Backer, ER 2010, 'VFR travel: an assessment of VFR versus non-VFR travellers', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.
Copyright ER Backer 2010
This research explores the profiles and characteristics of VFR travellers relative to non- VFR travellers in one tourist destination. It uses a VFR whole tourism system approach to explain more about VFR traveller behaviour. It is the relationship between the traveller (VFR) and the other tourism elements, through the VFR host, that this research considers. VFR travellers are not just visiting friends and/or relations. They may also use services provided by tourism industries, although to what degree has historically attracted little research. This study employs both quantitative and qualitative methods to examine this relationship. The quantitative research was undertaken in Australia’s Sunshine Coast and involved a survey of both visitors and residents in the Sunshine Coast. The qualitative research component was provided at a nationwide level, conducted by indepth interviews with the managers of the Regional Tourism Organisations (RTOs) throughout Australia. This allowed an examination of how VFR travel was regarded by RTO managers and what marketing strategies were in place to reach VFR travellers across the various RTOs in Australia. The results of this study suggest that VFR and non-VFR travellers came from different generating regions and travelled by different transit routes to reach the Sunshine Coast. Therefore, generic marketing campaigns aimed at the leisure market would be unlikely to be effective in capturing VFR travellers. VFR travellers surveyed were active tourists, undertaking a wide range of activities to a similar extent as non-VFR travellers. In fact, when VFR hosts’ expenditures were combined with VFR expenditures and compared against non-VFR travellers, there was no significant difference between the total expenditures. Thus, the importance of VFR travel to the local community of the Sunshine Coast is clear. One significant contribution of this study has been the development of three VFR models (The VFR Trilogy) to provide a foundation to improve understanding of VFR behaviour. VFR travel is a significant although little understood component of tourism. Therefore, this area of travel needs to be elevated to greater prominence in order for it to be understood well enough for it to be given greater attention by academics. Through doing so, it is more likely to be taught to future tourism marketers and tourism managers in order for it to receive the recognition the segment deserves. With VFR travel barely rating more than a cursory mention in core tourism texts and failing to even rate a place in the index of others, it is hardly surprising that VFR is regularly left off the higher education teaching syllabus for tourism units, resulting in the continual neglect of VFR travel as a worthwhile area of focus. The trilogy of VFR models may assist in providing the necessary tools to explain and teach VFR travel to future tourism students, so that VFR travel can be more than well-known but also known well.