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:


The importance of cross selling and retention for Tour operators

People say about tour operators that they are old fashioned and unnecessary. But is this the case or are tour operators still profitable. Cross selling is a way of getting the customers attention and trying to sell an extra, additional or other kind of product. In terms of a tour operator this could be an extra service such as a transfer from the airport to the hotel or cruise ship, or a whole new extension in terms of a different city or experience. Retention methods are used to create returning customers for the specific operation.

Cross selling can be used as a method to make customers more involved in your business and by doing this, customers can climb up the customer engagement pyramid. Once a customer climbs up the pyramid, he or she becomes more valuable for the organization. This indicates a better profitability per customer (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). As mentioned before, a tour operator can cross sell on many different levels in the industry and with different kinds of customers as well. E.g. for customers who book a trip through the highlights of China with cities as Beijing, Xian and Shanghai, a tour operator can try to cross sell Hong Kong as well. This is a city that is not included in the main trip of these customers, and is an interesting place with a lot of history and shopping facilities. When customers are flying through Dubai for their trip to China, a cross selling opportunity is to try and sell Dubai as a destination as customers have to transfer anyway and now have an opportunity to stay in Dubai (Wendy Wu Tours, 2015) (Hays Faraway, 2015).

Schermafbeelding 2015-10-04 om 15.53.18
Cross selling and upselling

Source: Screenshot taken from: (Wendy Wu Tours, 2015)

Upselling can happen when tour operators try to sell additional nights in a certain destination, try to get the customers in a more expensive hotel or get them to do a business class upgrade on their flights (Wendy Wu Tours, 2015) (Hoetmer, 2008) (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). Majority of the tour operators is already using these techniques, as they know how important it is to keep your customers loyal and to make the most profit from them while they are loyal. The reason for any business to keep clients loyal is because the organization has all the details about the clients in their system already. As well as their previous purchases and the preferences of the specific customer. Because of this, businesses can anticipate on the customers’ needs and wants easier and they can target them with the right advertisement, which cuts the marketing costs (Peelen & Beltman, 2013).

Another form of retention is a loyalty program where customers are inclined to stay with a specific company and receive a reward in return (Donald, 2014). For the tour operator these loyalty programs can exist in the form of a returning customer discount or a recommendation discount. Also personal attention and customer service make the customer loyal such as sending a hamper when a customer isn’t completely satisfied (Wendy Wu Tours, 2015).

Cross selling, upselling and retention are vital keys for tour operators in order to survive in today’s world. Not only for the profitability of these techniques, but as well for the customer binding and the liking of the organization. These techniques as well show that tour operators are still in business and that they are not at all old fashioned.


Donald, M. (2014, October 21). Powering Loyalty with credit cards. Raconteur , 6-7.

Hays Faraway. (2015). China Holidays. Retrieved at October 03, 2015, from Haysfaraway:

Hoetmer, M. (2008, November 25). Up- en cross selling: mag het een beetje meer zijn? Retrieved at October 03, 2015, from salesquest:

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

Wendy Wu Tours. (2015). Reviews. Retrieved at October 03, 2015, from Wendy Wu Tours:

Wendy Wu Tours. (2015). Top China Tours. Retrieved at October 03, 2015, from Wendy Wu Tours:

Tour operators and the importance of the tailor-made product

Tailor MadeSource: (BK, 2015)

The term tailor-made comes from the clothing tailors who made their clothing to the customer’s fittings. A customer came to a tailor with a special request for e.g. a suit or a dress (Oxforddictionaries, 2015). This concept has been adapted to the field of tourism and into most tour operators’ concepts. Some tour operators offer only tailor made products as their main selling point i.e. Discover the world (Wanderlust, 2015). Others integrate the concept as a different element next to the ‘original’ package offering (Wendy Wu Tours, 2015).

The method of the tailor made product can be classified as a collaborative mass customization strategy in customer engagement. The tour operator lets the customer decide where he or she wants to go to and how they see their ideal holiday. Customers have the liberty to adapt every single detail in their trip. From the original decision where to go to what type of car they want in their transfers. The travel consultants maintain an individual connection with the particular customer in order to fulfill their needs and wants as well as they can. Out of these requests a quotation will be made for the customer to check and to give approval or disapproval. Multiple quotations can be given before a final approval has been given. In the case of the tailor made product, an individual pricing policy is in order. Every segment of the tour is specially created and will therefore cost differently per booking and consumer (Peelen & Beltman, 2013).

A quick and personal customer service is of vital importance in the tourism industry. Customers expect a well-experienced travel advisor with knowledge of the chosen destination. Furthermore the ability to empathize with the customer is required. A travel consultant who can empathize with a customer and can provide answers to booking related questions is of utmost importance as        this creates optimized customer satisfaction (Leggett, 2013). Customer satisfaction differs per individual. Nowadays the drive to buy something extraordinary has grown, as people want to do something different (Oliver, 2010).

Besides standard packages, a tour operator can also offer extensions to these standard packages. An example of such a tour operator is Wendy Wu Tours. This tour operator specialized in Asia travels offers standard tours to e.g. China and Vietnam. These standard packages can be extended to different places as Hong Kong or Dubai. This gives the customers the ability to do something different and immerse in a new culture. Furthermore the tailor made product has a specialized team with knowledge about the destination and the ability to anticipate to the needs and wants of the customer, with focus on the profitability of the organization (Wendy Wu Tours, 2015).

In conclusion it can be said that the needs of customers can best be met in the field of tour operating when the customer has a certain degree of freedom in their trip. This can either be in the way they can extend their standardized tour or with the tailor made concept. Standard offered packages still have a good turnover for tour operators, but the importance of self-customization must not be overlooked.


  1. BK. (2015, May 4). Photo list. Opgeroepen op September 26, 2015, van

2. Leggett, K. (2013, February 1). The Future of Customer Service. Opgeroepen op September 26, 2015, van Forrester:

3. Oliver, R. L. (2010). Part 1. Basic Satisfaction Mechanisms. In R. L. Oliver, Satisfaction: A Behavioral Perspective on the Consumer (pp. 27-39). New York, USA: Taylor & Francis Group.

4. Oxforddictionaries. (2015). Tailor-Made. Opgeroepen op September 26, 2015, van Oxforddictionaries:

5. Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Part IV Marketing. In E. Peelen, & R. Beltman, Customer Relationship Management (Vol. 2, pp. 216-225). United Kingdom: Pearson Education Limited.

6. Wanderlust. (2015). Directory a-z. Opgeroepen op September 26, 2015, van Wanderlust:

7. Wendy Wu Tours. (2015). Tailormade-tours. Opgeroepen op September 26, 2015, van Wendywutours:

Tour operators: customer communication & experience


Source: (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

Gunaseelan, S. (2014, May 5). Challenges of a tour operator. Retrieved at September 18, 2015, from Linkedin:

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:

Wendy Wu Tours. (2015, July). Our philosophy. Retrieved at September 18, 2015, from Wendy Wu Tours: