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The Travel Products’ Price Determinants

This is an excerpt from my latest tourism textbook, entitled; ‘Travel Marketing, Tourism Economics and the Airline Product’. This publication will be available through Springer and Amazon.com.


Price Determinants
The type of pricing strategy which marketing managers consider is determined by a number of factors, including: organisatonal and marketing objectives; types of pricing objectives; cost levels; other marketing mix variables; market demand; competition, and legal and regulatory issues, among other matters.

Organisational and Marketing Objectives

Company policy and image, target profit margins and staff count could influence the type of pricing policy which the marketing managers will apply. Company policy and image will play an important role when determining a pricing strategy. The price set must be consistent with the general corporate objectives and the strategic direction of the company. For example, a full-service airline may want to be associated with the top-end of the market by providing a high-quality service to the business travel segment. To price below the average rate for such a service may imply an inferior and poor-quality service.

Any airline which would like to target the business market should provide an extensive schedule and a high-quality service. Therefore, it will require considerable resources and capabilities to do so.

Pricing Objectives

The most fundamental pricing objective is that of survival pricing. When experiencing severe competition, businesses may be forced to offer lower prices than their rivals. This way they will generate revenue, and improve their chances of survival. A tourism service or sub-product will not generate revenue if it is not used over a given period of time (it will perish) . While the service or sub-products may be available for sale at some later point in time, the revenue that was originally lost, can never be regained. For example, a hotel had thirty empty rooms on a specific date. These empty rooms cannot be sold at a later date because the service has been completed, and perished. Similarly, an airline could depart with empty seats which cannot be sold at a later date.

Moreover, the demand for tourism products is usually seasonal. For example, many north Americans flee south to Hawaii and to the Caribbean, during the winter months; whilst Australasians travel to Europe during the summer months of June, July and August. Of course, seasonality may be due to other factors, other than climate, including; vacation and holiday periods. For example, families may habitually travel at the same time of the year, usually over Christmas, Easter or summer periods. This is the usual close-down time period for schools, industry and commerce, in many countries. Since tourism is highly seasonal, suppliers may reduce their prices during off-peak times. Hence, a low price strategy assists in creating demand particularly among price-sensitive customers. Conversely, operators may charge higher prices when there are peaks in demand, due to major attractions and special events.

Profit maximisation is another pricing objective. However, it may prove difficult to measure, as businesses could not be in a position to determine when they have reached maximum profit. As a result, profit maximisation may be evaluated according to a certain ‘level of satisfaction’. A change in profit relative to previous periods may be considered as satisfactory or unsatisfactory for the businesses. The setting of prices to obtain a fixed rate of return on a company’s investment is a profit-related objective. Many businesses could be aiming to achieve a specific profit.

Another possible pricing objective is that of increasing market share. Many companies may design pricing policies which will enable them to improve their market share. However, at times, they may be satisfied with their current status in the market. In this case, their objective would be to retain their status quo. Companies with such an objective may not use pricing as a competitive tool. They will probably maintain a steady market share by nurturing their brand equity.

Cost Levels

The marketing managers should be careful to analyse all costs so that they will be included in the total cost. Therefore, the pricing of products should be based on the company’s direct and indirect costs (and may consider overhead expenses) if they are projecting a certain profitability margin.

Other Marketing Mix Variables

The marketing mix elements, including; promotions (the integrated marketing communication mix) and place (distribution channels), could determine the target customers’ perceptions of the firms’ products (or services), in a given competitive context.

The extent to which a product is promoted can have a huge effect on consumer demand. The products’ price will usually determine their target market. Low-priced products may attract price-sensitive markets. Such products will be promoted through different marketing communications channels other than high-priced, better quality, premium services. The more expensive the products; the higher the customers’ expectations. Considerable thought and action must go into product development so as to provide the customer with a valuable service which reflects the product’s price. One of the most significant promotional tools is word-of-mouth publicity. For instance, online reviews and ratings are increasingly playing a major role in tourism marketing.

