MARKETING OF TOURISM SERVICES AND TRAVEL AGENCIES
FEATURES OF THE INDUSTRY
The tourism industry, from the perspective of consumer perception and marketing promotion, is a very interesting and dynamic business sphere. Tourism services demonstrate such diversity that conducting systematic marketing is quite a challenging task. Rapid changes in the industry make it difficult to predict the future developments and force the tourism business to make significant adjustments to its business model and marketing approaches. Here are the main characteristics of the industry that are relevant for the marketing of tourism:
- Market Structure. The market for tourism services is often associated with international tourism, which is more structured and organized than domestic one. The market for international tourism has major tour operators that organize the entire process—purchasing hotel accommodations, arranging charter flights, owning a fleet of branded buses for transfers in destination countries, and taking care of all other aspects. Travel agencies or private agents typically deal with the distribution of package tours. On the other hand, domestic tourism lacks the same level of massiveness and structure, as some consumers do not need intermediaries to book tickets and hotels within the country, face no language barriers, and encounter fewer organizational obstacles. Internal tourism structurally differ from external tourism in that the tour operator (i.e., organizer) often serves as both the tour operator and the travel agent (i.e., sales representitive)
- Diversity of Preferences. To exaggerate a bit, practically the entire population of the country is a potential customer base for the tourism industry. It's just a matter of finding the right motivation. Therefore, tour operators and agencies segment tourism demand based on various criteria, create travel routes and leisure programs, and develop and implement various marketing mixes to promote tourism services. For example, on the market surface, you can see tourism services specializing in recreational, health, cultural, gastronomic, adventure, sport, and other types of tourism.
- Passive or Active Tourism. Passive tourism involves a relaxed and laid-back approach to travel, with an emphasis on leisure and tranquility. It often takes place in resort destinations, and activities focus on relaxation, such as sunbathing and spa treatments. On the other hand, active tourism is more adventurous, emphasizing physical activities like hiking, water sports, and cultural exploration. It attracts individuals seeking excitement, engagement with nature, and a more dynamic travel experience.
- Intense Competition. Competition in the tourism services market occurs at different levels of the market structure. On one hand, tour operators compete with each other primarily through tourism routes, transportation and accommodation conditions, programs, and other service content—the end product. On the other hand, tourism companies and agencies compete for consumers, although as intermediaries, they usually have little influence on the service composition. Tour firms actively use marketing to attract clients and strive to build strong relationships to retain customers in the future. Competition among tour firms is quite high, as the entry price into the business is relatively low compared to other industries. Additionally, there's a certain number of self-employed travel agents in the market, further intensifying competition.
Certainly, the list of tourism industry characteristics can be extended, but from a marketing perspective, the mentioned features are fundamental and determine the market behavior of almost all participants. As we can see, companies operating in the tourism sector face intense competition, especially in modern conditions. How then can one effectively compete in such circumstances?
SOME GENERAL STRATEGIES AND APPROACHESS
In the tourism industry, companies vary widely in size and client base. Consequently, the marketing mix of these companies also differs significantly in content and power—from nearly inactive firms to quite aggressive and systematic marketing efforts. Nevertheless, here are the main components of successful marketing strategies, approaches, and tools in the industry:
- Niche strategy or broad spectrum. Companies on the market either have a broad spectrum or specialize in specific types of tourism (e.g., cultural tourism, green tourism, extreme tourism, etc.). Companies need to clearly define their strategy and build a brand platform and market positioning based on that strategy, which will have a decisive impact on the marketing mix and the overall success of the travel firm.
- Structured service portfolio. For companies with a broad spectrum, it's important to have a structured service portfolio where each direction or type of tourism is clearly defined for potential clients. The target audience should be confident that their chosen type of tourism occupies an equivalent place in the service structure, and the company can provide quality services comparable to a specialized niche firm but with the pricing and other benefits of large companies with a broad spectrum.
- Traditional advertising. Since the target audiences in tourism are quite diverse, traditional advertising in the media and on external platforms is still used to attract a wide range of populations. However, while tour operators and large agencies can afford nationwide advertising campaigns or campaigns in major cities, smaller market participants tend to use local advertising limited to a specific radius or other factors (e.g., banner ads in the same shopping mall or business center where the travel agency's office is located).
- Digital ecosystem. The primary promotion channel for tourism services is the digital marketing mix. This includes a company's online resources and their SEO promotion, such as the company's website, social media pages, messenger channels, and mobile apps. Additionally, it involves using advertising methods for promotion and maximizing the presence of information about services on third-party resources, including listing services on aggregator websites and marketplaces with a tourism focus.
- Content marketing. It's important to note that the digital ecosystem won't work without active content marketing, creating attractive, interesting, and convenient content for promotion. Modern effective promotion of tourism services is impossible without high-quality video and photo reviews, which are now reaching a high level of professionalism and creativity. Describing a new tourist route or tour in text form is no longer sufficient; its advantages should be demonstrated to clients through photo and video materials.
- Collaboration with opinion leaders. To popularize tourist routes and tours, disseminating information to increase consumer awareness is crucial. One direction in this work is collaboration with bloggers and opinion leaders in the tourism field. Working with such individuals adds trust and weight to the tourist service and operator, imparts knowledge about the service to potential clients, and increases the likelihood of its booking, if not immediately, then in the future.
- Referral marketing and recommendations. In addition to organically attracting new clients through digital communication channels and traditional advertising, personal recommendations from current and former clients to potential clients are essential in the tourism industry. Seeking a travel agency on the recommendation of friends is a common phenomenon. Marketers of travel agencies should work on a referral program to strengthen the influx of clients through personal recommendations.
- Customer-centric approach. The tourism industry is characterized by high customer expectations. Negative feedback on minor flaws, such as a different room or transfer, is often read. Negative impressions often extend to the tour operator and travel company, even if they are not directly related to the provision of a particular service. Behavior models and marketing programs need to be developed that can neutralize potential negatives and demonstrate the customer-centric nature of the company.
- Reputation management. A significant portion of clients choose a tour, hotel, or route only after reviewing the reviews and comments of other tourists, making the work of marketers with reviews and comments exceptionally important. Underestimating reputation management can severely damage a business through negative publicity.
- Sponsorship. If a company's budget allows, sponsorship is an effective tool for increasing awareness of a tour operator or agency. Sponsorship of events related to the target audiences that a particular company focuses on is ideal. For example, if a tour operator specializes in extreme or sports tourism, sponsoring sports events would be an ideal option. The main thing is that the sponsored event aligns with the interests of the target audience for the tourist services provided.
It should be noted that within one article, we cannot show all the pitfalls or demonstrate all the marketing methods and tools specific to the mentioned industry. In other words, these are just a few examples of quite general marketing approaches that can be applied to tourism business. From a practical point of view, everything is much more complicated - the choice of a specific marketing strategy and tools depends on the target audience, competitive environment, and unique advantages of the company, etc. At the same time, it is desirable to understand that tourism marketing may encounter a number of specific problems that are unique to each individual case and require an individual approach to their solution.
Achieving the commercial objectives of a company through effective marketing requires a deep understanding of the market situation, consumer needs, the ability to analyze and explore alternatives, and a creative approach to problem-solving. Our company has extensive experience in defining optimal marketing strategies for our clients' businesses, creating a strong brand and market positioning, as well as developing a marketing mix and implementing the chosen strategy. You can familiarize yourself with the services and solutions our company offers on the "Services
" and "Solutions
" pages, respectively.