Term Paper: Questionnaire and Focused Group

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¶ … focus groups, and explains their advantages and disadvantages. Further, it provides real-world applications of the methods in the tourism industry to prove that both are helpful to explore industry-specific economic, social and environmental dynamics, provided the research methods are applied appropriately.

Questionnaires questionnaire is a set of questions sent to the representatives of the target audience which they fill in and return (Purho, 2001). Format can be paper or electronic. Purho states that questionnaires are typically used in getting information that can be statistically analyzed such as satisfaction rates and demographic data. Therefore, questions are mostly closed questions that produce quantitative data based on yes/no answers or scale rankings. Some use is also made of open-ended questions that don't provide the respondent a set answer from which to choose ("Sociological research skills research methods").

Advantages of Questionnaires

Sociological research skills research methods" describes the pros of questionnaires. Questionnaires are relatively quick and easy to create, code and interpret and allow researchers to contact large numbers of people quickly, easily and cost efficiently. And, they are easy to standardize because all respondents are asked the same questions in the same way. Because the questionnaires are anonymous and completed in privacy, it's easier to explore potentially embarrassing areas and the chances of people answering questions honestly is higher. Questionnaires also facilitate good control over the sampling audience and allows respondents to answer at their convenience ("Pros and cons of various research techniques," Riger Advertising).

2.2 Disadvantages of Questionnaires

Questionnaire formats make it difficult to examine complex issues and opinions and response rates may be low ("Sociological research skills research methods"). Because a researcher is not present, it's impossible to tell who actually completed the survey and whether the respondent understands the questions. Results may be biased because people that have strong positive or negative feelings are more likely to answer questionnaires (Purho, 2001).

Design may pose challenges. For example, respondents can skip questions, so that questionnaires that follow a set sequence cannot be used ("Pros and cons of various research techniques," Riger Advertising).

2.3 Examples of Questionnaires in Tourism

The Pacific-Asia Travel Association sent a questionnaire consisting of ten questions to over one hundred experts and tourism professional worldwide to ascertain their opinions on various collaborations between northern Thailand's cultural minorities and the tourism industry ("About this project"). The questionnaire had a fifty percent response rate, and revealed the opinion that tourism to the minority villages of northern Thailand was routinely implemented and developed in a haphazard and irresponsible manner. It also discovered that negotiations or arrangements were seldom conducted with the villagers, who have historically had little or no say in the matter. As a result, most operators took advantage of their social predicament and developed tours to mountain villages as an extremely low-investment / high-yield product. According to the majority of respondents, benefits to the villages were typically negligible, and consequences frequently negative.

The Business Expectation Survey was developed by Tourism Tasmania to obtain information from Tasmanian tourism operators regarding business performance and future expectations ("Business expectation survey," 2002).

A questionnaire was mailed in December 2001 to a randomly selected target group of 300 operations from all key tourism sectors, accommodation, tour operators, attractions and transport/hire services. 158 completed questionnaires were received from a representative cross section. Operators were asked for their expectations of economic performance for the Australian economy, Tasmanian economy and their own business over the next 12 months, compared with the previous 12 months. Results showed:

Tourism operators were more likely to have positive expectations for their own business and for the Tasmanian economy compared the Australian economy.

Confidence in the Tasmanian economy was stronger for accommodation operators and in the Northwest/West region.

Operators in the attractions sector and from the Northwest/West were most likely to have positive expectations for the performance of their own businesses over the next 12 months, in comparison with the last year.

There continues to be an increasingly positive outlook for the Tasmanian economy.

Most indicators were more likely to be up when operators compared business performance for September 2002 with the corresponding period last year.

There was generally strong optimism across the range of business indicators for November/December 2002 compared with the corresponding period last year.

Business performance was higher than expected for most key revenue indicators - accommodation occupancy and customer bookings, pre-booked and other.

3.0 Focus Groups

In traditional focus groups, participants are pre-screened to ensure that group members are part of the relevant target market and that the group is a representative subgroup of this market segment ("Focus group," Wikipedia). There are usually eight to twelve members in the group, and the session usually lasts for one to two hours. A moderator guides the group through a discussion that probes attitudes about a client's products or services. The discussion is loosely structured by a trained moderator to encourage the free flow of ideas. Although the moderater is seldom given specific questions to ask, he/she is often given a list of objectives or a suggested outline. Client representatives may observe the discussion from behind a one-way mirror and a video camera records the meeting so that it can be seen by others. Researchers are not only examining spoken words, they also try to interpret facial expressions, body language, and group dynamics. There are many variants of traditional focus groups such as online focus groups that use and computer and the Interent.

3.1 Advantages of Focus Groups

Focus groups are exploratory; they are a good way of getting people to talk about their attitudes and perceptions and can provide in-depth information ("Pros and cons of various research techniques," Riger Advertising). The group can provide information that was not anticipated, help prioritize development areas, and reach a consensus decision on different alternatives (Purho, 2001).

3.2 Distadvantages of Focus Groups

Focus groups are not the method to use if you are seeking to find individual views on a particular topic. They tell you what groups of people think or feel about a particular topic and the idea is that useful information will be generated through group interactions (Gibbs, 1997). Further because focus groups are not a scientific sampling, they reveal attitudes of a small group only and results cannot be generalized ("Pros and cons of various research techniques," Riger Advertising). And, according to Riger Advertising, focus groups are an expensive and inefficient way of gathering information because recruitment is difficult and requires a strong incentive. Further, in cases of weak moderators, one dominant participant may affect others or the discussion may move away from the intended subject (Purho, 2001). Some group members may be uncomfortable participating in a group environment, limiting their responses and truthful answers.

3.3 Examples of Focus Groups in Tourism

The Wisconsin Department of Tourism conducted three focus groups with African-Americans from the Midwest who had recently traveled ("African-American focus groups key findings and applications," 2000). The study was conducted to learn about the participants' priorities and decision-making and to evaluate the effectiveness of the Department's Web site, advertising, and promotional literature. The focus groups included mixed gender adult (married and singles) groups who are travel planners/decision makers, with a minimum household income of $50K for multi-person households and $30K for single person households. Participants were asked to watch TV ads, listened to radio ads, visited the Web site, sorted photographs, viewed several magazine ads and marked the photos they did and didn't like in four Wisconsin travel and event guides. Key findings derived from the focus groups included:

Vacation planning has more to do with life stage than ethnicity.

Participants tended to get their information and ideas about vacations through word-of-mouth.

Participants tended to plan vacations around times that children are not in school. Though children have little influence on where parents decide to vacation, parents with children admit they seek out family-oriented venues.

Adults with no children are free to travel regardless of season. While summer and the warmer parts of spring and fall are the most popular seasons there was also a great deal of interest expressed in indoor and outdoor winter activities.

Empty nesters and singles prefer vacation destinations that offer a variety of seasonal indoor and outdoor recreational activities, relaxation and recreation that is not geared to the family with children market.

Tourism Queensland conducted focus group research in Japan to help understand the types of images, products and destination attributes that attract specific market segments in the Japanese market ("Japanese market segment focus groups"). Research revealed:

Experienced Female Travelers' main sources of information for overseas travel are the Internet, government travel bureaus, travel agents, advice from friends, and travel magazines. Many select package tours offered by travel agencies. The majority decide where they want to go through their day-to-day interactions. When making plans, they seek more detailed information. Price is important.

Honeymooners' main sources of information for overseas travel are travel agency brochures, magazines, television and the Internet. The majority choose package tours from travel agencies. Price is top priority, but… [END OF PREVIEW]

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