Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) is a segment of tourism that has been suffering from an absence of recognition and lack of appreciation. This study explores the experience of International Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) market in a destination- in London. There have been no previous studies on this particular subject. The aim of the study is to cover the gap in the academic literature about the analysis of International VFR market in London focusing on their experience. The report identifies academic literature and existing data focused VFR market. As well as motivations of VFR tourists, who typically goes on VFR trips, the attractions visited, economic contributions, the usual behaviour, host involvement, expectations and experience. Participants of the research were selected through the online/ in-person questionnaires that were identifying their purpose of visiting London.
The interviewees who participated in the in-depth interviews had the same purpose for visiting London and that was – visiting a friend or a relative. This study presents the findings from the semi-structured interviews. VFR market showed further complexity and has some unique attributes. Study focused on VFR’s motivations, activities at the destination, including economic, environmental and cultural impacts. Moreover, study had focused on VFRs’ characteristics and how differ than other types of tourism when it comes to length of stay, economic contributions, the usual behaviours and many more. Host involvement turned out to be very important for the VFR travellers, as well as the expectations and the overall experience.
Keywords: VFR, Visiting Friends and Relatives, London, Experience, Expectations, London as a destination.
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
In 20th century travelling, migrating and moving away from home become more common and fluid. The evolution of transport technology has made the travel easier comparing it to earlier times. And as a result, there was an increase in wider migrations, among people looking for being more secured financially, looking for better education or better living standards. It is believed that historical patterns have demonstrated that migrants are frequently returning to visit their country of origin, and the other way around, by Visiting Friends and Relatives (Backer, 2015). That is why tourism itself could be believed to be the largest migratory power in the history, and therefore the Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) is one of the closest related with migration patterns (King, 1994). What is more, rapid growth of advanced technology and the development of industries providing goods and services contributed to the Visiting Friends and Relatives tourism growth. Better and faster means of transport enabled the travel to be easier and cheaper. There was a rise of new low cost airlines, as well as the accommodation providers keep competing to offer better and cheaper services.
Visiting Friends and Relatives sector has shown growth over last years in terms of trips, with bigger growth compared to holiday trips (VisitBritain, 2015). The positive growth pattern of the VFR is believed to be driven by crucial factors such as population growth and the movement of the population around the country. As friend and relatives make the population, and if the population grows within, the VFR market automatically grows as well. (Ramachandran, 2006). Consequently, after a long period of time the VFR market is increasingly becoming a subject of research as its stated that there has been a growing recognition from economic and social perspectives. (Giaoutzi and Nijkamp, 2006). Researched recently have realized that the Visiting Friends and Relatives market is not only substantial but also has a large economic influence on communities at the destination.
What is more, it is believed by Lehto, Morisson and O’Leary (2001) that VFRs have unique characteristics in terms of patterns, trip planning, activities, trip types, spending patterns, motivations and behaviours. Recent research studies became to recognize VFR not only as a unique market, but they started to identify variations within the VFR market, and what is more, suggest typologies, different travel behaviours and market niches. (Lehto, Morrison, and O’Leary, 2001). Therefore, the VFR market should no longer be treated as one segment only. By dividing VFR by travel purpose, country of origin, accommodation use, the experience, etc. Rather than looking at the VFR as a purpose of visit and the primary motivation separately, it is believed that tying VFR alongside other activities would give strategic advantage as well VFR segment could be understood better. (Ramachandran, 2006).
London is one of the most visited and popular destinations in the world. Having around 36 million international visitors through the year. The VFR market is around 29% of these inbound tourists. However, for many years VFR was largely overlooked by academics and practitioners; and what is more, visits friends and relatives sector has been dismissed by tourism trade as a ‘non-market’. (English Tourism Council, 2002). It could be stated that for many years VFR had a ‘forgotten status’. There was an absence of books and monographs about that topic, for example there has been no VFR- related book until around 2013 where the idea for the new book about VFR was originated. (Backer and King, 2015). That is why it is important to research this particular purpose of the visit. As the VFR tourism could occupy a unique position when it comes to London. What is more, there is not many academic sources about the VFR experience, There is no literature about the VFR in London. That is why, this study puts forward an explanatory study that will seek to analyse and describe the phenomenon of international visits of friends and relatives in London.
The aim of the study is an analysis of International VFR market in London focusing on their experience. (Altinay and Paraskevas, 2008). In order to accomplish the aim of the study it is essential to develop research objectives that will perform at tasks, which need to achieve. What is more, the report identifies existing data focused upon visits linked with VFR. As well as the characteristics of the VFR tourists. Where do they stay on their visits? Which specific places do they visit? Do they only visit the most popular attractions in London, or they explore different parts of London, that are less known about? Is the difference of the experience by exploring by VFR rather than holiday visits?
With the main objectives established for this study:
- Motivations of VFR tourists,
- Who typically takes VFR trips,
- The attractions visited,
- The usual behaviour of VFR tourists,
- Host involvement,
- The economic impacts of VFR,
- Expectations and experience,
- The characteristics of VFR with other types of tourism.
The first section of the study introduces literature review. Chapter 3 presents the methodological approach to the study. Chapter 4 will introduce the research results and their discussion, Including conclusions and recommendations.
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
Tourism is defined as a leisurely pursuit on a temporary basis. (International Journal of Tourism Research, 2006). Tourism is of significance to the UK economy, bringing socio-cultural and cultural implications. It is said that both education and tourism led to growing recognition in recent decades, from both economic and social perspective. (Brent, 2002). It is believed that the VFR phenomenon is multifaceted, that makes it hard to integrate the findings or research. In order to understand the visiting friends and relatives market it is important to find value in social networks, well-being, ethnic identification and market research that are directed to expanding range of tourists to a destination. Therefore, the VFR market should no longer be treated as one segment only. Dividing VFR market by travel purpose, country of origin, accommodation use, etc. the VFR market could be understood better (Moscardo, Pearce, Morrison, Green, and O’leary. 2000). This chapter will focus on the already existing literature, expanding on the VFR factors. Firstly, it will focus on VFR research, the characteristics, VFR motivations, behaviours, hosts involvement,
2.1. ‘VISITING FRIENDS AND RELATIVES’ – RESEARCH
Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) is one of the forms the closest related with migration patterns. (King, 1994), Mature children tend to move away from home for educational reasons or just looking for a ‘better life’. People who remain emotionally attached to their home country are believed to visit their home countries more frequently. (King & Gamage, 1994). Moreover, it leads the relatives to visit them in their new homes, at the same time it creates and generates a two-way stream of tourists. (Jackson, 1990). The movement of people around the world has significantly increased. Nowadays, traveling is easier and more accessible. Low-cost carriers such as Ryanair, WizzAir had definitely helped the VFR travel to be cheaper and more possible. There are more factors that encourage VFR travels by reducing the costs, such as: Internet bookings and Technology Information (Sharpley, 2009).
According to Leiper (2004) a definition for a tourist also includes “a search for leisure experiences from interactions with features or Characteristics of places they choose to visit” (p. 35). He stated that a person who travels to a place to help their family for example attend a wedding, help with a new-born, help with sickness or just pay a visit to a relative should not be included as tourists in Leiper’s (2004) definition of a tourist. They are considered as VFR travellers. For many years visits friends and relatives sector has been dismissed by tourism trade as a ‘non-market’. (English Tourism Council, 2002). A paper presented on the International conference at the University of Strathclyde in 1994, was the first proposal to split the VFR travel category. It is because there was an intuitive belief that paying visits to relatives is a different experience, including differences in behaviours and level of engagement. (Seaton, 1994). What is more, the visit Friends and Relatives form of tourism is defined ‘a form of travel that is about being copresent with significant faces being their guests, receiving their hospitality and perhaps enjoying their knowledge of local culture’ (Elliot and Urry, 2010, p. 53).
