Product in Tourism - Core and Peripherals, Attribute of a Product, Tourism Product, Product Design and the Steps in Developing a Service Product



Product in Tourism - Core and Peripherals, Attribute of a Product, Tourism Product, Product Design and the Steps in Developing a Service Product

Product in Tourism

The needs of a tourist relate to comfort and pleasure in travel, stay, food arrangements and to visit spots of interest and attraction. Hence, a tourist hopes that she or he will:

• Be looked after and cared for,

• Be able to visit places of interest, spend adequate time at such places and engage in the activities that interest them,

• Not face wastage of time in waiting for transport or at places of no interest because of bad weather or other reasons,

• Not be hurried or hustled against the preferred place,

• Be offered palatable and suitable food to one's tastes and health,

• Get good company of others, if in a group,

• Be able to experience in the new places the local life styles, culture, food etc. as per one's own choice,

• Be facing no risk to one's person or belongings, etc.

These expectations of the tourist are met by three main ingredients:

• Attractions are the things to see and enjoy, and will range from beaches to mountains, flora and fauna, places representing history and culture, entertainment etc.

• Facilities take care of the comfort and range from accommodation, food, communications, guides and so on.

• Accessibility relates to the formalities in reaching the places, like visas, customs, bookings etc. acquiring resources like accommodation, exchange, transportation without haste and damage.

The tourist product is a complex one. It consists of several elements provided by various persons. You have read about the constituents of the Tourism Industry in Unit 5. Some of them are located at the tourist destinations (hotel, shops, attractions, guides), some are at the place of origin of the tourist (embassy to provide, visa, travel agency or tour operator) and some are enroute (customs, transport, exchange).

Some of these services are tied to tangibles. Both hotels and transportation use a variety of tangibles. The comfort of a stay in a hotel is an experience which does not come only from the quality of furniture and fittings within, but from the efficiency of the equipment including the noise it makes and the disturbance from the outside during periods of rest. Noise and disturbances can be very annoying to some people, but not to all. These in turn depend on the maintenance as well as the behaviour of other people in the hotel. The annoying experience of noise and disturbance is part of the product the hotel provides, probably more than the quality of the furniture. The experience is real but intangible. The product has both tangible as well as intangible elements. The service part is intangible.

Similarly, in transportation, the car may be the latest mode11000 in perfect running condition. But if the driver is rash or not very polite and considerate, the experience is of bad service. Rashness, politeness, consideration etc. are one's evaluation of other's correctness. They are intangibles. For example in this case evaluations are made of the chauffeur's actions but are also related partly to the customer's perceptions and standards. The customer, in using the service (of the chauffeur) experiences 'bad' service. The environment at the time influenced the perception and therefore the experience. The bad service was provided by the chauffeur. He 'made' the product at the time of consumption. Both, production and consumption occurred simultaneously. Without the consumption, there would not have been a product. If the client did not notice bad behaviour, there would have been bad behaviour.


Core and Peripherals

A product is basically something that a producer offers to a customer to provide satisfaction. To the manufacturer or producer, the product has an aggregate of technical and physical features and characteristics. To the consumer, it is an aggregate of utilities, expectations and perceptions, a complex cluster of value satisfactions.


Attribute of a Product

A product is not merely a physical commodity. People endow products with attributes beyond the functional characteristics of the product. Soap is valued not merely for its ability to clean but also for its shape, colour, size and the 'status' that its use symbolises. The packing, the labelling, the price, the image (created through promotion efforts), all add up to make the product occupy a position in the mind of the consumer. Utility is only one element of the complex product personality.

The product has a core constituent i.e. the technical characteristics to perform the basic functions for which it is made. The peripherals have no great functional utility, but they add value. For example, a core constituent of a television set will be its engineering, circuitry etc. that provides clear images and sound. The peripherals would be the design of the cabinet, position of the control knobs, remote control facilities, the brand name, the guarantees etc. The peripherals are also referred to as the associated features that augment the product.

