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Wilde, SJ 2010, 'A holistic investigation into principal attributes contributing to the competitiveness of tourism destinations at varying stages of development', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright SJ Wilde 2010


This thesis assesses the significance and importance of attributes of tourism destination competitiveness, contributing to the competitiveness of destinations at different stages of development. In examining principal attributes contributing to the competitiveness of tourism destinations, when the stage of development or evolution of a destination is considered; this thesis addresses an area of theory deemed to have ‘been totally neglected by tourism researchers to date’ (Dwyer & Kim 2003, p. 406).

Four research questions are attended to by means of both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Research Question One asks: What critical attributes affect the competitiveness of tourism destinations?; Research Question Two: How do the critical destination attributes contribute to the competitiveness of developing and maturing destinations?; Research Question Three: To what extent is the importance of destination attributes, to consumers, affected by demographic subgroups?; and Research Question Four: Do developing and mature destinations perform differently in relation to the destination attributes from a consumer perspective?

Two case destinations on the East Coast of Australia, namely the Coffs Coast tourism region, and the Great Lakes tourism region, were selected to address this research agenda. These competing destinations were identified as being at differing stages of their development (mature/signs of stagnation versus developing/consolidating respectively). In order to identify a set of tourism–specific competiveness items recognised to apply to regional Australian destinations (such as the Coffs Coast and Great Lakes tourism regions), at least as a first step, a study based on the views of local tourism stakeholders was justified as a useful starting point in distinguishing critical attributes of destination competitiveness. According to the results of focus group discussions, key destination stakeholders endorsed that those attributes believed to be most important to a destination at the mature stage of its life cycle (showing signs of stagnation), were quite different to those attributes regarded as being critically important to developing destinations. These findings declare that advantages do exist in adapting destination competitiveness strategies, whereby consideration is given to the life cycle experienced by a tourism destination.

The thesis also identified the importance of competitiveness elements from a consumer’s perspective. Tourism destination competitiveness literature rarely seeks to present empirical findings based on the views of consumers (Dwyer et al. 2003, Crouch 2007). This research established that consumers considered those attributes linked to the management of a destination to be the most important attributes of destination competitiveness.

Additionally, it is shown in this thesis that the performance of a destination can be tempered by a destination’s stage of development. The repercussion of a destination’s stage of development on the performance of a destination, whilst postulated within the extant literature, is not well supported empirically. In this thesis it was found that, in terms of those aspects of the tourism experience considered to be important by tourists, the mature Coffs Coast tourism region performed at a higher level across some determinants of competitiveness relative to a main developing competitor, the Great Lakes tourism region. The results indicate that in terms of attribute performance, relative destination immaturity may well constrain a developing destination’s ability to satisfy the needs of both principal and emerging markets.