Celestial Travel Agency: Marketing Strategy of Philippine Tourism in the United Kingdom
INTRODUCTION The hospitality and tourism industry is one of the most flourishing industries in the world; thus, almost every country relies on the industry. The income that a country gains from the industry is almost half of its gross national product. However, for developed countries, such as the United Kingdom, promoting hospitality and tourism is not a problem since they are already known and well-established worldwide. On the other hand, for developing countries where they mostly rely on the industry for income, such as the Philippines, upholding their hospitality and tourism sector will be hard.
A lot of factors have to be considered, for instance, safety and security of the tourists, the cost of the tour, and the significance of the place as tourism nowadays relies on popularity—the more popular the place is, the more tourists it will attract. Thus, the demand for effective marketing strategies and public relations is a necessity. There are Filipino travel agencies in the UK, yet the number of British people who visit the Philippines is still low compared to the other countries in Europe, such as Germany and Netherlands.
The main reason for this is the effectiveness of the marketing strategies used by these agencies. It is also noted that most of these travel agencies focus on the Filipinos in the UK as their target market. This research aims to develop marketing strategies for a hospitality and tourism organization by critically evaluating marketing strategies in the hospitality and tourism sector, assessing the role of network and customer relationship marketing strategies for hospitality and tourism organizations, and recommending marketing and customer loyalty strategies for a hospitality or tourism organization.
Also, it aspires to critically evaluate marketing communication strategies for hospitality and tourism organizations through brand strategies, e-marketing, viral marketing, and guerilla marketing. The author chooses Celestial Travel Agency, a Filipino travel agency based in Victoria, London. The agency offers travel and tour packages to the United Kingdom and some parts of Europe and the Philippines. Majority of its clients are the Filipinos who are in the United Kingdom.
The researcher will investigate the marketing strategies the organization is utilizing, and afterwards, the author will develop a marketing strategy that can be viable for the organization in order to increase market share. METHODOLOGY OF RESEARCH This study is a qualitative research that attempts to discover the best marketing strategies utilized by organizations in the hospitality and tourism industry that will be applicable to the subject of research. It intends to accrue existing data governing the principles of marketing strategies. Thus, secondary research will be exhausted during the course of research.
ESSENCE OF MARKETING Marketing (Armstrong, et. al) is “managing profitable customer relationships. ” It has two main goals which are to attract potential customers by guaranteeing them superior quality of service and products and keeping the current customers and making them loyal to the organization by giving them satisfaction. The sole purpose of marketing is to deal with customers; however, it is not the simplest function in the business world as it involves a lot of activities from product development, production, and distribution to branding, selling, and advertising.
Hospitality and tourism organization has to understand that nowadays, marketing is not just about simply telling and selling of goods, but it is about satisfying customer needs as well. The marketing department of an organization is the busiest and in fact carries the heaviest load of promoting the products. Whatever the profit that the organization makes is reflected on the activities done by the marketing department. Figure 1. A simple model of the marketing process. When doing marketing, one must have to consider that most consumers are: ? More concern to the prices of a product or a service Gives less interests to marketing messages ?From the average segment of the society Given this situation, a marketing manager has to bear in mind the substantial four P’s of marketing strategy: ? Product – making the appropriate product or a service for chosen target market. Research and analysis has to be done to determine the wants and the needs of the market and that the product to be created should fulfill these specifications. ?Place – the place to market the product has to be properly regarded especially during the process of transporting and distributing the goods and services. Promotion – this division relates to public relations, advertising, and other activities that are conducted to influence the behavior of the consumers toward the product being marketed. ?Price – the product has to be logically priced and that the pricing strategy the organization will use must have a long-term effect; thus, several factors are considered whenever pricing a product or a service. The four P’s mentioned are the essentials of marketing, making them the basic things to consider before starting the process of product conceptualization to distribution in the market.
When an organization will be able to carry out the following aspects of marketing properly, the profit margin will undoubtedly increase. CELESTIAL TRAVEL AGENCY AND THE FILIPINOS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM The Filipinos are known around the world in the fields of nursing and health care, hospitality and tourism, and Information and Technology and engineering. Out of the 94 million Filipino population, about 8. 7 to 11 million are working, living, or studying overseas, mostly in the Americas, Middle East and Europe. In 2009, about 250,000 Filipinos are working and studying in the United Kingdom alone.
The population of Filipinos in the UK is considered to be a big market for Filipino travel agencies operating in the United Kingdom. Since Filipinos are known to love travelling and always want to visit their homeland whenever they are abroad, Filipino travel agencies will not run out of business even if they are just catering to their fellowmen who are living overseas. However, these travel agencies can widen their market share when they try to deviate from the traditional operations of just servicing their fellowmen. The United Kingdom is a very big market for the hospitality and tourism industry.