Products may be differentiated through claims made by the manufacturer. For example, cooking oils refer to effects on cholesterol levels to differentiate themselves; toothpastes are differentiated on the basis of clove oil, fluoride and so on. These differentiations create distinctive value and avoid competition on price. Competition is among equals and not among unequal.

Products also may be customised to meet the specific requirements of the consumer. This is done partly for high value industrial products which may be fabricated or modified to meet specific needs. This is not done for mass produced items. In the service sector, the opportunity, as well as the need, for customisation, is very high.

Packaging and labelling are very important in goods. Packaging provides protection, attractiveness and identity. Labelling helps in identifying and also provides information about distinctive features, technical data, usage instructions, precautions etc.


Tourism Product

In tourism, the products are varied. A travel agent may arrange for itineraries and airline booking as the core product, but add on as peripherals help in getting passport and visas. Foreign exchange clearances, embarkation formalities at airport and so on. Similarly attractions are added to a destination. For example, 18 rooms of Buckingham Palace have been recently opened to visitors. This expected to become a major tourist attraction in London. Apart from the Throne Room, Drawing Room and the Picture Gallery, the Souvenir shop (selling white china mugs with Buckingham Palace written on it or crystal Balls with details from State Dining Room), is a part of the attraction.


Product Design

Designing a product means determining the features of the product and the benefits that will provide to the user. Effective designing will maximise the benefits and the appeal to the consumer. This implies that adequate attention has to be paid not merely to the core but also to the peripherals and the packaging, labelling, etc. which augment the value of the product.


The Service Product

The service product is not a physical entity. The elements that could go into making the aggregate service product are many. A choice has to be made as to what elements have to be incorporated in the core service offer which will become the product.

• Delivery of articles designated within specified time limits.

• Arrangements for collection of articles.

• Nature and size of articles would be accepted for delivery.

In a theatre, the elements will include, apart from the shows, climate control, cleanliness, quality of seating, elevator service, reservation facilities, conveniences in lobby, decor, attached restaurants, nature of patronage, information on forthcoming programmes, car park facilities and a lot more details on reception etc. Satisfactions increases when one is recognised as a patron by the officials in the theatre; when one can have the seats of one's choice whenever required; when the others in the theatre are of an acceptable kind and so on.

A product in tourism is the place of destination and what one may experience while proceeding to and staying in that destination. For example, Sentose Island off Singapore is packaged as a place where there are no shops, no skyscrapers, no offices-a place of quiet and tranquility, to relax and be with nature, so different from Singapore. Travelling by cable car to the island is part of this package. Places in Cross River.

National Park like Obudu Cattle Ranch are being offered as tourism products to experience the life styles of intending tourists, living in real palaces with kingly appurtenances, travelling in 'Palace on Wheel's, the African bushes as the prospect of seeing wild life. Many pay more to live in the tents in open country 'with nature' instead of in a five-star comfort.


The Steps in Developing a Service Product

The steps in developing a service product are:

• Determine what the consumer values as benefits ( benefit concept)

• Determine which of these benefits should be offered (service concept)

• Decide on the precise service offer which includ es forms and levels of the benefits to be offered and the arrangements for delivery of the service (delivery concepts)

The benefit concept will include expectations of the customer which are boundless of functional and psychological attributes. One needs to be clear on who the customer is. The customer of an educational institution is the student, the parent and also a part of the society that will benefit from the student's education. Business houses are customers of management schools. Therefore, the management school has to keep in mind the expectations of the potential employers. Some management schools have multinationals as their customers, while others are smaller organisations of the district and state levels who would like to benefit from the products of the management schools. An airlines customer is the passenger who travels as much as the travel agent who effectively influences the final buying decision.

