Fly in to work; fly out to Bali: an exploration of Australian fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) workers leisure travel.
The fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) phenomenon exists in many states of Australia with the majority of workers employed in Western Australia and Queensland (Vojnovic, Jacobs, Brook, Ashton, & Pule, 2014). Approximately 276,300 workers are employed by the Australian resources sector, including 100,000 FIFOs workers (Henry, Hamilton, Watson, & Macdonald, 2013). Much of the existing FIFO related research has focused on the health of FIFO workers and their families (Blackman et al., 2014; Hoath & Haslam Mackenzie, 2013; Kaczmarek & Sibbel, 2008; Pini & Myers, 2012; Rolfe & Kinnear, 2013; Taylor & Simmonds, 2009; Torkington, Larkins, & Gupta, 2011; Vojnovic et al., 2014; Vojnovic, Michelson, Jackson, & Bahn, 2014) and the economic and social impacts of FIFO work on both host and source communities (Commonwealth of Tourism Research Australia, 2013; Haslam McKenzie, 2013; Markey, Storey, & Heisler, 2010; Storey, 2001, 2010; Tourism Research Australia, 2013). To date, research on the leisure activities of FIFO workers during their 'set break time' has been limited. Similarly, few academic studies have been published on tourists holidaying in Bali with the exception of research investigating the impacts of the Bali bombings in 2002 and 2005 (Smyth, Neilson, & Mishra, 2009).
Therefore, the purpose of this research is three-fold. Firstly, it aims to explore the leisure travel behaviour of FIFO workers. Secondly, it considers why these workers are particularly drawn to using their leisure time in Bali. Thirdly, it considers why and to what extent FIFO workers are choosing international destinations such as Bali ahead of domestic tourism experiences. It was hypothesised that as mining workers, including those on FIFO rosters, receive relatively large wages and, that there must be more than just cheaper prices influencing the growing popularity of off shore destinations like Bali. This research is important as it will provide some understanding of the factors contributing to the growing disparity between the growth of outbound travel and reduced domestic intrastate and interstate travel.
Concurrent with the increase in the number of FIFO workers, there has been a significant and sustained increase in outbound travel from Australia. According to Tourism Research Australia, between 2002 and 2012 departures nearly doubled (9.9% per year) (2013 p. 33) outnumbering arrivals by 25% by 2011 (Tourism Research Australia, 2012). Indonesia is the second most popular destination for Australians and the most popular for those living in the west. By 2011 Australia had become the largest international market for Bali with arrivals increasing from 194,111 in 2008 to 503, 617 in 2008 (Bali Discovery, 2013). This paper begins with a review of the literature related to FIFO, Australian tourists in Bali and destination choice. Then following an outline of the methods employed, it presents the results of the exploration into FIFO leisure travel and in particular their destination choice of Bali. It concludes with a discussion of the key findings and concludes with recommendations for future research.
2. Review of the literature
The phenomenon of FIFO or long distance commuting to remote worksites can trace its origins to the off shore oil activities in the Gulf of Mexico in the 1950s (Gramling, 1995). In Australia, FIFO commenced in the resources sector in the 1980s (Houghton, 1993) and since then it has been widely embraced by mining companies as a way to facilitate the labour needs of operations in remote locations. While FIFO work is male dominated, and may have a macho culture (Vojnovic et al., 2014), the often stereotypical portrayal of FIFO workers as single, young, male cashed up bogans, is not necessarily accurate. Hoath and Haslam Mackenzie (2013) note that many individuals enter FIFO work because of experiencing diverse financial pressures such as through contractions in the local economy or the loss of their previous job, recovery from a financial setback (such as divorce), or to supplement income from the development of an agricultural enterprise, or as an older worker seeking to bolster superannuation or savings. FIFO workers are predominantly 25--44 years old; 88% of workers are male. They are likely to hold a trade qualification and less likely to hold a university qualification than the general population (Department of Employment, 2014). Most FIFO workers are in personal relationships and have children (Henry et al., 2013).
There is a small but growing body of literature that investigates various aspects of resources sector and the FIFO phenomenon including special editions of the journals, Rural Society 22(2) 2013, Australian Geographer 44(3), 2013 and Australian Bulletin of Labour 40(2) 2014 (Rainnie, Michelson, Goods, & Burgess, 2014). The impacts on workers and their families has been a theme for much of the recent research on the FIFO phenomenon. Despite the challenges such as missing significant family events, emasculation arising from at-home role loss, limited communication, connecting with children and marital issues (Liddell, 2014), it is reported that FIFO workers and their families are likely to be healthy and functioning (Meredith, Rush, & Robinson, 2014). In one of the most recent studies, Blackman et al. (2014) explored the psychosocial and emotional well-being of 485 FIFO workers. In response to questions regarding the best and worst aspects about being a FIFO, most commonly, the workers mentioned the significant pay package (41%) and sustained periods of time off (39%) as the main advantages. Conversely, being away from home (54%) and not being around for special events and emergencies (10%) were considered the leading disadvantages. They concluded that FIFO workers live in two different, separated, worlds. This creates a clear work-life balance but causes significant drawbacks such as disruption to family and social life (Blackman et al., 2014) Balance also emerged as a theme in Brown, Susomrith, Sitlington, and Scott's (2014) research that measured 170 FIFO employees' intentions to stay with or quit their jobs. The vast majority wished for shorter periods away from home with only 6% reporting their current rosters were an ideal length. Furthermore, whilst 39% of respondents expressed that once they had achieved certain financial goals, they would leave the FIFO lifestyles, others noted the 'golden handcuffs' syndrome, in which the money earned results in lifestyles that workers and their families accept as normal and cannot 'afford' to give up.
