Travel Search Engines and Price Comparison Websites

search

Many search engines are increasingly offering advantageous deals on travel products. Very often, they may have user-friendly websites that help individual consumers search for the best prices. For example, a flight search may include one-way, return or multiple destinations. The travellers may specify whether they would like to travel in a particular class of service (for example, economy, business or first class). Travellers may also opt for direct services (which are usually more expensive), and their search can be narrowed down according to their preferred departure and arrival times (if any).

In addition, many search engines identify their “best flight” option. Their algorithm will usually base their decision on layover time, the length of flight, and departure/arrivals times. They may also let you know if there are cheaper flights available, particularly if there are nearby airports.

Price Alerts: The search engines will enable their users to set a price alert on tourism products. For example, after the users have given details on the travel dates and their email address, they will receive regular emails which will communicate whether the price for the flight (that was searched through the search engines’ system) has gone up or down in price.

Travel alerts are convenient for those passengers who are planning their itineraries in advance. Online prospects will be updated on the best time to purchase their flight (in this case).

Flight Deal Websites: Online prospects can find good flight deals by following niche websites that are dedicated to posting such deals. Most of these websites may not necessarily be affiliated with any airline. Very often, consumers may check these websites on a regular basis. Alternatively, they may follow travel and tourism groups through social media.

Flexibility: An inexpensive flight may not always be the right flight for passengers. The prospective customers may demand flexible dates. For instance, they may want to avoid unnecessary overnight stays in random cities (a hotel accommodation may well increase the cost of the travellers’ journey). Moreover, there are other important considerations. For example, customers may not be willing to travel to distant airports. They may not like to travel at night, et cetera.

The best flight deals may not last long as search engines may frequently change their flight prices.

Bonus Tip: Many low-cost carriers may not feature all costs in their prices. These “hidden” costs may comprise carry-on baggage fees, checked-baggage charges and seat fees. Customers should check these fees and charges before purchasing a flight with any airline. Such “hidden” costs and expenses are usually disclosed on the airlines’ respective websites. In many cases these supplementary fees can be paid in advance. If customers would not pay in anticipation of their flight, they may easily incur additional charges.

Therefore, the overall best deal should be determined according to flight times, hidden costs, and personal airline preferences.

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Elements of Travel Websites

website

Corporate websites will help the travel and tourism businesses in their distribution strategies, as they improve consumer leads and sales conversions. Clear, differentiated pricing information on service-tiers, provide product options to online prospects. The tourism businesses ought to focus on the benefits they provide, by highlighting their value propositions; rather than simply illustrating their products’ features.

Despite the fact that so many transactions are carried out online, the lack of personal interaction in this medium means that even the smallest thing that’s out of place on ecommerce pages can rapidly erode the customers’ trust in products and businesses. Therefore, businesses could build consumer confidence and trust by using an SSL certificate to make transactions secure, particularly if they are processing credit cards.

The online businesses are expected to articulate their terms and conditions, including any relevant cancellation and refund policies. Moreover, customer centric businesses should feature their contact details (including an address, telephone and emails) to customers. Many online sites are increasingly offering live chat facilities on their site, to help prospective customers in their queries, or to address their concerns.

If the businesses do not offer such interactions in real time, they still need acknowledge their online prospects’ message(s), and inform them that they will be responding to them in reasonable time. Moreover, the use of testimonials from consumers, including; reviews and ratings will serve as proof that the tourism business is providing an adequate level of service to its customers. The positive experiences from customers themselves, will help to improve conversions and sales. The tourism web sites should underline the true benefits of their product. Therefore, they should present relevant written content which will make the product stand out from the rest. In this day and age, attractive web sites are well designed to entertain visitors. The travel sites could also feature a good selection of images and videos. This allows prospective visitors to become familiar with the tourism product. Destination management organisations are increasingly allowing online visitors to zoom in high-res images and video clips in their websites. The interactive images and videos should load as quickly as possible. Any delays of even a couple of seconds would turn off dissatisfied visitors. The speed with which a page loads can be a critical determining factor as to whether visitors may (or may not) commit themselves to lay down their credit card. When designing product pages, it is important to consider load speeds, particularly if there are large images, rich interactivity or other media in web pages.

Very often, different product pages may clutter up web pages with excessive calls to action. These pages may contain customer photos, complicated pricing options, unnecessary details on customer support, too many reviews, et cetera. Without good design, these calls to action could easily blend into a confusing mess.  While it may be tempting to utilise the web page with many actionable steps, the web sites should be as clear and focused as possible. A good call to action could include high-contrast buttons, call-outs and actionable elements which leave plenty of breathing room to make them stand out.

Online users might not be willing to commit themselves in buying products straight away. Therefore, businesses could entice visitors to fill in their subscriber list to receive exclusive offers, via email.  This way, the businesses will be in a position to send newsletters and promotional material to the online prospects, at a later date.

Businesses ought to facilitate their online purchase and transaction confirmation. A complicated funnel could deter the conversion of prospects. The customers who are in the businesses’ checkout page should be allowed to finalise their purchase as quickly and efficiently as possible. If their customer experience of their online purchase involves an unnecessary effort to check out from the website; they may have second thoughts on the businesses’ quality of service. Therefore, users should not be distracted with anything that will take them away from the businesses’ purchasing funnel. It is important to let customers finish their transaction before taking them anywhere else on the website.

