Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dominant Players in International Tourism


The title of this presentation poses the question "Who are the Dominant Players in International Tourism?". This is an impossible question to answer unless you are time- specific. If the question was, "Who were the dominant players in the Middle Ages," we could safely include the Churches. If we were to ask the question about the mid 1800's, we could say the Railways. The tourism industry is constantly evolving and as changes occur the prominence of the players alters.

 

With the expansion of International Tourism the number of dominant players increases. The global trend is toward speciality travel and the American Society of Travel Agents, in their 1992 Speciality Travel Index, lists a total of 236 activity categories. Each of these categories will have certain dominant players that are specific to that category.
  
Here on this occasion I identify and analyse each of the dominant players associated with International Tourism. What I have decided to do is focus on a few of players that will remain constant whatever form of tourism is undertaken by a destination.

If I was to ask a wide cross section of the public who they feel were the dominant players in International Tourism, I believe that many would identify, Airlines, Tour Operators and Hotel Chains as the prime movers of International Tourism. I believe however that these dominant players are the "Facilitators" rather than the "Motivators." They provide the access and facilities once the decisions have been made. They will assist in determining the destination of choice once many other aspects of that choice have been considered. For example, a traveler will decide to go on an adventure holiday, he or she will then try and recall all they have heard about this form of travel. Drawing on that knowledge, they will then do their research and decide the destination. Once this decision has been made, they will then look for the appropriate form of access and the necessary facilities to provide for their needs. For example, if I wanted to go on an ecotourism holiday within Asia region, I would most likely narrow my choices down to Sri Lanka or East Malaysia. This decision would be based on past knowledge. I would then do some research and decide which of the two offers the most authentic experience. It is at this stage that I then decide how I am going to get there and where I will stay. This decision process is applicable to all forms of special interest travel.

As the traveling public becomes more discerning, the less they will be inclined to select a destination because a specific airline flies there or because a particular group of hotels operates within that destination. Initially, this did happen with the advent of mass tourism. The new breed of traveler was cautious when venturing away from their home ground. Therefore, they looked for a destination with a friendly face. The success of the Hilton’s, Hyatt’s, and Club Med’s was based upon the concept of offering a known product despite the geographical location of the destination. They were the Neural Zones within the battle grounds of unfamiliar territories.

What I would like to do now, is to put forward some suggestions as to some of the "Motivators" in International Tourism. Because these motivators stimulate the initial desire to travel and explore, they must be considered as the Dominant Players in International Tourism. Without this initial spark, the role of the "Facilitator" would be redundant. Although the "Facilitators" are prominent actors in international tourism, their prominence becomes evident only if certain fundamental criteria are initially met. Briefly I have selected, as examples, the following aspects of international tourism that are integral to providing the foundation upon which we develop our industries.

EDUCATION
THE MEDIA
ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT
GOVERNMENTS
TECHNOLOGY
EDUCATION AT THE MARKET SOURCE

As the global population becomes more educated, an interest is stimulated to discover new horizons. The desire to learn about things, other than what is in their back yard, grows. With education, their knowledge of alternative lifestyles, cultures and destinations grow, this in turn stimulates the desire to experience. Knowledge alone is only half the answer, it is experience that will allow you to fully appreciate the subject of that knowledge.

A common flaw in marketing strategies is that we sometimes attempt to sell our product to a market that does not have the capacity to be stimulated by our product. The reverse to this is that we often try and sell a product that does not meet the criteria needed by a more educated traveler. This has become increasingly noticeable with the advent of "Environmental Consciousness." The habit of "Green Washing" our product will not stand up to the scrutiny of the aware traveler. All too often we assume that our limited knowledge and even more limited experience is reflected by the international traveling public. This is not an assumption we can afford to make.

The more educated the traveler becomes, the more a destination has to provide a product with integrity. The sustainability of tourism in our destinations is dependant upon our ability to anticipate the needs of the future traveler rather than to mimic the successes of the past. The better we understand the motivation for travel, the more likely we are to offer a product that has appeal. It also follows that the better we understand the motivation for travel, the more likely we are to match what we have to offer with a market that requires our product. The mismatch of product and marketing effort is a major contributor to limited success.

EDUCATION AT THE DESTINATION

To sustain a thriving tourism industry the host population must also be educated in the requirements of their target market. Many travelers now carry out extensive research into the destination they intend to visit. The more experienced a traveler becomes, the less likely he or she will accept information at face value. When they arrive at the destination, they are hoping to supplement their knowledge with a rewarding experience. If our host populations are not sufficiently educated to provide this rewarding experience an integral factor for success is missing. The more aware our target market becomes the more necessary it is for the destination to match this component of international travel.

It can be seen that education, both at the market source and at the destination, must be included as one of the major players in international tourism. Without an educated international population the desire to travel diminishes and without an educated host population the ability to satisfy the visitor declines.

 

 

THE MEDIA

Should I be so inclined, and manage to attract the support of the international media, I could leave this room and in a very short space of time seriously damage the tourism potential of any destination. If we were to do a minimal amount of research, we would find numerous reports that, if published, will have a devastating effect on the tourism industry that we are becoming more and more dependant upon. This ability to make public our skeletons, allows the media a priority position in the list of Dominant Actors.

