Contemporary Issues in Travel and Tourism
Tourism can be defined as travelling to places that are outside one’s usual environment for business, leisure and other purposes including academics. Tourism often involves spending some time in a foreign area, and while most definitions give a minimum of twenty four hours for the visit the maximum can go up to a year. The tourist has to eventually go back home, or cease being a tourist and become a registered resident of the visited area. As a leisure activity, tourism has become very popular such that domestic tourism is also a big player in most national economies. Tourism is however not restricted to leisure as even the non leisure travelers play a big role in the industry. They spend relatively the same amounts in traveling and accommodation as well as sightseeing and purchasing souvenirs. This means that tourism, is tourism regardless of whether it is for business, studies or leisure.
As a major contributor to the economies of the world, tourism is given a pivotal role in economic circles. It has been a major indicator for economies in the popular destinations including Spain, Italy, Egypt, Dubai, South Africa, Malaysia and Kenya among others. Considering tourism as an economic activity implies that the destinations are products within a competitive market such that there must be factors setting each one apart from the rest. The popular tourist destinations have in more ways than one invested heavily to ensure that they continue to attract more tourists and boost their economies. To do this, a number of factors about tourism must be understood and put into consideration. Some of these factors are discussed below under tourism issues as they need to be addressed if tourism is to remain sustainable and productive in the long term.
Issues in Tourism
The tourism industry is a highly volatile one considering that it is usually faced with challenges that are beyond the control of the industry itself. Some of the issues that face this industry are even beyond the control of humanity such as climate change. ‘Issues in tourism’ thus simply means the factors that affect the industry, mostly negatively with regards to how people perceive it and how the tourists themselves feel about the industry. Among the issues are pollution, terrorism, taxation, globalization and political stability.
Pollution refers to the contamination of the environment that often results in adverse changes. Tourists often travel to destinations that are rural and wild such as indigenous settlements and natural reserves. They generally leave their urban lives to experience the remote locations and possibly get a different perspective on their lives. Pollution often has consequences such as climate change. It alters the geography of an area, perhaps drying out a forest reserve or causing a local population to migrate due to flash floods or excessive droughts (Davoudi, S., & Tranos, 2014). And while pollution cannot be entirely blamed on tourism, the industry suffers a great deal from its consequences. Tourists have to change their destinations and visit areas that they consider relevant to their interests (Berrittella, et el, 2006). For example if they want to spend time in a natural rainforest, and find that the rains have declined or delayed, they are likely to look for another rainforest to visit. Basically, pollution alters the course of a tourist’s trip by altering the weather patterns and thus changing the climate of the chosen destination (Amelung, Nicholls & Viner, 2007).
Terrorism refers to an act of violence against the general population that threatens not only the physical security but also the risk assessment of a given location. Terrorism spreads fear amongst the local population as well as the tourists within any given locality, thus threatening the stability of the industry. Over the past few years, terrorism has been a major security challenge in both the developed and the developing countries making it an international crisis that is being addressed jointly by the UN Security Council. To the tourism industry, a terrorism alert implies that tourists are advised against traveling to the mentioned country. For example if the United States issues a terrorism alert on a country like Egypt, all the US citizens scheduled to travel to Egypt are likely to cancel their trips thus incurring losses on the part of the Egyptian tourism industry.
The tourism industry is heavily taxed in that travelers incur too many taxes in air tickets, accommodation, and local transportation, visits to national parks and reserves, and custom fees for their luggage. This means that the tourists are by far the highest taxed persons in most countries. This implies that governments must endeavor to ensure that the non residents are protected and treated well at all times. These taxes should be enough motivation for good treatment of tourists in any destination. It makes tourism expensive, and thus it is only fair that the expenditure is justified by impeccable service (Wachowaik, 2006).
With the world increasingly becoming a global village, the concept of travelling to experience unique culture and traditions may slowly become a memory. With the fast pace of globalization, cultures are being assimilated into westernization in the name of modernization. Local populations are eventually becoming not-so-local such that their uniqueness is washed away leaving tourists with no reason to visit them.
Political stability refers to the state of a country in which there is relative peace and democracy. Political instability undermines the security of the nation by creating a likely scenario for riots and even civil strife. This in turn keeps the tourists away by instilling in them fear and doubt on the subject of their safety while in that particular country.
