Do tourists find smoking restrictions unwelcoming?

Study by IFT scholars looks into factors affecting the intention of smokers visiting Macau to puff on a cigarette while in the city

Research Corner | A partnership between Macau Business and the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT)

china smoking

A study by two scholars from the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT) has concluded that “past behaviour” – a reference to smoking-control rules in a person’s place of origin – has a strong impact upon a smoker’s intention to puff on a cigarette in public indoor areas while in Macau as a tourist.

Another factor found to have a strong impact upon visitors’ intention to smoke in public indoor areas was “attitude,” state IFT researchers Cindia Lam and Billy Im. The attitude factor refers to how visitors perceive their act of smoking in public indoor areas while visiting the city; namely, either in a positive or negative way.

The comments – featured in the paper Tourist Floods, GDP Rockets, the Government Intervenes: smoking ordinance and its implementation – were published earlier this year in the Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events.

The main objective of the study was to examine the tobacco consumption behaviour of tourists who self-identified as smokers. The researchers point out that as Macau authorities continue to tighten smoking regulations in the city – by restricting the consumption of cigarettes in outdoor and indoor areas open to the public – it is relevant to gather insights on the smoking behaviour of tourists.

Macau’s revision of its smoking-control regulations has primarily been driven by the growth in the number of tourist smokers, the researchers note. Under the intensive pace of implementation of increasingly stringent rules, the Macau Government and business sector have expressed controversial views on the impact of such measures in relation to tourism, add Dr. Lam and Mr. Im.

“To balance the interests of smoking tourists, non-smoking tourists, local service operators and employees, it is critical to understand the behaviour of smoking tourists, so as to offer insights in shaping their smoking behaviour,” the authors state.

The IFT researchers pointed out that the impact of smoking-control rules on tourists is of particular relevance to Macau as the city’s economy relies mostly upon tourism. In addition, about 70 per cent of Macau’s 30 million-plus annual tourist arrivals are generated by Mainland China, home to the world’s largest population of smokers – at around 315 million individuals as of 2015, according to the World Health Organization.

Changing attitudes concerning smoking

The study results were based upon a survey participated in by 1,009 tourists to Macau, all of whom identified themselves as smokers and were 18 years old or above. The sample comprised mainly tourists from either Mainland China (52.8 per cent) or Hong Kong (32.3 per cent).

Dr. Lam and Mr. Im noted in their paper that while “past behaviour” had a strong impact upon tourists’ intention to smoke in public indoor areas while in Macau, such a factor was highly dependent upon the smoking-control rules in place in the region of origin of each tourist. The IFT researchers therefore suggest Macau authorities focus upon trying to impact the “attitude” factor in order to reduce visitors’ desire to smoke indoors while in the city. Influencing visitor attitudes is of particular importance in relation to tourists from Mainland China, a jurisdiction where rules on smoking in public places is still relatively lax.

“At this moment, most Chinese smokers may get used to lighting up their cigarettes wherever and whenever they want to smoke, perhaps even when they are travelling, due to the limited smoking ban in Mainland China,” said the IFT scholars.

Dr. Lam and Mr. Im suggest Macau authorities highlight to tourists the growing popularity of smoking-ban policies in various well-developed tourism destinations. In addition, Macau authorities should promote the core message of “experiencing a different yet enchanting lifestyle” whilst in the city (i.e.) curbing their smoking habits.

Highlighting the wide acceptance of smoking bans, and the opportunity to have a different lifestyle while in Macau, seek to change tourist attitudes towards smoking. While such promotional efforts may not be sufficient in shaping visitor attitudes to smoking in public indoor areas in a comprehensive way “it will help to reduce their intention of repeating their daily smoking behaviour while travelling to Macau”, posit Dr. Lam and Mr. Im.

The researchers

Cindia Lam is an Assistant Professor at the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT). She has a PhD in Business Administration from the Catholic University of Portugal and is the Academic Co-ordinator of IFT’s Evening Degree Programmes. Dr. Lam has served as a consultant to the Macau Government on a number of its projects. Her research interests range from tourism and hospitality development to quality of life and service quality.

IFT lecturer Billy Im holds a Master’s degree in Hospitality Administration from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in the United States. His academic research interests focus on tourist behaviour, gaming, and hospitality management. Mr. Im’s work experience includes a number of roles in the hospitality industry.

The paper

Cindia Ching-Chi Lam and Billy Ut-Lon Im: Tourist Floods, GDP Rockets, the Government Intervenes: smoking ordinance and its implementation, Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events, Volume 11, Issue 2, pages 294-310, 2019.