In Zimbabwe three young British Doctors were murdered whilst on vacation. Their only crime was camping in an area that was not safe because of the presence of a less than friendly regiment of the Zimbabwean army. The International Media took up the story and within a matter of weeks, the tourism industry in Zimbabwe had lost 50% of its forward bookings. It took years, rather than months, to reestablish confidence in the safety of the destination. No amount of air access or chain affiliated hotels could overcome the negative issues of poor security. The media had targeted a weak link and exploited it to the fullest.

Because of what I have just said, it is vital that we as destinations understand that we cannot hide many of the negatives that we traditionally managed to bury. The media is now accessible to such a wide cross section of persons that our mistakes will be openly displayed for all to view, whether it is on television, the radio, in the press or on the Internet. If you have managed a hotel, you will know that your accountant can be either your greatest support or your worst nightmare. It is usually your ability to manage correctly which determines the role of your accountant. The same can be said for the media. Where there is good management of your industry, the media becomes a welcome support. With irresponsible management they become your worst nightmare.

The plus side to the prominence of the media is that it can be used to broadcast our successes. If destinations realistically develop their product in a sustainable manner, the validity of their product will be known globally. Despite the rumors, the Media is not always negative. Recognition, via the media, has accounted for the success of many destinations. Positive media coverage has allowed destinations with limited marketing budgets to maximize their appeal and thus achieve what would otherwise be impossible.

ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT

A prominent player in a destination's success, today and more increasingly in the future, is environmental management. The traveler of today is more aware of environmental issues and is demanding greater environmental accountability from the destinations they visit. The facilitators, such as tour operators, airlines and hotel chains and governments will not be able to achieve their goals in destinations that have a poor record of environmental management. However great their financial or marketing strength, they will not be able to negate the growing concern with environmental issues. Tour operators in Europe are demanding environmental profiles of destinations prior to developing their programs. It does not make economic sense to send travelers to destinations that cannot meet the necessary environmental criteria. This applies to both the physical and the social environments. Destinations that allow their oceans to become polluted or have a negative record for human rights violations are increasingly difficult to market. This in turn will reduce the level of investment in that destination because the return on the investment will be substantially reduced. No major investor pumps resources into a declining market. Philanthropy is not a major player in International Tourism Development.

GOVERNMENTS

Many tourism destinations, which have met with failure, lay the majority of the blame on the facilitators. How often do we hear the Governments and Tourist Boards lambasting the airlines for providing poor access from the market? . How often are the hotels rebuked for not developing the human resource? . If one is to carefully analyze the primary causes for failure, the blame must be laid on the doorstep of "Poor Governance." Governments, and by extension their public services, are the bodies that formulate the framework within which tourism must operate. If the framework is flawed, then the tourism environment is not conducive to success.

The formulation of a "Vision" for tourism development must be the primary objective of any destination that embarks on this form of enterprise. It is important to note that the "Vision" must be arrived at by a system of national consultation. The "Vision" must reflect the needs of the host population, as a whole, if tourism is to be sustainable. All too often our national "Visions" are reflections of private agendas. In small Island States such as ours, it is easy for individuals or corporate bodies, with the necessary resources, to overwhelm the process of development to suit their own needs rather than the needs of the nation.

Once this process has been achieved, the onus now lies on the Governments and their public service to develop a framework within which the facilitators can achieve the vision. This strategy must be constantly monitored and regulated to ensure compliance and to accommodate the altering trends of global tourism. Our public sectors often rest on their laurels because they feel that implementation is not part of their mandate. It is essential that Governments and the public sector become partners in the entire process of tourism development. The private sector will provide much of the resource for implementation but the onus is on the public sector to monitor and regulate the development process.

TECHNOLOGY

If we are to look to the future, we must include the advances in technology as a major player in International Tourism. It is not so much the new technology used in the destination, because its role is decided by the type of product that is on sale. A destination that focuses on the cultural aspects is less likely to need high tech facilities to compete. We must, however, acknowledge that specialized forms of tourism such as ecotourism, which in many peoples eyes is viewed as a very basic form of tourism, must incorporate new forms of technology such as "Alternative Energy" into their product if they are going to succeed.

The advances in technology, which are most relevant to the changes within the industry, are those that deal with the dissemination of information. Tradition methods of making reservations are fast becoming a thing of the past. The Travel agent is being marginalized by the electronic age. The shop front is no longer necessary as an increasingly higher percentage of travel is booked electronically. One German tour operator informed me that he now charges a 50 mark fee to anyone that comes into his shop to discuss holidays. This fee is refunded if a holiday is booked. The cost of engaging one employee in 15 minutes of unproductive chat has got be paid for and he is not the one to shoulder that financial burden. We must carefully consider these facts when we are putting together our next glossy brochure. Should we not be investing those meager marketing dollars in our web sites? .

CONCLUSION

As I suggested at the start of this presentation, it would be an impossible task to cover this subject completely,What I have endeavored to do is stimulate some thought as to the real nature of the Dominant Actors in International Tourism by directing your attention away from whom we normally accept as the most prominent players, i.e., The Airlines, The Hotels and The Tour Operators. In this presentation I have only touched on a few of these "Motivators." I trust that it will allow us to reassess our roles in the development of our tourism industries. We often fail to provide the foundation upon which the major actors can develop our industry simply because we are unsure of the role which each of us plays in the development process. One cannot build a house from the roof down, the foundation must first be laid.

Note:
My sincere thanks to Dr.David Coathup who is a Tourism Consultant based in St.Lucia, West Indies, with specific interest in "Community-Based Ecotourism". He has been actively involved in tourism as a practitioner and consultant for the past 25 years. 


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