 

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The use of interactive marketing in travel and tourism

Interactive marketing is a marketing communications strategy that enables two-way communications between sellers and individual buyers. This exchange takes place online through email, social media, and blogs. The advantages of interactive marketing include the ability to precisely communicate to individuals with addressable messages that can be customised in ways that make the messages more relevant to consumers.

interactive

The interactive marketing tools rely on an open engagement with customers. One of the most noteworthy advantages of utilising digital media, including websites, blogs, micro-blogs is their two-way, interactive nature. Today, Web 2.0, also referred to as ‘‘Travel 2.0’’ in tourism, includes a range of new technological applications such as media and content syndication, mash-ups, tagging, wikis, web fora and message boards, customer ratings and evaluation systems, virtual worlds, podcasting, blogs, and online videos (vlogs). Moreover, the development of social media channels has also been crucial for the successful execution of this communication strategy. Interactive marketing is also linked to content marketing, so companies can produce relevant content that is shared many times through social networks. Such content may “go viral” among social media users. In addition, consumers may trust those who may be considered as thought leaders in their industry, so this strategy can bring in many inbound leads, coming through download pages. On the other hand, internet users can choose what content they wish to be exposed to, respond to, and share.

Direct and interactive marketing techniques typically include response mechanisms that allow consumers to respond directly to a communication and to potentially make a purchase. Compared to mass media communications, direct and interactive marketing is much more precise and measurable. The ability to measure direct and interactive marketing effects allow marketers to design communication programmes that target consumers, based on; recency – the amount of time since last purchase, frequency – the number of previous purchases, and monetary value – the total expenditures a customer makes over time, et cetera.

For example, Google may have access to consumer profiles more than any other company, because it knows when consumers view ads in Google Search, Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, and Android apps. It also knows where consumers go, both online and in the physical world, based on cookies and location data from their phones. The company will shortly be in a position to track credit and debit card transactions and link them to online consumer behaviour. Google’s moves will bring significant marketing opportunities to advertisers. It may appear that businesses could leverage themselves if Google provides them with relevant data on the customers’ needs and wants. Google could also indicate when prospects need products or services, and what price they are willing to pay. These answers allow marketers to better target individual consumers. However, these advances will also raise privacy concerns. There may be wary consumers who may want to separate the greater personalisation of content from advertising.  For this reason, they may install ad blockers, tracking blockers, and they could decide to switch off their phone’s location services

The strategies, methods, and metrics of direct and interactive marketing are becoming more central to the businesses’ marketing strategies as digital technologies are also allowing interactive marketing communications to take place through television and mobile devices. Recently, many individuals are using their mobile devices to construct new experiences by attaching personal meanings to their tourist experiences. Whereas the use of social networks allows them to engage, communicate and co-create in the online world. The tourism organisations’ websites are using social media networks as well as interactive communications to enable tourists to personalise their sites with their experiences. They empower tourists and facilitate the co-creation of content for the benefit of other prospective tourists. Therefore, social media might contribute to the branding of tourist destinations. Very often, potential tourists rely on the experiences of others for their decision-making, due to the experiential nature of the tourism products. Therefore, social media could have an impact on the travellers’ holiday plans.

Different types of tourists may have different attitudes toward using online tools, including; social media in their travel management. For instance, travellers may use price comparison sites, or may avail themselves of online travel search engines to learn about available hotels. Given their important role in facilitating the travellers’ access to online tourism domains, social media has become an important interactive tool for prospective tourists who search for travel information. Moreover, social media users and their reviews may impact on tourism marketing. For example, independent reviews and ratings may often be considered as trustworthy sources for prospective tourists, as they provide objective information on tourism products and services.

Digital platforms which provide travel-related content concerning destinations, attractions and businesses (these are generated by users, themselves). For instance, TripAdvisor provides travel-related reviews and opinions on accommodation establishments, restaurants and attractions. In addition, many websites, which are traditionally known as booking engines, including; Booking.com, Airbnb.com, et cetera, also provide reviews that are integrated in their presentation of properties, restaurants and other amenities. A distinction should be made between reviews and ratings: Reviews will generally include qualitative comments and descriptions, whilst ratings usually feature quantitative rankings, corresponding to degrees of user satisfaction. The ratings may be part of a review.

Sometimes, internet users may notice that there may be controversial reviews and unverified negative criticism.  In a similar vein, the tourism service providers may also claim that they were subject to unfounded negative ratings. At times, businesses have even been blackmailed by consumers, who have threatened them that they will write negative reviews unless their demands are not met. On the other hand, consumers have also reported cases of unfounded positive ratings of services. As a result, online users are increasingly paying more attention to these contentious issues.

Recently, The World Committee on Tourism Ethics has elaborated its recommendations for the responsible use of ratings and reviews on digital platforms. Their recommendations are addressed to three main groups of stakeholders, namely: online platforms (operators like TripAdvisor or Yelp) service providers (businesses that are listed on these platforms); and users (consumers).