Family studies have included Kaczmarek and Sibbel's (2008) work exploring the psychological well-being of children as part of a study on children from FIFO, military and general community families that found no significant differences on all measures of well-being between FIFO and non FIFO children. Likewise, Taylor and Simmonds (2009) reported that FIFO families function effectively and have strong communication. They further noted that increased independence for the partner at home was a positive outcome of the FIFO lifestyle. The psychosocial impacts of FIFO work was investigated by Torkington et al. (2011) who found that miners reported both positive (high work satisfaction and financial benefits) as well as negative (interference with social and domestic activities, family relationships and maintaining relationships) impacts. Similarly Pini and Myers (2012) reported both positive and negative impacts in their analysis of postings made by FIFO partners on an online chat forum for mining families. Most recently Meredith et al. (2014) in a report for Child Family Community Australia, concurred that there are positive and negative aspects associated with FIFO work and that 'Impacts vary according to a range of contextual factors, such as workplace culture, types of rosters and recruitment practices as well as community, home and personal factors' (p.2).
FIFO has also been the subject of inquiries and investigations by various levels of government and government agencies in Australia. Currently (2015) the Western Australian legislative assembly Health and Education Standing committee is inquiring into mental illness in fly-in, fly-out workers (Vojnovic et al., 2014). In 2013, a report by the Commonwealth House of Representatives Standing Committee on Regional Australia on FIFO/DIDO work practices including the positive and negative impacts on both the fly-in (regional communities) and the fly-out (workers and their source communities) was released. This investigation was sparked by concerns regarding the continued use of FIFO after the construction phase of mining operations especially where operations are relatively close to established population centres (Commonwealth of Tourism Research Australia, 2013 p. 27). Information specific to FIFO's leisure travel included a note from the Western Australian Medical Association on the increase in Asian diseases being brought home by young cashed up FIFO workers visiting South East Asia, and anecdotal evidence that some FIFO children were missing schooling due to extra holidays with their family. A specific study on the economic impact of the mining boom on the Australian tourism industry was conducted by Tourism Research Australia (2013). It reports mixed results. Some positives for the domestic aviation and accommodation sectors were identified, whilst negative impacts included the displacement of leisure travellers and difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff. Their modelling indicates that whilst the positive income effect from the mining boom will result in a long-run benefit for domestic tourism, in the long run outbound tourism will increase at double the rate of domestic tourism (Tourism Research Australia, 2013).
2.2. Australian tourists in Bali
There is anecdotal evidence of some FIFO workers basing themselves in Bali (Rainnie et al., 2014), however, little is known about this or the trend of FIFO workers selecting Bali as their preferred holiday destination during their 'set breaks'. There have been numerous newspaper articles (Bannister, 2012; Bearup, 2012; Spooner, 2011) referencing FIFO in the context of its impact on domestic tourism and the issue of children being taken out of school to holiday with their family in Bali, however, the broader trend of Australian's holidaying on the island has received limited recent scholarly attention. An exception is the research on the impacts of the Bali bombings which were found to be largely transitory (Hitchcock & Putra, 2005, 2007; Smyth et al., 2009) though not without some short term difficulties for local tourism operators (Baker & Coulter, 2009).
Other studies include an exploration of the lifestyles of Australian residential tourists in Bali by Bell (2014) and a study on tourist versus tourist conflict amongst visitors to Bali that notes some tourists associate Australians with some negative attributes including being loud and intoxicated (Iverson, 2010). Lewis et al.'s (2013) investigation into the Bali Bombing Monument notes the juxtaposition between Australian tourists' casual dress at the site and their reverence to it as a sacred place. Sobocinska (2011) investigated Bali's impact on Australian perceptions of Asia and like Iverson (2010), found that some Australian visitors to Bali's are embarrassed by their compatriots' behaviour. Her overall finding was that as Bali has become more affordable and frequent, combined with the Balinese tourism industry's adaptation to facilitate the Australian beach culture, there is now a high familiarity and connection to the island. Putra (2012) also notes the cultural influence of Australian holidaymakers and sentimental values that have strengthened since the terror attacks, whilst finding through a review of local newspapers that the Balinese are more ambivalent about the cultural intrusions of Australian tourism.
2.3. Destination choice
Destination choice can be defined as ... the process by which a potential traveller chooses a destination, for the purpose of their current travel related needs.' (Lewis, Kerr, & Pomering, 2010, p.266). Huybers (2005) conceptualises it as ... a tourist's selection of a destination from a set of alternatives.' (p. 329) Following Crompton's (1979) categorisation of the push and pull factors involved in destination choice, Um and Crompton (1990) identified three influencing factors; accessibility, needs satisfaction and peer reviews. The internal and external factors that influence tourists' choice of destination have continued to be extensively researched and models revised and developed. Recent research includes the role of destination labels (Huybers, 2005), distance and prices (Nicolau and Mas (2006), climate (Bigano, Hamilton, & Tol, 2006), risk, (Lepp & Gibson, 2008; Slevitch & Sharma, 2008), familiarity, (Lee & Tussyadiah, 2012) social media (Tham, Croy, & Mair, 2013) and airfares (Belenkiy & Riker, 2013).