2.2. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF VFR TOURISTS
VFR travel is believed to be a very important social activity, and what is more it is likely to be the oldest form of travel. (Backer, 2011). What is more, It is believed that the VFR traveller contributes to the bigger picture of tourism while visiting friends or relatives. It includes visiting places and attractions, as well as VFR increases local awareness of tourism. For instance, accompanying their host to attractions that they would not have gone without their visitors. (Ramachandran, 2006). When it comes to defining VFR: the definition ‘VFR: a form of tourism that involves the visitor staying in the home of the friend or a relative’ (Connell and Page,2014, p.482). According to definition people who do not stay with their friends or relatives should not be considered as VFRs. On the other hand, a tourist can stay over at friend’s place but their main purpose of the visit is not visiting them. Both of the definition are believed to fail to explain VFR typologies. There was a definition proposed by Backer (2008) ‘VFR Tourism is a form of tourism involving a visit whereby either (or both) the purpose of the trip or the type of accommodation involves visiting friends and/ or relatives.’ (Backer, 2008) Nowadays, VFR is believed to be an important segment when it comes to tourism and education, since there have been seen a rise in number of students from year to year. (Backer, 2008)
VFR FROM A DEMAND SIDE
2.3. VFR MOTIVATIONS
Every travel is believed to have a motivating factor; it can be also seen in case of VFR market segment. The visiting friends and relatives market can be split into two main segments primary and secondary motivations. For instance: as a primary motivation, when the main reason for the trip is to visit friends or relatives; such as weddings, funerals, christening, birthdays and others (Ramachandran, 2006). Secondly, VFR as a part of holiday, meaning the primary motivation for visiting is holiday and in the meanwhile the activity involves visiting friends and relatives. This make the VFR a secondary motivation. What is more, closely linked to the primary or secondary motives is the freedom of choice. Secondary motivations are believed to be more complicated and complex. (Stephenson, 2002). Moreover, the decision making process is becoming a complex matter. (Ramachandran, 2006). For instance, one can go on a business trip or holiday, to a destination where a friend or relative lives. In that case VFR is just an activity of part of the main travel. Meaning visiting friends and relatives can be only an extra bonus added to a holiday trip or etc. (Ramachandran, 2006),
According to The Tourism Company (2011), recently VFR statistics were only including visiting friends and relatives as a primary motivation. Moreover, trips involving holiday as a primary motivation (holiday VFR) have been included as a part of holiday tourism statistics and not VFR. It has been found that the even though secondary motivation had been added the statistics still did not disaggregate holiday VFR from overall holiday tourism. As the result these factors has been significantly under-represent the VFR market in terms of volume. (The Tourism Company, 2011). Jackson (1990) stated that VFR tourists usually consider themselves being on holiday rather than being VFR tourists. That is why the size of VFR travels can be underestimated. Moreover, it is said that motivations of the trips play a significant role on the tourist’s behaviour. (March and Woodside, 2005). What is more, the role of hosts and their hospitality is believed to be an important factor in motivating VFR travellers. (Ramachandran, 2006). Do VFR travellers have a choice to travel at their own will, time and desire? It is commonly known that depending on the occasion, sometimes one cannot select a date of their own choice, as wedding and funerals mostly have a set up date. Therefore, there is not much room for freedom of choice. (Ramachandran, 2006). What is more, it is believed by Seaton and Palmer (1997) that VFR is the main motivation for leisure travel in some developing countries, because of some residents not being able to afford other forms of leisure. VFR is also a significant segment is the international travel market, especially for countries with a strong immigration tradition. (Seaton and Palmer, 1997).
VFR FROM A SUPPLY SIDE
2.4 VFR BEHAVIOURS AND HOSTS INVOLVMENTEXPERIENCE
According to March and Woodside (2005) tourists that are visiting friends and relatives are most likely to be advised and rely on the host’s advice. As they might enjoy similar food, language and behaviour. They are also believed to deflect between eventual and planned behaviours. (March and Woodside, 2005). There are some primary and secondary activities that friends and relatives tend to do. Primary: such as socializing, dining at home and entertainment. Secondary: dining out, recreation, sightseeing, urban entertainment and shopping. As a result, in terms of timing and location it helps to spread tourism. Visitors are more likely to visits parts of the city they might not otherwise visit. As sometimes host would try to avoid hotspots and very popular attractions as they are overcrowded most of the time. Hosts tend to take their visitors to places quieter and off usual tourist trial. (English Tourism Council, 2002). VFR are believed to access more local areas with local shops rather than touristic orientated ones. (Backer, 2010). Moreover, hosts usually give useful guidelines to their visitors when it comes to directions, places to visit, places and transportation. It is also believed that the internal patterns of spend within VFR are more likely to be different from other sub-categories on account of the fact that there is often no need for accommodation spend amongst this category of visitor. (Kyte, 2012). Not all the travellers stay with their families and friends. There are a wider variety of other forms of accommodation used by VFR. On the other hand, there is still a considerable part of VFR that uses more commercial accommodation. Travel usually involves need to escape from ‘normal life’ and time to rest and relax, that is why VFRs sometimes tend to choose more commercial accommodation. (Backer, 2010). Instead of staying over at friends or relatives house. Moreover, VFR travellers are likely to spend less than other types of tourists, as they are more likely to use non-tourism establishments that most of the times are cheaper. (Giaoutzi and Nijkamp, 2006). On the contrary Lickorish and Jenkis (1997) said that the presence of guest drives host and guest to generate high levels of eating outside of homes and entertaining. He also stated that Visiting Friends and relatives is a very important sector of tourist market in the world.
According to Giaoutzi and Nijkamp (2006) the quality of life of hosts and locals in destinations are believed to have positive and negative effects. Living in London, which is a very attractive tourism destination, comes with reoccurring from time to time visits of friends and family. VFR apparently has an influence on local’s lifestyle, wellbeing and overall happiness in both ways positive ones and negative ones. That all depends on hosts involvement. Being a host could be rewarding at some point as it allows you to be a tourist around the city that you live in but also allows spending quality time with people that are visiting. However, it is believed that VFR might be an exhausting and restricting experience that sometimes involves loss of privacy and autonomy sense. (Uriely, 2010). That is why VFRs sometimes choose commercial accommodations such as hotels and hostels to find balance between their comfort and main purpose of the visit. (Backer, 2010).
2.5. ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF VFR
|Table 1: VFR IN LONDON (2015)
According to VisitBritan (2010) there are more than one in four visits to the United Kingdom from overseas countries that were visiting friends or relatives. That makes 8.4 million visits in year 2010. During the visit, they spend on average £423, so the overall generated income for UK economics is £3.554 billion. It is believed that around 25-30% people return to visit. The VFR market has been under-appreciated in terms of its contribution to economies. Not only there are positive impacts on economics but it also heightens awareness of what local tourism has to offer. The visitors are beneficial for the local events, as around 40% of visitors try to combine their trip with an event of interest within the local area. (English Tourism Council, 2002).
It can be seen on table 1 that VFR trips are 13% of all the visits to London. As well as spend has an amount of 16% of overall spending by tourists in London. This shows how important it is to include VFR market to the research and treated it as its own market segment. Furthermore, it is believed that the host will go out with their visitors to local attractions and events but the specific places are unknown. Visitors are more likely to come from Irish Republic, France, USA, Poland and Germany. (Visit Britan, 2010). The spread of European deregulations had a positive influence when it comes to the growth of VFR trips. (Loockwood and Medlik, 2003).
When it comes to the timing of the trips they are spread much more evenly across the year than visits for different purposes. (English Tourism Council, 2002). This study taken place 15 years ago so it need to be acknowledge that it is quite dated and things might have changed, VFR trips are more likely to take place in the last two quarters of the year from July to December (29%, 26%) than the January to March (21%) period. (Visit Britain, 2014). The multiplier effect of tourism economy can be seen in terms of VFR visits. A staggering 88% of hosts said that they usually buy in extra food when people stay with them. (English Tourism Council, 2002). The data has been collected by English Tourism Council in a year 2002 about some of the places visited with hosts on VFR trips. 68% of visitors goes to restaurants, pubs or night clubs; 52% visit shopping centres, 24% goes to gardens and parks; only 9% visits museums or gallery; and 17% did not visit anywhere.
Recent statistics (Visit Britain, 2015) show that there has been an increase in number of visits (+7,12%) comparing to the previous year. Holiday visits decreased by 10%. Total expenditure spent and numbers of nights increased in terms of VFR visits. The only things that decreased are average length of the stay and a little decrease in average spend per visit.
Figure 2: VFR MARKET SPENT IN UK (VisitBritain, 2015)
2.6 CONTRIBUTIONS OF VFR TRAVEL
VFR can be no longer treated as a way to fill in gaps in statistics. The economic contribution has a significant economic impact in UK. It can be seen on Figure 2 how the amount spent each year is rising. It is believed by Ramachandran (2006) to spread the tourism money wider. Therefore, the economic and all contributions are far larger than the traditional assumptions of VFR, as a segment that does not generate revenue. There are some indirect and direct benefits that comes from VFR market. Such as: VFR can be used as a function to compensate the seasonality for a destination. Moreover, visiting friends and relatives is believed to be a very effective marketing and communications tool, through Word of Mouth. VFR travellers have potential to repeat the visits, as the visits can repeat every now and then through the life cycle. Therefore, the VFR segment can really help to make a considerable expenses overall. Some of the recent VFR trends shows that the market injects some money to the economy through using commercial means; such as restaurants, tourist attractions and commercial loggings. Moreover, large amount of money is spent on entertainment, means of transport and souvenirs, and their hosts and in return. Therefore, it can be said that VFR actually gives an economic boost to a particular destination. The money is spent wider by VFR market, on wholesale, drinks and gifts. It is also believed that hosts spend more than usually while having a visitor, not necessarily at their home. This all contributes to the multiplying effect. (Ramachandran, 2006).
2.7. LONDON AS A DESTINATION
According to Greg Clark (2015) : ‘London – messy, unplanned, organic and ungovernable – has become a model of global city resilience’. London has become a location of the biggest and world’s leading companies. Not only it is one of the most globally fluent cities but also it was named world’s most popular travel destination in 2015 (Withnall, 2015). It is said that London is used as a base or gateway for a long holiday. (Law C. 1994). According to Visit Britain (2016) since 2011 every year there was an increase in number of visits and nights spend in London. The number of visits has grown by 5% in 2015 and the value of spending by 1%. London attracts people as a city for variety of reasons.
