August 5, 2021
Booking a guided tour for your next vacation? Consider that getting along with the tourists you are co-traveling with—building tourist-tourist rapport— leads to more satisfying group experiences and that’s better for business, according to a new study by researchers at Simon Fraser University just published in one of the world’s top management journals.
While building rapport has been well-studied between service employees and customers, little has been studied in terms of its role in group tourism.
How do you measure rapport?
SFU researchers, together with a team of European researchers, conducted interviews with managers, tourists and tour guides representing various types of guided group activities—from wine and city restaurant tours to recreational and educational activities— on North America’s west coast.
They identified four dimensions of rapport among tourists. Group attentiveness (whether others in the group showed consideration and interest towards each other) and service congruity (whether tourists felt the same as others in the group about the experience) combine to drive personal connection (whether tourists bonded with other tourists), and enjoyable interaction (whether tourists had pleasant exchanges with other tourists).
Using these four dimensions, the researchers designed and recorded videos showing high, moderate and low levels of rapport among tourists in the context of a group food tour. Study participants watched and rated the perceived rapport among the tourists. Their results show that high tourist rapport increased satisfaction with the experience while low tourist rapport decreased satisfaction.
The researchers also conducted field experiments during actual guided group food tours. Actors were placed in tours and engaged with real tour participants in ways that produced low, moderate and high rapport. Participant ratings of satisfaction showed that even when other aspects of the guided group tour are first-rate (such as organization, physical space, having an excellent tour guide and great food), having moderate to high levels of rapport within the group matters and can increase overall satisfaction with the tour experience. And if rapport between tourists is absent this leads to dissatisfaction with the tour.
With the demand for travel and social experiences, such as guided group tours, likely to increase as global vaccination numbers continue to rise, tourism businesses can take this opportunity to rebuild and redesign their services and deliver a more satisfying experience for all, says SFU Beedie School of Business professor Ian McCarthy.
“As we start travelling again, our research offers evidence-based advice for how tourism businesses could develop rapport among groups of customers to increase satisfaction, word-of-mouth, and repeat visitation,” McCarthy adds.