Bigano et al. (2006) found tourists prefer mild sunny climates and are deterred by distance, political instability and poverty whilst attracted to coasts. Slevitch and Sharma (2008) concluded that quality information could reduce perceived risks and travellers would pay more for products and services perceived as safer and more secure. Belenkiy and Riker (2013) determined that US outbound travellers with higher incomes were less sensitive to airfares but more sensitive to the economic development level of the destination. Lee and Tussyadiah (2012) acknowledge that familiarity is an important element destination choice, even though its effect can be positive or negative. They conclude that less experienced travellers choose small scale popular destinations; they further advise that these visitors have low informational familiarity with the destination. Whilst Tham et al. (2013) have determined that the growing influence of electronic Word of Mouth (eWOM) is different and less credible that traditional WOM in the context of destination choice.
Choice set models for destinations have also been evolving in the literature since the 1960s. Building on these foundations, Decrop (2009) created a typology containing four stages, consideration, evaluation, constraints and choice. Guillet, Lee, Law, and Leung (2011) investigated the relationship between destination choice, socio demographics, travel characteristics and travel motivations amongst outbound travellers from Hong Kong. They found that trip characteristics including length of stay and expenditure were the most influential factors. Wu, Zhang, and Fujiwara (2012) developed a new model that measures the interdependencies of choices involving two or more destinations with the resultant finding that increased familiarity resulted in visiting less popular places.
Following the identification of a number of shortcomings in traditional destination choice models, Lewis et al. (2010) sought to discover how choice sets are formed by including the elements of desire to follow ritual, desire for ritual inversion and desire to be fashionable in their exploration of the travel decisions of young Australians. They concluded that factors related to self-identity and social norms are particularly relevant in young travellers' destination choices. Lewis et al. (2010) also noted the decline in Australians domestic tourism choices and explained this trend as being influenced by the aim of accumulating annual leave, low cost airfares and increased accessibility and the perceptions that travellers' rational and emotional needs can be better met by journeying to more exotic and prestigious overseas destinations. They further posited that young travellers may see domestic destinations as places they can go in their later years or alternatively they may already have experienced domestic destinations as part of family vacations. Phau, Quintal, and Shanka (2014) advocated the application of the theory of consumption values to help identify the main value-adding elements in destination choice, arguing it facilitates the exposure of more in-depth reasons for destination choice beyond the initial driver such as a cheap holiday package.
Due to the exploratory nature of this research investigating the leisure travel behaviour of FIFO workers, a qualitative approach was adopted. The research protocol consisted of 15 in-depth semi-structured interviews. The participants were sourced using a nonprobability, convenience sampling method (Jennings, 2010) and snowball sampling. Analysis of the 15 interviews revealed a saturation of the data. To ensure all themes were captured a further four participants were interviewed and the analysis of their interviews failed to uncover any new themes thereby confirming the saturation of the data.
The key criterion for participant's inclusion in this study was that the participant had to be FIFO employees who work in Australia, had been employed in their current position for at least one year and must have visited Bali more than once during the past three years. The interviews lasted for approximately one hour and were conducted face to face at a location nominated by the respondent, or on telephone where a physical interview was not possible. After preliminary formalities and 'ice-breaker' discussions, the interviews commenced where the researcher asked questions related to the participants life as a FIFO worker, their travel behaviours, motivation for and experiences of Bali, and experience of domestic tourism. Protocols consistent with the 'laddering technique' were used within the interviews (Reynolds & Gutman, 1988). As part of this technique, follow up probing questions (laddering) were used to encourage participants to think on a more emotional level and in terms of their personal values (Willson & McIntosh, 2007). The interviews were digitally recorded and subsequently transcribed.
After each interview was transcribed to ensure the accuracy, the transcripts were analysed for common themes. Thematic analysis was used which is a method for identifying, analysing and reporting patterns (themes) within the data (Lincoln & Denzin, 2003). This approach is suitable to qualitatively explore how and why tourists derive personal meaning from their vacations and to affirm subjective experiences (Schmidt, 2005). As such, it is an appropriate technique to explore the motivations, values and experiences of FIFO workers. Specifically, it is appropriate because it aids in the development of rich, critical and complex results that are derived from the words of individuals (Schmidt, 2005).
The FIFO participants interviewed for this study worked different shift rosters. The rosters were determined by the employment location and job function. The most common shift rosters were two-weeks-on/one-week-off and four-weeks-on/one-week-off. Other rosters included two-weeks-on/two-weeks-off-and eight-days-on/six-days-off. The minimum number of days off was six. The FIFO workers had a variety of different jobs in the mining sector with no two occupations the same. They included, diesel mechanic, concreter, civil engineer, geotech, drill rig oil operator, machine operator, bar attendant, cleaner, chef and airport manager. Table 1 shows that most participants were between 25 and 35 years of age, married with high school or trade level education qualifications. Approximately half of the participants had young children.
