City resorts not so accessible for senior visitors

IFTM researchers investigate physical and service-related challenges facing senior citizens on visits to Macau integrated resorts

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

A study by researchers from the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM) suggests the city’s integrated resorts should be made more accessible to older visitors, by reducing physical and service-related challenges. Doing so could enhance the overall attractiveness of the facilities and help Macau as a tourism destination, say IFTM scholars Mary Eddy U and Dr. Penny Wan. They conducted the research with Ms. Winky Kong, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the Institute’s Tourism Business Management programme.

The researchers identified in their work a number of “distinctive barriers” for older visitors when they go to integrated resorts in Macau. “These barriers can be attributed to the unique design of integrated resorts,” the IFTM researchers said.

“An integrated resort is a megastructure,” they noted. “Seniors find it physically demanding to travel from one place to another within it, especially if signage provided is insufficient and there is a lack of seats for them to take a rest.”

The researchers added that, “because of these barriers, seniors can only comfortably visit one or two places within integrated resorts.” That, they argued, “defeats the purpose of an integrated resort”: to help visitors enjoy a variety of services and facilities inside a single structure, leading them to increase their spending there.

The comments were featured in the paper “Senior Travelers to Integrated Resorts: Preferences, Consuming Behaviors and Barriers,” published earlier this year in the Journal of Quality Assurance in Hospitality and Tourism.

The paper was based on in-depth interviews with 17 senior citizens and eight companions of such visitors. The interviewees comprised nine people living in Macao and 16 tourists: all had previously visited local integrated resorts. The age range of the senior citizens interviewed ranged from 66 to 93 years.

Respondents reported having “experienced both environmental barriers and poor service quality” while visiting the city’s integrated resorts, the IFTM researchers said. That had “negatively affected” the overall experience of the seniors interviewed, the IFTM team added.

Too dark, too slippery

Based on the interviews, the research highlighted a number of potential safety risks faced by senior visitors at integrated resorts. These included escalators moving too fast, insufficient lighting in public areas and slippery floors.

“The potential safety issues identified should be dealt with to help seniors feel safe at the destination as well as prevent possible accidents,” said the IFTM researchers. Solutions proposed included “decreasing the speed of the escalators or ensuring elevators are installed near the escalators and are clearly visible; increasing the brightness of lighting in hallways and lobbies; and using anti-skid surfaces on marble floors, especially in the restrooms.”

The researchers added: “Notice boards should be put in potentially dangerous areas to draw visitors’ attention to slippery floors.”

The study indicated that other physical and service-related challenges faced by senior citizens at integrated resorts concerned either unclear or absent signs, or proximity of toilets.

“Clearer signage with larger font should be installed” around each resort, suggested the researchers. “In particular, to increase seniors’ autonomy to explore the facilities, restrooms need to be easy to find and quick to access.”

The research proposed greater provision of rest areas, including priority seats for senior citizens and people with reduced mobility. “Having these rest spaces can give seniors a sense of safety and encourage them to stay longer in the integrated resort environment,” said the IFTM researchers.

They pointed out the need for staff at integrated resorts to receive proper training on providing senior citizen-friendly service. “Rather than being confined to service counters, staff could patrol the resort in uniform, alert to seniors or other visitors with questions or difficulties,” the research team said.

The study also identified a language barrier between senior-citizen visitors from Macao and some resort workers who had been recruited as imported labourers. “It is suggested that staff who do not speak the local language be rostered to work with at least one speaker of the local language, to ensure that service is equally available to locals and visitors,” the IFTM researchers said.

The research highlighted that being senior citizen-friendly could be good for business. Were such visitors to find the integrated resorts “welcoming and supportive environments”, it might spur them to return to the resorts either for “family gatherings” or independent leisure, and “increase satisfaction” during visits, the IFTM authors said.

The researchers suggested that, “as younger Chinese family members often provided the arrangements and finances for their older family members’ visits to integrated resorts,” marketers could attract a greater number of senior-citizen visitors “by marketing packages for the whole family”.

A second suggestion was to promote special offerings for groups of senior-citizen visitors. Since the study found this demographic group to be quite price-sensitive as consumers, operators could “increase senior visitors’ buying motivation by providing special discounts for seniors in certain restaurants and stores or for tickets to shows or particular facilities in the integrated resort,” the IFTM researchers proposed.

– The researchers

Ms. Mary Eddy U is a lecturer at the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM). She holds a master’s degree from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. Her research interests include language learning motivation, and cross-cultural interaction and motivation in education and in tourism.

Ms. Winky Kong holds a bachelor’s degree in Tourism Business Management from IFTM.

IFTM Visiting Assistant Professor Dr. Penny Wan holds a PhD from the University of Hong Kong. Her academic research focuses on sustainable tourism planning, casino gaming/integrated resort management, heritage conservation and management, hospitality services, and urban planning. Dr. Wan has served as an editorial board member and reviewer for several high-profile academic journals in the field of tourism.

– The paper

Mary Eddy U, Winky Kong Tong I and Penny Wan Yim King: “Senior Travelers to Integrated Resorts: Preferences, Consuming Behaviors and Barriers”, Journal of Quality Assurance in Hospitality & Tourism, Volume 21, Issue 3, pages 297-319, 2020.