Tour operators do not only try to attract their clients with one medium, but uses different ‘arenas’ to incorporate their attention. The arenas are divided into Social, Digital and Physical arenas.
The arenas mentioned above are important for online and offline tour operators to raise the awareness of a company and to engage customers to become loyal and trusting. To increase the sales for the different tours, the tour operators try to create a long lasting relationship with the customer and use different channels for that. (Peelen & Beltman, 2013)
Within the past few years the number of online sales and online tour operators has increased rapidly throughout the world. But is this digital arena also the most important one in customer engagement?
The Social arena cannot sell a product but is very important in the customer engagement. It can be said that through Social Media different tour operators build a stronger relationship with their clients and win their trust by giving them an engaged feeling. Also they give their customers the right to share their thoughts and follow different authentic storylines within a single site. For example, TUI posts different pictures and videos to their social media page “facebook” on a daily basis and answer to comments by the followers. But by doing that they do not only promote their services, they promote the different locations. Many photos and videos have commentaries from “followers” underneath, which can be re-share it with different friends on the same Media. (Facebook, 2016) This shows the loyalty from both parties and strengthens the relationship by trust and interaction with the clients. But to actually purchase a product, the clients are most likely to be referred to the digital website.
Different than the Social Media arena, the Digital arena sells products and has been an increasing factor in tourism sales over the past years. It creates an individual overview of the tour operator and gives different offers according to the client’s search and it is more appealing for specific searches and bookings itself. The Digital arenas mainly uses different viral marketing techniques to “pass on a marketing message to other sites or users, creating a potentially exponential growth in the message’s visibility and effect.” (Turban, Strauss, & Lai, 2016) It is important to add different tools that engage the customer and give them as much help as needed. Also different advertisement ads for ‘personal help’ are usually integrated to give the customer are more personal feeling and to affect their decision by giving them a safe platform. (Liu, 2000)
However, the Digital arena does depend increasingly on the country of origin. It has been found that in undeveloped countries with many backpackers the digital customer engagement is not as important as in developed countries. Even though the number of tour operators creating tours in undeveloped countries is increasing, those are mostly not affordable by backpackers or local residence. Therefore, local walk-in tour operators can engage and advise the customer better as any digital engagement. In developed countries the number of stores for travel agencies and tour operators has been decreasing as the availability and cost of internet is also more affordable. In general, the Physical arena is still very important as it is more personal and customer friendly. The Physical arena is the most relationship oriented business.
Many tour operators, especially in developed countries work with all three arenas, as they have the resources and the employees to do so. The Physical arena is most customer friendly and engaging but also walk-in customers depend on the first impression. All three arenas have to work with each other to create a customer relationship. While in undeveloped countries with many backpackers, the tour operators mainly focus on walk-in clients, the more developed clients work more with digital and social media arenas to increase their customer engagement and sell their tours.
All in all, it can be said, that in developed countries the digital arena is going to be the most important within the near future, as the number of online sales are increasing rapidly and the online presence is very important for today’s generation. As of right now the balance between physical stores and digital sites is leaning towards the digital arena, but has not completely taken over the buying process of customers.
Facebook. (2016). TUI. Retrieved September 18, 2016, from https://www.facebook.com/TUINederland/
Liu, Z. (2000, June 26). Internet Tourism Marketing: Potention and Constraints. Retrieved September 18, 2016, from Ideas&Trends: http://www.hotel-online.com/Trends/ChiangMaiJun00/InternetConstraints.html
Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management (Vol. 2). Boston: Pearson Education Limited. Retrieved September 17, 2016
Turban, E., Strauss, J., & Lai, L. (2016). Customer Engagement and Metrics. In Social Commerce (pp. 99-125). Springer International Publishing. Retrieved September 17, 2016