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Tourism can be traced back to centuries but because the elements of the product and conditions of the market place have changed so enormously in the last few decades there has been a corresponding requirement for a change in the business methods. This has led to the use of tourism marketing. Tourism industry over the last few years has had an accelerated growth.
Destinations come in all shapes and sizes and can be found in variety of geographical settings such as in urban, rural and coastal environment. Destinations can be a collection of countries or a district state, county or coastline. They can often be viewed in both a supply or demand context. Destinations are subject to artificial divides that ignore the needs of the consumer and the expectations of the tourist.The supply sided definition of destination is "a well-defined geographical area which is understood by its visitor as a unique entity with a political and legislative framework for tourism marketing and planning". (Buhalis, 2000) whereas the demand sided definition is 'a place towards which people travel and where they choose to stay for a while in order to experience certain features or characteristics'. (Buhalis, 2000)
This paper presents a theoretical framework of disaster management in a destination with the marketing strategies in tourism. The first part of the essay would discuss on general views on destinations, marketing strategies and disasters. The second part concentrates on marketing strategies of Kerala as a destination and how marketing strategies can be used to mitigate negative impacts of disasters in a destination.
All destinations have similar characteristics. The success of a tourist destination depends on the quality of the basic essentials they offer to tourists namely attractions, amenities and accessibility (Holloway and Taylor 2006).Each and every organization has to operate within a market environment. This environment is made up of different levels of influence that will affect the opportunities and the marketing decisions that need to be made. The conditions affecting competition and rivalry in company markets, the values of stakeholder groups, the political, social, economic, social and technological changes of the wider environment.
For a destination to be successful and stay ahead in the industry, the officials and stakeholders must develop and implement new strategies. As per Johnsons and Scholes (1993) strategy is the direction and scope of an organization over the long term; ideally which matches its resources to its changing environment and in different markets, customers or clients so as to meet the stakeholder's expectations.
Different travel companies have similar marketing strategies for a destination. Any company in-order to form a marketing strategy has to first understand the particular destinations strengths, weakness, opportunities available and threats. When talking about managing and marketing a tourist destination it is very important to keep in mind the 15 C's framework namely; Complexity, Control, Change, Crisis, Communication, Complacency, Customers, Culture, Competition, Commodification, Creativity, Channels, Cyberspace, Consolidation, Collaboration (Fyall et all).
To make a successful marketing strategy one has to understand the 4 P's of marketing mix namely product, price, promotion and place. Kotler and Armstrong (2005) indicate that marketing mix is one of the key concepts in modern marketing theory. They defined marketing mix as 'the step of controllable, tactical marketing tools that the firm blends to produce the response it wants in the target market.' Firstly we would have a look at the 4 P's of marketing mix.
The effectiveness of planning the marketing mix depends as much on the ability to select the right target market as on the skill in devising a product offer. It is really difficult to talk about a product (destination) as one complete entity hence to understand a product in a better way McCarthy (1978) divided it into four different levels namely the core product, the facilitating product, supporting product and the augmented product. Along with it comes, services offered and the quality of the product which differs according to the product and customer/guests expectation. It is very important for an organisation to decide on the range of products to be offered to a particular target market. Brand name also plays a major role in the marketing of a product, a customer/guest travelling to a place may differ in terms of preference, necessities. Apart from the customers point of view for a destination for which customers are willing to pay high amounts it is very important to maintain the standards of services and fulfil customer's basic necessities.
People often purchase a familiar brand as they are comfortable with familiar things. There are assumptions made by customers that a familiar brand would be reliable and of reasonable quality. An unknown brand often has limited chances. (Aaker, 1991: 19)
The pricing policy selected for a product (destination) is often directly related to the performance of its future demand. Pricing decisions is often considered the hardest part of the marketing mix strategy.