In as much as there are a lot of tourists coming to the UK, there are also a lot of British people who leave the UK to go on holidays in different destinations around the world, and most of them go to tropical countries to avert from the cold climate of the UK. The British people are known to often go on holidays once or twice a year, may they be students, families, or stressed workers. Thus, promoting travel and tour services to the Philippines to the British people market and possibly the European market will be a big accomplishment for the organization.
To market the Philippines as a holiday destination in Southeast Asia to the international arena is a difficult task because of its palpable competitors, such as Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, which are mostly visited by international tourists mainly coming from Europe and the Americas. Also, the location of the Philippines is not strategic so as to attract more tourists, especially those who have already gone to its neighbouring countries. Moreover, since the Philippines is a group of more than 7,000 islands, to tour it alone takes a lot of time.
One must have to travel either by plane or vessel, and bus when on the main island. When people from overseas talk of the Southeast Asian Region, the countries that the people first think of are Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. These four countries are always featured and advertised in newspapers, magazines, on television and a lot more. Thus, considering the number of Filipino travel agencies in the UK, which is about twenty-five, the number of UK tourists in the Philippine should have increased in the past years. The presence of these agencies would have been a big influence in boosting the Philippine tourism.
One of these travel agencies is Celestial Travel and Tours Limited which is the subject of this research. Celestial Travel and Tours Limited is a travel and tours agency that caters mostly to the Filipino people living in the United Kingdom. The products that the organization offers are travel and tour packages to major Philippine destinations and within the United Kingdom and its neighboring countries, such as France, Germany, Netherlands, and Spain, and consultations involving travels in the Far East and world-wide destinations.
The organization was established in April 2002 by four professional Filipino women who had extensive knowledge and experience in hospitality and tourism management. The organization’s mission is to provide travel needs and services to the Filipino people. However, most of its services are just travel packages. It is because of the factor that they cater only to the Filipinos in the UK. Tour packages for destinations in the Philippines are seldom being bought, but the packages for places in Europe, for instance Barcelona, Lile, Paris, Amsterdam, and Brussels, are often sold out.
Celestial travel agency is the most respected agency among all Filipino travel agencies in the UK. It has a very strong presence in Greater London. It has a very strong network within the Filipino community in UK and some parts of Europe. In an interview with one of the managers, she mentioned that the organization was doing well during the past years. Travel services, especially plane tickets, and UK and Europe tour packages were hitting very good market figures. When asked on the tour packages in the Philippines, she said that the packages were rarely purchased.
The reason being is the organization’s target market which is mainly the Filipino community who would rather go to Europe than visiting the prime Philippine tourist destinations. Celestial travel agency has a very good potential of increasing its market share without totally expanding the business. Expansion will definitely come in the future. Since its inception, the organization still remains to be a small-time business with just a little increase of its market share yearly.
Since the organization has already established its status in the market as a trusted agency for travel and tours in the UK and Europe, the organization has to focus on improving its sales on the travel and tour packages in the Philippines. The UK is a big market for outbound tourists, and therefore, Celestial Travel Agency just needs the appropriate marketing strategies and public relations to promote the Philippines as a tourist destination to the UK market. ?Brand Identity and Strategy Brand identity is the key to building a name in the business world.
Nowadays, consumers rely so much on brand names rather than the products. Companies struggle so much when introducing their products to the market, and those who are able to maintain the quality of their products and services for a long period of time can keep up to the market competition, even so making the competition less competitive for them as they are already well-established. Creating a consistent identity is a very challenging task for marketing since it will carry the totality of the company in the business world. The brand identity bears the ideas, the products and services, and the values of the company.
A coherent and well-thought brand identity can be a big tool for advertising creating loyalty from clients for repeat business. Celestial Travel Agency has established its brand identity among the Filipino community in the UK making it a well respected establishment. The organization has to establish its brand identity in the UK market in general, not just the Filipino. It must attain a well-trusted level status to be able to promote its products and services in its new market. Furthermore, it has to maintain the good rapport with the Filipino community, thus, satisfying their needs is essential, and proper marketing can be used to do this.
The organization has to bear in mind that to create their big web/network, they will need the first market to do this. ?Network and Relationship Marketing A company’s relationship with its customers is vital. However, how can an organization develop relationship with its customers and soon built a network from them? As most marketers say, “Relate first, market second. ” Marketers always have to make the best impression about them and their products and services and be able to build rapport between them and their customers.
