Source: Flickr.com (Foster, 2012)
“Tour operators are a value-add to the travel ecosystem, they use their innate knowledge of foreign destinations and suppliers to simplify the planning process, and provide a cost effective ready-made tour package for an individual traveller or a group” (Gunaseelan, 2014). But what is the difference between a large and small tour operator in terms of customer communication and experience?
Tour operators tend to have a secondary relationship with their customers. They have a relatively short-term interpersonal relationship. The customer’s booking and travel experience is influenced by the interaction between the client and the tour operator. Aftersales plays an important role in personalizing the process of the tour operator experience. One of the abilities of employees must be to emphasize with the customer. This means that the customer feels heard and appreciated, which leads to word of mouth advertisement and more purchase results. When looking at the difference between large, medium and small kinds of tour operators there is a difference in clientele, which indicates a different kind of need. This is the same for the values the company pursues (Peelen & Beltman, 2013).
Large tour operators target a larger segment of the population as they have the means to do this. For example TUI’s target group’s is as diverse as their products. Therefore the TUI group has different brands and sub-brands to satisfy their consumers’ needs (TUI Travel Centre, 2015). This model can be related to the personal commitment this large tour operator wants to achieve with their consumers. The person desires to continue the relationship with the tour operator. The trouble for large tour operators is the fact that they try to make their customer relation personal. The question in this case is: how personal is this contact you’re having with a large tour operator? Once a tour operator grows in size, the customer contact becomes more difficult. Nowadays computer systems help generate customized advertisement and emails, which may seem personal, but are in fact far from personal (Orton-Jones, 2014).
Small tour operators usually have a more niche target group in order to ensure returning customers. Boutique tour operators differentiate themselves by operating on a smaller scale or by specializing in products (Gunaseelan, 2014). In terms of customer contact, the small tour operator has more opportunity to communicate with their clients as clients often have a personal communication with a person in the reservations team. Whenever there is a problem or the client wants to rebook, the person knows who to speak to. This makes the booking process more personal and the client gets familiarized with the company and with the products the company offers (Wendy Wu Tours, 2015).
In conclusion it can be said that the larger tour operators are the more of a disadvantage in terms of customer contact. However this does not mean that they don’t personally interact with their customers. Large tour operators have offline shops, where employees can help the clients. Furthermore because of personalized advertisement and emails, clients feel directly approached. The advantage for small tour operators is that in most cases customers can have direct contact with personal travel assistants and have faster response while booking.
Foster, A. (2012, November 4). Museum of Communication. Retrieved at September 26, 2015, From Flickr.com: https://www.flickr.com/photos/twosevenoneonenineeightthreesevenatenzerosix/8187732414/in/photolist-dtwgAf-qrN9PP-6u9vkM-AJCQ8-926654-929drW-9265Kz-929cYC-9265sr-cwX3Uf-aDXZMj-dW5WDF-7PHSLp-67ciYj-qJaTAA-qrPwaa-d6msUE-5aZhoD-rbM3cs-5oxTQL-e1aLqy-72huET-9Tn4x5-dtwgcQ-fwkjz8-puVEYq-b7ntgR-6ArUFf-z3dVfc-E3j6w-dtqHHa-5WFxXZ-9DamKo-aWHRjD-br7FUJ-3MVvwk-5aZh8D-n3dQoJ-9DaiRC-4qJD4d-dtqGGv-aw73R7-9FvPYi-6ArUEN-cW2Yw-6ArULj-8Kn7r-pv2MBU-oFce8g-gcyar1
Gunaseelan, S. (2014, May 5). Challenges of a tour operator. Retrieved at September 18, 2015, from Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140505172441-237608656-challenges-of-a-tour-operator
Orton-Jones, C. (2014, October 21). Customer Experience and Loyalty. Raconteur , 8 – 9.
Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management. United Kingdom: Pearon Education Limited.
TUI Travel Centre. (2015). Brandbook. Retrieved at September 18, 2015, from Tui-travelcentre: http://www.tui-travelcenter.ro/uploaded_docs/TUI_brandbook.pdf
Wendy Wu Tours. (2015, July). Our philosophy. Retrieved at September 18, 2015, from Wendy Wu Tours: http://www.wendywutours.co.uk/about-us/why-book-with-us/