Overall, the participants had taken between 2 and 50 international trips over the last three years. Most travel to Bali at least once a year, considering it a safe and relaxed holiday destination. "My wife and I go to Bali 2 times every year and have done that for the last 2 or 3 years". [Participant 4] "... Last five, six years it's almost three, four times a year". [Participant 9]. Some participants were frequent international leisure travellers with trips to Thailand, Vietnam, England, India, USA, New Zealand, and Singapore. Travel time was reported as impacting on destination choice with closer destinations such as Bali, Thailand and New Zealand more suited to participants with shorter off-work periods. While all participants had travelled internationally within the last three years, nearly half of participants (6/15) did not travel within Australia during the last three years. The cheaper cost of travel to Asia together with cheaper accommodation and meals make travel within Australia less attractive. "Well, I don't really need to (holidays in WA or Australia). I work and I go home. Or I go travelling elsewhere". [Participant 6]
A majority of participants agreed that their holiday destinations would be different if they were not in a FIFO job as they would not have the financial resources or the time off work to take frequent holidays. "Much different, because if I stayed in the same industry I'd probably get four weeks annual leave ... but you'd never ever get the flexibility of the roster that I'm on at the moment. So yeah, it'd change completely. [Participant 3] In addition, some participants mentioned the number of overseas trips would be greatly reduced, "I think I would holiday less if I wasn't doing FIFO. Maybe I would go places in WA if I had longer time off than a week, but probably it wouldn't influence it much I don't think". [Participants] whilst a few participants believed that their holiday and activities would be the same as the cost for a holiday to Bali or Thailand would still offer the best value regardless if they were working FIFO or not. "No, probably not, because even so, it would still be cheaper to go over to Bali or Thailand ..." [Participant 5] These participants explained that. Thus a key result from this study is that price is a major consideration for FIFO workers when selecting holiday destinations despite the fact that they earn relatively high wages.
4.2. Reasons for being a FIFO employee
The participants expressed a range of reasons for commencing FIFO work. The most common motivation was the ability to earn higher salaries/wages as expressed by this participant; "The fact that we get paid really, really well, but obviously we have to work a lot harder.... but we reap the benefits from it you know, and you're able to do things that you wouldn't have been able to do if you're working on a normal wage. So it's the money really. We definitely don't do it for anything else". [Participant 1]
Other motivations included increased career opportunities, the ability to live in a country-town rather than the city and general lifestyle associated with more disposable income and significant blocks of leisure time. "Honestly? Money ..., if you want holidays and you want cars and whatnot, working in Perth, you ain't going to get it". [Participant 9] A number of participants pointed out that becoming a FIFO was not an active choice, but rather it occurred as a result of an opportunity being presented. "Well, I didn't really know much about it and I went to an Open Day just to see what it was all about and then they rang me a week later and said that I had a job. And that was it. I flew up two weeks after the Open Day". [Participant 8]
Following the exploration of the motivations for becoming a FIFO, participants were then asked to advise what were the best and worst aspects of this type of employment? Several participants indicated that the best aspect of working a FIFO roster was the level of remuneration and the block of time off which could be spent with their family. "The advantage is you get fairly regular breaks. Even though it's quite a long work period, you do get a break and you're able to take holidays on top of those weeks off so you're well compensated, monetarily as well". [Participant 3]. In addition, the participants did not have any additional expenses while on-site as the organisation provided meals and accommodation. This allowed the participants to save their salaries/wages thereby providing an even greater benefit.
In contrast to the belief that FIFO lifestyle adversely affects family life; Participant 4 found that the block time off allowed him to spend quality time with his children. He felt that his one week time off was more beneficial than returning home every night and being too tired to spend time with his children; "I actually get to spend more and better quality time with my children. So I'm there for the week, I get to spend a fair bit of time with them. [Participant 4] Additional positive aspects of being a FIFO included friendships formed with colleagues as a result of spending long shifts together, the work environment and frequent flyer programs. It was advised that friendly and supportive colleagues made the workplace enjoyable and rewarding, and the time away from families less stressful. Similarly, participants noted that the lifestyle on-site can be very easy to become accustomed to with the employer providing accommodation and good quality meals, gyms, swimming pools and entertainment. This means that the employees only need to focus on their work, thereby removing many of the normal day to day stresses. The regular flying required for FIFO rosters also has an added benefit in the form of flyer miles that can quickly build and be used for leisure travel.
