Marketing Research in Travel and Tourism Objective: Understanding the role of marketing research and its value in travel and tourism. Marketing Research Marketing research includes all forms of research-based information used in making marketing decisions, including consumer research, database analysis, and marketing information systems (MIS). To facilitate marketing decision making, marketing research gathers, processes, analyses, stores and communicates information. Due to technological developments, today, information gathering is handled with the help of advent computer technology, faster data processing, and sophisticated database software. Today, most of the information is gathered via the Internet, mobile phones, telephones and other traditional methods including questionnaires and interviews. In order to provide solutions to management problems, marketing research helps to reduce the amount of uncertainty and risk. Marketing research helps to make informed decisions. However, in the travel and tourism industry, the use of marketing research is still less effective when compared to the research carried out in other major industries. This is because of the managers in travel and tourism who assume that less research is required, since they are face to face with their customers most of the time. This may be true for small operations. Main Categories of Marketing Research and Their Use Market analysis and forecasting; used in/for marketing planning to measure and project market volumes, shares and revenue by relevant categories of market segments and product type. Customer research; used in/for segmentation, branding and positioning to measure customer profiles, awareness, attitudes, and purchasing behavior (quantitative) To assess consumer needs, perceptions and aspirations (qualitative). Product and price studies; used in/for product formulation, presentation, pricing and market assessment to measure and consumer testing of amended and new product formulation, and price sensitivity studies. Promotions and sales research; used in/for efficiency of communications to measure consumer reaction to alternative advertising concepts and media usage, response to forms of sales promotion, sales-force effectiveness and website responses. Distribution research; used in/for efficiency of distribution network/channels to measure distributor awareness of products, stocking and display of brochures and effectiveness of merchandising. Includes retail audits and occupancy studies, analysis of website usage and of call centers. Evaluation and performance monitoring studies; used in/for overall control of marketing results and product quality control to measure customer satisfaction overall and by product elements. Includes marketing tests and experiments and use of mystery shoppers. Types of Marketing Research Used in Travel and Tourism Most common types of marketing research used in travel and tourism; Continuous and ad hoc Quantitative and qualitative Primary and secondary Omnibus and syndicated Occupancy studies Continuous and ad hoc Key trend data should be measured on a regular; daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Examples include data covering enquiries, sales, booking types and patterns, market shares, customer satisfaction, seat or hotel bed occupancy. Very important for customer satisfaction and developing the marketing mix. There may also be specific marketing problems requiring research. These require specific or ad hoc investigation e.g. Is the market potential good enough to make a new hotel investment, what size and what service level would be profitable? Modern continuous research include Internet search of websites and advertising links. Websites are monitored for traffic, number of clicks and page uses generated. Website information can be adjusted based on the words used while Googling by potential customers. Quantitative and Qualitative With the help of quantitative research, numerical estimates can be made based on the structured questions asked to random samples of existing or potential customers. Every respondent is asked the same questions, therefore, variations to suit individual circumstances are not possible. With the help of such research, a coach operator can find out on average how much money customers spend, how many nights they stay, etc. To measure consumer motivations and attitudes, qualitative research is used. Most have exploratory or open-ended questions with small samples of carefully targeted individuals (focus group). With the help of such research, a company can understand how customers feel about Brand A compared with Brand B, what attitudes and values are perceived as adhering to Brand A and not Brand B, etc. Such research is helpful to understand and communicate positioning and branding values. Primary and Secondary Primary data collection requires the gathering of data not available from any other (secondary) source. Secondary data are information originally collected before for a purpose but available for a company to use. Includes all published sources such as Internet usage data, government statistics, trade association surveys and commercial publishers’ market surveys. Secondary data collection is always cheaper and quicker. Data collection always starts with secondary data collection before primary research. When the secondary data collection is efficiently done, less expensive primary data collection takes place. Omnibus and Syndicated Large market research companies collect their own data from survey samples and sell them to a range of customers. Such research is known as omnibus surveys. They are potentially open to all users. Such surveys are cost effective for companies which looks for answers to four or five key questions, compared to collecting the data themselves. Besides getting answers to specific questions, such data provide information on the profile characteristics by age, postcode, readership of media, etc. In the UK, the United Kingdom Tourism Survey is a well-known survey of UK tourism. Such research is carried out by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Turkey. Data covers choice of accommodation, transport mode, areas and destinations visited, purpose of trip, etc. Omnibus surveys may also be carried out for specific market segments such as backpackers, business travelers, etc. Syndicated surveys may also provide similar information, however they are commissioned by a group of clients on a cost-sharing basis. For instance hotels in Kemer receive details for their own operations by sharing costs. They can also get relevant comparisons with competitors. Both omnibus and syndicated research provide cost-effectiveness especially for small firms who are also provided technical assistance. Occupancy Studies Since it is very valuable to understand key trends in the industry, a small but representative sample of businesses in tourism such as hotels are asked to maintain their daily records on arrivals and departures and rates paid. These data can then be analyzed on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis. They can be communicated to the sector as a whole. Marketing Research Tool Kit Desk research (secondary sources) Sales/bookings/reservation records; daily, weekly, etc by type of customer, type of product etc. Visitor information record, e.g. guest registration cards, booking form data, call centre or website data Government publications/trade association data/national tourist office data/abstracts and libraries Commercial analyses available on subscription or purchase of reports Previous research studies conducted; internal data bank Press cuttings of competitor activities, market environment change. Qualitative or exploratory research Organized marketing intelligence, such as staff feedback, sales-force reports, attendance at exhibitions and trade shows Focus group discussions and individual interviews with targeted customers/non-users, especially to identify the perceptions and attitudes of key users and non-user groups Observational studies of visitor behavior, using cameras, electronic beams or trained observers Marketing experiments with monitored results Quantitative research (syndicated) Omnibus questions to targeted respondents Syndicated surveys, including audits Quantitative research (ad hoc and continuous) Studies of travel and tourism behavior and usage/activity patterns Attitude, image, perception and awareness studies Advertising and other media response studies Customer satisfaction, value for money and product monitoring studies Distribution studies amongst the range of distribution channels being used or investigated for future use Customer Access: A Priceless Asset Due to the inseparable nature of travel and tourism operations; service producers and customers being on the premises, there is a major opportunity to organize internal research Feedback from customer contact staff and customers themselves provide valuable stream of marketing decision information in travel and tourism organizations. Researching Customer Satisfaction and Value for Money Large tour operators typically conduct selfcompletion customer satisfaction surveys to all travelers returning from holidays generally on flight back home. Such data is helpful in analyzing satisfaction and value for money. Since those surveys ask “profile information”, data can be analyzed by age of respondent, region of origin, postal codes, cost of package, etc. “Mystery shoppers” is an alternative research technique to collect data on the quality of service delivery. It is widely used in accommodation and restaurant sectors of tourism. Sources Kotler, P.; Bowen, J. and Makens, J. (1999). Marketing for Hospitality and Tourism (2nd ed.). Prentice Hall. NJ. Kotler, P. and Armstrong, G. (2006) Principles of Marketing (11th ed.). Prentice Hall. NJ. Middleton, V.T.C.; Fyall, A.; Morgan, M. and Ranchhod, A. (2009) Marketing in Travel and Tourism (4th ed). Elsevier. Oxford.