Having a look at data from 2015,when it comes to journey purpose the most popular ones are holiday (38%), business (25%) and VFR which is 39%. It can be seen that the VFR is one of the largest share. On the contrary when it comes to visitor spend VFR contributed only 22%, when holiday visits contributed 39% and on business 24%. London generates 54% of all inbound visitor spend, the rest of England only 34%. (Visit Britain, 2016). The multiple functions of the city are definitely one of many the reasons for inbound tourism. London has become a centre of national cultural institutions. Not only it is a capital of arts and entertainment centre but it’s also a city of beautiful historic buildings and ‘zones of prestige’. (Maitland and Newman (2009).
Once it was said by Christopher Law (1994) that what visitors usually want is something unique, popular, entertaining, interesting and with cultural attractions and sightseeing. London is definitely a place where all this needs can be fulfilled. The most popular activities undertaken in London are shopping, visiting famous monuments, buildings, parks, gardens, castles, museums and art galleries and lots of more. Access to the city plays a very important role to an inbound tourism. London is well connected by transport links when it comes to getting around the city, getting from the Airports to the city is also well served, traveling to London or from London to Europe or even wider world destinations. (UCL, 2016). According to UK can be proud of their ‘excellent global connectivity with well over 100 countries having direct air connections to the United Kingdom in 2015’. (Visit Britain, 2016). On the other hand there is no need for flying as you can get to most of the cities in Europe by train. There are connections to almost everywhere from UK to Europe mainland such as Spain, Italy, Netherlands, France, Moscow, Prague and lot of more. (Seat 61, 2016). There is variety of options presented such as 1st class and 2nd, night couchette, or sleeping-car. People keep coming to the City, because there is variety of accessible attractions to visit and not only. Some of the Ten top rated Tourist Attractions are:
- Warner Bros,
- London Eye,
- Madame Tussauds,
- Tower of London,
- The view from The Shard,
- SEA Life London Aquarium,
- Westminster Abbey,
- London ZOO,
- and a lot more.
Unfortunately, for some of the tourists with a small budget these attractions could be too expensive. There is nothing to worry about as London city offers a very large range of free entry attractions. Here are some of the options: British Museum, Changing the Guard Special Event, National Gallery, Natural History Museum, Tate Britain and Tate Modern, Victoria and Albert Museum, Science Museum. There are also London Sightseeing Tours taking place very often some of them are even free. (Visit London, 2016).
2.8. VFR AND OTHER TYPES OF TOURISM
VFR travel is perceived to happen naturally with no need to use for marketing, as well as promoting the destinations in different ways. VFR is believed to be one on of the major motivation when it comes to international travels segment. (Uriely, 2010). VFR visits are more likely to spend less than other types of visits such as Holiday or Business trip. VFR’s also are believed to have a shorter length of stay in destination cities. (Urley, 2010). Table 3 shows the importance of VFR market in London comparing to other subcategories. It is believed by VisitBritan1 (2015) that there were signs of recovery when it comes to holidays trips. And the VFR segment was at its highest point since year 2006.
|LONDON: trips, nights, expenditure by purpose (Visitbritain1, 2015)|
What is more, with the VFR segment there is less seasonality, as VFR is believed to travel more equally through the year. They usually rely on the word of mouth of their hosts when it comes to accommodation. (Uriely, 2010). It is also believed that the internal patterns of spend within VFR are more likely to be different from other subcategories on account of the fact that there is often no need for accommodation spend amongst this category of visitor. (Kyte, 2012). VFRs are also believed to contribute to non-tourism economy, as there is bigger tendency to buy local goods and usage of local services, as residents are believed to spend more when hosting VFRs. (Backer, 2010). However, the actual economic contribution might seem not calculated adequately, as usual research tends to ignore supply side mostly focusing on the demand side. (Backer, 2008).
Moreover, they are likely to spend less than other types of tourists, as they are more likely to use non-tourism establishments that most of the times are cheaper. It is also believed that the internal patterns of spend within VFR are more likely to be different from other subcategories on account of the fact that there is often no need for accommodation spend amongst this category of visitor. (Kyte, 2012). In 2010 only 10,5% of reported VFR used commercial accommodation. (Backer, 2010). VFRs are more likely to repeat their visit as well as the segment can function as a moderator to compensate seasonality within the destination. (Ramachandran, 2006). Moreover, most of the destination cities have faced an increase in prices of accommodations, that gives the VFR traveller the opportunity to opt out to a friend’s or relative’s house. (Ramachandran, 2006). That is why the VFR market has become an important part of the lifestyle in large urban areas and not only there. (Backer, 2008).
CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY
This part of study contains a discussion of the methodological approach and research design applied to achieve the aims and objectives of the research. The main aim of this chapter is to explain the research methods as well as process of data collection. For the purpose of this research, in order to achieve the objectives both primary and secondary data have been collected and used. To form the background information secondary data were contributed. When it comes to primary data, combination of qualitative and quantitative were be used. The chapter will include the explanation of research approach, research design, sample framework, data collection methods and tools used, as well as limitations of the study.
3.1. RESEARCH APPROACH
This study is an analytical research in nature seeking to analyse the VFR experience and behaviours in London. Analytical research is believed to be undertaken in order to suggest or explain why or how something is happening. What is more it also extending the Descriptive approach. The most important feature of this type of research is locating and identifying different variables or factors involved. (Creswell, 2013)For the need of this study the Inductive approach has been adopted. Inductive approach takes place when the data is gathered from a specific instance in order to build up an abstraction or theory.
The research begins from collecting data that is relevant to the topic selected, in that case Visiting Friends and Relatives Market in the United Kingdom (Tashakkori and Teddlie, 1998). This approach is usually called a ‘bottom up’ approach. It is believed to work the other way, moving from specific observations to broader theories and broader generalizations. Moreover, the conclusion is likely to be based on premises. Also, involves a degree of uncertainty (Trochim, 2000). The reason for choosing the inductive approach is because it considers the context moving from data to the theory. Researcher looks for patterns in the data, working to develop a theory that could explain those patterns.
3.2. RESEARCH DESIGN
Both Qualitative and Quantitative methods will be used. According to Creswell et al (2005) mixed method of research is a research methodology for collecting, analysing, and mixing of data that includes both qualitative and quantitative data in a single case study or multiple case studies for better understanding of research problems.
Quantitative approach- operationalisation involves deciding ‘how the concept might be measured’ (Veal, 2011). Surveys will be collected to select appropriate students for the interview and to investigate breadth of the study. Moreover, it will help with drawing a little bit of background about visits of friends and relatives and their characteristic. It is believed that the process is generally guided by an inductive approach and it is usually objectively constructed. Moreover, it involves numerical evidence, statistical analysis by gathering a large amount of data in order to provide reliability and provide statistical strength. (Jennings, 2001).
Qualitative approach- operationalisation process that involves deciding how the concept might be identified assessed or described when conducting qualitative research (Veal, 2011). The term Qualitative is used to describe research methods and techniques, which are used, that is information is the form of words, sounds and images rather than numbers. Moreover, when it comes qualitative techniques generally they do not lend themselves to statistical analysis and conclusions are also based on such analysis. These Qualitative methods collect information and aim to acquire in depth insight. This technique aims to develop an understanding of the context and the types of behaviours that take place in the study and talk about analyse them in depth. (Altinay and Paraskevas, 2008). Consequently, there is a tendency to involve gathering of large amounts of relatively detailed information about a few cases (Veal, 2011).
As it was mentioned earlier, both qualitative and quantitative methods will be used for the purpose of this study. Firstly, surveys will be collected to select appropriate people for the study. Meaning finding people who came to visits friends or family in London. Followed by interviews, this is the man technique used for this study. Face-to face interviews will justify the London experience that involves emotional side of the experience, and to gather in depth answers. The main important thing about this approach is that is appropriate for small samples, where the outcomes are not measurable and quantifiable. Moreover, it offers a comprehensive and detailed description and analysis of the research topic. Also it does not limit the scope of the research and the nature of the responses. It is believed that the effectiveness and the outcome, is usually based on the abilities and skills of the researcher (Collis and Hussey, 2003). Primary data are new data specifically collected in the current research (Veal, 2011).
For purpose of this research primary data was collected using two ways. Firstly, 30 questionnaires were conducted in order to select the right group of people for the face to face interviews and to investigate breadth of the study. Questionnaires identified reasons, motivations and expectations of the travellers visiting friends and relatives. The method was followed by the main technique used in this research that was semi-structured interviews to justify the London experience that involves the emotional side. Secondly, semi-structured interviews were carried out in order to gain knowledge about the experience in depth.
An advantage of the primary data is that research is designed and information collected for the specific purposes of the study. The tailored questions to elicit data are asked by researched to help with the specific theme of the research. (Stephen and Smith, 2010). Depending on the situation primary data is more accurate rather the secondary one. What is more, primary data is owned by the collector and there are no property issues included. On the other hand, there are some disadvantages associated with this type of data. Firstly, primary data could be pricey, and what is more time consuming, as this method requires development, plan and design.
