the
travel group and length of time spent in
Virginia City and/or Nevada City (VC/NC).
Only travel groups who had stopped in VC/
NC (as opposed to driving through) were
asked to take a survey with them and mail it
back in the postage-paid envelope provided.
For the purpose of this study children be-
tween the ages of ten and 17 were selected.
This age group was chosen for their reading
and writing ability level. It was important
that the children were capable of completing
the survey with no assistance from adults in
the family. Therefore, when children were
in the vehicle, researchers asked the adult:
`Are these your children in the vehicle?' `Are
any of your children between ten and 17
years of age?' If yes, `Could I ask them if they
would like to complete a survey, too?' If yes,
the researcher picked the youngest eligible
child in the ®rst vehicle, the oldest child in
the next vehicle, then the middle child in
the third vehicle and so on. The child was
asked, `Would you be willing to complete
this survey and mail it back to us in the
postage-paid envelope?' At that point, sur-
veys were distributed to an adult and a child
in the vehicle. Half of the children were told
simply to place their survey in with the adult
survey. The other half were given their own
postage-paid envelope.
The process of parent permission was re-
quired by the university Human Subjects
Committee that approves all research con-
ducted with people. Research with minors is
scrutinised carefully in the USA, but since
the survey didn't ask personal or dif®cult
questions, approval for the study was granted
with comparative ease.
Surveys were distributed to people in ve-
hicles who had stopped in the historic towns
for any reason at all, resulting in the distribu-
tion of 1,209 adult surveys. Only 20 per cent
of travel groups had children between ten
and 17 in the vehicles, reducing the number
of child surveys distributed to 202. Less than
2 per cent of the vehicles declined to take a
survey, and all eligible children took a sur-
vey. No reminder postcards, telephone calls
or additional surveys were administered after
the initial contact with the visitor.
The child survey instrument was a one-
page document. One portion of the survey
instrument asked the identical satisfaction
questions as were asked in the adult survey.
Twelve satisfaction conditions were asked,
with a four-point Likert satisfaction scale
ranging from not at all satis®ed to very
satis®ed. A four-point scale was chosen to
force the respondent to either side of the
satisfaction scale without the bene®t of a
halfway point. Only four points were used,
to encourage completion and to keep the
questions simple for children to follow. The
remainder of the child survey asked various
questions related to activities, recommenda-
tions for change, and what they would tell
their friends.
RESULTS
In this section children and adult satisfaction
levels are analysed and compared with each
other. The remainder of the section provides
analysis of the questions asked only of the
children.
Children compared with adult
respondents
The adult survey response rate was 50 per
cent (600 surveys), while the child survey
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response rate was 70 per cent (142) surveys.
More child surveys were returned when
given their own envelope (56 per cent
mailed alone compared with 44 per cent
who mailed surveys with their parents). The
mean age of the children was 12.73, median
age 13, mode 10. The children in over half
of the vehicles indicated that everyone in the
vehicle agreed or decided to stop in VC/
NC. However, 42 per cent of the children
said that the parents decided to stop without
consulting or without agreement from them.
Finally, nearly half (44 per cent) of the
children had never even heard of Virginia/
Nevada Cities before their visit that day
(Table 1).
Both children and adults were satis®ed
with the conditions, since neither group
scored below a mean of 2.5 with 1 being
very dissatis®ed and 4 being very satis®ed
(Table 2). Children scored a higher mean
satisfaction on all but two of the conditions
(only quality of historical information and
cleanliness of area were scored lower by
Table 2: Mean satisfaction and T-test comparison between adult and child
respondents
Satisfaction with: Child mean Adult mean Sig. (2-tailed)
Quality of historical information 3.14 3.34 0.004
Opportunity to shop 3.45 3.08 0.000
Opportunities for food/beverage services 3.27 3.00 0.002
Type of development 3.27 3.03 0.004
Amount of development 3.27 2.95 0.000
Quality of accommodations 3.16 2.82 0.018
Condition of historical features 3.28 3.18 0.054
Variety of entertainment 3.16 2.82 0.000
Maintenance of facilities 3.24 3.00 0.004
Amount of historical information 3.27 3.25 0.824
Cleanliness of area 3.23 3.37 0.540
Behaviour of other people 3.42 3.38 0.557
Signi®cant at 0.05 level.