Digital platforms that incorporate reviews and ratings for their products and services need to ensure the accuracy, reliability and credibility of their content. Online platforms should undertake all reasonable measures to ensure that the individual reviews reflect the real users’ opinions, findings and experiences. The provision of publicly available information through digital media involves a certain degree of trust; therefore the veracity of the reviews is essential for their integrity, reputation and good functioning of the review platforms. Whilst it is not always easy to verify the authenticity of user generated content, the digital platform should have quality control mechanisms and processes to ensure that their reviews are clear, accurate and truthful, for the benefit of the service providers as well as prospective consumers.

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Targeted Segmentation Through Mobile Marketing

mobile

The mobile is an effective channel to reach out to many users. The mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets could increase the productivities and efficiencies of organisations. For the time being, the mobile applications (apps) are an “in demand” area for research and development. Gartner (2015) anticipated that mobile analytics was going to be one of the latest technologies that could disrupt business intelligence. In fact, the market for advertising on mobile is still escalating at a fast pace. Moreover, there are niche areas for professional growth, as more and more individuals are increasingly creating new applications for many purposes on mobile operating systems.

Recent advances in mobile communication and geo-positioning technologies have presented marketers with a new way how to target consumers based on their location (Camilleri, 2016). Location-targeted mobile advertising involves the provision of ad messages to mobile data subscribers. This digital technology allows marketers to deliver ads and coupons that are customised to individual consumers’ tastes, geographic location and the time of day. Given the ubiquity of mobile devices, location-targeted mobile advertising are increasingly offering tremendous marketing benefits.

In addition, many businesses are commonly utilising applications, including browser cookies that track consumers through their mobile devices as they move out and about. Very often, when users leave the sites they visited, the products or services they viewed will be shown to them again in advertisements, across different websites. Hence, many companies are using browsing session data combined with the consumers’ purchase history to deliver “suitable” items that consumers like. There are also tourism businesses who are personalising their offerings as they collect, classify and use large data volumes on the consumers’ behaviours. As more consumers carry smartphones with them, they may be easily targeted with compelling offers that instantaneously pop-up on their mobile devices.

For instance, consumers are continuously using social networks which are indicating their geo location, as they use mobile apps. This same data can be used to identify where people tend to gather — this information that could be very useful. This information is valuable to brands as they seek to improve their consumer engagement and marketing efforts. It may appear that businesses are using mobile devices and networks to capture important consumer data. For instance, smart phones and tablets that are wifi-enabled interact with networks and convey information to network providers and ISPs. This year, more businesses shall be using mobile devices and networks as a sort of sensor data – to acquire relevant information on their consumers’ digital behaviours and physical movements. These businesses have become increasingly interactive through the proliferation of near-field communication (NFC). Basically, embedded chips in the customers’ mobile phones are exchanging data with the retailers’ items possessing the NFC tags. The latest iPhone, Android and Microsoft smartphones have already included these NFC ca­pabilities. This development has recently led to the use of mobile wallets. The growth of such data-driven, digital technologies is surely adding value to the customer-centric marketing. Therefore, analytics can enable businesses to provide a deeper personalisation of content and offers to specific customers.

The geo-based marketing message or offer is delivered at the right time, and at the right place. The brands that hold customer data can gain a competitive edge over their rivals. Of course, firms will need more than transaction history and loyalty schemes to be effective at this. They may require both socio-demographic and geo-data that new mobile technologies are capable of gathering.

For instance, many mobile service companies are partnering with local cinemas, in response to the location-targeted mobile advertising; as cinema-goers often inquire about movie information, and they may book tickets and select their seats through their mobile app. The consumers who are physically situated within a given geographic proximity of the participating cinemas could be receiving location-targeted mobile ads. The cinemas’ ads will inform prospects what movies they are playing and could explain how to purchase tickets through their phone. The consumers may also call the cinemas’ hotlines to get more information from a customer service representative. Besides location-targeted advertising, the mobile companies can also promote movie ticket sales via mobile ads that arte targeted to individuals, according to their behaviour (not by location). Therefore, the companies may direct mobile-ad messages to those consumers who had previously responded to previous mobile ads (and to others who had already purchased movie tickets, in the past months). Moreover, the cinema companies could also promote movies via Facebook Messenger Ads if they logged in the companies’ website, via their Facebook account. The mobile users might receive instant message ads via pop-up windows whenever they log into the corporate site of their service provider.

It is envisaged that such data points will only increase as the multi-billion dollar advertising monopolies are built on big data and analytics that can help businesses personalise immersive ads to target individual customers. The use of credit card transactions is also complementing geo-targeting and Google Maps, with ads; as the physical purchases are increasingly demanding personalisation, fulfillment and convenience. Consumers and employees alike are willing to give up their data for value. Therefore, the businesses need to reassure their customers through concise disclosures on how they will use personal data. They should clarify the purpose of maintaining consumer data, as they should provide simple user controls to opt in and out of different levels of data sharing. This way, they could establish a trust-worthy relationship with customers and prospects.