As it was said earlier secondary data will be used in this research, data that already exist and were collected for some other primary purpose. (Veal, 2011). When it comes to tourism the most common data is already collected by government organization such as Tourism surveys, National leisure participation surveys and Economic surveys. Moreover, national statistical and tourism organizations are another source of secondary data for tourism researches. (Stephen and Smith, 2010). They are collected on a regular basis at considerable cost, which makes the access easier as the data may be instantly available and updated. Using secondary data lets you focus mostly on the analysis, without worrying about technicalities, ‘trial and error‘ and costs. This type of data is mostly based on large samples that you would not be able to collect primary in short period of time. (Veal, 2011). These types of sources are mostly useful, but they also have some disadvantages. The immediate is that secondary data may be not ideal for current project as it has been designed and collected for a different purpose.
3.3 DATA COLLECTION METHOD AND TOOLS
For the purpose of this research, in order to achieve the objectives both primary and secondary data will be collected and analysed, as it was mentioned earlier. Firstly, around 30 surveys were collected to select people for the interviews and to investigate breadth of the study. What is more, apart from the surveys there was number of talks conducted with students with the same aim as the questionnaires. The talks were carried out with students that did not have time to fill in the survey. Moreover, questionnaires identified reasons, motivations and expectations of people visiting friends and relatives. The method was followed by the main technique used in this research that was face-to face interviews to justify the London experience that involves emotional side of the experience, and to gather in depth answers, and to obtain various views.
Interviews, were the leading method in this research are believed to be one of the most flexible methods to collect qualitative information. (Berg, 2004). The first advantage of the interviews is the direct and personal contact between people. However, in order for the interview to be successful the interviewers need to possess necessary skills. Interviews allow to talk about the experience in depth; you can always learn something new and discover things and topics you have not even thought about. Interviews aim to identify opinions, emotions and feelings of the participant. It is believed to be the best tool for gaining detailed information to clarify and expand certain points of views and opinions. On the other hand, they can be really time consuming and interviewer needs to be carefully analysed and pay attention to select information to gain knowledge necessary to answer the research question.
The interviews were semi-structured that were based in an interview guide. Semi-structured interviews a verbal interchange, where the interviewer prepares a list of questions before the interview. (Clifford, Cope, Gillespie, French, 2016). Interviewer reads the questions in a face-to-face interview and answers are being recorded, in order to maintain the accuracy. Semi structured interviews offer advantages such as: they allow participant to express their views on their own terms. They also provide with reliable and comparable data. What is more, semi-structured interviews are usually used in qualitative research because of its flexibility, comprehensibility and convenience. It is also the most effective way in collecting valuable data that could not be achievable in other ways. (Qu and Dumay, 2011). Also, the two way communication is encouraged, the interviewer has questions prepared ahead of time. On the other hand, it can be time consuming, preparation must be planned carefully and it can be resource intensive (Cohen, 2006).
|Table 4||GENDER||AGE||NATIONALITY||LENGTH OF VISIT||ACCOMMODATION||REASON FOR VISIT|
|1.||MALE||49||POLAND||5 DAYS||AIRBNB||FAMILY FRIEND|
|2.||FEMALE||22||BELGIUM/ SENEGAL||4 DAYS||FRIEND’S HOUSE||FRIENDS|
|3.||MALE||31||LITHUANIA||7 DAYS||RELATIVE’S HOUSE||FAMILY|
|4.||FEMALE||21||ITALY||6 DAYS||FRIEND’S HOUSE||FRIEND|
|6.||FEMALE||18||SLOVAKIA||4 DAYS||RELATIVE’S HOUSE||WEDDING|
3.4. SAMPLE FRAMEWORK
Firstly around 60 surveys were carried out online and at University Of Westminster, University College London and Queens Mary University. In order to find and select the right people for the study. Word of mouth was very important here as well. Total of 8 interviews were used for this study. Participant were selected through their purpose of visit. Everyone had the same motivation to visit London city and that was Visiting Friends or Relatives. The participants were friends or family of students from; University of Westminster, University College London and Queen Mary University Of London. Each person came to London, United Kingdom, for a visit from 4-14days, staying in commercial or non-commercial accommodation.
After selecting right participants, interviews were carried out. It is significant to highlight that each interview was conducted individually, lasting 40 minutes. Meetings were taking place mostly in Cafés and Libraries around Central London. It was important for interview to take place in a quiet and relaxed place in order to focus and properly record questions and answers. Meeting were held from January to March 2017. Every face to face interview was recorded, and additional notes were taken. Each recording was carefully transcribed and analysed afterwards. 7 interviews were carried out in English language and one of them in Polish. Table 3 presents basic information about the participant. It can be seen in a table 3.
- Size technique: total of 7 interviews were carried out for use of this research, (With the details of each participant can be seen above. Table 2)
- Sample procedure: Qualitative technique,
- Data collection: face to face, semi- structured interviews,
- Sources of data: Primary will be collected using face to face interviews, and Secondary data: will be collected through journals, books, articles, reports and document analysis.
- Data recording: Interviews were recorded.
- Target group: People visiting friends or relatives in London.
CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION
This chapter discusses and analyses the results of the primary research. It presents data that was collected using seven semi-structured interviews that were collected among people visiting London in relation to the research objectives. The interviews have been carried out in London. All the responders had the same purpose for visiting the city, and that was visiting a friend or relative. Before conducting the research, all responders have been provided with the significance and the details of the study. Furthermore, they have been assured that the personal data will be confidential. The aim of the study is an analysis of International Visiting Friends and Relatives market in London, focusing on the experience.
|Table 5:||GENDER||AGE||NATIONALITY||LENGTH OF VISIT||CURRENT CITY||ACCOMMODATION||REASON FOR VISIT||AVERAGE SPEND
( per day )
|1.||MALE||49||POLAND||5 DAYS||POZNAŃ, POLAND||AIRBNB||FAMILY FRIEND||100£|
|2.||FEMALE||22||BELGIUM/ SENEGAL||4 DAYS||ANTWERP, NETHERLANDS||FRIEND’S HOUSE||FRIENDS||20£|
|3.||MALE||31||LITHUANIA||7 DAYS||DEVENTER, NETHERLANDS||RELATIVE’S HOUSE||FAMILY||120£|
|4.||FEMALE||21||ITALY||6 DAYS||MADRID, SPAIN||FRIEND’S HOUSE||FRIEND||40£|
|5.||FEMALE||24||GERMANY||5 DAYS||AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS||HOSTEL||FRIENDS||60£|
|6.||FEMALE||23||PORTUGAL||4 DAYS||SALVADOR, BRAZIL||FRIEND’S HOUSE||FRIEMDS||30£|
|7.||FEMALE||18||SLOVAKIA||4 DAYS||IBIZA, SPAIN||RELATIVE’S HOUSE||WEDDING||45£|
4.1 DEMOGRAPHICS OF VFR TRAVELLERS
Among the interviewers, the overall age was between 18-49 years old. All the responders come from Europe so within not far distance from London. Five of the responders are students, and two of them are full time workers. As it can be seen in a table above interviewers have different nationalities. What is interesting they now all live in a different place/city that they were born in, with only one exception.
4.2 MOTIVATIONS FOR COMING TO LONDON
Based on the interviews the main purpose of the travellers was to visit a friend or a relative. One of the responders travelled to London in order to fulfil family obligations, and her main purpose for visiting London was coming for a wedding and family celebrations. Rest of the interviewees came for a visit not because of any family or social obligations. Three of the responders were coming back to London for a second time or more, and three of them were visiting capital of United Kingdom for the first time. Responders returning to London shared additional motivation that was paying a visit to all memorable and important places that they knew from before. One of the interviewees mentioned that:
“It is always good to come back here, it brings so many good memories, it makes me feel like a local all over again.’
Furthermore, it was frequently mentioned during the interviews that there were more factors that influenced the one’s decision for coming to London. Easy access through cheap airlines such as Wizzair and Ryanair, was one of the factors. This assures the statement in the literature that faster and better transportation, and the development of the low-price airlines made the travel cheaper and more accessible for travellers. (Sharpley, 2009). Prices and budget was also a very important factor mentioned by respondents, as students are usually try to send the least of money and try to save something. What is more, the unique culture and history wanted to be seen and experienced, as the current Monarchy of the United Kingdom. As well as, visiting popular and “famous” places and buildings such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Piccadilly Square and of course seeing the red buses around the whole city. It was also concluded that word of mouth is a very important source of information when it comes to VFR’s planning their trip and their motivations. They get information about the destination from a reliable source such as friend or a relative, rather than using other forms of information like travel agency or even internet.
4.3 TRAVEL FREQUENCY, LENGTH OF STAY AND SPENDING
According to the VisitBritain (2014) VFR trips are more likely to take place in the last two quarters of the year from July to December (29%, 26%) than the January to March (21%) period. However, all the responders in this research travelled to London between December and March 2017. Interviewees that are students, they all travelled alone. However, two other responders travelled with their families. As it was mentioned earlier interviewees spend from the minimum of £20 per day up to £120 per day.
The overall average spent among the VFR travellers was £59 per day. Several factors can contribute to the levels of these spending. People that chose commercial accommodation spend a lot more per day, rather than people who chose to stay at relative’s or friend’s house. VFR travellers that stayed over the friend’s or relative’s house mostly used their money in the local areas showed by their host. This can confirm the VFR expenditure has less economic leakage, it is more direct and localised (Backer, 2010). It was mentioned by three of the respondents that they were buying their food at the local markets, such as Broadway Market in Hackney and The Real Food Market. What is more, they mentioned to spend money on their hosts, buying them food, household items or simple gifts.