Personal interaction is the first step to doing network and relationship marketing, and moving the customers to higher level of loyalty is its main purpose. Doing this strategy, one must have a thorough knowledge and understanding of the customer’s needs and individuality. As Smith (2011) says, “Think of relationship marketing as a term with the following overarching definition: those efforts that will make your prospective customers aware of your products and services, position your business in their minds as the obvious choice, and help you build lifelong profitable relationships with them. This marketing strategy is the most effective way to build a big network of customers. However, this strategy is sometimes misused by a lot of marketers especially when they do relationship marketing. Relationship marketing requires the marketers to be honest since he or she might spoil the relationship that was built in the first meeting. Marketers have to bear in mind to always practice responsible relationship marketing. Network and relationship marketing is mostly used by small time businesses as a way to introduce their products to the market, especially to the immediate community they are linked to.
It is a great strategy to communications development that makes relationship marketing become the tool to widened network. Celestial Travel Agency utilized this strategy when it started in 2002. Through confidence and honesty, the managers began introducing their services to the Filipinos they know and the ones they met mostly during gatherings. The relationship they were able to build with a number of people started to make a big network of clients. However, they still need to improve on this strategy as it will lead to them to a more stable and successful business.
Furthermore, the strategy will enable them to develop a new market, the UK market, for their tour packages to the Philippines. Through proper use of communications technology, the organization can easily rebuild the network they have established to an even wider and bigger network. The organization has to deviate from the traditional way of engaging people to relationships in order to build business contact with them. The current network of the organization is a great strength to building the opportunity of making it a wider network to market the organization products and services.
Going personal contact with people (offline) and communicating through means of Internet (online) makes relationship marketing a broader strategy to make use of. Also, it is beneficial to use the social networking marketing hype. Social networking are extremely valuable to marketers since they do not need to personally talk to these people one by one, but thousands of people can read your adverts or messages on these sites in just a click away. The good thing about these social networking sites is that they are people-focused and other people’s network can also be another person’s network.
Thus, doing relationship marketing through these sites is undeniably useful and can give a great amount of returns. ?Strategic Customer Relations Optimizing customer satisfaction and developing Customer Relationship Management is one of the most challenging tasks that businesses face nowadays. Many organization invest on improves customer service to be able to stabilize customer satisfaction. In order to establish excellent customer service, an organization must essentially develop a customer relationship focused culture.
In this practice, the employees who always deal with customers must always be updated on the modernize ways to improving customer service skills. Celestial Travel Agency does not regularly updates its staff or let them undertake trainings in relation to customer service. Thus, there are times that they lose some of their customers, even the valued ones. Constant monitoring of the employees’ performance is a must so as not to jeopardize the well established system and customer relations. Communicating with the customer in an efficient way will result to repeat business.
It is to be noted that the products and services offered by the organization is harder to market as it is intangible compared to food and other things that satisfy the basic needs of human beings. ?There are ways to improve customer relations through the following: ? Providing training in key areas that are important in rendering excellent personal service ? Reinforce the skills and abilities the employees have through continuous coaching and feedback ? Measure current performance levels ?Recognition through rewards, may it be monetary and non-monetary, to motivate the employees further to excel ?
Establishing effective service delivery processes ?E-marketing Marketers will find e-marketing an easy way to advertise their products without having to spend money that much. Marketers can advertise online for free through blogs, social networks, forums, and even free websites. In addition, the mass market online is enormous and e-marketing will allow marketers to make a personalized type of marketing that gives much focus to their products and services. E-marketing has a lot of benefits to give to an organization which includes the following: ? Openness ?Global Contact ?Minimal Cost Traceable and Measurable Results ?Personalisation ?Social Currency ?Improved Conversion Rates Celestial Travel Agency has its own website; however, it is not being updates every now and then. Thus, information on any recent activities or packages that the organization offers to the public cannot be easily accessible. This is mainly because keeping up the website cost money which the organization cannot afford to shell out since the website needs updates and maintenance every time. Keeping an IT personnel for the company that only works twice a week is very much impractical.
Besides, the rate for IT staff in the United Kingdom is way too expensive. However, the organization has to bear in mind that keeping the website is a way to reach to the global market, not just the UK market. The company’s valued clients who live outside the UK basically will try to reach the company through the website and customers often purchase products online especially tour packages and travels. Also, on the Internet, there are a lot of activities done by its users, who can be travelers, and they often check out forums.
There are forums and blogs built for specific topics, such as tourism, food, and a lot more. On these forums and blogs, related links and links are often circulated to its users and updated websites are mostly posted here. In addition, the influence of social networking sites is prominent to Internet users. Any future activities or tours that the organization plans to do can just be posted on these social networking sites and will soon be shared by a lot of users. The circulation of the information is way too fast that feedbacks can be expected straight away.