Companies are already personalising their mobile shopping experience based on the user situation and history. Tomorrow’s tourism businesses are expected to customise their user experiences of applications and web interfaces, according to the specific needs of each segment. Big data and analytics capabilities are increasingly allowing businesses to fully leverage their rich data from a range of new digital touchpoints and to turn this into high impact interactions. Those businesses that are able to reorient their marketing and product-development efforts around digital customer segments and behaviours will be in a position to tap into the hyper-growth that mobile, social media and the wearables market are currently experiencing.

References:

Camilleri, M. A. (2016). Using big data for customer centric marketing. Using Big Data for Customer-Centric Marketing. In Evans, C. (Ed.) Handbook of Research on Open Data Innovations in Business and Government, IGI Global, Hershey, PA, USA. https://www.um.edu.mt/library/oar/bitstream/handle/123456789/10682/Using%20Big%20Data%20for%20Customer-centric%20Marketing.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y

Gartner (2015) Gartner Says Power Shift in Business Intelligence and Analytics Will Fuel Disruption. http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2970917

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Tourism and Technology: What the future holds for travel distribution?

mobile.pngThe development of digital media technologies, particularly the internet and social media are offering a wide range of possibilities to the travel industry. These latest technological advances have enabled many travel businesses, including airlines and hotels to manage their distribution channels in a more efficient and economical way.

With the changing landscape of travel e-commerce and the ubiquity of IT solutions which gather, store, and analyse data in a variety of ways; airlines have improved their ability to monitor their performance across channels. Very often, they are in a position to quickly adjust offers. Their prices are usually based on a variety of situations and circumstances, as they optimise communications and transactions.

By using big data and analytics on their customer behaviours, many travel businesses are taking advantage of channel-based distribution. Hence, the distribution networks have come a long way from the ticket counter. Evidently, travel and tourism businesses are leveraging themselves with data-driven marketing, as they seek new customers and prospects. For example, they may increase their profitability from high-yield customers as they are using elaborated pricing and revenue management systems. The travel distribution is evolving from its current passive, rigid, and technology-centric state to a more flexible, dynamic, and passenger-centric environment which we call ‘Active Distribution’.

Any changes in the tourism distributive systems may be stimulated by external macro factors such as politics and trade, global and national economies, technological innovations and access to them, et cetera. The airline industry could also be effected by increased competition from low-cost carriers, merger and acquisitions, and fuel costs, among other issues. However, the commercial future of the tourism industry may also be influenced by other factors, including travel distribution.

Tourism businesses can possibly become even more effective in how they sell their products and services, particularly if they deliver positive customer experiences. Tourists perceive value in customer-centric businesses. Most probably, in future, there will be significant improvements in terms of technologically enhanced customer services.

Tomorrow’s businesses will be serving passengers from geographically-diverse regions.  There will be more travellers from emerging markets and developing economies. The travel distribution systems will have to cater for senior citizens, as there are aging populations in many countries.

The distributive channels must be designed to accommodate a divergent nature of users. Tourism service providers and their intermediaries have to provide engaging, intuitive shopping experiences that tap into the traveller’s discretionary purchases.

The businesses will need to embrace new technologies and flexible distribution processes, as outmoded distribution components will be replaced. It is envisaged that the distributive systems will be increasingly relying on mobile devices as these technologies enable consumer interaction with speech and voice recognition software.

The tourism businesses will leverage themselves with artificial intelligence which could facilitate dynamic pricing as well as personalisation of services.

The distributive  systems could interface with virtual  reality software to help businesses merchandise their products in captivating customer experiences.

The third-party retailers will continue to form part of the distribution mix. However, many service providers will be using their direct channels to reach their targeted customers.

There will probably be fewer market intermediaries and online travel agencies will see significant declines.

It is very likely, that airlines will not have to pre-file volumes of defined fares through third-parties as they may not rely on inventory buckets to manage their selling capacity. The airlines must recognise the need to invest in new internal selling systems. Today’s passenger service systems lack the flexibility that airlines require. They are not adequate enough to serve  the airlines’ flexible and dynamic sales environments. These systems could be replaced with modular retailing platforms. Full Retailing Platforms (FRPs) will allows airlines to take back the control they require to be better retailers through any distribution channel (IATA, 2016).

However, Google, the multinational technology company, could be playing a much larger role in travel distribution. The technology giant could participate in, and possibly disrupt the tourism industry if it becomes an online travel agency. whether through acquisition or by launching a product of its own. In fact, its travel product, Google Flights is increasing in popularity among travellers.

Moreover, there have been recent developments in online payment facilities. Undoubtedly, there will further improvements in this area, as well. Payment providers like M-Pesa, Alipay, and PayPal will probably become more important.

In the foreseeable future, the travel marketplace will surely introduce new technologies and capabilities as multiple venture capital firms are increasingly investing in disruptive innovation.

There may be new businesses which could penetrate the market, including private air service operators who could provide “on-demand” airline services; alternatively, technology companies could develop or acquire their meta-search engines or online travel agencies.

Undoubtedly, the travel and tourism businesses need to find ways that intentionally overturn decades of outdated, distribution practices. The distribution community can choose to innovate and disrupt, or allow others to be leading innovators.