It is a very important activity that tourists organisations or tourists board perform in order to influence potential customers. It is also important to influence trade contacts such as retail agents, suppliers and opinion formers such as journalists and travel critics. Advertising plays a major role in terms of promotion as it helps is changing attitudes and builds an image in the customers mind. Sales promotion is another method which adds value to the product. Another method of promotion is personal selling where in a direct contact with the customer is established. However there is a growing use of sponsorship and direct marketing which many organisations are using.
Tourism is an intangible product hence no transfer of ownership takes place only services are rented or consumed. A distribution system is the mix of channels used to gain access, or means by which a tourism service is made available to the potential consumers of the product. There has been a constant growth in the central reservation system and the global distribution system which has shrunk the world and has got the customer closer to the product.
However later on Booms and Bitner (1981) 'argued that the marketing mix of four P's is not comprehensive enough for the tourism and hospitality industry', so they addedthree more clauses which are people, physical evidence and process.
Tourism as an industry is not only affected by disasters but also is a cause for disasters which in turn affect the tourists flow.
Impacts of Tourism
Economic Impact of Tourism
Tourism has been traditionally viewed as a great force in promoting understanding among nations and within the national boundaries facilitating emotional integration. However, its economic importance is less commonly understood. It is only in the recent years, in particular the latter half of the 20th century that tourism has been accepted as an important catalyst for economic development. It is in terms of its contribution to employment generation, foreign exchange earnings, income generation and output growth that tourism has significant impact on the economy. [ Indira Gandhi National Open University] (IGNOU 2002)
Environmental Impact of Tourism
Different kinds of tourism activities affect the natural and built environment. There is a complex interaction between tourism and the environment. Many studies have shown that tourism has an immense impact on the physical environment, and that little has been done to remedy or control the assault on the ecology. This is especially distressing in view of the fact that a major part of tourism depends on nature: mountains, beaches, deserts, forests, wildlife, water bodies and the like. [ Indira Gandhi National Open University] (IGNOU 2002)
Socio-cultural Impact of Tourism
Among the most debated issues pertaining to tourism are those related to the effects that tourists and the industry have on societies and cultures of local communities. A general argument is that tourism contributes to international understanding and harmony. On the contrary, it has severely affected indigenous customs and ways of life in certain cases. Tourists are seldom well prepared for an international encounter which is vastly different from their own. Their knowledge, in most cases, is cursory, that is glamorised images from glossy travel brochures, movies and similar material. [ Indira Gandhi National Open University] (IGNOU 2002)
Disaster is a calamitous event which often leads to great damages which can be physical (affecting the nature and life) or can affect the business environment. (Oxford dictionary). Disasters are of two types namely Natural and Man-made disasters.
Tourism has frequently been subjected to natural disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes for example Hurricane Katrina on the north central Gulf Coast of the USA in 2005, the tsunami in 2004 off the coast of Indonesia and earthquakes in Taiwan in 1999 and San Francisco in 1989. The immediate effect leads to destruction of the tourist infrastructure and fall in customer demands. In addition to direct effect, destinations may suffer long term damage by perceptions in travel-risk. The earth's climate has drastically changed in recent times and is predicted to change in the future. Directly and indirectly tourism is influencing the climate by about 80% (Gossling et al., 2005).
Tourism is not only susceptible to natural disasters it is also affected by man-made disasters, such as outbreak of war, political unrest, terrorism for example political unrest in Libya, Terrorism attacks in Mumbai, India in 2007. Tourists generally perceive acts of terrorism to be higher risk than natural disasters when travelling. The perception of travel related risks have has changed during recent times as a result of change in the magnitude and frequency of the attacks.
Kerala - a major tourist destination in India
Kerala, Gods own country is one of the favourite destinations for tourists in the world. It is situated on the south-western part of India with a coastline of 580km. It is famous for eco-tourism initiatives and growing at a rate of 13.31%. In the year 2008, 23.57% of total tourists were from United Kingdom, France and Germany. USA accounted for 8.72% of total tourists visiting Kerala in the year 2008.