The worst aspect of FIFO related by most of the participants is the time away from family and friends. Even with advances in technology making telephone and video calls more convenient this does not replace physically being with family and friends. 'Being away from my family--that's definitely the hardest part of it all ..." [Participant 5] The FIFO employee will inevitably miss important family events and they are unable to provide support on a day to day basis. Similarly, the FIFO employee can feel isolated being away from family. "Probably worst is being away from family and friends for long periods of time.. I usually just try and keep in touch with them all by phone and Skype as well and just stuff like that ..." [Participant 3]. Another challenge of FIFO work is that the roster is in the order of 12 h a day and the work can be labourious and tedious. "I sit there the whole week, basically work alone. The only interaction I have is if I need something or my rig breaks down, so other than that I'm sitting there with my iPhone tuned into the radio by myself for about ten hours a day". [Participant 4] Worst still, when there is conflict in the workplace, the FIFO roster and work conditions force employees to work together in close vicinity for extended periods of time thereby further aggravating the situation; "The worst part is sometimes if you have a problem with someone else here, it seems to amplify itself a lot, because you're around that person for two weeks and you can't go anywhere to get away from it". [Participant 10]
4.3. Motivations for travel to Bali
Just over half the participants had not travelled to Bali prior to becoming a FIFO worker. The participant's pre-FIFO remuneration and living expenses prevented them from contemplating anything like overseas travel. Some participants stated that they previously survived from month-to-month leaving very little for any type of luxury. "No. I always wanted to but I never really had the spare money to afford it, so it was a lot easier when I was working fly-in-fly-out, because basically when I wasn't working fly-in-fly-out I was just working pay cheque to pay cheque and not really getting ahead". [Participant 5]
The reasons why participants holidayed in Bali included the overall low cost of the holiday, short flight time, friendly environment, relaxed atmosphere and a different cultural experience. The two most common reasons were the low cost and short travel time. "Because it's cheap and it's close, like not a long plane trip or anything ... Yeah, and convenient." [Participant 11] The cost is a significant travel criteria for most people and it appears no different for FIFO workers. "It cost me less money to go over there than it did when I would normally stay in Perth.", [Participant 5] As most participants would like to maximise their time off they do not wish to spend excessive time travelling. "... I mean, it's only a couple of hours flight so it's pretty damn convenient ..." [Participant 2] Bali offers a convenient location that is close to Australia and. the short flight time also suits families with small children. " Because it's three hours and forty five minutes and about long enough on the plane with the children". [Participant 4] The participants found the Balinese people friendly and obliging and they enjoyed the cultural interactions including learning about the history and culture. This allowed the participants to relax and enjoy their time in Bali which motivated them to return on subsequent holidays. "The culture's different and I like going to different places and learning things about different cultures and stuff like that". [Participant 5]
4.4. Travel experiences in Bali
All participants had travelled to Bali at least once during the past three years. All but one participant booked their travel arrangements online using specialist websites and many indicated a preference for budget airlines. "... I always fly Air Asia because they're the cheapest. For me, even though having the money to be able to book a more expensive flight, it is just Bali, it's just four hours, and I can put up with sitting on a budget airline for that time ... I book them directly from their website." [Participant 1]. Participants were prepared to trade the lack of entertainment and included food and beverages for cheaper flights, "We fly the cheapest airlines, we don't have loyalty to anyone." [Participant 4] "My preferred airlines would be Air Asia no frills, cheap tickets." [Participant 9]
The majority of participants travelled to Bali with their family, either their partner or partner and children. Two participants travelled alone, whilst others went with friends, ] "Other FIFO friends ... Not the ones I work with, just other people I know who ... worked in other mining sites." [Participant 11 ]. The common length of stay is one week with the longest being two weeks and shortest six days coinciding with the off work periods for FIFO's. "Well, my R and R is only a week, so seven days in the longest time." [Participant 1] "About six days every three weeks". [Participant 6] Some participants flew directly from work to Bali and then back to work. "I try and make it so I'll be there (Bali) from the day I fly out from up north, so fly back to Perth and then fly out from the airport to Bali and then fly back and then go straight back to work." [Participant 8]
The participants either chose specific times of the year to travel to Bali or travelled when the opportunity arose. Some participants identified the months of May to July as being milder, whereas the later part of the year around September to December as being hot and humid. "I like June and July--that's my favourite time ... The weather's nice during that time. It's not raining, just good." [Participant 8] Participants that travelled to Bali based on an opportunity provided reasons such as during their time off work, partner's leave approval, sister's wedding and partner's birthday, when the feeling arises, "... I go whenever ... so we just book it when the flights are good and go to Bali when it suits our schedule". [Participant 1] "I don't really know the seasons, so it's just whenever suits". [Participant 11 ]
The majority of participants stated that they would go to different parts of the island on each trip. Most visitors initially chose a popular tourist location like Kuta for their first trip. "The first time I went to Bali I stayed in Kuta. The second time I stayed in Kuta one night and then we caught a boat to Gili Island." [Participant 13] Subsequently, the location may be determined by the type of holiday desired by the participant. "We stayed in Kuta, Legian, Seminyak and up in the hills at an animal reserve park." [Participant 12] There were several participants who would return to the same location. These participants have found a place that provides them with the type of holiday they desired and are happy to return to the same location. "We do like Ubud. I like the parts that are a little bit out because they can be a bit more green." [Participant 4]]
The majority of participants stayed in hotels which were selected from websites such as Tripadvisor.com.au, based on reviews and photos. "I go with reviews, I always go off reviews." [Participant 1] Some of the criteria upon which the decision was made to stay in a hotel were safety, convenient location and amenities. "Well, I went for my birthday once and stayed in a nice hotel with a swimming pool bar and stuff but it was still quite cheap." [Participant 11] The comparatively cheaper room rates allowed the participants to try different hotels and different levels of hotels as well as alternative accommodation options such as villas depending upon their needs. As some participants became accustomed with the area on subsequent trips they stayed in villas and apartments which offered similar levels of service to hotels but were cheaper and more convenient for families. "Normally we stay at hotels. This time we stayed at the San Michele Serviced Apartments which we found pretty good actually because they're a lot cheaper than staying in a hotel, and you've still got all the facilities of a regular hotel ..." [Participant 4].