 

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The Customer Satisfaction of American Tourists

usa

Amid incidents like the recent United Airlines overbooking debacle or Delta’s spring break computer outage that may have tainted the respective airlines’ reputation and image, an American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), that was conducted between April 2016 and March 2017, indicated that passengers were satisfied (with an ACSI score of 75%) with the levels of airline service. However, United’s violent removal of a passenger was captured on social media, but is not reflected in the ACSI results as it occurred after the completion of data collection. United’s incident did cause a fall in the company’s stock price. For the time being, it is still unclear how much impact this specific incident will have on future passenger satisfaction as United already has the lowest score among the full-service, legacy airlines. Industry leaders, including; JetBlue scored 82%, Southwest 80%, and Alaska Airlines 78% were among those successful airlines, according to ACSI. Very often other carriers, including legacy airlines are falling behind in terms of customer satisfaction. Yet, the most dissatisfied passengers are those who are only opting for low-price above anything else. In this case, the ultra-low-cost operators Spirit and Frontier were among those airlines who have mostly suffered from a reduction in customer satisfaction, when compared other airlines (ACSI, 2017).

Major airlines like Delta and American are increasingly competing more aggressively on price. However, although they may offer low ticket prices; they cannot afford to deliver a low-quality service. According to ACSI, in the last three years, Spirit has consistently ranked last in terms of passenger satisfaction, although the airline did improve last year (up from 54% in 2015 to 62% in 2016). However, the airline did not build upon its gains in 2017. Spirit’s efforts to improve customer relations and punctuality did not pay off, as yet, as their passenger satisfaction currently stands is 61%.

In a similar vein, in 2016, guest satisfaction with hotels was 76%, according to ACSI, this score was 2.7% higher than the previous year. This growth was driven by gains for smaller hotels and bed and breakfasts (B&Bs). Evidently, with the rise of online hospitality brokers, like Airbnb; travellers had more choices than ever before, forcing hotel operators to compete on both price and customer service.

Hilton guests were the most satisfied (81%), and in the second place, Hyatt and Marriott scored 80%. Marriott’s Starwood brand came third (79%), closely followed by InterContinental (78%). Best Western, La Quinta and Choice that were in the range of 76% to 74%; while the combined score of all other smaller hotels and B&Bs were up by 3% to 74%. Wyndham (71%) lagged behind most of the major hoteliers, but G6 Hospitality (Motel 6) was ranked in the last place (65%). These results indicated that many prestige hotel brands, including JW Marriott were topping the charts (85%), while upscale Hilton Garden Inn and Hyatt Place have shared the next spot at 84%. Starwood’s Aloft, part of the Marriott family, scored 83%, alongside Hilton’s Embassy Suites Hotels.  With 76%, Wyndham Baymont Inn & Suites was top-rated among midscale properties, whist Days Inn (67%) was the best economy brand. However, Super 8 from the Wyndham family had the lowest-ranked chain in the industry, at 63%.

The customer satisfaction levels with travel websites for booking flights, hotels and car rentals stood steady at 79%. Expedia gained 4%, as it rose to 80%. Other brands of the Expedia family, Orbitz also gained 1% to 78%. Whilst Travelocity lost 1% to 77%, which is in line with its competitor Priceline (77%), which lost 5% from the last year’s score. These ACSI (2017) reports were based on the findings from 8,660 customer surveys that were duly collected between April 18, 2016, and March 19, 2017.

(Source) ACSI (2017). ACSI: Low-Cost Carriers Lead Legacy Airlines for Passenger Satisfaction https://www.theacsi.org/news-and-resources/press-releases/press-2017/press-release-travel-2017

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Valuing Word-of-Mouth Publicity and Online Reviews

A very important function of public relations and publicity is to promote the corporate image and reputation of a business. The “image” is the total sum of impressions on the company. For instance, a casual act by an employee can appraise or damage the corporate image in the eyes of a single customer or caller on the phone. However, the major elements of corporate image include; the core business and financial performance of the company, the reputation and performance of its brands (i.e. brand equity); its reputation for innovation or technological process; policies toward employees; external relations with customers, shareholders, and the community, and; the perceived trends in the markets in which the business operates.

Public relations and publicity support other marketing tools, and could be seen as the backbone of the promotional mix. The success achieved by the other elements of the mix could easily be damaged or reduced by bad public relations or negative publicity, something which is undesirable to the businesses. Very often, the businesses cannot control the favourable or unfavourable messages about products or services that appear in online reviews. If for some reason, the business receives bad publicity, its role in this area moves to that of damage limitation. For example, many airlines and large hotel chains may have a section within their PR department to engage with online communities. This section will usually handle publicity issues, including negative reviews.

Recently, we are increasingly witnessing an surge in businesses’ engagement with online communities, including consumers. User-generated ratings and reviews provide relevant information on the business products and their levels of customer service. For instance, many prospective customers read reviews before choosing which places to visit, to stay or to eat. Very often the online ratings and reviews will have an effect on their consumer behaviours. It is likely that prospective customers will be mainly influenced by negative reviews, rather than by positive ones. Many studies indicate that individuals will read consumer reviews before shopping.