Information dissemination through social networks is very much fast and quick. Yet, the information has to be check and should always be on the new or recent posts, else, superfluous posts will overshadow the post intended to be marketed. The organization must always update its websites and posts and encourage their valued user to give testimonials as these will help the company gain more customers online. The strength of e-marketing is strong and opportunities are endless, but the organization must take extra care doing e-marketing as fraud cases are soaring. Guerilla Marketing Levinson, et. al (2007) stated that “Guerilla Marketing simplifies the complexities and explains how entrepreneurs can use marketing to generate maximum profits from minimum investments. ” Guerilla marketing has deviated from the traditional style of marketing where money or investments play an important role to make marketing effective. The guerilla approach is very much suitable to Celestial Travel Agency since the organization is a small business and guerilla marketing is an economical way of marketing products and services.
Through this approach, the organization can develop different techniques of promoting its services. Undoubtedly, the guerilla approach is already “tried and tested” to be very much efficient. However, the strategy requires the marketers to do research and make a campaign plan that is unconventional. Nowadays, marketing adverts and messages has to be humorous and extraordinary to be noticed by people. In as much as it is inexpensive, the guerilla approach takes time to materialize. Unlike the traditional way of marketing where money is a big factor, so results can be seen after a short p of time.
Conceptualization takes a lot of time while the implementation process challenging since several methods might be used to test the efficiency of the ideas. Since guerilla marketing is very much unconventional, it does not limit the marketers to a number of ways of doing the marketing yet it requires a high level of energy and dedication. ?Viral Marketing Coined from the word ‘virus,’ viral marketing strategy makes a great influence in the market, just like a virus, when done properly. Creating impact is the important element of this marketing strategy.
Viral marketing is a challenging strategy since an excellent idea is needed to make the advertisement stand out among all other commercials. This strategy is extremely effective and simple but making it work is the difficult task. The first step is to make a buzz. There are many ways to do this and the most effective way is to go on television. It is not making another big advertisement to air on TV, but news, such as media coverage. The good thing about media coverage is it hits the local community straight away and then national level.
Furthermore, about seventy percent of the population watch news. Also, news reaches even the people who live in distant areas from the capital. Another way of creating a buzz is going online, through social networking sites. The strategy employed the concept of using the social networks of other people so that they can propagate and expose their products and services. People can easily get influenced from what their peers tell them, and on networking sites, there are millions people; thus, it is easy to make a viral effect on these sites.
Celestial Travel Agency will find it difficult to do this marketing strategy. Most of the successful viral marketing advertisements are about the food sector. Nonetheless, the organization can still utilize this strategy in promoting their services, yet minimal results must be expected. Since the agency wants to develop their UK market, not focusing on the UK Filipino community, to market its package tours to the Philippines, the organization can take advantage of the current tourist news about the country.
For instance, the result of the new Seven Wonder of Nature can be turned into hype among all the tourists, especially the adventure-seekers travelers of UK. The new seven wonders is big news in the tourism industry; therefore, travelers will be eager to discover these places. Moreover, there are also tourist spots in the Philippines that are featured on the news which the organization to battle the tight competition of the tourism industry. British tourists will then know that there are wonderful places to see in the Philippines.
Also, travelling around the country is very cheap compared to other South East Asian countries. ?CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION The Philippines has a lot to offer to the world, not just to the UK tourist market, which is the prospect market of the organization for market development. Through the unconventional marketing strategies, such as viral marketing and guerilla marketing, Celestial Travel Agency will not find it difficult to market the Philippines to the UK market. Understanding the wants of the UK market when it comes to going on holidays, the places they choose to go to.
The British people are fond of adventure or outdoor activities and love going to the beaches, and since the Philippines is a tropical country that offers not only beautiful beaches but extreme outdoor activities too, such as mountaineering, scuba diving, spelunking, etc. , it can become a prime tropical tourist destination. The organization can take advantage of the news features regarding the tourist spots of the Philippines and make it viral. Using news, such as “Top 20 beaches,” “Seven Wonders of Nature,” and the other tourist destination rankings, the organization can utilize this and use the guerilla approach to making a “craze” over it.
The organization can do a buzz using blogs, forums, and social networking sites. It can even use upload a marketing ad on Youtube and post it on the different social networking sites. The research understands that the organization has very minimal budget for marketing, thus, e-marketing, guerilla marketing, and viral marketing strategies will be very effective to achieving its desired goals of developing the British market as key tourists to the Philippines.