In terms of activities, the most commonly reported were shopping, dining and drinking. "Go drinking, go shopping, sit by the pool--That's about it." [Participant 10]. The participants could be categorised into two groups; relaxing and adventuring. The characteristics of the relaxing group included drinking, shopping, dining and socialising near the pool. This group had either been to Bali numerous times and had already completed all the tourist activities or just wanted to relax on they time off work. "After being there so many times, now it tends to be more relaxing--eating, experiencing the local cuisine, and just really relaxing there." [Participant 9] The adventuring group went surfing, diving, partying, visiting the Safari park, Lovina Beach and snorkelling. This group enjoys a more active lifestyle taking advantage of the various water activities. "I like to hang out by the beach, I like to go surfing, just catch up with friends, have a beer or two or stuff like that." [Participant 2] "Go surfing and then just partying I guess." [Participant 11] "And diving--because we've both got a scuba diving ticket . We nearly dived every day, sometimes we dived twice a day." [Participant 13]
4.5. Holidaying in Bali vs. holidaying in Australia
In this section of the interviews, participants were asked why they preferred to holiday in Bali instead of Australia. Their main reasons were cost, flight time and difference in cultures. "It feels more like a holiday if you go overseas to another country. And Bali's quite convenient, the flights are actually closer than most of Australia". [Participant 11] Participants reported that the cost to travel to Bali is cheaper than flights within Australia.] In addition, the flight time from Perth to Bali is shorter than Perth to Sydney. The participants also mentioned the difference in culture, the friendliness of the Balinese people and the climate. "From Perth obviously it's only three and-a-half hours away. It's quite an interesting culture, it's an experience obviously ..., it's so expensive to travel in your own state and you're not experiencing a different culture". [Participant 9] "It's just convenient, convenient for costs and close. And like I've been to a lot of places in Australia already, so just different experience and different culture". [Participant 10] The favourable Australian dollar at the time of the interviews was also a consideration with regard to overseas travel to destinations like Bali "I think it was because at the time the dollar was really strong and we really wanted to enjoy ourselves." [Participant 7]
The participants identified many good aspects of experiences in Bali including the lower living costs, difference in culture, tourist attractions, the friendly people, the shopping, the cuisine and weather. Bali also provides an opportunity to escape the mundane day-to-day life. "The fact that it's a holiday and you don't really have any worries and you can just have a good time". [Participant 11] Whilst some looked forward to getting away and unwinding, others enjoyed the vibrancy of Bali "There's always something different... so for us it's a fair bit of hustle and bustle. So we like it from that point of view." [Participant 4]. Cheaper food and beverage prices were reported as a positive aspect "Obviously the people. The price of everything, you know, you go up to Bali, drink as much as you want, eat as much as you want, and you're not really going to be out of pocket with huge expenses". [Participant 9].
The participants did mention the high crime rates were a concern leaving them feeling unsafe. "Obviously there's a really high crime rate in Bali. It was probably my own fault, because I shouldn't have left it sitting at a table, but you don't really get that here in Australia". [Participant 10] Travelling on the road is much different to Australia. The lack of adherence to road rules and excessive traffic make moving around difficult. "Oh, the worst part. Probably the traffic when you're driving or when you're walking or you are like catching a cab. It's a little bit hectic. There's not really many rules on the road". [Participant 5] In addition, the need to barter can become labourious. The difference in sanitation and general lack of cleanliness does become an issue "Some places are very dirty. Sanitation is bad and people pestering you to buy things in Kuta". [Participant 12] "You know, you can't drink water from the tap, so it's always bottled water and that sort of thing. So you're always on the edge about getting Bali belly and things like that, and it's not nice. You've just got to be careful and watch yourself". [Participant 14]
Despite the negatives, some participants mentioned a strong sense of place attachment to Bali "... I've come to know the place, I feel like it's a second home to me ..." [Participant 1] One mentioned creating friendships with locals and the opportunity to "catch up with a couple of people" [participant 2] as a reason to select Bali over Australia. Whilst another had an interesting comment related to culture, "because it's out of the country and there are too many Australians in Australia. It feels more like a holiday if you go overseas." [Participant 11] Some also advised that they had already visited major Australian cities or that they simply were not interested in going to remote locations "... I guess I'm less interested in travelling out to the bush and desert and things like that."[participant 1] Or that domestic travel was less exciting "I find travelling around my own country a bit boring". [Participant 5] The long distances involved in travel within Australia were identified as another barrier "Say you drop down to Dunsborough, it's a four hour drive. Why drive for four hours when you can be in a completely different culture and place in three and a half." [Participant 9] Interestingly, even when reasons other than price were offered, most conversations on this topic concluded with a final mention of the price differences between Bali and Australia.
