The New Age of Tourism - And the New Tourist


By

Dr. Aparna Raj
Reader & Coordinator
Institute of Tourism & Hotel Management
Bundelkhand University
Jhansi
 


Abstract

Times are changing and so are the demands and expectations of the 'new' traveller, the search for different experiences, different adventures, different lifestyles has paved the way for this concept called the 'new tourism' Attention is being turned to exploring new frontiers or daring to go where traditional thought did not allow.

"New" tourists however, are increasingly being seen to be environmentally sensitive, displaying respect for the culture of host nations and looking to experience and learn rather than merely stand back and gaze. "New" tourists are participators not spectators. Things that would never appear on the list of the "mass" tourist such as adventure, getting of the beaten track and mingling with the locals are now the foundations of the new tourist experiences. Typically these tourists are turning away from travel and prefer to have a high level of involvement in the organisation of their trip.

Responding to the shift in market dynamics towards a "New" style of tourist, a number of initiatives have or are likely to fuel the growth of experiential tourism, these include:

- Network tourism initiatives;
- The development of interpretive highways;
- The explosion of interpretive centers
- The latest trend towards regional base camps.

A new era has arrived, and a new kind of tourism is emerging, sustainable, environmentally and socially responsible, and characterized by flexibility and choice. A new type of tourist is driving it: more educated, experienced, independent, conservation-minded, respectful of cultures, and insistent on value for money.

Attempt is made in this paper to study the expectations and desires of this new tourist in this new age of tourism.

Introduction

Until 19th century, travel for recreation was only undertaken by the elite. With the advent of rail, mass travel was available for the first time and destinations such as Brighton, UK and Coney Island, NY developed. Status was then defined by the mode of travel. In 20th century status was revealed by the nature of the destinations. Travel and tourism has been going on since time immemorial, and for the 'twentieth century tourist, the world has become one large department store of countrysides and cities' (Schivelbusch, 1986). By 21st century, travel became a new economy - tourism - available to all with enough money.

The focus of the tourism industry has shifted from air travel, overnights, meals and so on to total experiences or fantasy worlds associated with specific destinations (Keller and Koch, 1995). This new tourism phenomenon is not only influenced by economic factors but also by new cultures and a new generation of tourists. In tourism, the different destinations compete worldwide through globalisation (Saayman, 1998).

The paradigm shift from mass tourism (also known as Fordian Tourism), which was the norm for more than three decades, no longer suffices to achieve competitiveness in tourism enterprises and regions. A new paradigm, or new tourism, is gathering momentum owing to its ability to face prevailing circumstances (Fayos-Solá, 1996).

Modern information and communication technology development in symbiosis with the transformation of tourism demand gave rise to a new tourism. This paradigm shift is not easy to define but is indicative of a new type of tourist who wants a new or different product. The new tourists are more experienced, more educated, more "green", more flexible, more independent, more quality-conscious and "harder to please" than ever before (Cater and Goodall, 1992; De Villiers, 1996). Furthermore, they are well read and know what they want and where they want to go.

The different approach of the new tourist's creates a demand for new products. The small, medium and micro entrepreneurs within the tourism industry are dependent on major tourism developments. It is essential role of these small entrepreneurs be increased to deal with the changing demands of the new tourists. In Canada, 20% of the population is truly entrepreneurial while in South Africa the role of entrepreneurs is still extremely small. Only about 4% of the South African population is truly entrepreneurial. (Van Gijsen, 1998)

What is New Tourism?

New Tourism is characterised mainly by supersegmentation of demand, the need for flexibility of supply and distribution, and achieving profitability through diagonal integration and subsequent system economies and integrated values, instead of economies of scale (Fayos-Solá, 1996). This paradigm permits the tourism industry to offer products adapted to the increasingly complex and diverse needs of demand, while being competitive with the old standardized products. These markets of experience have become global, affecting the demand as well as the supply side of the tourism industry. The tourism industry has undergone profound changes, which have been categorized by Poon (1993) in the following groups: (a) new consumers, (b) new technologies, (c) new forms of production, (d) new management styles, and (e) new prevailing circumstances.

As a result of the super segmentation of demand there is a very strong need for in-depth knowledge of the market in order to identify the clusters of consumer traits and needs. This knowledge will enable the tourism enterprises to develop those products that will give a greater competitive edge, and to place them on the market using efficient methods of communication and distribution. Flexibility is also a very relevant factor since it can assist the enterprise in adapting to the new demand requirements. This factor is relevant in several areas: flexibility in the organisation and in the production and distribution of tourism products; flexibility in reservation, purchasing and payment systems; and flexibility in ways in which the tourism product is consumed. New technologies are fundamental in this respect and, in particular, in the expansion and development of new systems of tourism  information (Fayos-Solá, 1996).

