The Tourism Product

It is essential that all professionals who are engaged in the tourism and travel industry remember always that the product which they are marketing is ‘intangible’. By this term we mean that it is non-material and cannot be seen, felt, tasted, heard or smelt. For those reasons, a tourism product cannot be inspected, sampled or tested in advance by prospective purchasers as can so many “tangible” products: for example, refrigerators, clothing, foodstuffs, radios, perfumes.

A tourism product is essentially a “SERVICE”, which is itself made up of a variety of different services. And, being intangible, it cannot be measured, tested or verified in advance of the purchase of it by a customer or client; remember that only the RESULTS of the service provided can be “experienced”; that is, seen and/or felt.

Some components of a tourism product are certainly “physical” and tangible - such as the bed and other items of furniture in an accommodation unit, meals, beverages, vehicles, etc. But in reality they are also really services, and they only add to - or detract from, if they are inferior - the feelings of pleasure, enjoyment, comfort, relaxation, etc, which are what the client pays for!

Because of the huge diversity of travelers and their motives for travelling, there is no one “standard” tourism product; and although many such products incorporate similar features, there are usually many different products between which clients can choose, to suit their requirements, expectations and financial circumstances. And, of course, different categories of travelers (tourists, business travelers and excursionists) are interested in and will pay for quite different tourism products.

Holiday/Vacation Products

A holiday/vacation, because of its intangible nature, is often likened to a ‘dream’. Its prime objective is to turn into reality for a relatively short time the holidaymaker’s dream or fantasy - and the planning and anticipation of the holiday/vacation might be as exciting and enjoyable as is the reality in due course. And, of course, the memory of the holiday/vacation, and the recalling of it from photographs, videos, DVDs, etc, might also provide considerable enjoyment. A holiday/vacation might be the eagerly awaited “high point” in what might otherwise be an unexciting, drab, mundane and toilsome life.

Excursion Products

In some cases a short excursion trip might also realize a “dream” for some or all participants; for example, a day trip to the seaside or to some other “exciting” location for otherwise deprived children, or for the elderly or senior citizens; again, anticipation and later the memory of the trip might provide added pleasure. In other cases an excursion might be in the nature of a “break”, or might be a shopping expedition, or might be a business trip or part of one.

Business Travel Products

Although many people enjoy travelling for business - and the opportunity to travel might be welcomed - to some other people business travel is looked upon as being a “chore”, a possibly unwelcome or inconvenient one - but one which has to be performed. Frequently the business person has little choice in the matter of destination(s), in the timing(s) of a trip or in the length(s) of stay, and quite often business trips have to be arranged at short notice. The major priorities for such a business person will be convenient transport at the right times - without unnecessary delays or time wasting, for example, between arriving on one flight or train or coach, and catching another - and also suitable accommodation at the destination(s).

The “business travel product” is therefore very different from the tourism product, although some of its components will inevitably be similar, such as transport and accommodation. The key difference is generally choice. Whereas, as we have already stated, a business traveller might have little choice as to destination(s), timing(s) or length(s) of stay, the holiday/vacation or leisure tourist frequently does have a choice - VFR travel being a possible exception in some circumstances. That very element of choice means that the skilful marketing of tourism products, both at the tour operator level and at the retail level - at travel agencies, on websites, etc - is required. It is essential that professionals who provide the tourism product try to ensure, as far as is possible, that the “reality” fulfils - matches up to - the dream. That is no easy task, because certain features of services set them apart from tangible products (which are often called “goods”).


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