When asked what factors would encourage them to holiday more in Australia, the majority of responses related to costs. "Lower the cost -that would have to be one method. I mean, I talk to a lot of people and a lot of people say it's bloody expensive". [Participant 2] The travel and accommodation costs within Australia were significantly greater than holidaying in a place like Bali. "I love Australia, it's a beautiful country, but it's just so expensive to travel around the country that it works out cheaper to go to a different country than to travel around your own country. It's a shame, because if it was cheaper I would prefer to stay here and travel around here, but unfortunately it seems too expensive". [Participant 5] In addition, an overseas holiday also offers a different cultural experience. When evaluated as a whole a Bali holiday simply provides greater value both in relation to cost and experience. Therefore, to encourage a shift away from overseas holidays, in particular Bali, the value of Australian holidays would need to be increased. "... I'd like to go up to Broome and Exmouth but I've looked up the accommodation and it's quite expensive. So if it was cheaper, accommodation and the flights and stuff, places were cheaper, that would make me afford them more maybe". [Participant 8] Participants also suggested two additional factors that would contribute to swaying the decision in favour of an Australian holiday. The first is increasing the opening hours to provide more shopping opportunities. "Obviously, you look at hours that things are open. Why would anyone want to come to Perth? Nothing's open, everything closes at nine or eight thirty". [Participant 1] This would allow holiday makers to spend the day relaxing or sightseeing and then spend time shopping later in the day. The second factor was to improve transportation. Australia is more spread out than most countries and this means that sightseeing and generally traveling around can be difficult. "... too hard to get around. You have to travel for miles just to get to a nice beach or anything like that". [Participant 10].
5.1. Leisure travel to Bali
The demographics of the participants in this study were representative of the broader FIFO workforce, mostly young male with trade qualifications and many with young families (Department of Employment, 2014; Henry et al., 2013). Their reasons for becoming FIFO workers were commensurate with the factors outlined in the literature including higher wages, frequent short breaks, more leisure time with family, friendships with colleagues and career opportunities (Blackman et al., 2014; Hoath & Haslam Mackenzie, 2013; Storey, 2010). Some additional factors such as the ability to save wages, on-site facilities, frequent flyer miles and holiday travel experiences were also noted as positive aspects of the FIFO lifestyle. All participants were on rosters that included a minimum of six days off which facilitates the opportunity for high frequency domestic short breaks or to relatively close destinations like Bali.
Some of the reasons why FIFO workers are choosing Bali as their preferred holiday destination are directly linked to the FIFO lifestyle whilst others relate to the factors associated with the destination. Overall the key factors in selecting Bali as a holiday destination included the pull factor of low cost and the accessibility factors of convenience and short travel time. In contrast to Belenkiy and Riker (2013), who found a correlation between higher incomes and reduced reliance on discount fares, this study found that despite their high incomes, FIFOs were still attracted to low airfares and were less influenced by the level of economic development of the destination (Bali in Indonesia). Whilst this may be partly attributable to low familiarity with Bali prior to becoming FIFO's confirming Lee and Tussyadiah's (2012) assertion that inexperienced travellers select popular destinations, the frequent returns to Bali plus the Balinese acculturation to their Australian guests somewhat mediates the initial familiarity gap (Putra, 2012; Sobocinska, 2011). Bali is tropical, close, politically stable and one of the wealthier regencies in Indonesia (Putra, 2012). This aligns with Bigano et al.'s (2006) findings that visitors favour destinations that are coastal, have mild sunny climates, are nearby and stable.
Beyond the initial destination choice factors of price and travel time, additional pull factors were identified including friendly environment, relaxed atmosphere and cultural experiences. Participants cited the different cultural experience and the friendliness of the Balinese people as considerations in destination selection. This is interesting as whilst culture has been reported as an important attraction since the 1970s (Sobocinska, 2011), some studies have suggested that the sustained increase in visitation has resulted in significant Australian and specifically an Australian beach culture influence on the island (Putra, 2012; Sobocinska, 2011). The short travel time was also a factor for families with small children whilst both the positive and negative aspects of being a FIFO contributed to the push factors in choosing to holiday in Bali. These included the 'set break time', higher wages and rates of savings facilitating international travel, and the opportunity to spend quality time reconnecting with loved ones enjoying joint experiences. Similar to Guillet et al.'s (2011) finding, length of stay and expenditure were important elements in destination choice. The FIFO rosters restrict the length of holidays and the low cost of Bali holidays was reported as a key destination choice factor.
The results revealed two distinct groups based on their activity preferences. The first group were influenced by the opportunity to relax and selected activities such as drinking, shopping, dining and relaxing by the pool. The second group were more adventurous identifying partying, surfing, diving and theme parks as preferred activities. This indicates that within what could be classified as a fairly homogenous FIFO market there are significant segments within the broader group. The participants also indicated a preference for visiting different parts of the island on each trip. This concurs with Wu et al. (2012) who report that increased familiarity results in the exploration of less popular places.
The results offer consideration for tourism operators within Bali; much of the Australian FIFO market has a high level of disposable income, seeks to travel to Bali frequently, and has the chance to travel during down seasons, which typical '9 to 5' workers do not. Bali presents itself as a destination which is low-cost, convenient and attractive to this workforce, and the motivations of FIFO workers presented in this study may assist operators developing new products. Godin (2007), discusses how new products will only succeed if they have 'otaku', a Japanese term he considers to mean intangible qualities that interest and excite consumers. FIFO workers value stress-relief, cultural engagement, escape from their usual 'gaze' (Urry, 1990), relaxation, value for money, and social opportunities. Balinese marketers may therefore consider how their product offerings tap into these desires of a powerful and potentially burgeoning tourism market.