Presently, there are millions of online reviews that are related to travel and tourism. Digital platforms which provide travel-related content (are generated directly by users) concerning destinations, attractions and businesses. For instance, TripAdvisor provides travel related reviews and opinions on accommodation establishments, restaurants and attractions. In addition, many websites, which are traditionally known as booking engines, including; Booking.com, Airbnb.com, et cetera also provide reviews that are integrated in their presentation of properties, restaurants and other amenities. A distinction should be made between reviews and rating: Reviews will generally include qualitative comments and descriptions, whilst ratings usually feature quantitative rankings corresponding to degrees of user satisfaction. The ratings may be part of a review.

Sometimes internet users may noticce that there may be controversial reviews online.  Occasionally, the tourism service providers claim that they were subject to unfounded negative ratings. Moreover, many businesses may be blackmailed by consumers, as they threaten to write negative reviews unless their demands are not met. In a similar vein, consumers have also reported cases of unfounded positive ratings of services or unverified negative criticism. Online users are increasingly paying more attention to these contentious issues.

Recently, The World Committee on Tourism Ethics has elaborated its recommendations for the responsible use of ratings and reviews on digital platforms. Their recommendations are addressed to three main groups of stakeholders, namely: online platforms (operators like TripAdvisor or Yelp) service providers (businesses that are listed on these platforms); and users (consumers).

Digital platforms that incorporate reviews and ratings for their products and services need to ensure the accuracy, reliability and credibility of their content. Online platforms should undertake all reasonable measures to ensure that individual reviews reflect the real users’ opinions, findings and experiences. The provision of publicly available information though digital media involves a certain degree of trust, therefore the veracity of the reviews is essential for the integrity, reputation and good functioning of such platforms. Whilst it is not always easy to verify the authenticity of user generated content, the digital platform should have quality control mechanisms and processes to ensure that their reviews are clear, accurate and truthful, for the benefit of prospective consumers.

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Call for Chapters: Strategic Perspectives in Destination Marketing

This edited book will be published by IGI Global (USA)
Proposals Submission Deadline: August 31, 2017
Full Chapters Due: November 30, 2017


Introduction

This book provides a broad knowledge and understanding of destination marketing and branding. It presents conceptual discussions that cover the operational and strategic perspectives of the travel, tourism and hospitality industry sectors. At the same time, the readers are equipped with a strong pedagogical application of the socio-economic, environmental and technological impacts of tourism and its related sectors. The course content of this publication prepares undergraduate students and aspiring managers with a thorough exposure of the latest industry and research developments. Covering both key theory and practice, it introduces its readers to tourism issues in a concise yet accessible way. This will allow prospective tourism practitioners to critically analyze future situations and make appropriate decisions in work place environments.

Objective

This book is a concise and authoritative guide on tourism and its related paradigms. It provides a thorough understanding on destination branding and marketing. Therefore, the readers of this publication will better comprehend the marketing processes, strategies and tactics within the travel, tourism and hospitality contexts. It also highlights the latest trends, including; etourism, destination marketing and tourism planning for the future. The style of this book and extensive use of case studies, illustrations and links maintain the reader’s interest through visual aids to learning.

This publication is written in an engaging style that entices the curiosity of prospective readers. It explains all the theory in a simple and straightforward manner. It often makes use of short case studies that are carefully drawn from selected tourism businesses. Descriptive cases set the theory in context as they have been chosen to represent the diversity of the industry – ranging from small travel agents to large legacy airlines or multi-national hotel chains. This book reports on the global tourism marketing environments that comprise economic, socio-cultural and environmental issues. It explains how technological advances have brought significant changes to the tourism industry and its marketing mix. Moreover, it features interesting illustrations, including diagrams and color images. Notwithstanding, this book will also provide direct links to further readings on the web to aid both teaching and learning.

Target Audience

This book introduces the students and aspiring practitioners to the subject of destination marketing in a structured manner. It is primarily intended to undergraduate and / or post-graduate students in tourism (including tourism management, hospitality management, airline management and travel agency operations). It is also relevant to destination management organisations, tourism offices, hoteliers, inbound / outbound tour operators, travel agents and all those individuals who are willing to work within the dynamic tourism industry.

Academics in higher education institutions including universities and vocational colleges, small tourism business owners, tourism and hospitality consultants, non-profit tourism organizations, policy makers and legislators.

Recommended Topics

  • An introduction to the tourism industry
  • The structure and organization of the tourism destinations
  • The tourism marketing environment
  • Political, legal and regulatory forces in destination management
  • Economic effects of tourism marketing
  • Socio-cultural issues and destination branding
  • Technological advancements and information systems for travel marketing
  • The environmental impact of tourism.
  • Branding the tourism product
  • The tourist destinations and visitor attractions
  • The hospitality sector, hotel and catering
  • Tourist transportation
  • Pricing Tourism Products And Revenue Management
  • Market and Demand
  • Pricing Approaches
  • Pricing Strategies
  • Tourism Intermediaries And Online Distribution Channels
  • Destination Management Organisations
  • Tour operators
  • Retailing tourism
  • Tourism amenities and ancillary services
  • Promoting the tourism product
  • Advertising tourism destinations
  • Public relations and publicity in destination marketing
  • Direct and online marketing
  • Building customer relationships for repeat tourism
  • Word of mouth, the importance of reviews and ratings in tourism marketing
  • Sustainable and responsible tourism in destination branding
  • Destination marketing: the way forward
  • Tourism planning and development
  • Tourism strategies for destinations
  • Measuring marketing effectiveness
  • What future for the tourism industry?