The length of stay varies from 4 days to 7 days. People could not stay longer possibly because of their work and other commitments. Also, they have mentioned that the biggest impact on deciding for how long and when to come to London to visit their friends or relatives were prices of airplane tickets. The period from January to March is believed to be one of the cheap periods, but also it Is still cold and it tends to rain a lot.
4.4 USE OF ACCOMMODATION AND SERVICES
There has been a generalisation of VFR market not using any commercial accommodation in a previous study (Backer, 2008). Two of the participants chose commercial accommodation such as hostel and Airbnb. According to the findings the largest proportion of people stayed with their friends or family. They sample of this study is relatively small but it still shows the consistency with the research of Elisa Rose Backer, (2008, 2010). That majority of the VFR travellers chose to stay over their hosts, as well as there were some commercial types of accommodation used. However, it could be argued that the Airbnb accommodation could be considered as close as it gets to staying with friends. As it links with the local experience and authenticity. According to Uriley (2010) and Backer (2010) sometimes VFR choose commercial accommodations such as hostels and hotels in order to avoid loss of privacy of the host and find balance between their comfort and purpose of the visit. During this research only two of the VFR travellers used commercial accommodation and that was a hostel and Airbnb flat. It was stated by one of the VFR travellers that:
“Renting an Airbnb flat was kind of a choice made because of the comfort and privacy issue, me and wife were coming with our other two friends, and there was no way for four of us to fit in one room of our friend that we were coming to visit”.
4.5 PLACES AND ATTRACTIONS VISITED
During semi-structured interviews Interviewees were asked about the places visited during their trip to London. Everyone has stated that the places they wanted to visit were ‘pretty’ important to them. Not only because the places are popular and well known but because most of the responders share memories with places around London that they previously visited. Furthermore, the emotional impact and emotional connection with a place brought back some memories One of the respondents mentioned that:
“I miss the special atmosphere that London creates every time I am here, crowded streets, always, you can feel that the city ‘lives’, and people seem like they live life to the full, being constantly in a run. I kind of miss it all, the rush, having no spare time, even the smell and heat in tube brings me good memories.”
It can be said that all the research participant visited places such as Big Ben, Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace. These three answers appeared in each interview that have been carried. Moreover, each of them participated in/ visited a tourist attraction as other type of tourists does. This confirms the study of Giaoutzi and Nijkamp (2006) that states the VFR travellers are likely visit not-touristic places as well as very popular and touristic establishments. VFR people are believed to go to touristic places but the ones that are cheap or even free (Giaoutzi and Nijkamp, 2006). During the research, it was observed that none of the participant went to the tourist attraction that you must pay for:
“I wanted to go and see all the places that I remember from my English book. Well, the look from outside was enough. To be honest I think London is crazy expensive, so I would rather just walk around the city and spend the money on little markets for food and little presents”.
This suggest that VFR travellers not only visit the familiar places but they also are familiar with local markets, areas, parks and stores. As hosts tend to show them their favourite local places. Also, the places in areas that are not yet exposed to tourism. Moreover, it was mentioned earlier there are some primary and secondary activities that friends and relatives tend to do (Ramachandran, 2006). Primary: such as socializing, dining at home and entertainment. Secondary: dining out, recreation, sightseeing, urban entertainment and shopping. VFR visitors are more likely to visits parts of the city they might not otherwise visit. As sometimes host would try to avoid hotspots and very popular attractions as they are overcrowded most of the time. Hosts tend to take their visitors to places quieter and off usual tourist trial. (English Tourism Council, 2002). One of the participant mentioned:
“Well I only went to see Big Ben because my mum made me take nice photos in front of it, while being in the centre of London I wanted to escape at all times, it was too much for me, way too many people being rude, pushing around and taking photos. I was advised by my host not to go there on the weekend, but I had no choice, place was absolutely packed, I have seen all the important places around London, but I really enjoyed the local area of Hackney and Shoreditch that I was staying in”.
What is more, it was mentioned a few times by the interviewees that they enjoyed the diversity of the free entry museums, galleries and exhibitions; such as Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Modern, Natural History Museum, Somerset House and the National Gallery. People also mentioned best city views to go to. That was Primrose hill and the top of Hampstead Heath. On the other hand, people had some negative comments about the touristic attractions: “The places were overcrowded and crazy expensive”. It was mentioned few times during the interviews, that people would rather spend time with their friends in a park or in some more local attractions. Therefore, participants prioritised spending time with their family or friends rather than visit the usual touristic attractions in London.
4.6 VFR BEHAVIOURS AND HOSTS INVOLVEMENT
As it was mentioned earlier in this study, according to Giaoutzi and Nijkamp (2006) VFR has an influence on local’s lifestyle, the quality of life, wellbeing and overall happiness in both ways positive ones and negative ones. However, it depends on hosts involvement. This study found that there was large involvement from the hosts’ side, this was either a friend or a relative of a interviewees’. Not many differences were seen analysing both of the hosts types. Only positive way was mentioned by participants, hosts seem to have large influence on VFR travellers during their stay. Especially during the decision making process and advising the VFR travellers with the choice of entertainment, store and just simple places to go and visit. Host were functioning as translators in some cases, as guides and definitely as advisors. The statement below supports the March and Woodside (2005) view that VFR travellers are most likely to be advised and rely on the host’s advice.
“Of course, I wanted to see places that describes London, like Big Ben and Tower Bridge. But to be honest I would rather go and explore the city as a local, ideally with my host that is my guide and perfect companion. I relied on her advice the whole time during my trip. She showed me places that I would not be able to find in any of the touristic guides, to be honest I can not even remember the names of the places, fortunately I was taking photos at all times. I remember we went to places such as Brick Lane Market, Tate Modern, she also took me to the Hackney City Farm and (my favourite): Piccalilli Caff, I was not aware that the places like this exist in the centre of London, I was truly impressed”.
It is believed by Laskai (2013) that the host: friend or a relative, provides VFR travellers with a reliable information about the destination. VFR’s rely on the source heavily when deciding about their trip and the places to visit. Word of mouth, came up few times during the interviews:
“I was told by my friend exactly what places I should visit, what is the easiest and cheapest way to get there, and what time of day I should choose to avoid worst rush hours. I do not know if I could get such a detailed and reliable information from anyone or anywhere else.”
What is more, another participant stated that:
“I can not imagine my trip without my host, she helped me with everything!!”
According to the statement of Lickorish and Jenkis (1997) the presence of guest drives host and guest to generate high levels of eating outside of homes and entertaining. This study shows that the people staying over relative’s or friend’s house were not generating high levels of eating outside, they rather stay home and have a home cooked meal. This is supported by the following statement:
“Currently I live in Madrid and I love Polish food, so when I came to visit my polish friend I really wanted her to cook for me. I insisted for home cook meals. There is so many Polish shops around her house that I could not believe it. We tried to prepare lunches and snacks, it is healthier and definitely cheaper. (…) I think we only came out once to eat out during my 4 day stay.”
Above statement also supports March and Woodside (2005) that host and VFR travellers, they might enjoy similar food, language and behaviour. They are also believed to deflect between eventual and planned behaviours. This could be observed during the study as well. Moreover, people confirmed the statement that Visiting Friend and relatives is believed to strengthening social and family ties. (Scheyvens, 2007).
What is more, these factors were not detected only once, they repetitively appeared through the interviews:
“Well I am a vegetarian, and luckily for me, there is enormous variety of choice In London, but my relative that I was staying with had food all over the place, everyone would cook for each other, or leave some left overs, so there was really no need to eat out.”
On the other hand, there was one exception, one of the VFR travellers wanted to take advantage of being in such a multicultural city and try to eat out as much as they could, in order to try different cuisines:
“I think I have never spent so much money on food as I did in London, I wanted to discover every possible taste I could, I went to eat Indian, Thai, Chinese, Korean, Italian and Turkish. It absolutely delicious, and I do not regret any penny spent”.
Moreover, people confirmed the statement that Visiting Friend and relatives is believed to strengthening social and family ties. (Scheyvens, 2007). Host were actively involved in the VFR experience, sometimes they were becoming ‘tourists’ themselves. What is more, travellers that were staying over friends or a relative showed high level of satisfaction than the others.
4.7 EXPECTATIONS AND EXPERIENCE
Some of the responders had higher expectations than others. This could be because for some people it was not a first-time visiting London. Expectations are believed to be a very important part of any holidays (Gisolf, 2010). When VFR travellers were asked about their expectations they all responded with a fear of rain whole they in London. Most of them stated that they came prepared and they brought umbrellas with them. What is more, rubbish on the streets, chaos and a lot of homeless people where the things that came across the answers. This can be seen in a presented statement:
“I did expect ugly weather and a lot of rubbish on the streets, I always had this image of London as a grey, rainy and dirty city… What I did not expect was to see a beautiful sunny day, and beautiful views all around me…”.
Moreover, people mentioned that because of London high popularity and the fact that London and its attractions are well-known, they had very high expectations. This could be created by the image of London crated through the newspapers, images and movies. These expectations might be harder to fulfil.