Table 1: Response rates, mean age, stop decision and knowledge of VC/NC
Overall response rate: Children 70% Adult 50%
Child response rate/envelope type: Adult Envelope 44% Child Envelope 56%
Mean age: Children 12.3 Adult 48
Child responses
Whose decision was it to stop?: Everyone in the car agreed to stop 55%
Parents decision to stop 42%
It was my decision 2%
It was my sibling's decision 1%
How much did you know about
VC/NC before today? Never heard of it before 44%
Heard of it, but didn't know much 30%
Had been to VC/NC before 23%
Knew a lot but hadn't visited before 4%
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children). T-test results showed that chil-
dren were signi®cantly more satis®ed than
adults for eight of the nine conditions.
Adults were signi®cantly more satis®ed than
children only on quality of the historical
information.
Children responses
Children were asked a variety of questions
related to the activities they did in the towns,
what they thought of the towns and sugges-
tions for improvement. Two of those ques-
tions were open-ended and one was asked in
the form of a Likert scale.
Children were asked to describe their feel-
ings about their activities in VC/NC on a
four-point scale: boring; ok, but not much
fun; fun; and a lot of fun. Seven of the 13
activities were participated in by only one-
third or less of the children. The other six
activities were participated in by at least
two-thirds of the children. The majority of
the children (60 per cent or higher) had fun
or a lot of fun with each of the activities they
participated in while visiting VC/NC. The
most participated in activities were walking
the boardwalks (99 per cent), looking in the
old buildings (99 per cent), and looking at
displays (91 per cent). While the majority of
children were satis®ed with these activities,
they showed more of the highest rates of
boring and not-much-fun responses than any
of the other activities (Table 3).
The two open-ended questions, `What
would you tell your friends about Virginia/
Nevada City?' and `If you were in charge of
these historic towns, what changes would
you suggest to make it more enjoyable or
fun?' were each coded for similar responses.
Ninety-two per cent of the children wrote
39 different responses to the ®rst question
and 80 per cent of the children gave 64
different suggestions on improvements.
The most common response to what they
would tell their friends is that VC/NC is fun
or a cool place to visit (44 per cent). This
was followed by 16 per cent who said there
was a lot to learn or there was good history
in VC/NC (Table 4). Children, however,
are even more descriptive when looking at
each response individually. To summarise by
statistics or absolute numbers would not
provide a full picture of the experiences felt
by the children. While some were very
speci®c on where to go and what to do,
Table 3: Child participation in VC/NC activities and satisfaction with activities
Satisfaction with activity for those who
participated
% who Boring or not Fun or a lot of
participated much fun % fun %
Panned for gold 16 9 91
Watched a play 26 11 89
Rode stage coach 12 12 88
Fished in pond 14 16 84
Visited candy store 67 23 77
Went shopping 88 27 73
Rode ®re truck 13 28 72
Walked the boardwalk 99 31 69
Rode the train 32 33 67
Learned about history 86 35 65
Looked in old buildings 99 36 64
Took Nevada City tour 17 39 61
Looked at displays 91 40 60
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others analysed their experiences on a broad
scale. The following eight responses are an
example of response types and are not cor-
rected for spelling.
Ð `It was grate. We had ice creem. We
went to the candy star. And we read
about some of the historicle bildings.'
Ð `It was the funnest old town I've ever
been to.'
Ð `It is very interesting learning how people
lived a while ago.'
Ð `Do everything you can! see the players,
it is a must. Get your picture taken and
go to the Road Master. Don't just look at
things Ð read! You might ®nd out some-
thing you never knew!'
Ð `It is very old, but cool. Saw some good
stoves & a couple of cute guys.'
Ð `It is an interesting place to visit, if you
have time. It was nice and clean.'
Ð `Be sure to go to the old photo shoot and
the candy store.'
Children had a variety of ideas on sugges-
tions for changes. Because of the variety, the
highest similar response was only mentioned
by 13 per cent of the children, `Don't make
any changes'. The remaining suggestions
were made by 9 per cent or less of the
children who responded to this question
(Table 5). Some of the full responses are
provided in the next paragraph with the
spelling left unchecked. These are responses
which could be incorporated into future
development.