Kerala became "50 must see places in the lifetime to visit" (National Geographic Travel, 2004) and also awarded in "super brand award" for 101 strongest brands in India by super brands India in the Year 2007. Tourism has emerged as the major revenue generating business to government of Kerala which has contributed almost 8% of the total employment directly and indirectly. The most important turning point in the state of Kerala was the private-public partnership to promote tourism in Kerala.
Marketing of Kerala as a destination
Backwater is the major tourist attraction of Kerala, however enjoying beaches with Ayurvedha is also one of the major attractions for tourists today. The government of Kerala is now trying to brand the medical tourism initiative which is turning out to be a great success as loads of people from many different countries are travelling to Kerala for better health care. There is also an emphasis on traditional art forms like Kathakali, Theyyam, etc which are pulling interests of travellers interested in arts. Kerala tourism is focussed more towards mass media advertisements and PR activities which help in attracting many tourists. Kerala also in terms of pricing is considered in a few of the cheap places for tourists in India. Hence it is very clear that the 4 P's of marketing mix Place, Product, Price, Promotions.
Kerala as a destination is influenced by natural and man-made disasters both.
It has been observed that over the past three decades the predominant style of tourism in the region has been based almost exclusively on the attraction of the climate and of beaches. International visitors simply like visiting the beach and visit the back waters, the government has had an economic commitment to make to satisfying international demand by providing a coastal tourism product (UNECLAC, 2003). However the coastal range is prone to direct and immediate risk as when we look back from the year 2000 there has been a lot of natural disasters such as Hurricanes, storms, Tsunami, Floods, etc.
Similarly when we look at the man-made disasters the Indian Sub continent is very prone to it from the Kargil war in 1999 to different terrorism attacks in Parliament building (New delhi) in 2001 and the Taj Hotel bombing (Mumbai) in 2008 or be it the global recession. All these affect the tourist flow in a particular destination.
Strengths and Weakness
There are a few weakness and many strengths of the above mentioned marketing strategy done by the government of Kerala. Firstly we would discuss weaknesses of the strategy followed by the strengths.
There is an inadequate infrastructure to match the expectations of the tourist who travel to Kerala which means limited number of hotels, restaurants and limited space. The government has tough airline policies such as keeping in mind Kerala does not have an international airport as one of the major generator of tourist revenue. There is no proper waste management system which can become cause for many natural disasters. There is a shortage of funds available for growth of tourism which can often lead to exploitation of tourists and can lead to many other man-made disasters which is very common in Goa now-a-days.
One good thing about the government of Kerala is that they are smooth operators of law and order which helps in confronting any man-made disaster to happen. The people of Kerala are involved by the government in the tourism industry which leads to broader thinking and leads to development of knowledge of disaster management in the people. The quality of life also improves of the local people, it is also noted that Kerala is the only society in the world which has 100% literacy rate. The current marketing strategy promotes Kerala as a destination and has made such an image even if there is a miss happening in the country, tourists would still flow in considering Kerala's law and order being so rigid. In case of any natural disaster it is very obvious that it is a destination that can recover in one single day's time. Even during the Tsunami, Kerala recovered itself very easily whereas other destinations adjoining Kerala took time to recover from the shock.
Kerala tourism is one of the "super brand" in the world of tourism. But the government is currently focussing on mass media tools although it is being properly put together but the government should focus more on direct marketing as the major revenue generator is the domestic market. Direct marketing can be considered to be more effective for brand building and very cost efficient as compared to mass media promotions. Word of mouth is being considered one of the most important tool of marketing now-a-days. Apart from these strategies the government also can conduct events based campaigns keeping in mind the various festivals in the state itself like Pongal, famous boat race. Furthermore it can also be recommended that encouraging local people to participate in decision-making process, training the guides and the local people, appreciate people of different profession and allocate special areas for the peaceful co-existence, maintaining the control on the prices of goods and quality of services. The government should take extra steps and encourage private investors to invest and promote tourism in a destination which would in turn lead to improvements in the infrastructure of the destination which is one of the most important thing for a destination in order to attract more tourists.