When making a pricing decision, the businesses should consider their distribution costs. The companies’ intermediaries, including; tour operators, online travel agents, and the like, will expect financial compensation for selling travel products. Alternatively, they will expect discounts and special incentives to push the businesses’ products to consumers. For example, they may book large seat orders and place substantial mark-ups on seats which they have bought from the airline (these products may be demanded for inclusive tours). These factors must always be taken into consideration by the airline marketing managers, as they have to add mark-ups to the cost price of seats, when selling them to intermediaries.

Market Demand

There is a highly segmented market for tourism products. Each of the market segments vary in terms of elasticity, and service requirements. These variables will influence the way in which prices a set.

The business travel segment is generally more inelastic in demand. Fluctuations in prices will not affect demand to any great extent. However, the business travel segment expects a high-quality service. Generally, business travellers are prepared to pay a higher price for such services. The higher fares will not only cover the costs of the superior service, but will also convey an image of a premium, prestige product.

The passengers from the leisure travel segment are usually price-sensitive. Their expectations are somewhat lower than those of the business travellers. Demand is extremely elastic in this segment; and an increase in price may result in lower demand.

The socio-political factors may affect market demand. If a destination is politically or socially unstable, tourists may not want to go there. Most people like to feel safe and comfortable. For instance, many destinations have experienced dramatic reductions in the number of tourist arrivals, following the terrorist activities in certain countries.

Economic factors, including the individuals’ income and well-being, will affect their propensity to travel. However, this may not necessarily translate to an increased demand for all tourism products. For instance, if leisure travellers receive an increase in income, they may decide to travel to long-haul destinations rather than short-haul itineraries. Alternatively, these clients may increase the quality and standard rather than to increase their frequency of travel. Such customers may decide to upgrade their hotel accommodation, or to travel in higher classes. Income may affect demand according to the purpose of travel. For business travellers it may not make much difference, whilst for leisure travellers it can make quite a substantial difference. Their demand may also be influenced by the availability of substitute products. If there are no substitutes for the product, then consumers will be forced to buy regardless of price.

In addition, customers may develop perceptions about tourism products. Whether they are accurate or not, they could influence their purchase behaviours. Therefore the travellers’ perceptions, the online ratings and reviews should be carefully considered, as tourism products must always be purchased in advance.

Competition

The businesses should be aware of their competitors’ prices. They may decide to respond to their rivals’ pricing strategies, or to be proactive by taking the pricing initiative, themselves.

Responding to the Competitors’ Pricing Initiatives

There is no rigid method of responding to a price initiative taken by competitors. Every situation is unique. However, businesses are capable of making confident decisions if they examine the situation from different viewpoints:

At times, competitors may decide to lower their prices: It is not wise for other businesses to follow suit, unless they establish why their competitors are pursuing such a pricing strategy. It may be the case that the competitors have made a bad decision. It must be determined whether the competitors’ pricing initiative was a long term or a short term one. For instance, an airline’s poor fleet planning may result in the company changing its prices on a long-term basis. In such situations, rivals will have to respond or risk losing their market share. Price reductions will eventually lead to lower yields for the airline. As a result, this will have a negative impact on the airline and its long-term sustainability prospects. If the pricing initiative appears to be a short-term action, it is advisable to ignore it, and to avoid de-stabilising the market.

The price reductions on certain products may be questioned by the airline’s customers. As discussed above, the airlines may usually charge higher prices for their business and first class as these services are considered as prestige products. The airlines can differentiate themselves from competitors when they provide superior services; that are perceived as an index of quality and corporate image.

On the other hand, the airlines’ should continuously monitor those competitors who are resorting to price-cutting policies. Certain leisure markets may be more price-sensitive than others, as they may exhibit higher price-elasticity levels. The lower prices could result in an increase in demand for the economy class of service.

Taking the Price Initiative

Generally, businesses may avoid lowering their fares, as this will affect their bottom lines. Price wars have destroyed the profitability of many businesses. However, there may be a tendency toward price competition: when firms have low variable costs; when there is little differentiation among the competitors’ products; when industry growth rate is low, and; when the economies of scale are important. The businesses need to consider their cost levels before taking the initiative to lower their prices. The lean businesses who may have less costs, will usually be in a much stronger position to lower their prices than other competitors with high costs. However, more established high-cost businesses may have stable financial backing, which will enable them to meet, if not undercut, the new companies’ prices. They could eventually push their competitors out of the market.

