Vacation for modern man corresponds to many concepts, particularly peace, leisure, fun, adventure, discovery and socialization. Going on a holiday bestows upon us a temporary ‘new world’ where we enter while going on with our stagnant lives, and relax, refresh ourselves, and return from all healed. For that reason, for the soul, vacation is an essential need like food and water which helps us survive the mandatory routines, which ensures that we go on from where we have left and which transforms us.
These breaks we take in order to pause our routine lives and responsibilities, putting our needs in the center, seem to be a mere activity practiced only once or twice a year, despite all the positive meaning and emotions that are attributed to them. In parallel to the ever-changing life, our personal understanding of vacation, our expectations and more importantly the world in which we organize the vacation change as well. We thrive to keep up with the new trends in this activity we seldom plan.
As the place and meaning of vacation in our lives are changing, our understanding of it changes, too. The masses, who used to travel with the classic vacation in mind now also go on a trip for purposes of education, health, exploration, religion and philosophy. The effort to conform to trends adds curiosity, excitement and even a little uneasiness to the phenomenon of vacation at the center of which are peace, rest and fun. The objectives of holidaymakers are changing rapidly, hence so are the expectations from hotels, travel agencies, and tour operators.
All these factors not only positively contribute to the growth in the tourism sector, but also affect its dynamics. Holidaymakers now want to be actively involved in the planning phase of the vacation in which they invest their money and dreams. The boom in the online world directly affects the phases of vacation organization such as finding a middleman, deciding on a destination, and purchasing a holiday package. With the changing dynamics, while everyone actively involved in the tourism sector are finding themselves in a brand new system, the opportunities and risks that are brought along with the trends push everyone in the sector to create smarter strategies.
What Kind of an Evolution is Tourism Going Through?
One of the challenges in the changing sector that tourism professionals face, is without a doubt how the sector evolves into e-tourism. The ease the Internet provides users with in accessing information, has primarily changed the holidaymaker behavior. Anyone who is about to go on a trip, has now more resources other than travel agencies and tour operators to take expert opinions. Thanks to the Internet users who voluntarily share their travel experiences on travel publishing websites, social media channels, forums and blogs, travel literacy has increased and it has gotten easier for holidaymakers to decide on destinations by gathering information from a variety of resources.
Following online research, the holidaymaker not only decides on the destination but handles own reservations as well. With the ease of usage of travel search engines and detailed comparisons rendered by online booking websites, booking flights and deciding on accommodation are now under the holidaymakers’ control. Even the tour guides took a knock from online travel guides. E-tourism has now come to such a point where there are a number of mobile travel apps that enable holidaymakers to manage their travel program as intricately as does any package holiday program.
Then How Does the Tourism Consumer Evolve?
The consumer is the primary factor that changes the sector.
Generations X and Y, who are after genuine experience, are the masses that need to be focused on. These generations want to discover the unique beauty in the world that becomes more and more indifferentiable.
They love active but not passive vacations. Even if it is a recreational one…
These generations at the same time, if travelling to an underdeveloped region, would like their journey to contribute to the development of that region. They pick where to go for shopping accordingly and look for excursions and volunteer activities.
For that reason it is now a must to introduce more flexible and mixed services.
Travel agencies and tour operators must improve their brand perception by effectively merging their online and offline services used for a variety of purposes. That being said, they should gain expertise in distinctive products and concepts for the holidaymakers that travel for different motivations like adventure, leisure or sports.
They should adapt to the versatility of holidaymakers by coming up with mixed content in tourism areas that are on the rise. For instance, including volunteer activities in the programs for youngsters or organizing mixed holiday content with eco-tourism, spa and yoga tourism…
MAIN TRENDS THAT AFFECT TOURISM MARKETING
1. The Rise of the Sharing Economy: Sharing economy is an ecosystem that yields multiple usage instead of single usage by collective use or sharing of a product or service. This trend that got accelerated especially by the millennium generation not only allows the birth of many brands like Zipcar and Airbnb but also affects the conventional brands. There are sharing economy platforms in many areas in the tourism sector from transfer and accommodation to wining and dining. The holidaymakers going on vacation now share travel expenses through platforms like BlaBlaCar and HomeAway and believe they will have memorable experiences through platforms like EatWith and Sidetour. Facing the opportunities and threats brought about by this trend, brands started to join in competition by going into partnerships. For example Marriott Hotel, by renting its conference halls and workspaces through LiquidSpace, both increases its traffic and attracts customers.
2. Journey as an Intellectual Currency: Vacations are getting more and more international and democratic. That is the reason why journeys are perceived to be a social status indicator. Destination, itinerary, time spent there, original places discovered and personal experiences get more and more ‘unitized’. Going on journeys is becoming an intellectual currency. The brands should evaluate this new trend that brings Bitcoin to mind and look for ways to bring in gamification and unitization to travelling.
3. Going on Solo Vacations: Going on solo vacations is preferred in the way it allows one to escape routines and wander around without making plans and to spend a few days feeling free of responsibilities. It is becoming more popular as the level of trust in international settings and foreign cultures increases. Especially the ’68 generation who has now come of retirement age and women go for this trend. The ones who travel without a partner generally choose exotic vacation destinations and adventure routes. In order to keep up with this trend, brands should match their communication message and media based on segments. A&K pioneered in offering exclusive tours on a website designed for solo travelers. On the other hand, Crystal Cruises and Silversea are targeting masses that travel alone by revising their rates.
4. Travelling to Developing Countries: With reference to the trend of vacations being social status indicators, holidaymakers who want to avoid mass tourism have set their eyes beyond Europe. While Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam in Southeast Asia and Chile and Peru in South America are being favored, India has started to gain popularity in the Turkish market. And with the development of social responsibility consciousness, especially youngsters are departing for underdeveloped areas like African countries. Volunteering and social responsibility have led to a form of tourism and this stir reflects in the ghettos of some Turkish metropolises. Lots of people who want to see life in the ghettos and have a taste of specialties join daily excursions, art activities, and workshops.
5. Players that Change the Game: The trust in social media and the Internet also increased the credibility of websites on which consumers give ratings based on personal interest and experience and share their opinions. Online review websites such as TripAdvisor and Cruise Critic are becoming the primary platforms for holidaymakers’ research prior to vacation planning. These are mainly preferred for the guidance and comparison they provide during selection phase, which confirms that they are becoming prominent in choice architecture. Travel agencies and hotels must observe the impact of online review websites on consumer behavior and increase their visibility and responsiveness on different resources. Most importantly, they should offer ease of choice by playing the expertise card against information pollution when necessary.