The expectations from a restaurant may vary in kinds of food, (Nigerian, Continental, Chinese, Thai, and Mexican etc.), extent of spread (salads, sea foods etc.), price, courtesy of service, comfort of seating, ambience and so on. One restaurateur may in his service concept include authentic Nigerian food or Chinese food only and speed of services, paying little attention to seating, or ambience or courteous service. Another may conceive service in terms of quick, clean, simple, wholesome lunches for business executive without much of a choice in menu but offering convenient seating and atmosphere to enable serious business discussions as well.

These choices are made keeping in mind the:

• Market segment proposed to be served, and

• Resources one has and can muster.

The choice of elements to make the service offer should bear in mind the:

• Ability to render 100 per cent consistent performance, and extent of personal satisfaction.


Service and Delivery

Once the service concept is clear, arrangement have to be made for the delivery of service.

Service is delivered by:

• People

• Using equipment and other physical facilities th at have to be put in place.

Up-gradation in level of service is achieved by taking the service to the customer, i.e. outside the premises of the service provider. For example, a hotel that arranges to meet the guests at the airport and bring them in is upgrading the service by extending it beyond the premises.

In the case of a service, the product is manufactured at the point of delivery. An airline or the railways may design a service of information on arrivals and departures over the telephone. Every time an enquiry is made, the response one gets is a service and that is made specifically at that point of time. If the response is not available, because the telephone line is not attended, is busy for a long time or because the information is not updated, there is effectively no service. So if a service is to be offered, arrangements need to be made to ensure that it is possible to render that service. The arrangements to be so made are in respect of equipment, systems and people. These arrangements do not constitute service but constitute preparedness and readiness to render that service when the offer is accepted by a customer. Technology and equipment can be of great help in maintaining consistent quality of service. For example, the information service referred to above can be organised through a recording machine that will be connected to all incoming calls.

Similarly there is need of systems in services. Systems refer to the arrangements for flow of information and material to the point where the service is being delivered. For example, Airlines have to keep their booking agents informed of changes in flight schedules, if the carrier fails in his service to the passengers.


Customers distinguish one product from another on the basis of distinct characteristics. A five star hotel is considered as a place of luxury and exclusiveness. To stay there is, therefore, a matter of high status. Similarly, soap 'Y' kills germs and removes body odour. Soap `X' is beauty soap. `G' locks are safe 'M' is not. Lagos si the place to visit not Abuja, etc. These are all images in one's mind which determine one's behaviour relative to that product. For example a tourist may not like to go to Bar Beach for it is too crowded in season but will go to National Conservation Foundation (NCF) Lekki nearby. Another may not like NCF for it is too calm and quiet there.


Market Research

Knowledge about relevant parameters and characteristics has to be gathered through a study of the market. Studying the market to know its characteristics provides the basis for making decisions about the elements in the marketing mix. It helps to analyse the problems that may be experienced and in finding solution thereto. Market research may attempt to answer specific questions or generate general information to be used in due time.


What is It?

Market Research May Be:

• Market Analysis, or show, spread and growth of market in terms of volume, revenue, shares of competition, economic conditions, etc.

• Consumer Research, "to know profiles, awareness, habits, needs preferences, expectations, perceptions, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

• Products and price Study, to know products in the market, price sensitivity, technology, acceptability of features, packaging.

• Promotion and Sales Research, to know consumer reaction to alternative concepts and media, effectiveness of sales force and promotion.

• Distribution, availability of facilities for stocking, merchandising, possibilities, outlets and shelf space availability, and

• Evaluation and performance monitoring, looking at the extent of customer satisfaction.

The market is so big and scattered that it is impossible to do a complete study in totality. Hence, market research depends on techniques of sampling the market. It is not possible to be sure that the sample it truly representative of the whole, tourists comes to Nigeria from a number of countries. You cannot study all. So you pick the countries sending highest and lowest number of tourists for your study.

Decisions on the research design include:

• Deciding the purpose of the study like knowing the duration of stay or expenditure habits, etc.

• Choice of samples like tourist coming from Europe or US or high budget tourists or low budget tourists,

• Determination of the nature of the data to be collected,

• Method of data collection (surveys, secondary sources, observation etc) and

• Design of questionnaires (instruments) to collect and record data, including scales to he used.