Not always the expectations match up with the reality and the overall experience, it can be seen here:
“I could not have been more wrong! I have seen so many precious spots! Maybe because I was lucky enough to have a sunny weather but it was lovely. I did not expect to see so many amazing street art in the area of Shoreditch. And the city centre was clean, the people were in hurry, but nobody treated me in a way that I would not feel welcomed there.”
In this statement, the expectations were mostly negative, but in the reality the overall experience turned out to be very admiring and positive.
What is more, feeling of “I love this place and I do not want to leave” seems to be a common sentence mentioned by VFR participant. Only one of the VFR participants stated that he was disappointed with his visit.
“I really wanted to see more of the ’Monarchy’ London, it seemed too commercial for me. But I loved the architecture and old buildings, I think Trafalgar Square became my favourite place in London”.
As it was mentioned earlier most of the participant had very positive experiences rather than negative ones. Furthermore, the most common answers about the overall experience included the multiculturalism and the diversity of different languages, cultures and ethnics that can be seen around London. For some people, it was easy to blend in and do not really pay attention to it. But on some it had a big surprise.
“I was staying over my friend’s house near Cambridge Heath, it is the area of Hackney and Shoreditch, and to be honest I did not expect it to be such a diversification, at first I was scared and a little bit concerned with a fact I lived on the same street as a Mosque, I know it very bad to think this way, but I have never seen it with my own eyes before.”
This comes from the lack of knowledge about the other cultures, a person who said that admitted that there is a lot of bad and inappropriate rumours and information about the refugees and Islamic countries in the country that she is from. People jump into the conclusion that Islam equals terrorism. However, there was only one comment negative comment about it. For the rest the diversification and seeing and hearing people from different countries was believed to be amusing.
There was lots of comments about the transport of London. “It was quick and reliable” but on the other hand someone said: “I enjoyed the tube ride, as we do not have an Underground where I live. But I could never imagine to use it every day, especially during peak hours,” There was more negative feeling about the tube: someone said that “People were acting like animals, pushing each other. I saw no respect for older people as well, everyone looked unhappy and in a rush.”
Similar statements occurred among the interviews, people described that the constant rush can be seen in London. Everyone is usually running to get somewhere on time, in the tube, on the streets people are seen with fright on their faces as well as people are mostly dissatisfied. The comments about buses were positive ones. It seems like people/ travellers look forward to getting on the London red bus. “My dream came true, I travelled through London on the top of the red bus, I loved it.”
Another participant said that “You never know what to expect, London has something for everyone, nobody is judging you here on the street, you can be whoever you want to be”. The next theme that appeared among the answers, that was an overall freedom. It was stated that people in London seem free and as it was stated “Well they do not really care, you can go out to show in a robe and no one will say anything”.
According to participants Londoners are very open minded and tolerant. With one exception –the tube, where everyone is believed to be angry and rude. Moreover, people believed the city is way too overpriced and someone said they could never live in it. Based on the interviews it could be seen when it comes to overall experience that visiting friend or a relative was the most important thing and everyone was happy that they were able to see their closest ones. That proved statement of Scheyvens, 2007 Visiting Friend and relatives is believed to strengthening social and family ties.
4.8 VFR AND OTHER TYPES OF TOURISM
When it comes to comparing VFR segment with the other types of tourism the VFR is believed to spend less (Uriely, 2010). This could be seen during this research. For example, none of the participants went to a paid attraction around London. What is more, most of the participants were not spending money on the accommodation as only two of the participants were staying on the commercial accommodation. This assures the statement of Kyte (2012) that that the internal patterns of spend within VFR were different from other subcategories as there is usually no need for accommodation spend amongst travellers. This could be seen during the research as well as most of the participant would spend money differently. The patterns were different they would spend their money in more local areas and destinations rather than the more touristic places. As there is a wider tendency to buy local goods and local services VFRs have the tendency to contribute to the non-tourism (Backer, 2010).
CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS
This research aimed to contribute to the limited knowledge of VFR travel in case of VFR experience in London. And it puts forward an explanatory study that will seek to analyse and describe the phenomenon of international visits of friends and relatives in London. The overall aim of the study was an analysis of International VFR market in London focusing on their experience. Moreover, this research intended to cover that knowledge gap in this topic. This study has been the first to examine the experience of VFR’s visiting London in the UK. VFR market showed further complexity and has some unique attributes. Different motivations, activities at the destination, including economic, environmental and cultural impacts. The main objectives established for this study were: motivations of VFR tourists, usual behaviour of VFR tourists, host involvement, the economic impacts of VFR, expectations and experience, the characteristics of VFR with other types of tourism.
To conclude there were different motivations introduced among the participants. The main purpose for 6 of the participant was to visit friends and relatives, as well as there was a secondary purpose that was visiting the London City itself. On the other hand, one interviewee came to the capital city of UK in order to fulfil the family obligations. As budgeting is very important for younger generation these days, the price of tickets and accommodation played important role when picking the time of travel. One of the most important factor that enabled travellers was easy and cheap access to a destination. It can be said that is was the push factor.
When it comes to travel frequency, length of stay and spending. The range of spend were different among the interviewees. From £20-£120 per day. The difference in the amount spent has to do with the accommodation selected. People that stayed over their friends or family spend less money than the ones that chose to stay at commercial accommodation. It is worth to mention here that Airbnb could be argued as close as it gets to staying with friends. As it links the local authenticity and the experience. All the participant visited mostly non-paid attractions around London.
It was also discovered that people who have previously visited London shared emotional connection with the destination. Moreover, the host involvement seemed to have a big impact on the trip from the participant. That was because host were spending a lot of times with the VFR travellers and were widely involved during the activities. People that were staying over a friend or a relative showed higher levels of satisfaction among the interviewees. What is more, a desire to revisit their hosts was shown among the participants. This could be because of the positive experience and the host involvement. Based on the previous assumptions it can be stated that the VFR travellers are likely visit not-touristic places as well as very popular and touristic establishment.
What is more, it can be concluded that people who were staying over friends or relatives were expressing higher levels of satisfaction, comparing to the participants that chose different accommodation type. Based on the previous information the expectations towards London were mostly negative, but in the reality the overall experience turned out to be very admiring and positive.
5.2. LIMITATIONS OF THE RESEARCH STUDY
This research had some limitations to be kept in mind. As it was mentioned earlier for many years VFR was largely overlooked by academics and practitioners; and what is more, visits friends and relatives sector has been dismissed by tourism trade as a ‘non-market’. In the absence of the previous literature non-comparison could be made about the VFR experience in London. What is more, there has been no study conducted earlier about the VFR in London. That is why the secondary research was limited. The size of the sample used for this research was relatively small. Moreover, it was difficult to find and select the right people for the study. It was very time consuming with not a lot of outcome. The time limit was also a limitation, as the interviews had to be carried out while VFR’s were still in London. That was a really short period of time in some cases. Also, some of the people were already leaving London by the time they were selected for the research. What is more, language barriers could be consider as a limitation. Not every VFR that was selected for the research study spoken fluent English. That is why, during one of the interviews, host of the VFR traveller was used to help as a translator.
5.3. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE FUTURE
Firstly, it has been found that all the participants nowadays live in a different city that they were born in, or in some cases it is a different country. It would be interesting to research this particular objective and find out more about the VFR profiles and typology. As there were some implications during this research showing that VFR travellers are more independent, as well as open-minded and responsible. Moreover, research could be carried out about role of the hosts and how does the VFR influence them and the overall involvement of the hosts. There might be even a thing called ‘Hosting Friends and Relatives’- that could be an interesting type of research. What is more, further research on the VFRs using commercial accommodation is needed. Airbnb accommodation could be explored more in-depth as the experience of VFR renting a place vis Airbnb could be considered as close as it gets to staying with friends or relatives. Positive commentary about the entertainment, attractions, activities and the surroundings scenery were shown as well as some negative ones, especially about the London underground.
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7.1 APPENDIX A: QUESTIONS: SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS
- Where are you from? (place of birth):
- Where do you live now?
- Was that your fist time visiting London?
- What were your expectations when it comes to London?
- What is your purpose/ motivation for coming to London?
(who did you come to visit?)
- Did you travel alone?
- Where are/did you stay overnight? Type of accommodation?
- Why did you pick this time to come to London?
- How long did you stay?
- How much did you spend? Range per day?
- During the stay in London did you mostly eat out or at home?
- Were the places you visited important? (why?)
- Have you spent a lot of time with your host/friend/relative?
- Where did you go? What attractions have you seen?
- What did you do during the stay?
- Tell me about a typical day you had during the stay?
- Your overall experience?
- Did the trip fulfil your expectations?
7.3 APPENDIX C: TRANSCRITS
- Where are you from? (place of birth) Slovakia
- What is your purpose/ motivation for coming to London?Well, to be honest, it is hard to make it very specific. Two years ago, I left my country and I moved alone to Ibiza. Since then I am constantly travelling. My current job doesn’t require working 5 days per week from 9 to 5. Instead, I basically choose when I work so I am flexible, you know? Haha I know, it’s nice! I have friends all over the world so if I feel like seeing them, I just go and visit them. Haha and in London I am completely accidently, you know? When I was in Manchester I met one guy and we decided to hitch hike to London together. It was a crazy journey! But you know, I wanted to come here anyways because I have friends who I haven’t seen in a while.