Trends in Tourism
The tourism industry has been undergoing some changes over the past years long with other areas in the global economy. As technology advances, a lot more change is expected especially in terms of how, why and where people travel to. As it becomes easier to conduct business across different geographical locations without having to travel, the concept of business tourism is likely to decline reasonably (Agnew & Viner, 2001). Also, the fact that the local cultures are slowly becoming more modern and thus western, the need to visit these places in the hope of experiencing a unique culture is diminishing. Other factors like health issues, political instability and the global economy are also significant in the trends that can be charted out in the tourism industry. The changes discussed in this section will be in terms of the numbers of tourists visiting a popular destination like Egypt. It is thus important to note that the Egyptian tourism industry accounts for over $10 billion in revenues for the country’s economy thus making it among the most important industries in the country (Crozier, 2012).
For the past few years, the tourism sector in Egypt has been experiencing an overall downward trend in terms of the number of tourists visiting the country. Between 2000 and 2010, the country’s tourist numbers had grown by over 8 million to reach a peak of 14 million annual tourists. In this year, the country made about $ 11.2 billion in revenue from the tourism sector (Mohammad, A.A., et el, 2012). After the civil strife and periods of political instability, the sector was heavily incapacitated reporting more than a 30% decline in the number of tourists and the length of their visits. In 2013, the country had only 9 million tourists and made only $5 billion (Magda, 2011). The number of nights spent by tourists in the country also declined from an average of 12 to 7, implying that the few tourists visiting the country are keen to leave earlier than they previously did. Basically, the Egyptian nation is struggling to revive an industry that almost came to a standstill after the political chaos that threw President Hosni Mubarak out of office and undermined the country’s peace ratings for over three years.
As a tourist destination, Egypt is a relatively competitive country with so many great sights and cultural experiences. The country has the epic pyramids, the royal tombs and other significant historical places including the river Nile. Also, the infrastructure is impeccable considering the hospitality industry in the country. With great hotels and malls, as well as impressive road networks, the country is well equipped for the tourism industry. Considering the economy, over 10% on national revenue is from this industry and it employs over 12% of the population (Magda, 2011). This means that it is a big deal in the nation when the trends are all downwards.
Putting the current challenges aside, the tourists in Egypt are both business and leisure travelers. Multinational corporations continue to do business in this country despite the security challenges implying that while the numbers may not be as high as they had been in 2010, they arenot exactly at a complete zero. There are a few business and leisure tourists still endeavoring to visit the troubled nation to see the historical sites and experience the Arabic culture. Currently, plans are underway to revive the tourism industry in this country especially through mending the image of the nation as a safe tourist destination. American, Swiss and Scandinavian nationals have been the scarcest of tourists given the alerts and warnings issued by their governments against traveling to Egypt.
Thomson Travels is a UK based travel operator that not only deals in transportation but makes comprehensive travel packages for their clients to destinations across the globe. The organization is responsible for taking care of all the travel details for their clients considering that it is involved in both areas of travels and tours. With regards to accommodation however, the organization partners with specific hotels for their service quality and customer relationship records. This organization was solely created for the tourism industry in that its main business is tours and travels. For over 45 years, the organization has been creating unique travel packages for their consumers enabling them to experience their holidays in the best of ways. By creating packages that are not only exclusive but also affordable, the organization manages to retain most of their customers through the good deals and offers that are frequent.
Response to Tourism
Thomson Travels offers packages that are inclusive of transport and accommodation. This means that regardless of the purpose of one’s visit, they are likely to be catered to be the organization’s comprehensive and tailor made packages (Tranter, et el, 2009).
This implies that the organization is well equipped to cater to all types of tourism ranging from medical, business, and relaxation to sports. Medical tourism implies travelling to another country or location for medical treatment. For one reason or another, patients and their families often travel abroad in search of special treatment for certain conditions. In such situations, they require long term accommodation for the travelling members of the family. Most travel operators restrict themselves to hotels, cabins and holiday homes. Thomson Travels however also has furnished apartments that would suit a family that has traveled in search of medical treatment. Initially, the company also specialized in holiday packages but with the inevitable growth of medical tourism they have expanded their product assortment to include apartments for longer stay and privacy as needed. And while the organization may not have any dealings with the foreign hospitals or health care establishments in question, they often go to great lengths to ensure that the accommodation availed to the clients is convenient with regards to accessibility and proximity.
For the business travelers, the organization has added on to its portfolio a car hire subsidiary which provides the tourists with the convenience of a personal car service even while they work away from the comfort of their home and car. This response is meant to afford the business travelers both comfort and style. The organization also has a package for last minute trips which could otherwise be problematic to organize. This is common amongst business tourists who often have to travel across various countries to conduct business. The packages can also be easily extended or completely changed as per the customer’s convenience since the business traveler is a flexible and yet reliable market segment.