A lot of data can be collected through desk research, looking at records, publications, commercial analysis, trade information, press cuttings, previous studies etc.

Other ways to obtain data are:

• Tourism department

• Discussions with tourists (customers),

• Observations of customers at premises,

• Observation and discussions with visitors to exhibitions and trade shows,

• Market experiments and surveys with recording of responses and results,

• Attitude, image perceptions and awareness studies,

• Advertisement and other media response studies, and

• Studies of usage pattern, etc.


Quantitative and Qualitative Studies

Some of the market researchers are quantitative studies while other are qualitative. Among them some can be done on a continuous basis and some sporadically. However, when sporadic studies are made at regular intervals, trends and changes can be known.

The manner in which research is designed and conducted ensures its reliability. Research findings often form the basis of corporate decisions of long term implications. The techniques of sampling, questionnaires, surveys and evaluation have been developed and these constitute a specialised field of study. The same sets of principles are used in opinion polls about destinations and predictions for tourist arrival.

In the case of quantitative data, the numbers tend to give the study an illusion of objectivity and reliability. In order to have a proper interpretation and evaluation, it is necessary to know how the numbers have been generated. For example, the preference for a particular destination among four may be because a fifth destination had not been included in the study.

The numbers coming out of a quantitative study depend on the way the questions are asked and therefore cannot be assumed as to saying everything there is to know. Hence, one needs insights to make valid evaluations.

In the case of service, the data to be collected and evaluated is more abstract and qualitative than in the case of tangible consumer goods. It is relatively easier to elicit responses by showing samples of goods and the way they perform as per the sample experience. Moreover, it is not easy to articulate satisfaction and expectations. They are often not in the realm of conscious rationality. How does one explain the impressions created by a movie except to say whether it was liked or not? This answer is not adequate to decide what kind of movie would be generally acceptable to an audience.

The experience is total and it is difficult to identify the particular aspect that is creating the experience, pleasant or otherwise.

If a specific element is stated as the critical one leading to the pleasantness or otherwise of the experience, this identification may have been made for a number of unrelated reasons. Did one get irritated at the breakfast table because of the:

• Temperature of the coffee served,

• Consistency of the pudding,

• Warmth of the bearer's attention,

• Behaviour of the couple at the corner,

• Pressures of the next appointment or the late hours of the previous night?

Similarly, there can be other questions like what is the kind of music that should be played at lunch or dinner time? How loudly should the music be played? These are difficult questions to answer. The data is not related to measurable objective phenomena. Capture of qualitative data needs very sophisticated and sensitive instruments. Some of these are:  

• Use of focus groups, specially invited to discus s and express themselves,

• Individual interviews where the person met is en couraged to talk freely,

• Trade off questions to determine relative values .

There is need for expertise and insights to interpret and evaluate. Responses to a study may not be the same as the actions in real life. People often do what they say they do not, or do not admit what they do. People do not own up feelings. They are quick to rationalise irrational behaviour. These are some reasons why interpretation of research data needs to be carefully handled. Inadequate expertise could end up with misleading information and incorrect decisions.


Insight and Experience

Expertise in the techniques of market research can be hired. Insights into the situation being researched conies from experience. These insights should be used both ways i.e. to design the study as well as to interpret the data.

In the service business, unlike in the business of goods, 90 per cent of the personnel are in touch with customers. When one is in touch with the customers, a lot of data about the customer's experience, expectations and satisfactions can be heard directly from him or her. Contact personnel can be trained to feedback such data to a specific point in the marketing department. The opportunity for direct access to the customers is much more in the service business than in the business of goods. To that extent, the reliance of external research agencies can be reduced.

Disneyland in France is losing money. The reasons have to be found. Do the Europeans have different ways of enjoying leisure compared to the Americans? What are the differences that need to be made in the entertainment schedules and patterns? The answer to these questions will come partly through research and partly through insights and experience.

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