Strategic Analysis of the Contemporary Tour Operation Industry: Insights From Emerging Economic Jurisdictions

Strategic Analysis of the Contemporary Tour Operation Industry: Insights From Emerging Economic Jurisdictions

Zibanai Zhou (Midlands State University, Zimbabwe)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8434-6.ch010


Tour operators and travel agencies are the fulcrum of the tour operation industry given their eminent role in the tour operation sector value chain. This chapter addresses an underrepresentation in the current tour operation discourse in the period post WW2. To put the matter into context, at the global stage, fundamental changes have occurred since the end of WW2, notably political cum socio-economic and demographic shifts, advances in education, and increases in per capita income due to dual family income among a raft of other variables. These have arguably boosted demand for packaged tour holiday. However, in spite of the highly fluid environment, there is little academic research on emerging economic jurisdictions in the TO and TAs sub-sectors' strategic intent in light of such profound developments. Very few researches have attempted to interrogate these pertinent issues in the context of emerging markets` view point. This chapter seeks to bridge this gap by analyzing how these fundamentals have informed and redefined the contours of the TO and TAs landscape. The chapter lays claim on and envisages to make theoretical contribution by advancing the frontiers of knowledge in the following specific domains of multi-destination theory, TO and TAs product development, population demographics, TO and TAs work ethic, and TO and TAs commitment to environment protection philosophy which have been understudied in the contemporary travel and tourism literature discourse.
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Many popular destinations that have had an influx of tourists have successfully succeeded in developing an image that is recognised internationally courtesy of the indefatigable efforts of travel intermediaries (Alen, et al, 2012). Tour operators and travel agency enterprises have been more pronounced in well established and mature Western tourism markets in the Global North, and since the great leap forward necessitated by the advent of jet engine in the 1950s, tour operators (TOs) and travel agencies (TAs) have not taken advantage nor leveraged on the ubiquitous adventure travel and tourism opportunities available in the so-called emerging tourism markets. The international traveller`s insatiable appetite for authentic, and unadulterated adventure tourism experiences in the developing world is a reality that should be celebrated upon by TO and TAs. To date emerging market economies have embraced tourism as an alternative economic development strategy against the back drop of perennial crop failures, and tumbling of mineral prices at the world market (Greenwood, 2007; Leiper, 1989). What is missing in the current tourism discourse is research that speaks directly to what the writer deems the 21st travel and tourism imperatives in the mould of multi-destination paradigms, population demographics, corporate social responsibility (CRS), harnessing ICTs, and commitment to the ethos of environmentalism in the context of emerging economic jurisdictions. For a very long time, emerging economic jurisdictions have been burdened by negative perceptions in traditional source markets and have largely remained on the periphery of tourist travel itineraries (Fleischer and Pizam, 2002). Tourist destinations in developing countries have been conspicuously missing from the global adventure tourist map, and this anomaly needs redress. The ever increasing and insatiable desire to see the unseen, and to explore the unknown, are strong indicators pointing to a bright tour operation sector in the foreseeable future. There is convergence that emerging tourist destinations have all the necessary natural and artificial tourism resources, which can be leveraged upon by TO and TAs. TO and TAs as the main promoters should be at the forefront marketing and launching emerging market destinations on the catalogue of established destinations.

This chapter seeks to contribute towards improving the global image of emerging economic jurisdictions, with special emphasis on authenticity and unspoilt nature as the unique selling points. The discourse is emboldened by Bradley (2009)`s observation that despite the advent of ICTs and Internet, most people who go on vacation still like to book trips through TAs essentially as a way of taking the stress out of the planning process. Bradley (2009) and Bantwal, (2009) further acknowledged that TAs help travellers to save money on flight, accommodation, and cruises. Furthermore, the chapter would argue that TO and TAs are technocrats in the travel and tourism sphere who are deeply ingrained with the bolts and nuts of the industry hence their importance in the foreseeable future can only be ignored at one`s own peril. In support, Raza (2010) declared that TAs are not yet obsolete. This chapter would argue that despite suggestions from recent tourism researches insinuating that TO and TAs are becoming less popular in most European countries as a result of the tremendous internet possibilities this discourse would submit that this narrative does not hold true in the emerging economic jurisdictions where Internet penetration is still very low, hence their importance is still very much appreciated. This position is buoyed by empirical research whose findings have consistently affirmed that universally people place their trust in traditional TAs more than they do in booking over the Internet, more so in that tourists do not prefer to use the Internet booking when travelling abroad and to distant destinations. The trust and security that tourists have when booking face to face with an agent and the feeling that someone is responsible for their trip or package tour realisation informs the writer`s argument.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs): This refers to a combination of information technology that emphasizes the role of unified communications and integration of telecommunications, computer terminals, software, storage and audio-visual systems that enable users to access, store, transmit and manipulate information.

Tour Operation Industry: This is an economic sector concerned with provision of vacation products to the general public. The industry focuses on tourist source regions, transit regions, and destination regions. The sector is dominated by tour operators, travel agencies, national tourism organizations, and other transnational tourism-related organizations.

Global Distribution Systems (GDS): This is an acronym of global distribution system that entails a large computer network, cum a reservation toll that passes hotel inventory and rates to travel agents and allows them to make bookings in real time. The three traditional GDS are Amadeus, Galileo, and Worldspan.

Word of Mouth (WOM): This is free advertising which is triggered by customers` experiences. When a vacationer has a wonderful tour experience because their expectations were exceeded and later on tell tweets about it.

Emerging Economic Jurisdictions: Also known as simply emerging markets. These are largely developing countries whose economies are at the intermediate stage of development. They are investing more in productive capacity, they are therefore rapidly industrializing through adoption of free market or mixed economy as a way of creating a better quality of life.

Travel Agency (TA): A retailer in the distribution channel of tourism products who provides tourism and travel related information to customers, selling tourism products to customers on behalf of TOs in return for a commission.

Global South: A term referring to less developed countries characterized by low level of economic development, large inequalities in living standards and low life expectancy. Loosely entails poor southern countries that are frantically seeking to transform their economies.

Global North: Refers to countries with the highest level of development, highest level of industrialization and mature democracies. These nations are highly industrialized, have political and economic stability and have high levels of human health.

Tour Operator (TO): A key player in the distribution channel of tourism products, whose principal duty is to synthesize tourism and travel elements like accommodation, transport, food, drink, and excursions to create a package holiday for a single price.

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