A large part of Thomson’s business is in the leisure travels however. The organization has partnerships with some of the best hotels and holiday homes in the most desirable tourist destinations that are suitable for couples, families and individuals as well. While giving most priority to this segment of leisure tourists, the organization considers their needs above all else. They have packages that cater to all durations of a holiday from short stays to long stays. Families are also afforded privacy and comfort in the holiday homes and cabins as per their choices (Ritchie, 2009). This organization was created to cater to the leisure travelers but only diversified as it became evident that tourism did not only imply traveling abroad for leisure but also for work, treatment or even sports activities.
Sports tourism is where people visit a given location to experience, participate or even watch a particular sports event (Van Harssel, 1994). Among the most popular sports events that attract tourists are the main marathons like the London Marathon, the Olympics, World Cup and the Wimbledon among others. People thus travel outside their home environments to other locations to watch or participate in these events. To cater for these populations, the organization creates packages that may include tickets to the event, depending on the customer’s needs. Other sporting activities that may attract consumers to the organization include skiing, kayaking, hiking, mountaineering and canoeing among others. The organization thus arranges for accommodation in the relevant areas on behalf of their clients thus effectively responding to that specific niche within the tourism industry.
Considering that the organization operates both the transport and accommodation aspects of the tours, it is much easier for them to coordinate flights to suit the demand. For example, if it is time for the Olympics, the organization could easily avail more flights to take people to the venue as opposed to sticking to a rigid route designation. This is how the tourist destinations are promoted within the organization, by ensuring that the demand is always matched by supply and offering alternative transport solutions when the demand cannot be met (Knowles, et el, 2004).
Most of this organization’s holiday packages are categorized by season in that there are summer and winter packages. These are mainly for the leisure travelers who go on holiday to relax and take a break from their hectic lives as they spend time with their loved ones. However, there are other special holiday packages for honeymooners, religious pilgrims, volunteers, medical patients and business persons. This means that the organization is flexible in its product assortment such that the needs of any consumer are considered when creating a travel package for them.
Effects of the Organization’s Operations and Policies on Tourism
Thomson Travels is a travel operator with stakes both in accommodation and transport. This means that the organization is responsible not only for marketing themselves as travel agents but also as a carrier of choice (Sinclair, 1998). The hotels, apartments and holiday homes included in the organization’s packages are all in partnership arrangements based on the quality and affordability of the selected establishments (Amelung, 2006). In exchange for the good rates given to the organization for its packages, they are responsible for marketing the destinations to the consumers. As a result, the organization is working more to market the various destinations as holiday, business, medical or sports destinations. Promoting tourism is at the core of their business objective and thus it is an inevitable part of their marketing tactics.
The organization offers tailor made packages for the clients, along with tips on how best to enjoy their trip. In some cases, the clients may not be sure about where to visit and thus the organization acts as a travel guide, providing insight into the various available destinations depending on the purpose of the trip (Barrows & Powers, 2009). This means that the organization has a direct impact on the number of tourists visiting a given country, as the clients can be easily persuaded to visit any given destination provided the price is right. The organization makes affordable packages that allow people from all walks of life to take a vacation to some place, depending on their budget (Beirman, 2002). This way, the tourist populations are not limited to families with high budget limits but rather opened up to all willing customers with sufficient funding (Richardson & Loomis, 2004).
The flight business is a part of the organization, and thus a part of the marketing tactics. Thomson Airways is the subsidiary airline that acts as the travel operator’s carrier of choice. As a result, most of the packages include the flight fees. While customers are allowed to forego the flight and only pay for the accommodation, it is relatively cheaper for them to use these flights as the cost is in some way subsidized for customer loyalty among other things (Sigala, 2014). The organization thus affects the number of people using their flights by pricing the packages affordably and conveniently. The fact that these flights are spread out across most of the selected holiday destinations and that they can be moved around to suit the market demand makes even more competitive (Okumus, Altinay & Chathoth, 2010).
By marketing themselves, this organization also markets the tourist destinations and the respective countries. With agents all across the globe, the organization boosts the performance of the global tourism industry by ensuring that people are visiting locations that are away from their usual environments on a regular basis (Sinclair & Tsegaye, 1990).
Tourism is a great opportunity for the various nations of the world to make good revenue. By traveling to other countries or states, people are able to help develop the economies of their destinations while experiencing different cultures and traditions. Tourism however has various issues that undermine its potential as a big player in the global economy. Things like pollution, globalization, terrorism and the high taxation that makes traveling expensive. Egypt has by far undergone the toughest times with regards to its tourism industry owing to the political instability that rocked the country for over three years resulting to a decline in the number of tourists by more than 40%. Considering Thomson as a travel operator, the organization is responsible for promoting medical, business, sports and relaxation tourism across various countries thus improving the performance of a number of tourism destinations globally.