Ð `It is absolutely ®ne.'
Ð `A playground for kids.'
Ð `I would make it so there were garbage
cans every 10 or 15 feet so people
wouldn't litter as much :) and have prices
lower (much lower) in stores.'
Ð `Clear out the buildings in Nevada City
that are not open to visitors and restore
them.'
Ð `Make a scavenger hunt for the kids.
Restore the buildings better. Do a fake
shootout!'
Ð `I really don't no but you could have a
movie theater, visitor senter, a band, ba-
gle shop, ¯ea market, ect. ect.'
Ð `Clean the historical sights better, and
have all the workers dress up in the
authentic out®t.'
Ð `A walk through guide. Remodeling of
the train cars.'
Ð `Have a place where people can really
experience the time period. Like a ``dis-
covery'' center. People should be able to
try things out, put on old clothes, etc.'
Ð `Maybe not charge so much for every-
thing like the train ride, and the panning
for gold, anad the coach ride because it all
adds up and it would be fun to try them
all.'
Ð `Access to more buildings.'
Table 4: Truncated and coded
responses: What children will tell their
friends
Total number who responded 92% (131)
% and no. of
those who
responded
Fun/cool place to visit 44% (58)
Lots to learn/good history 16% (21)
Interesting/wonderful/exciting 15% (19)
Go to the candy store 8% (10)
Cool shops 8% (10)
I would tell my friends to visit 8% (10)
Table 5: Truncated and coded
responses: Suggestions for change
Total number who responded 80% (113)
% and no. of
those who
responded
Don't make any changes 13% (15)
Lower the prices 8% (9)
Have people dressed in 8% (9)
period costume
Provide more shows/ 8% (9)
demonstrations
Restore landmarks/ 8% (9)
buildings
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Ð `Add more theaters for more vaudivilles/
follies.'
Ð `Clean up historical places.'
Ð `Friendlier staff, more ramps for disabled,
better parking area.'
Ð `People who stand by the buildings and
are able to answer your questions.'
DISCUSSION
Very little is known about what children
think of a destination they have been visit-
ing. While it is possible that individual
destinations have proprietary research on
children, information on the preferences and
evaluations of young visitors has not been
available in the scienti®c literature. Tourism
research has exclusively interviewed adults,
even when the research was focused on
`family' vacations.58 Perhaps this is because
obtaining permission to survey children is
sometimes dif®cult or prohibited. However,
children are the target for many research
projects in marketing59 and social services.60
There appears to be a need to ®ll the void in
the tourism destination market knowledge
base. This study has demonstrated that chil-
dren on vacation have opinions about their
visit and these opinions may differ from
those of their parents. In addition, as shown
in the results section with quotes from chil-
dren, managers of a destination would do
well to read carefully any comments pro-
vided by children. Their insight could be
particulaly useful for marketing and destina-
tion development.
Some interesting ®ndings have been dis-
covered in this research. First, and foremost,
children had a 20 per cent higher response
rate to the visitor survey. While it is not
known why this phenomenon occurs, it is
speculated that adults are tired of being
surveyed (and perhaps suspicious), while
children are excited since this may be their
®rst experience with a visitor survey. In
addition, adults are responsible for driving,
looking at maps, making decisions on where
to eat and so forth while travelling. Children
are more or less along for the ride. They
simply have more time than adults.
Second, and also signi®cant, children were
generally more pleased with the destination
than the adults. This is especially interesting
since children have been known to be honest
and blunt with their thoughts. It is assumed,
therefore, that these answers are from the
heart and not in¯uenced by others in the
vehicle.
