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B School

Special Columns
Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Chief Consulting Editor's Desk
Rajita Chaudhuri
K.K.Srivastava Guest Column
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How to tap the full potential of a tourist destination
Image perception has a significant effect on the destination choice of tourists in today’s highly competitive and global economy.
From 1950 to 2010, international tourism arrivals expanded at an annual rate of 6.2%, growing from 25 million to 940 million, according to the UNWTO. The World Travel & Tourism Council describes the tourist sector as follows: “It is one of the world’s largest industries, or economic sectors, contributing trillions of dollars annually to the global economy, creating jobs and wealth, generating exports, boosting taxes and stimulating capital investment.”

From the above it is clear that the tourism sector is characterised by heterogeneity: a great variation in tourist types whose motives may differ dramatically from health, sports, recreational, cultural, spiritual, professional and business to visiting friends and relatives. On the supply side, it is a system comprised of five interdependent components, but fragmented in remit: attractions, transportation, services, information and promotion. This asks for effective implementation of tourism marketing strategy and is exacerbated because the responsibility for directing and managing tourism development is typically deferred to a series of different organisations that often operate without a clear mandate.

Also, there is a lack of political will to implement strategy, at both local and national levels. Failures at the local level have occurred because there was no clear implementation path to follow. At the national level, the most common factor influencing the government’s ability or desire to assist the implementation of the strategy seems to center on financial assistance, which is often not forthcoming to assist in the development process and conflicting mandates between the ministries.

A key aspect of strategy implementation failure is that authority to implement does not accompany the mandate to implement. And if available, mandates are often unclear or exist in conflict between organisations.

Mobility Trend: Accelerating Structural Change
By 2015 ten Southeast Asian economies will establish a single production base and an integrated community offering high potential, free-trade markets. This regionalism mantra is an environmental influence highly likely to affect consumer behaviour.

The many sided process of re-drawing ASEAN boundaries has major implications pertaining to the former external factors, including social, cultural, business and media variables, increasing the mobility of labour across borders; altering not only the firm’s internal logic, but also the collaboration with a variety of stakeholders in formulating and implementing marketing strategy. Technology is the main enabler of mobility contributing to shrinking relative distance. In turn, influencing individual consumption lifestyles, values, emotions and engagement and, potentially, global interconnectedness. So, what implications may 2015 have, for instance, on tourists’ behaviour patterns? And on India’s tourism marketing strategy?

Economy: Driver of Change
“In 2010, international tourism generated $919 billion in export earnings” (UNWTO, 2011). Air travel, healthcare, telecommunications, IT services, tourism and logistics are set as priority sectors to realise liberalisation in the integrating ten Southeast Asian economies. Same implies that tourism is seen as one of the change drivers.

In this context, the essence of formulating and implementing tourism marketing is to attain broader economic and environmental goals of the society. This involves three dimensions. There is, first, a process at play within the tourism value chain involving other sectors, due to forward and backward linkages. This indicates, second, that the process should result in ‘output’ or products. In turn, these can yield region’s positive economic and less tangible benefits or negative impacts. At the same time, the relationships between culture, tourism and economic development are subject to global pressures.

This reminds us that context is relevant and requires appropriate governance for a virtuous cycle of activities to blossom. Its absence would likely set a ‘vicious circle’ of spatial development of tourism in motion, which if unchecked could lead to a destination’s economic instability.

Image Perception
The entry of tourist destinations situated in low-wage countries has increased the intensity of the competition in favour of tourists. Increasingly, cities are leveraging destination marketing in an effort to strengthen their differential competitive advantage. Many countries use slogans such ‘Incredible India’, ‘Live your myth in Greece’, ‘Estonia, Positively Transforming’, etc to bring their salient attractions to the attention of tourists.

In short, image perception has a significant effect on the destination choice of tourists. The mass media are stunningly successful in telling us what to think about. In particular, today, content analysis is an efficient method of tracking markets, political preferences, and emerging ideas.

The prototype of a system’s approach in content analysis is the extrapolation of trends. For example, what changes in the frequencies and tone of subject matter categories can one track over the years in The New York Times list of destinations around the globe worth visiting? Content analysis can ascertain the directions in which the travel field seems to be heading. For example, The New York Times’ 2012 list shows that only four Southeast Asian destinations made it on the ‘45 Places To Go in 2012’. Interestingly, Myanmar places third on the list. But is its attraction the Golden Pagodas or icon of democracy Aung San Suu Kyi?

Halong Bay in Vietnam, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has a spectacular view of 1,600 islands and ranks 15th on the list. Koh Rong, Cambodia’s second largest island located in the Gulf of Thailand, places 23rd. Its features: not only a 43 kilometres long stretch of beach, but also a rich marine ecology. Malacca, Malaysia’s oldest city, is also a UNESCO World Heritage site which features unusual architecture and cuisine, reflecting a blend of Portugese, Dutch and British influences dating back to colonial roots.

The slogan ‘Incredible India’ is justified by the sub-continent’s numerous cultural attractions. How can it be that Kerala features as 21st and only Indian entry on the list?

Deepanshu Taumar           
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