An increase in price may be required if the business is facing controllable or uncontrollable costs. For example, if the airlines’ uncontrollable costs, include; increased airport landing fees and air traffic control charges; they may either decide to absorb these costs or alternatively, they may increase their fares as a means of covering these added costs. Of course, rival airlines will also face the same pressure. In such cases, the airlines could inform their customers about their uncontrollable costs, which have forced them to increase their fares. Ongoing corporate communications and public relations will help them to maintain their customers’ goodwill. On the other hand, the airlines’ controllable costs, including the employees’ salaries and wages, are under their direct responsibility. Such costs may not justify taking pricing initiatives to improve the organisation’s financial performance. They may even aggravate the airline’s profitability, in the long-term.

Legal and Regulatory Issues

Legal and regulatory issues may have an impact on a company’s pricing structure. Although, the airline industry has experienced deregulation and liberalisation in the past decades, there is still some government intervention, in certain areas. In international markets, air service agreements between governments necessitate that national airlines should meet and agree on the fares and rates to be charged to passengers. The agreed fare is brought back to both the airline’s governments who have the right to veto the fare. Should this happen, the airline concerned must seek to re-open negotiation.

Deregulation and liberalisation have affected the airlines’ pricing policies in many contexts. For example, liberalisation has changed the fares regime in the United States of America, in the European Union and in many other places. Today, several airlines have introduced lower fares which have contributed to increased travel. Moreover, the rise of the low-cost carriers has often resulted in lower air fares within pre-agreed zones. Evidently, pricing is increasingly being used as a competitive tool, in many contexts.

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Key Elements of Travel Websites

website

The travel and tourism businesses are increasingly using corporate websites as they help them improve consumer leads and sales conversions. In addition, their clear, differentiated pricing information on service-tiers provide product options to online prospects. The tourism products ought to focus on the benefits they provide, by highlighting their value propositions; rather than simply illustrating their features. Despite the fact that so many transactions are carried out online, the travel websites could lack in their provision of personal interaction. This means that even the smallest thing that’s out of place on the ecommerce pages could possibly rapidly erode the customers’ trust in products and services. Therefore, tourism businesses could build consumer confidence and trust by using an SSL certificate to make transactions secure, particularly if they are processing credit cards.

The travel businesses’ corporate websites are expected to articulate their terms and conditions, including any relevant cancellation and refund policies. They should also feature their contact details (including an address, telephone and emails) to customers and prospects. Many sites could offer live chat facilities on their site, to help online 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 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. Hence, they should present relevant written content which will make the product stand out from the rest. In this day and age, attractive web sites should be well-designed to entertain visitors. The travel sites have to 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 web designs, these calls to action could easily blend into a confusing mess.  While it may be tempting to utilise web pages with many actionable steps, the online 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 their 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(s) 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.

This article was drawn from Springer’s ‘Travel Marketing, Tourism Economics and the Airline Product: An Introduction to Theory and Practice‘ by Mark Anthony Camilleri

 

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Call for Chapters on Tourism Marketing

This book will be published by Routledge

(subject to the publisher’s peer review)

Abstract Submission Deadline: April 30, 2017

Full Chapters Due: October 31, 2017

Submit your Chapter here.

tIntroduction

This academic book will be presenting a critical analysis of the key theoretical underpinnings in the tourism literature. The contributors are expected to engage in conceptual discussions that cover the operational and strategic perspectives of the travel, tourism, hospitality and leisure industries. The rationale behind this student-centered textbook is to instill a strong pedagogical application of the socio-economic, environmental and technological impacts of tourism and its related sectors. This textbook’s content is intended to prepare undergraduate students and aspiring managers with a thorough exposure on the latest industry practices and research developments. It will allow both prospective as well as experienced tourism practitioners to make appropriate decisions in their workplace environments.