A third interesting point is that children
like to shop and were pleased with the
shopping experience. The opportunity to
shop received the highest satisfaction rating
from the children (3.45 out of 4) and had the
highest difference in means between the
children and adults. However, a number of
children mentioned the need to reduce the
prices. This small bit of advice is a good one
for destinations to heed. Many children have
brought a limited `pot of gold' with them for
vacation souvenirs. It is important to give
them the opportunity to spend their money
within their own price range.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly for
the destination in this research, is the discov-
ery that the activities most enjoyed at Virgi-
nia/Nevada Cities had the least amount of
participation by the children. In contrast, the
most participated-in activities generally re-
ceived the lowest `fun' response level. For
example, panning for gold received the
highest percentage of children who thought
the activity was fun or a lot of fun (91 per
cent), but only 16 per cent of all the children
actually participated in this activity. On the
other hand, 99 per cent of all children
looked in the old buildings, but only 64 per
cent thought this activity was fun or a lot of
fun. In other words, from a marketing stand-
point, VC/NC need to make sure the adults
(and the children) are aware of the other
activities so time is made for the activities
while visiting. It is also obvious from the data
that the activities most enjoyed by the chil-
dren were those activities where participant
interaction occurred (panning for gold,
watching a play, riding the stage coach, ®sh-
ing in the pond). Walking, reading and
looking at buildings may be `active' for an
adult, but tend to become boring very
quickly for children who need and want
more stimulation. These children have been
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sitting in a vehicle for an unknown length of
time. It is important to stimulate both their
minds and their bodies. The active activities
will be the ones children remember most
fondly.
In summary, children are willing to parti-
cipate in visitor surveys and provide just as
valuable feedback as adults, if not better.
Children are not inhibited and will say what
is on their minds. While some of the sugges-
tions or comments may `hurt' a little, it is
valuable to understand what and why parti-
cular suggestions are made. Finally, the chil-
dren of today are the adult vacationers of
tomorrow. A satis®ed child today will more
likely than not bring back their own children
to Virginia/Nevada Cities in the future.
RECOMMENDATIONS
This study was the ®rst of its kind, and hope-
fully just the beginning of children and tour-
ism research from the child's perspective.
Future research related to children and travel
is wide open. The study reported here pro-
vided a starting point for many areas of re-
search. First of all, it could be replicated at
other types of destinations to learn whether
or not there are differences in satisfaction
between adults and children based on the type
of destination. While signi®cant differences
did occur in this study, both children and
adults were still satis®ed. However, additional
research on why satisfaction differences oc-
curred would provide researchers and desti-
nation managers with further direction on
what changes could be implemented.
Second, since children are more willing to
complete surveys, marketers may want to
include children regularly in their survey
process. This would provide a higher re-
sponse rate as well as excellent data for
marketing purposes. The authors/research-
ers, may even be bold enough to suggest that
children between ten and 17 years old be a
substitute sample for adults. If additional
research were to prove that results between
adults and children were similar, researchers
could achieve higher response rates in studies
and reduce the overall sample size, saving
both money and time in the research.
Third, it is recommended that more re-
search be conducted on the decision process
of vacations from the child point of view.
While adults may believe that decisions are
`family made', the children may think other-
wise. It is important to understand the deci-
sion process so marketers can reach their
targets fully. Once again, the children would
be the respondents, not the adults. Children
have never been asked the part they played
in the travel plans. There is a difference
between parents who ask if their kids want
to go to Disney World, for example, and
hence consider the children as part of the
decision process, and those parents who ask
their kids where to go, where to stay, and
what to do. The degree of involvement from
the child's view would help marketers direct
their efforts to the appropriate consumer.
Fourth, there is a void in the research on
spending behaviour of vacationing children.
If retailers in destination markets have a
desire to reach into the pocketbook of the
child, it is important to know what chil-
dren are looking for as well as how much
they have brought to spend on this vaca-
tion. While some children may want to
buy the souvenir T-shirt, another child
may simply want to buy a baseball hat of
their favourite team even though the team
is located thousands of miles from the
destination. It seems that very little is
known about buying behaviour of children
on vacation, and this useful piece of infor-
mation could easily increase retail sales at
the destination.
Fifth, it is recommended that travel sur-
veys that rely on one person per party to
respond for the entire travel group be recon-
sidered. It is apparent that children are differ-
ent from their parents in satisfaction levels. It
is not known where other differences exist,
thus adult and child surveys can provide
more detail and more criteria on which
marketers and managers can base decisions.
Finally, when the above studies have been
conducted, there should be enough research
to develop a child consumer behaviour mod-
el. The development of the travel-related
child behaviour model would ®ll a large gap
in understanding the young consumer of
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today Ð is a big piece of the entire travel
market.
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