- who did you come to visit? Those friends are people who I met during the Boom Festival in Portugal last summer.
- What did u expect from London as a city/destination? To be honest, I expected a lot of rubbish on the street. I don’t know why, but before when I would think about London, I would have this image in my head of a rainy, grey and dirty city. I could not have been more wrong! I have seen so many precious spots! Maybe because I was lucky enough to have a sunny weather but it was lovely. I did not expect to see so many amazing street art in the area of Shoreditch. And the city center was clean, the people were in hurry, but nobody treated me in a way that I would not feel welcomed there. And I did not expect to see and hear so many different cultures and languages and so different types of fashion and so on. Amazing! What I expected from London was spending a great time with my friends and that’s what happened!
- Did you travel alone?Yes, and I love it! Being alone helps me to realize many stuff. I have my time, I read books, I meet new people on my way. Sometimes I join them or they accompany me, but I always start by myself.
- Where are/did you stay overnight? Type of accommodation? After I arrived in London I spent my first two night at my friend’s house. It was truly lovely to see her again! Unfortunately, she did not know about my unexpected visit and the next day she was going away to see her family. Almost every day I would sleep in somewhere else. I was living in Wapping, Shadwell, Willensden Junction and in the end very near to the Camden Market. I loved the fact that I saw such a big part of the city. Some of my friends were living in apartments, the other one in the student house from her uni etc. The last night however, haha it was funny because I needed to find another accommodation as I was leaving very early in the morning. I rented a lovely room that I was sharing with some Japanese girl. Funny experience! I have learned some basic words in Japanese and we cooked together.
- Why did you pick this time to come to London? Well, as I told you before, I was in Manchester and then I met this guy. I was happy to meet him because I have never been in London before. I did not plan the time at all.
- How long did you stay?I spend 4 nights in London.
- How much did you spend?I always keep an eye on my expenses, you know, so I have it written down in my diary. Let’s see… around 200 euros. Haha, but tomorrow I am getting a tattoo on my leg, like here you see? This will be probably another 200 euros… I know it’s expensive but it is London, you know?
- During the stay in London did u mostly eat out or at home?I ate out only 2 times in London. The first time was a sandwich in Subway, just when we have arrived in London. It was very early morning, we were exhausted and very tired. Usually, I am against those companies like Subway but trust me, there was nothing else open around. The other time however, was very special. I was seeing a very good friend of my and we decided to celebrate it a bit. It was in a super nice tiny restaurant. We celebrated with a glass of prosecco haha! Oh, it was so nice! I would always cook at home with my friends. I love cooking.
- Where did you go? What attractions have you seen?I love sightseeing. I would always wake up very early in the morning and start with my 30-min solo walk in the neighborhood. I enjoy being alone and see things I would not see while walking with my friends. However, after my small ritual I would go out with my friends. They showed me of course the Big Ben, the London Eye at the beautiful Thames River. Oh, and as I love architecture, I am interested in the buildings. There was a very special one and my friend informed me that is was a well known The Royal Horseguards Hotel which has a great history! Going further, I saw the Buckingham Palace, what else…The Trafalgar Square and so on. I enjoyed more for example the Camden Market, that one was so cool!
- What did you do during the stay? I would mostly walk and chat with my friends, cook and eat together… I would laugh a lot! Oh my God, I had so much fun seeing those lovely faces of my friends! I would also take a lot of pictures, I want to combine them together to have a beautiful memory. I also went to a few clubs, I danced, haha we also found some karaoke bar where I was singing Whitney Huston.
- Tell me about a typical day you had during the stay? Every day was so different from each other. Well, yes I would always have my solo walk first, afterwards a small breakfast with my friends, like you know a coffee and some croissants from Tesco. Then, I would walk a lot and meanwhile have amazing and inspirational talks with my friends or with some people I met. Evenings I would usually go out, to some bar or to some reggae party. I would go back home in the morning haha!
- Your overall experience? Amazing! I had so much fun. As always, good to see my friends, good to meet some new people. I saw many beautiful places in the city and outside as well. London is so crazy, you know? I mean you never know what you can expect haha!
- Did the trip fulfil your expectations? (Why?)I think that the trip to London has totally fulfilled my expectations. I don’t know why, maybe because when I was leaving I had so many beautiful emotions that I cried a bit on the train. But it was actually a laugh through the tears. It was beautiful and I was happy.
- Where are you from? (place of birth): My mum is from Brussels and dad from Senegal but I was born and raised in Brussels.
- Where do you live now? Well now, I live and study in Antwerp. But I would like to move in with my mum, back in Brussels.
- Was that your fist time?
No, I used to study in London for a year in a music school. I was also working in a few places which helped me a lot to know various parts of the city. It was cool, you know? I mean, I met so many different people, with different backgrounds. The mixture of… how do say it? The cultural mix is amazing. I really enjoyed living here however, I have to admit that it was so expensive! I did my best to finish my studies and to get as much experience from my work. It was hard to live here by myself and to pay for school and all this stuff. Anyways, I always feel good coming back here, bring me many good memories haha! It is always good to come back here, it brings so many good memories, it makes me feel like a local all over again.
- What is your purpose/ motivation for coming to London?
who did you come to visit?
I came to visit my friends that I haven’t seen for almost a year, some of them I used to study with. Anna is my friend so I was lucky she offered me to stay at her place. And now I meet you and other flat mates and that’s cool, you know? I have heard stories about you guys and now we finally have a chance to meet personally. You allow me to live in your place and you are so hospitable. That’s the thing I like the most about visiting my friends – I can live like locals. And yeah, as I said before I wanted to visit my friends. I got a few days off my work so I was saving money to come here. I have my few ex-colleagues to visit, my best friend Ester and some other guys. I came just for a few days and I have many… meetings haha! I had to plan every day! Ah, I really wanted to see a lot of places I used to go to. I wonder what has changed and well, they have good food there.
- Did you travel alone? Yes. I wanted to be alone because it is my little vacation and I want to be independent.
- Where are/did you stay over night? Type of accommodation?
At the very beginning I was about to stay at my aunt’s place but in the end it the dates did not really fit here. So yeah, I am here haha staying at your place in your house with Anna. I was actually happy because I last time when Anna visited me in Brussels she left some stuff so now I could give it back to her. And also, I have never been this area so I explore London again. And honestly, I had no idea that Bethnal Green is so nice as before I thought it was rather a dangerous place.
- Why did you pick this time to come to London? Well it was the cheapest time, I am a student so I have a restricted budget. I bought my tickets already long time ago when it was less expensive.
- How long did you stay?
I planned my trip for 4 days in London. From Monday to Friday. It is a shame that could not stay for the weekend but the price difference was ridiculous, you know.
- How much did you spend? (don’t have to tell) Range?
Well. I knew that London is expensive but while living here I have learn how to save money. I am living tomorrow morning and so far I spent around £100. (Around £20pd). I am crazy about vintage clothes in London and I was doing my best not to buy too much haha! And alsoI think I have never spent so much money on food as I did in London, I wanted to discover every possible taste I could, I went to eat Indian, Thai, Chinese, Korean, Italian and Turkish. It absolutely delicious, and I do not regret any penny spent.
- During the stay in London did you mostly eat out or at home?
Well I was eating everywhere to be honest, I tried to eat mostly at home. Like, we did one big shopping and we would always have a nice big breakfast or brunch at home. But yeah, I was going out with my friends so I would eat out in the evenings.
I went to 2 restaurants, a few bars and concerts. Mostly in Kilburn, Willesden green or 7 sisters,
- Were the places important? Very much! It my main reason I came back to London, I haven’t been here for a year, and I missed the special atmosphere that London creates every time I am here, crowded streets, always, you can feel that the city ‘lives’, and people seem like they live life to the full, being constantly in a run. I kind of miss it all, the rush, having no spare time, even the smell and heat in tube brings me good memories.”
- Have you spent a lot of time with your host/friend/relative? I tried to. Everyone is so busy in London. I was there only for four days so I tried to meet with as many people as possible.
- Where did you go? What attractions have you seen? Haha I just realized I have not seen any at all! I was not in the central area. Yesterday, I wanted to go to Tate Modern, I loved to go there. But they close quite late so I did not make it unfortunately.
- What did you do during the stay? I slept a lot! Recently, my life was very hectic so now I have some time to rest. During the day and in the evening I was hanging out with my friends. I visited them at work or at their houses. I also spent one night with my other friend in the other part of the city.
- Tell me about a typical day you had during the stay? Every day I would have a nice breakfast, afterwards I would dress myself up and go out. I was always carrying my umbrella with me because here you never know when it is going to rain! I would eat and drink, take some pictures as well. I went for a concert in Camden and I partied a bit. I also met some very nice people I would like to keep in touch with.
- Your overall experience? New people, no regrets, In general, I am very happy. I saw Anna, meanwhile I met you guys and I saw my old friends. It was nice to be again on the top floor in the funny red bus. I have good memories so I like to come back from time to time. I don’t really want to leave haha!
