Physical arena, goner or keeper for the tour operator?

In terms of customer engagement, there are three different so-called arenas where companies are battling for the customers’ attention trying to make their customers happy. The three different arenas are Social Media arena, Digital arena and the physical arena. These arenas are the opportunity for organizations to build a relationship with the client. E.g. TUI is doing this by posting blogs, having a digital presence with a strong website and different social media pages such as Facebook and Twitter. Furthermore they have stores and brochures as part of they physical engagement (TUI Travel Centre, 2015).

These three arenas are important for tour operators in order for customers to have awareness and become a loyal customer. The fact that tour operators are using different channels and arenas to make the customer happy is to create a loyal customer to your specific brand and try to make more money from that particular customer (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). However it is debatable to what extend all of these arenas are still of equal importance or if the Digital and Social arenas are more having a top position in this time and age. More and more physical stores are disappearing and the online presence is getting stronger and of more importance.

Physical stores from tour operators are reducing in number. Where in the past villages in the Netherlands had their own tour operator/travel agent store, the presence learns that they have closed most of their smaller shops and centralized their attention in bigger cities with a wider sphere of influence. Costs of the smaller stores were simply too high for tour operators to keep them operational compared with the benefits they gained from them (Stil, 2014). The online search has a tremendous advantage over physical search as customers can research from their homes. This saves both time and money. Besides that, the Internet allows consumers to compare prices and information from different websites. Therefore is has been said that the role of the tour operator in the search process will disappear (Calveras, 2006).

However we cannot disclose the purpose of the physical shops and offline marketing. These methods are nowadays still a gateway to clients who don’t have Internet access or are not very well at using the Internet. Furthermore do some people prefer to speak to a travel consultant with experience to guide them to the right destination/accommodation. Pure online shopping is already old fashioned, as consumers are not completely online in their purchase process. Decision-making is often done in an offline physical environment over a digital one. Cross channel shopping will therefore be the new trend of the next few years (MKBservicedesk, 2015).

The physical arena will be of less importance in the future, but will not have a negative effect on tour operators. This means that the physical arena will still be present, but not as important in terms of the search for a holiday. It will still influence the decision making process, but the online search for holidays will be of more importance as it has a huge advantage over the ‘slower’ physical search.


Calveras, A. (2006). What do Tour Operators do? Internet and the economics of intermediation in the tourism industry. Universitat de les Illes Balears, Department of Business Economics. Palma de Mallorca: Universitat de les Illes Balears.

MKBservicedesk. (2015). Klanten willen online én fysieke winkel. Retrieved at October 10, 2015, from MKBservicedesk:

Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management. United Kingdom: Pearon Education Limited.

Stil, H. (2014, June 07). Helft van de reisbureaus in Nederland zal verdwijnen. Retrieved at October 10, 2015, from Parool:

TUI Travel Centre. (2015). Brandbook. Retrieved at September 18, 2015, from Tui-travelcentre:


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