It is envisaged that the themes of this textbook could be covered in a university semester. At the start of each chapter, the readers will be presented with relevant learning outcomes that will help them focus and organize their thoughts. The important terms should be defined and clearly explained. This will provide the readers with a convenient source for learning and reviewing the tourism and hospitality vocabulary. Experiential exercises and descriptive case studies shall be illustrating real situations that are meant to help aspiring managers in their future employment prospects. All chapters should contain a succinct summary at the end. This way the readers could review and retain vital information. Finally, all chapters ought to provide relevant suggestions for further insights by featuring web resources that are rich in information.

This comprehensive book will allow its readers to acquire relevant knowledge and skills in tourism management topics, including; Airline Management; Airline Marketing; Destination Marketing; Eco-Tourism; eTourism / Digital Tourism; Events Management; Hospitality; Hospitality Management; Hospitality Marketing; Hospitality Operations; Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events; Responsible / Sustainable Tourism; Revenue Management; Sharing Economy; Sports Tourism; Tourism; Tourism Administration; Tourism Economics; Tourism Education; Tourism Geographies; Tourism Management; Tourism Marketing; Tourism Operations; Tourism Planning; Tourism Policy; Tourism Product; Tourism Strategy; Travel; Travel Management; Travel Marketing; among others.

Objective

This book shall be a generic, authoritative guide on the business of tourism. The underlying objective of this book is to explain, in plain words; the tourism processes, strategies and tactics within the travel, leisure and hospitality industries. This publication will highlight some of the opportunities and challenges facing the tourism industry, including; eTourism and digital media, the sharing economy, destination marketing, and tourism planning for the future. It is hoped that the style of this book and its extensive use of case studies, illustrations and links will maintain the reader’s interest through visual aids to learning.

This publication ought to be written in an engaging style that entices the curiosity of prospective readers. It will be clarifying the main concepts in a simple and straightforward manner. Descriptive cases should set the theory in context as they will be chosen to represent the diversity of the industry; the cases may range from small travel agents to large legacy airlines or from multi-national hotel chains to accommodation establishments – that are increasingly advertising on websites like Airbnb. This book shall possibly report on the global tourism marketing environments that are increasingly affected by economic, socio-cultural, political and environmental issues. It could explain how technological advances have brought significant changes in the tourism industry sectors and its marketing mix. Moreover, it is advisable that the authors feature interesting illustrations, including diagrams and color images. Notwithstanding, the contributors are encouraged to 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 tourism studies 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 airline employees, hoteliers, inbound / outbound tour operators, travel agents and all those individuals who are willing to work within the 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.

Submission Procedure

Researchers and practitioners are invited to submit a 300-word abstract on or before the 30th April, 2017. The authors will be notified by the 31st May, 2017 about the status of their abstract. Their full (8,000 word) chapters could be submitted by the 31st October, 2017. All submitted chapters will be reviewed on a double-blind peer-review editorial process. Contributors may also be requested to serve as reviewers of other chapters.

Note: There are no submission or acceptance fees to submit manuscripts for this book.

Publisher

Taylor & Francis Group (an Informa Business) publishes Social Science and Humanities books under the Routledge, Psychology Press and Focal Press imprints.

Important Dates

April 30, 2017: Proposals Submission Deadline

May 31, 2017: Notification of Acceptance

October 31, 2017: Full Chapter Submission

December 31, 2017: Review Results Returned

January 31, 2018: Final Acceptance Notification

February 28, 2018: Final Chapter Submission

For Further Inquiries

Mark Anthony Camilleri, M.B.A., Ph.D. (Edinburgh), I.A.T.A.

Email: Mark.A.Camilleri@um.edu.mt

 

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A snapshot of the tourism industry in Malta

This article appeared on the The Sunday Times of Malta

Ghajn-Tuffieha-Bay-600px
Malta is often portrayed as a safe and pleasant environment. Moreover, the smallest EU State was consistently ranked amongst the top countries in the world for its quality of life index. According to a latest economic impact report by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC, 2014), last year the travel and tourism industry in Malta has contributed to 13.6% of the country’s GDP. This figure is expected to rise by 5.6% during this year. WTTC (2014) reported that the tourism industry alone has generated more than 25,500 jobs, directly. This figure is forecast to grow to 27,000. It translates to 15.5% of the total employment in Malta and Gozo. Arguably, positive results do not come by chance. In the last decade the Maltese governments’ concerted efforts may have helped to ensure that our tourism industry remains a major contributor to the Maltese economy. The fruitful and collaborative relationships among tourism stakeholders also augur well for the sustainability of our tourism industry. Malta’s national tourism policy (2012-2016) builds on proactive frameworks of previous policies, whilst keeping pace with contemporary trends in travel and tourism.