Submission Procedure

Researchers and practitioners are invited to submit on or before August 31, 2017, a chapter proposal of 1,000 to 2,000 words clearly explaining the mission and concerns of their proposed chapter. Authors will be notified by September 15, 2017 about the status of their proposals and sent chapter guidelines. Full chapters are expected to be submitted by November 30, 2017, and all interested authors must consult the guidelines for manuscript submissions at http://www.igi-global.com/publish/contributor-resources/before-you-write/ prior to submission. All submitted chapters will be reviewed on a double-blind review basis. Contributors may also be requested to serve as reviewers for this project.

Note: There are no submission or acceptance fees for manuscripts submitted to this book publication, Trust in Knowledge Management and Systems in Organizations. All manuscripts are accepted based on a double-blind peer review editorial process.

All proposals should be submitted through the eEditorial Discovery®TM online submission manager.

Publisher

This book is scheduled to be published by IGI Global (formerly Idea Group Inc.), publisher of the “Information Science Reference” (formerly Idea Group Reference), “Medical Information Science Reference,” “Business Science Reference,” and “Engineering Science Reference” imprints. For additional information regarding the publisher, please visit http://www.igi-global.com. This publication is anticipated to be released in 2018.

Important Dates

Proposal Submission Deadline: August 31, 2017
Notification of Acceptance: September 15, 2017
Full chapter Submission: November 30, 2017
Review Results to Chapter Authors: January 31, 2018
Revised Chapter Submission from Chapter Authors: February 28, 2018
Final Acceptance Notifications to Chapter Authors: March 15, 2018

Inquiries

Mark Anthony Camilleri, Ph.D.
Email: Mark.A.Camilleri@um.edu.mt

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Filed under digital media, Marketing, responsible tourism, Stakeholder Engagement, tourism, Travel

Integrated Reporting: Valuing the Financial, Social and Natural Capital

The end of year financial statements usually focus on financial capital, whereas organisational performance relies on resources – such as the expertise of people, intellectual property that was developed through research and development, and interactions with the environment and the societies in which they operate.  In this light, Integrated Reporting (<IR>) was developed to fill such reporting gaps. The IR Framework categorises different stocks of value, including; Financial Capital; Manufactured Capital; Intellectual Capital; Human Capital; Social (and Relationship) Capital; as well as Natural Capital.

 

 

The International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) has promoted the concept of integrated thinking and reporting. In 2013, the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) released a framework for integrated reporting. By doing so, IIRC has paved the way for the next generation of annual reports that enable stakeholders to make a more informed assessment of the organisation’s strategy, governance, performance and prospects. IIRC has aligned capital allocations and corporate behaviours with the wider goals of financial stability and  sustainable development. Its framework established the following ‘Guiding Principles’ and ‘Content Elements’:

Guiding Principles

  1. Strategic focus and future orientation –gives an insight of the organisation’s strategy;
  2. Connectivity of information – provides a holistic picture of the combination, inter relatedness and dependencies between the factors that affect the organisation’s ability to create value over time;
  3. Stakeholder relationships – describes the nature and quality of the organisation’s relationships with its key stakeholders;
  4. Materiality – discloses relevant information about matters that substantively affect the organisation’s ability to create value over the short, medium and long term;
  5. Conciseness – provides sufficient context to understand the organisation’s strategy, governance and prospects without being burdened by less relevant information;
  6. Reliability and completeness – includes all material matters, both positive and negative, in a balanced way and without material error;
  7. Consistency and comparability – ensures consistency over time and enabling comparisons with other organisations to the extent material to the organisation’s own ability to create value.

Content Elements

  1. Organisational overview and external environment – What does the organisation do and what are the circumstances under which it operates?
  2. Governance – How does an organisation’s governance structure support its ability to create value in the short, medium and long term?
  3. Business model – What is the organisation’s business model?
  4. Risks and opportunities – What are the specific risk and opportunities that affect the organisation’s ability to create value over the short, medium and long term, and how is the organisation dealing with them?
  5. Strategy and resource allocation – Where does the organisation want to go and how does it intend to get there?
  6. Performance – To what extent has the organisation achieved its strategic objectives for the period and what are its outcomes in terms of effects on the capitals?
  7. Outlook – What challenges and uncertainties is the organisation likely to encounter in pursuing its strategy, and what are the potential implications for its business model and future performance?
  8. Basis of preparation and presentation – How does the organization determine what matters to include in the integrated report and how are such matters quantified or evaluated?

The ‘Guiding Principles’ underpin the preparation of an integrated report, whilst, the ‘Content Elements’ are the key categories of information that should be included in an integrated report according to the IR Framework. There are no bench marking for the above matters and the report is primarily aimed at the private sector; but IR could be adapted to the public sector and to not-for-profit organisations. The IIRC has set out a principle-based framework rather than specifying a detailed disclosure and measurement standard. This way each company sets out its own report rather than adopting a checklist approach. Hence, the report acts as a platform which explains what creates value to the business and how management protects this value. This gives the report more business impetus rather than mandating compliance-led approaches.