5.2. Bali versus domestic holidays in Australia
The results of this study concur with Lewis et al. (2010) with regard to low cost airfares, increased accessibility and the perceptions that needs can be better met by going overseas, although in contrast, it is the shorter leave rather than the accumulation of longer periods of leave that make Bali the preferred destination due to its close proximity to Western Australia. Reluctance to holiday at home may also be underpinned by their youth and linked to Lewis et al.'s (2010) observation that they may have already been to Australian destinations as children or alternatively see them as places to go when they are older.
The primary reason stated for selecting Bali as a holiday destination over domestic locations in Australia was cost, particularly in relation to air travel. At the time of data collection, the Australian dollar was peaking at around US$1.10. Many noted that the cost of transport, accommodation and food and beverage accrued traveling to another location within Australia was far more expensive than an equivalent trip to Bali. The cost of leisure travel in Australia has been noted as an issue by Tourism Research Australia (2013) and at the time of data collection the Australian dollar was particularly high increasing FIFO's purchasing power. Paradoxically whilst the mining industry has created opportunities for FIFOs to earn high wages, one of the effects in mining states such as Western Australia is the higher wages required to keep hospitality staff from "heading to the mines" the and the increased capacity to pay have driven up prices, reducing the attractiveness for leisure travel (TRA 2013). Accessibility was another issue with not having the opportunity to experience another culture also noted. Whilst there was a strong emphasis on cultural experiences, when asked what factors would encourage more domestic travel, it often went back to cost. Additional factors included opening hours and transport accessibility. The domestic tourism industry also needs to compete with the place attachment that has evolved since the 1970s and strengthened the Bali bombings (Sobocinska, 2011). Participants did mention risk elements associated with travel to Bali including illness (Bali belly), crime and road safety; however it seems that these factors are outweighed by pricing considerations.
Many participants in this study are in the early stages of their international career travel ladders not having travelled overseas prior to becoming FIFOs. This combined with their youth and their adjustment to higher wages, makes Bali an attractive destination. It may also be a misconception that FIFOs have high disposable incomes to spend on travel. Given their age range and family status, many may be managing mortgages and other household related expenses. For novice travellers, Bali is an accessible, affordable, popular and increasingly familiar destination that appeals to those looking for adventure or alternatively relaxation as a break from the routine and isolation of mine site work.
The exploratory nature of this research was a limitation and future research could investigate a broader sample of FIFO workers' leisure travel experiences and aspirations. Future studies could be underpinned by the mobilities paradigm (Cresswell, 2010; Sheller & Urry, 2006). FIFO's are engaged in highly physically mobile life-styles incorporating both their work and leisure activities. An in-depth investigation into their key mobility dimensions (Cresswell, 2010; Moscardo, Kolovalov, Murphy, & McGehee, 2013) would provide a strong theoretical contribution and also practical outcomes for marketing and new product development both at the international destinations they visit and also by domestic operators trying to encourage them to holiday at home. This line of enquiry could be extended to understand more about their long term work and leisure goals. For example is FIFO work seen as a mechanism to pay for big ticket items like housing and are the longer breaks (six days) and higher wages facilitating the replacement of weekend leisure activities such as camping or is it opening up a new world of travel possibilities as they become more experienced international travellers and will this further reduce demand for domestic Australian tourism experiences.
This study sought to provide a deeper understanding of why FIFOs choose Bali as a preferred holiday destination over local domestic experiences. This information is useful for marketers and managers not only in Bali but also for domestic Australia tourism suppliers. Overwhelmingly, the underlining reason for not engaging in domestic tourism travel is the cost relative to international destinations like Bali. Beyond the price aspect, the opportunity to experience another culture was a very strong theme in this research. Whilst Australian destinations cannot compete on price, one option could be to appeal to families to explore their home culture with their children or alternatively working with the delayed aspiration to travel around Australia in later life.
Received 10 July 2015
Received in revised form
23 October 2015
Accepted 1 November 2015
Available online 5 January 2016
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Dale Sanders *, Greg Willson, Pattanee Susomrith, Ross Dowling
Centre for Innovative Practice, School of Business, Edith Cowan University, Australia
* Corresponding author.
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (D. Sanders).
Table 1 Participants' demographics. Participant Age Gender Marital status Number of children 1 22 Male Single 0 2 54 Male Single 0 3 29 Male Single 0 4 34 Male Married 2 5 30 Male Married 1 6 44 Male Divorced 2 7 36 Male Married 0 8 27 Female Single 0 9 26 Married 0 10 27 Male Single 0 11 32 Female Single 0 12 64 Male Married 0 13 30 Female Single 0 14 32 Male Married 1 15 34 Male Divorced 2 Number of Participant Bali visits Education level 1 13 Year 10 2 Over 70 Year 12 3 6 Undergraduate degree 4 6 Cert IV in occupational health and safety 5 2 Year 7 6 Live in Bali Year 12 7 1 Year 12 8 4 Year 11 9 15 Year 10 10 2 Year 12 11 6 Cert IV in Professional Cookery 12 2 Year 12 13 2 Year 12 14 4 Year 12 15 4 Year 10
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|Author:||Sanders, Dale; Willson, Greg; Susomrith, Pattanee; Dowling, Ross|
|Publication:||Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management|
|Article Type:||Statistical data|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2016|
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