A recent report (2013) by the economic policy department within the Ministry of Finance aimed to establish a strategy for accommodation development, whilst taking into account the type of accommodation required, the optimum mix, market developments, the market segments, limiting factors and environmental considerations. A number of actions have already been undertaken or are being dealt with in this regard. Emphasis is being placed on supporting investment in tourism product development by the private sector. This is being accomplished through the allocation of €120 million of EU structural funds (from the 2007-2013 programming periods) and additional national funding. Some €10 million were allocated to a Grant Scheme for Sustainable Tourism Projects by enterprises, including small and medium sized enterprises. This scheme directs funds towards the economic development of the tourism sector and is intended to support product upgrades, enhance accessibility, increase innovation, strengthen marketing initiatives and promote tourism projects that aim to tackle current challenges in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.
Given that a large number of tourism businesses in Malta are operating either directly in tourism or in related sectors; it is important to maintain or increase current tourist numbers and tourism earnings. While there is scope for any increase during the peak summer months, there remains room for significant improvements during the shoulder months. In response, Malta is seeking to attract tourists from a spread of markets which will be attracted by niche products. Some market segments may respect Malta’s unique heritage and may have the propensity and the resources to spend more. Malta is striving to make the islands more accessible for all. Two EU co-financed Calypso projects were implemented between 2009 and 2013. The first one focused on research analyses which define the present product offering. This project also identified certain areas which have to be addressed in order to untap the social tourism market. The Maltese tourism product and service quality can be differentiated to attract visitors with personalised services and accessibility needs. The second project was approved in 2011. Its major objectives was to assess the degree of accessibility within selected tourist zones around the Maltese Islands. It has also given recommendations for improvements. A special allocation was directed to the maintenance and promotion of rural localities by supporting the establishment of walking trails and small scale infrastructural interventions which, in turn improve rural and natural areas. This latter project is being co-funded through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
The Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) is increasingly focusing its energies on environmental initiatives. Today’s travellers are becoming more demanding on sustainability issues and green travel. This may pose a number of challenges for the industry practitioners to constantly update their methods of operation to be in line with the constantly changing market requirements. Eco-certification is the national scheme which ensures the environmental, socio-economic and cultural sustainability of hotels in the Maltese islands. It has been recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council as fully reflecting the GSTC criteria. The scheme was launched by the Malta Tourism Authority in 2002. Some 16.2% of hotel accommodation establishments, covering 3, 4 and 5 star categories (accounting to 32% of beds) in Malta are eco-certified (MTA, 2014).

In spite of the record figures in terms of tourist arrivals, bed nights and tourist spending, the tourism stakeholders are very aware that not everything in the garden is rosy. The ToM Business Supplement reported (27th March) about a number of unlicensed accommodation establishments who last year evaded VAT and taxes. It goes without saying that such accommodation establishments may have not been subject to any form of quality control on their product. Such unlicensed accommodation establishments may have also created some distortions in price structures, particularly for hospitality enterprises. Interestingly, another ToM article (25th March) featured a summary of some findings from an MTA research about the highs and lows of tourism in Malta. For instance, it reiterated the importance of improving aesthetics in Maltese tourism zones. It reported that eight per cent of visitors said they would not return to Malta. Apparently, some informants complained of a dirty environment, excessive building, bad experiences with accommodation, poor transport and unfriendly locals. This same article hints that MTA may set up quality assurance structures as it wants to measure sustainability. It mentions some of the challenges of the tourism industry and makes a few recommendations which resonate with the national policies.

In conclusion, this contribution suggests that frequent situation analyses (and longitudinal studies) may possibly give a better picture of our product offering and service quality. Certain findings may be an eye-opener for some stakeholders as there are some issues which will have to be addressed in the foreseeable future.

The views expressed in this article are my own – Drmarkcamilleri.com

 

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