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Source: Authors’ own survey data.

Note: Numbers in bold correspond to the highest values observed for each factor. * indicates p<0.05.

Table 7: Comparison of push factors by destination

Push factors

National

International

1: Learning/knowledge

3.84

3.94

2: Family/friends

3.85

3.83

3: Relaxation

4.09

3.98

4: Exhibitionism/eccentricity

3.09

3.12

5: Fun/adventure

3.5

3.5

6: Enjoyment

4.27

4.18

Source: Authors’ own survey data.

Notes: Numbers in bold correspond to the highest values observed for each factor.


Table 8: Comparison of pull factors by destination

Pull factors

National

International

1: Sports/nightlife

2.91

2.89

2: Comfort/safety

4.20

4.25

3: Family oriented

3.80

3.72

4: Nature

3.57

3.65

5: Local culture

3.63

3.71

6: Sun/beach

3.98*

3.78

7: Religion

3.04

3.30*

Source: Authors’ own survey data.

Notes: *p<0.05. Numbers in bold correspond to the highest values observed for each factor.



Relationship Marketing in Tourism: Most valued relational bonds by the Iberian tourists and their presence in tourism regions web pages



Luís Costa

University of Beira Interior

Department of Management and Economics


Helena Alves

University of Beira Interior

Department of Management and Economics and NECE










Costa, L. & Alves, H. (2013). Relationship Marketing in Tourism: most valued relational bonds by the Iberian tourists and their presence in tourism regions web pages. Tourism and Hospitality International Journal, 1, 181-216.


Resumo

A proliferação do setor dos serviços levou a que o foco se demarcasse da perspetiva transacional ou tradicional do Marketing, focado essencialmente numa única transação, para uma perspetiva relacional em que o cliente é encarado como parte integrante do processo. Esta alteração de foco visa a fidelização de clientes como forma de prolongar a troca de valor entre clientes e empresas ao longo do tempo. Sendo o turismo um sector de serviços ao qual as estratégias de marketing relacional se podem aplicar e, simultaneamente, um sector estratégico no desenvolvimento de Portugal, este estudo procura identificar quais os laços relacionais mais valorizados pelo mercado ibérico, bem como, em que medida os organismos de promoção turística portugueses, definidos no PENT (2011), através das suas páginas on-line, os estão a fomentar. O estudo baseia-se num amostra de 208 inquiridos em Portugal e 178 inquiridos em Espanha e utiliza uma abordagem qualitativa e quantitativa. Os resultados mostram que os segmentos de turistas valorizam diferentes tipos de laços relacionais (financeiros, sociais e estruturais) e de forma diferenciada, que os laços sociais e estruturais são os que mais diferenciam os diferentes segmentos de clientes e que as páginas on-line de promoção do turismo em Portugal nem sempre fomentam a formação dos laços mais valorizados pelos turistas. Assim, Os resultados do estudo demonstram que apesar da identificação de estratégias de marketing relacional nas páginas de internet das regiões de turismo ainda há um longo trabalho a desenvolver tendo em conta as estratégias definidas no PENT (2011).

Palavras – chave: Marketing Relacional, Turismo, PENT, Laços relacionais, Regiões de Turismo


Abstract

The proliferation of the services sector led to a demarcation from the transactional or traditional perspective of marketing, which is essentially focused on a single transaction, to a relational perspective of marketing where the customer is seen as an integrant part of the process. This change of focus quests customer loyalty in order to extend the exchange of value between customers and the firms over time. Considering that tourism is part of the services sector – to which the relational marketing strategies can be applied – and being simultaneously a strategic sector for the development of Portugal, this study aims to identify the most valued relational bonds found in the Iberian tourism market as well as to understand how the organizations identified in PENT (2011) to promote tourism are fostering them through their websites. This study is based on a sample of 208 respondents from Portugal and 178 respondents from Spain which was analyzed through a qualitative and quantitative approach. The results showed that the segments of tourists value different types of relational bonds (financial, social and structural) and in a differential way, social and structural bonds are those that most differentiate the different customer segments. The study also shows that promotions through tourism websites in Portugal do not always foster information of the bonds most valued by tourists. Hence the results of this study demonstrate that despite the identification of relationship marketing strategies in the tourism region websites, there is still a long work to do considering the strategies defined in PENT (2011).

Keywords: Relationship Marketing, Tourism, PENT, Relational Bonds, Tourism Regions



1. Introduction

Berry (1995) considered relationship marketing as being an important part of modern marketing practice. According to this author this new paradigm of relationship marketing had great progress with advances in technology. Its main benefits were to preserve and improve relationships to the extent that it is more expensive to attract new customers than to retain the existing ones (Stavros, Pope and Winzar, 2008; Grönroos, 1997; Berry, 2002). In what refers to retention and customer loyalty, Berry and Parasuraman (1991) and Berry (1995) argued that relationship marketing could be established at multiple levels, depending on the type of bonds - which can be financial, social and structural - used to promote the customer loyalty. Also stated that the higher the number of bonds, the stronger the relationship and consequently more effective. Following the same line of thought, Gordon (1998) identified seven types of bonds in order to promote the rising number of customers, from prospects to advocates in the bonding staircase. In addition, studies showed (Aladwani, 2001; Ching and Ellis, 2006) that with the proliferation of new information and communication technologies, relational marketing practices could be transferred to the e-commerce and, as such, should be exploited by managers.