For the time being, the integrated reporting is not going to replace other forms of reporting but the vision is that large undertakings, including corporations, state-owned entities and government agencies, among others, may be expected to pull together relevant information already produced to explain the key drivers of their non-financial performance. Relevant information will only be included in the report where it is material to the stakeholder’s assessment of the business. The term ‘materiality’ suggests that there are legal connotations that may be related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting, Yet, some entities out of their own volition are already including ESG information in their integrated report.

In sum, the integrated reports aim to provide an insight into the company’s resources, relationships (that are also known as the capitals) and on how the company interacts with its external environment to create value.

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Filed under Business, Corporate Governance, Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility, CSR, ESG Reporting, Integrated Reporting, Stakeholder Engagement, sustainable development

A Conceptual Model of Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility

The corporate sustainability and responsibility concept is linked to improvements to the companies’ internal processes, including; environmental management, human resource management, operations management and marketing (Porter & Kramer, 2011; Fombrun, 2005; Maignan & Ferrell, 2004). At the same time, it raises awareness on the businesses’ responsible behaviours toward stakeholders, including the government, suppliers, customers and the community, among others (Carroll & Shabana, 2010; Freeman, 1984). The fundamental motivation behind this approach is the view that creating connections between stakeholders in the value chain will open-up unseen opportunities for the competitive advantage of responsible businesses, as illustrated here:

(Camilleri, 2017a)

Corporate sustainability and responsibility focuses on exploiting opportunities that reconcile differing stakeholder demands as many corporations out there are investing in corporate sustainability and responsible business practices (Camilleri , 2017b). Their active engagement with multiple stakeholders (both internal and external stakeholders) will ultimately create synergistic value for all (Camilleri, 2017a).

Multinational organizations are under increased pressures from stakeholders (particularly customers and consumer associations) to revisit their numerous processes in their value chain activities. Each stage of the company’s production process, from the supply chain to the transformation of resources could add value to their businesses’ operational costs as they produce end-products. However, the businesses are always expected to be responsible in their internal processes, toward their employees or toward their suppliers’ labour force. Therefore, this corporate sustainability and responsibility perspective demands that businesses create economic and societal value by re-aligning their corporate objectives with stakeholder management and environmental responsibility. In sum, corporate sustainability and responsibility may only happen when companies demonstrate their genuine willingness to add corporate responsible dimensions and stakeholder engagement to their value propositions. This occurs when businesses opt for responsible managerial practices that are integral to their overall corporate strategy. These strategic behaviours create opportunities for them to improve the well-being of stakeholders as they reduce negative externalities on the environment.  The negative externalities can be eliminated by developing integrated approaches that are driven by ethical and sustainability principles. Very often, multinational businesses are in a position to mitigate risk and to avoid inconveniences to third parties. For instance, major accidents including BP’s Deep Horizon oil spill in 2010; or the collapse of Primark’s Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, back in 2013 could have been prevented if the big businesses were responsible beforehand.

In conclusion, the corporate sustainability and responsibility construct is about embedding sustainability and responsibility by seeking out and connecting with the stakeholders’ varied interests. As firms reap profits and grow, there is a possibility that they generate virtuous circles of positive multiplier effects (Camilleri, 2017a). Therefore, corporate sustainability and responsibility can be considered as strategic in its intents and purposes. Indeed, the businesses are capable of being socially and environmentally responsible ‘citizens’ as they are doing well, economically. This contribution explains the foundations for corporate sustainability and responsibility. Although this concept is still evolving; the debate among academic commentators is slowly but surely raising awareness on responsible managerial practices and on the skills and competences that are needed to deliver strategic results that create value for businesses, society and the environment.

References:

Camilleri, M.A. (2017a) Corporate Sustainability, Social Responsibility and Environmental Management: An Introduction to Theory and Practice with Case Studies. Springer, Heidelberg, Germany. http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319468488

Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.) (2017b) CSR 2.0 and the New Era of Corporate Citizenship. IGI Global, Hershey, USA. ISBN13: 9781522518426 DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1842-6 http://www.igi-global.com/book/csr-new-era-corporate-citizenship/166426

Carroll, A. B., & Shabana, K. M. (2010). The business case for corporate social responsibility: A review of concepts, research and practice. International journal of management reviews, 12(1), 85-105.

Fombrun, C. J. (2005). A world of reputation research, analysis and thinking—building corporate reputation through CSR initiatives: evolving standards. Corporate Reputation Review, 8(1), 7-12.

Freeman, R.E. (1984). Strategic Management: A stakeholder approach. Pitman, Boston, MA. USA.

Maignan, I., & Ferrell, O. C. (2004). Corporate social responsibility and marketing: An integrative framework. Journal of the Academy of Marketing science, 32(1), 3-19.

Porter, M. E. & Kramer, M. R., (2011). Creating shared value. Harvard business review, 89 (1/2), 62-77.

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Filed under Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility, CSR, Human Resources, Marketing, Shared Value, Stakeholder Engagement, sustainable development