- Where are you from? (place of birth): Świerardów, Poland
- Where do you live now? Poznan, Poland
- Was that your first time in London? Yes
- What did u expect from London as a city/destination? /Did u have any expectations? Well, the obvious expectations were rain and bad weather. We came prepared with one umbrella each. We came in January so we were expecting some left off from Christmas Decorations, but everything was gone by the time we came. Also, I always wanted to see all the beautiful old buildings.
- What is your purpose/ motivation for coming to London?
who did you come to visit? So we came to London to visit our friends daughter that currently study in London, at UCL. I always wanted to see London, for its unique culture and history (monarchy). And of course my wife wanted to go shopping.
- Did you travel alone? No, I have come to London with my wife, and our friends.
- Where are/did you stay overnight? Type of accommodation?
So our friend’s daughter’s had a full house and it was four of us so we stayed in Airbnb accommodation. Renting an Airbnb flat was kind of a choice made because of the comfort and privacy issues, me and wife were coming with our other two friends, and there was no way for four of us to fit in one room of our friend that we were coming to visit. Paulina was the one who booked it for us, as we did not now anything about where about to stay in Ldn before coming
- Why did you pick this time to come to London? Honestly, it was the cheapest time, when it comes to fights.
- How long did you stay? We stayed from Thursday to Sunday, so only 4 days.
- How much did you spend? (Don’t have to tell) Range per day? We probably spent around 30pounds for oyster card, and probably around 100£ per day for me and my wife, maybe even more. We trying not to count the money when we are on holidays.
- During the stay in London did you mostly eat out or at home? Only, breakfasts. Most of the time we spend outside of the house. So, we were eating in restaurants and cafes. Paulina showed us her favorites food places around London. It was very interesting how many different types of cuisine I ate in only four days. The range of choice is unbelievable.
- Were the places important? I guess so, it was amazing to see Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and all the places you would know about, in the real life.
- Have you spent a lot of time with your host/friend/relative? Almost every evening and morning. We would eat breakfasts together at my friend’s daughter house. We would spend a lot of time with her flatmates as they are Polish as well.
- Where did you go? What attractions have you seen?
So our schedule was packed as we only had 4 days in London. We would leave the house around 10 am and come back around 8/9pm. We really wanted to go to London Eye, but for our lack the attraction was closed for a week for the maintenance reasons. We have gone to The View instead, and to be honest we loved it. As it was our first time in London we had to visit all the places such as: Westminster, Leister Square, Green Park, Buckingham Palace, Harrods, Knightsbridge, Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Square.
- What did you do during the stay? We mostly walked, as the weather was pretty good, and we didn’t want to waste time in the tube. I really enjoyed every step I took walking around all the beautiful buildings.
- Tell me about a typical day you had during the stay?
- Your overall experience? Well, the trip didn’t really fulfil my expectations, I expected totally different ‘London’. There was a mix of every culture, which is amazing and interesting to see. I think I only spoke to one British person, while being out. It was very surprising to see how multicultural this city is, and I could state here that literally ¾ of places that I have visited workers were NOT from Britain. Especially, after all the Brexit information it was good to see with my own eyes, how much the international people living in London are needed. I don’t know how this city would function without them haha.
- Did the trip fulfil your expectations? Why? I was expecting to see more of the Kingdom, and monarchy signs, Around the city. I don’t know how to explain it. But I didn’t not expect for London to look how it looks now. The center was beautiful, I really enjoyed to look and appreciate all the old architecture, but at the same time some of the streets and places were dirty, full of rubbish, and unfortunately streets are full of homeless people. – which was the biggest surprise for me, actually I was shocked by the amount of them. Every corner, almost every busier street or shop you would see homeless people begging or sleeping, I think these people need help, and I feel like London doesn’t do much to help these people. I loved the tube, it was quick and reliable, but I could not be a person who uses it every day especially during peak hours- its literally ‘death’ in there. People act like animals, pushing, shouting at each other, we saw a lot of unhappy people around the city. I haven’t seen much of enjoyment, everyone was in a hurry, running to places. To be honest I was a little bit disappointed with the with my overall experience about London. I might be too old for that.
4. Where are you from? – I am from Germany, rom Berlin.
5. Where are you from? I live in Amsterdam in Netherlands and I think I will stay here for a few years more
6. Was that your fist time visiting London? Yes, it was my first time. It was always my big dream to visit London because I heard a lot about it and I was very curious about all the interesting places there. I just couldn’t wait to come and I was so excited when I bought the plane tickets.
7. What were your expectations? I must say that my expectation about London was very high. I knew how many people live there and how many tourist come London every mount so I knew it must be worth it. I think I kind of knew how it’s going to look like. I wanted to see all these famous buildings and areas from movies. When I came, I was impressed because everything was looking very ‘’big city’’ but in the same time London was a bit different than other big capitals which I have been to. Everything looks so interesting there.
8.What is your purpose/ motivation for coming to London?
who did you come to visit? I really love traveling and London was still on my list so one day I just decided to come. I wanted to see the city and all these famous places like Buckingham Palace or Oxford street. I’m also a big fan of art and museums so of course I went to a few which was amazing experience. I also decided to visit some friends from Poznan who are studying in London now and it was very nice decision because they showed my so many interesting places which are not that popular but still worth it to see. So, my main motivation is sightseeing. I wanted to go and see all the places that I remember from my English book. Well, the look from outside was enough. To be honest I think London is crazy expensive, so I would rather just walk around the city and spend the money on little markets for food and little present.
9. Did you travel alone? – No I came with a few friends. In my opinion is always nicer to explore the new place with someone because I like sharing my thoughts.
10. Where are/did you stay overnight? Type of accommodation? – We decided to stay at some hostel. It was kind of cheap and the place was very clean and calm. The location wasn’t that good we stayed far from the subway and every day we had to walk 10-15 minutes which was a bit problematic because the weather was very bad around this time.
11. Why did you pick this time to come to London? Well it was during the winter so I think I just wanted to see all the Christmas decorations and Christmas trees and see the local people getting ready for celebrating Christmas. I really love all the Christmas markets in London.
12. How long did you stay? 5 days. I think it wasn’t enough so next time will stay longer.
13. How much did you spend?
I think I spent a lot of money but mostly because of the subway tickets and shopping. The accommodation wasn’t that expensive and food was still okay as well. I was so excited about all the stores here and all the brands so that’s why I spent so much money for clothes and presents for my family and friends. The flight tickets were very cheap too because we bought it in advance. Probably around 60£ per day with accommodation.)
14.During the stay in London did you mostly eat out or at home
– Actually, I was eating only out because there was no food at my hostel so all my meals I used to eat in restaurant. And I can’t really cook yet. I wanted to try some new dishes and learn more about England but honestly, I was a bit disappointed but I Think there was just no time to focus on food because of the time limit. Every time when we ate we had to be super fast to don’t waste our time so it wasn’t anything special.
15. Were the places important? oh yes, they were. I always wanted to go and see all the places that I remember from my English book. Well, the look from outside was enough. To be honest I think London is crazy expensive, so I would rather just walk around the city and spend the money on little markets for food and little presents”.
16.Have you spent a lot of time with your host/friend/relative? – I’ve spent so much time with my friends and we got much closer after our trip. We like the same things so it was so nice to sightseeing together and visit all those museums. How I said in my opinion is better to travel with people you know. We also like all the pubs.
17. Where did you go? What attractions have you seen? All the most popular places like Oxford street, a few museums (British Museum), Tate Modern, I also went for jazz concert which was amazing, we were walking a lot. For now, my favorite place is Camden Town I totally fell in love from the first sight when we went there with my friends. We spend almost all day there. I bought such a beautiful and original jeweler and more unique stuff.
18. What did you do during the stay? – During the stay our schedule was super intense. We woke up at 6 am than some breakfast and next sightseeing. Around 11 am we used to make some coffee break and after that sightseeing again till some dinner after dinner we were going for drinks. Every day was similar. The only thing which I don’t like is time which you must spend in subway or in bus to move around the city.
19. Tell me about a typical day you had during the stay? – I wake up very early than I get ready for a long day full of attractions. I eat some breakfast (everyday something different). Than sightseeing for example National Museum and than coffee break after that as usual we going to walk a lot just to chill a bit and talk, do some shopping (I love buying new clothes and lots of gifts for my family and friends) than eat dinner. I really like Asian food so we spent a lot of time in China Town. At the end of my day there was some time for entertainment like parties or concerts.
20. Your overall experience? – it so amazing when you can make one of your dreams come true so I’m so happy that I could finally come London and see all the monuments and art. Im also super glad that my friends had the same fun as me and we could spend some nice time together. It was also so nice to see my old friends. I met some new people as well and tried new food. I can’t wait to start planning my next trip.
21. Did the trip fulfill your expectations? Oh, yes definitely. All the places which I visited were impressing. I really like the museums in London but I cannot imagine my trip without my friend, she helped me with everything. I was told by my friend exactly what places I should visit, what is the easiest and cheapest way to get there, and what time of day I should choose to avoid worst rush hours. I do not know if I could get such a detailed and reliable information from anyone or anywhere else. I really like the mix of local people from different countries. I think London it’s much more interesting than New York city and even more multicultural. And I like how everything works in London I think it’s still well organized even with Millions of people who live there.
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