Tourism constitutes part of the services sector and as such it is affected by the entire set of relational marketing strategies (Berry, 2000). In this aspect Campon, Hernandez and Alves (2010) consider that consumer’s uncertainty inherent characteristics of tourist services such as intangibility and perishability make relational marketing potentially suitable, insofar as the client is prone to develop fidelity, as a way to minimize the risk

The "entity that aggregates all public administration organizations responsible for the promotion of tourism, from supply to demand" (Turismo de Portugal, IP, 2008) is the Tourism Institute of Portugal. Thus it is important to analyse if this organization takes, or not, into account these market changes through its regional offices and tries to retain tourists through loyalty bonds. In the same way the National Strategic Plan for Tourism (2011) (PENT) considered Spain as a priority market for tourism in Portugal. PENT (2011) introduced a strategy of offering tourist products, invested in promotion and distribution via the online channel and saw quality as a way to gain competitive advantage over price.

Considering the concept of relationship marketing, its scope boosted by new technologies and the strategy of products, promotion and distribution defined in PENT, and this article sought to identify the most valuable bonds (financial, social and structural) by the Iberian tourists. It had also the intention to verify if the regional tourism´s representations were focused on nurturing these bonds on their web pages.

This research aims to better understand the work that is being developed by the regions and offices of tourism and by the regional tourism boards of Madeira and Azores, regarding the use of their website pages when considering the relational marketing strategies.


2. Creating and Developing Relational Bonds

Studies showed the existence of different relational bonds which can be grouped into financial, social and structural bonds (Turnbull & Wilson, 1989; Berry & Parasuraman, 1991; Berry, 1995; Zeithaml & Bitner, 1996; Peltier & Westfall, 2000; Strauss & Frost, 2001). The financial bonds are usually related to price function strategies and financial incentives (Berry, 1995). However Gummesson (2002:22) warned that this attraction through price could "disappear quickly if competitors also reduced prices". Hsieh, Chiu and Chiang (2005) reported that such bonds are good to strengthen relationships only for products with research characteristics which are not the case of tourism services (Ostrom & Iacobucci, 1995). On the other hand, social bonds involve personal interaction and relationship customization on a regular basis through various media and always addressing the customer by his first name (Berry, 1995; Strauss & Frost, 2001; Gwinner, Gremler and Bitner, 1998). With this bond, customers might be more tolerant towards a service failure.

At last, structural bonds arise when there is an adjustment between the parties such as the level of service; information sharing and solving customer problems, creating or offering services not yet available in the market or that are too expensive for competitors to imitate (Turnbull & Wilson, 1989). Gummesson (2002:22) added that at the structural level the parties “gather resources together and are, therefore, highly committed to making the relationship work”. Examples are the development of specific software or the availability of specific computer equipment from a service provider to its agents and representatives (Berry & Parasuraman, 1991; Berry, 1995; Zeithaml & Bitner, 1996). According to Berry (1995) and Lin, Weng and Hsieh (2003) structural bonds are the most effective to develop relationships and are the most suitable for services with experience characteristics (Ostrom & Iacobucci, 1995), such as tourism.

Gordon (1998) also identified the concept of bonds as a way to enhance the position of customers in Bonding Staircase. He presented seven types of bonds that could be developed between the company and the client, namely: Structural Bonding, Brand Equity Bonding, Attitudinal Bonding, Personal Bonding, Information and Control Bonding, Value Bonding and Zero Option Bonding.

Despite Gordon (1998) having developed a model with a larger number of bonds, he followed the same line of thinking of the model presented by Berry and Parasuraman (1991), Berry (1995) and Zeithaml and Bitner (1996). All bonds presented are related to creating, developing and maintaining lasting relationships between customers and the company, in the most appropriate manner to their consumption profile.

Berry and Parasuraman (1991) also argued that depending on the number of bonds existing with clients it is possible to achieve different levels of relationship marketing and that the relationship levels will be more effective, lasting and profitable for the company if there are a larger number of bonds. In the same line Zeithaml and Bitner (1996) showed that at each level customers are slightly closer to the company thereby increasing the sustainable competitive advantage. In this aspect Berry (1995:240-241) concluded that when using structural bonds in conjunction with the financial bonds and social bonds "the foundation will be even more difficult for competitors to penetrate" hence creating a high potential for sustained competitive differentiation.

Having presented these two lines of thought regarding the levels of relationship marketing it is important to emphasize the existing symmetry between them. Berry and Parasuraman (1991), Berry (1995) and Zeithaml and Bitner (1996) concluded that the bonds will be more effective if the bonds developed with the client are also in higher number. For his part Gordon (1998) concluded through his model that the degree of effort and commitment increases with a more effective connection between the client and the comp any.


3. National Strategic Plan for Tourism (PENT)

According to Alcañiz, Aulet and Simó (2000) in almost all countries of the world there are touristic competences and so there must be also a Tourist Administration to regulate the market. Thus, in Portugal the Decree-Law (DL) no. 141/2007 of 27 April is in accordance with "the determination to create a single public structure to continue the mission of promoting the value and sustainability of tourism activity nationally”. It provides to the Tourism Institute of Portugal (or Turismo de Portugal, IP) "a wide field of intervention, which includes tasks of conceiving a strategic planning and a strong operational activity as well as the management of financial resources and systems of incentives available for investments with touristic interest " among others.

Regarding the need of a "regional cooperation as well as supporting the realization and implementation of a tourism policy" Turismo de Portugal IP, the DL no. 67/2008 defines five regional tourism areas, each one corresponding to a regional entity of tourism (paragraph 1 of Art. 3 of the DL n. No. 67/2008). It also identifies six poles of tourism development (Article 4 of the DL. No. 67/2008) and two regional authorities of tourism (PENT, 2011), as shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1: Regional Tourism Organization Posts 2008

2 Regional Departments of Tourism (Azores and Madeira);


11 Regional Tourism Entities (Mainland):

5 Regional Areas

(Oporto and North, Center, Lisbon and Tagus Valley, Alentejo and Algarve);


6 Poles for Tourism Development (Douro, Serra da Estrela, Leiria-Fatima, West Alentejo Coast and Alqueva)

Source: Adapted from PENT (2011:18)


In 2007 the National Strategic Plan for Tourism (PENT) arose. It was defined as a "government initiative, responsibility of Ministry of Economy and Innovation, to underpin the implementation of the actions defined for their sustained growth of domestic tourism in the coming years and guide the activity of Turismo de Portugal ‘Tourism in Portugal’, IP, the central public entity of the sector" (PENT, 2007:5).

In 2011 PENT was revised and led to PENT - Proposals for Revision on the Horizon 2015 - Version 2.0, in compliance with the review process foreseen at the Ministers’ Council Resolution (RCM) no 53/2007 in order to assess "the progress and developments of the situation in this plan”. Eleven lines of development were identified among which some stood out: the identification of outbound markets, product strategies, promotion and distribution and the quality of services as well as the human resources (HR) in order to enhance the "quality of Portuguese tourism along the moments of interaction with tourists"(PENT, 2011:10-11). Based on the analysis of the outbound markets, PENT (2011) set the Spanish market as a priority for external growth. The reasons presented were "the proximity, growth, high market share and contribution to national tourism" as well this market should be subject of "an effort to targeting the different regional realities and to develop specific offerings" (PENT, 2011:37). The characterization made ​​by the Dossier of Spanish market Folder (2012) published by Tourism of Portugal, IP demonstrated that this market has features that might be explored from the harnessing point of view.

Among them stands out the population of 46,754,784 inhabitants in 2011, the fact of being the sixth largest economy in Europe, assuming Portugal as the second preferred destination country (being France the first) and the geographical proximity. Complementing this last aspect, the Dossier of the Spanish market (2012) identified that more than half (55.7%) of the trips from Spain to Portugal in 2010 were done by car. Hence, due the freedom offered by this means of transportation, it is possible to visit interesting sights throughout the main trip. It should also be noted that in 2010 the Spanish market almost 47.2% of the trips made by Spanish people were planned using the Internet and that they use the Internet for research and to gather information in 94.9% of cases (Dossier of the Spanish market, 2012). In addition to these strategies, according to the PENT (2011) a structured and systematic development to promote products’ cross-selling both in the same region as well as between the regions offering each product was necessary. This goal should be achieved through complementary offerings and by the possibility of further customization and ease of choice by demand segments, with increasingly specific and differentiated needs. Indeed, segmentation represents the first step in developing an effective marketing strategy since it allows a better understanding of the needs and desires of consumers and their responses regarding certain potential or existing offers (Serra, 2005).

PENT´s (2011) strategic framework denoted consistency with some of the relational marketing strategies already presented the increasing customization and personalization of services, larger investments in new technologies and the online platforms as a way to be closer and more accessible to customers and by considering the human resources’ (HR) quality of services as a way to gain competitive advantage over price. This idea has consistency with the concept defended by Grönroos (2000). It also suits the model with the three type of bonds advocated by Berry and Parasuraman (1991), which when properly developed and applied simultaneously increase sustained competitive differentiation. Moreover, Henning-Thurau, Gwinner and Gremler (2000) argued that different market segment value different relational bonds. It assumes, therefore, special relevance to identify which are the other dimensions highly valued by customers, beyond price factor, in order to restore and maintain competitive advantage on markets.



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