Diagonal integration is the final basic element. Compared with vertical and horizontal integration, which characterise the mass-standardised production paradigm, this is a process by which the tourism enterprise can develop and compete not only in one activity, but also within a wider framework, seeking profitability on the basis of system economies, obtaining synergies between different products and offering services well integrated in the value systems of consumers (Fayos-Solá, 1996).

Key shifts in global tourism market trends are as follows:

- In the long term, the average standard of living in western developed countries will increase, as will the amount of discretionary money available for travel;

- Rising affluence will bring with it increases in the amount of free time available. Longer weekends and increased paid holidays have helped to stimulate expansion in attraction visitation;

- There is a shift in emphasis from passive fun to active learning;

- Activity or special interest holidays are likely to gain at the expense of conventional sightseeing, visiting and other passive experiences;

- There is growing concern about the impact of modern industry, including tourism, on the physical and social environment;

- There is growing awareness of risks to personal health and safety;

- Leisure time will be used more actively, for mental development as well as physical exercise;

- People aged 45 to 64 years of age will be growing significantly in number to the year 2010. In the United States alone, this age group is forecasted to grow by 31% by the year 2000;

- The potential visitor of the future will be: older, more affluent; more demanding; more thoughtful and discriminating; and more active physically and mentally;

- Timeframes for decision-making windows will be smaller. Hence, one-stop-shopping for all-inclusive packages will continue to be appealing; and

- Consumers will increasingly seek low impact tourism facilities, consistent with environmental values and the desire not to contribute to negative impacts.


Fig. I Characteristics of Old & New Tourism

The New Tourist

The travelling consumer of today (let alone in the future) is very different from any other time in history. The most successful businesses in the travel industry are those that respond to the challenge through the use of technology, innovative marketing programs, better training of staff and by developing a closeness and understanding of its customers/guests. The differences in travel patterns in the next century will be more related to what consumers are seeking in a travel experience than in how they travel.

Today's traveller, the well-heeled or footloose back-packer, is usually informed, educated, and more often than not, fully aware of what he or she wants from their travels. For them the optimisation of time and money is the key and they prepare for their trip by researching their destination through the Web and the experiences of friends and fellow travellers. Mass media has responded to this shift and further fuelled the search for experiences through the promotion of a vast range of lifestyle/adventure programs which have evolved more recently into experiential voyeuristic docu-dramas referred to as reality programmes. Attention is being turned to exploring new frontiers or daring to go where traditional thought did not allow.

In Tourism, Technology and Competitive Strategies, author Auliana Poon speaks about the changes in consumer behaviour and values which are the critical driving forces for the new tourism. The new tourist is experienced, more flexible, independent, quality conscious and harder to please.

"New" tourists however, are increasingly being seen to be environmentally sensitive, displaying respect for the culture of host nations and looking to experience and learn rather than merely stand back and gaze. "New" tourists are participators not spectators. Things that would never appear on the list of the "mass" tourist such as adventure, getting of the beaten track and mingling with the locals are now the foundations of the new tourist experiences. Typically these tourists are turning away from travel and prefer to have a high level of involvement in the organisation of their trip.

Comparison of Old and New Tourists:

 

New Tourists

Search for the sun

=>

Experience something different

Follow the masses

=>

Want to be in charge

Here today, gone tomorrow

=>

See and enjoy but not destroy

Just to show that you had been

=>

Just for the fun of it

Having

=>

Being

Superiority

=>

Understanding

Like attractions

=>

Like sports

Precautions

=>

Adventurous

Eat in hotel

=>

Try local fare

Homogeneous

=>

Hybrid


Source: Tourism, Technology and Competitive Strategies, Auliana Poon.

Travel is no longer a novelty to the new tourist. Studies support what industry executives have been noticing for the last few years. People expect more out of their vacations than they used to and they are more adventuresome. Surveys done by the Canadian Tourism Research Institute indicate a high degree of interest in getaway vacations, ecotourism, cultural tourism and combining a business trip with a pleasure trip.

Over the next ten years, tourism products and attractions will have to cater to visitors who are more demanding and discriminating, as well as more active and more purposeful in their choice of destination. There will be a shift in emphasis from passive fun to active learning, and the quality and genuineness of visitor experiences will be crucial to future success in a competitive market.

An Acronym that is relevant to describe the 'new' tourist is REAL, which stands for:

- Rewarding
- Enriching
- Adventuresome
- Learning Experience

A key underpinning concept for REAL tourism is authenticity of experience, which is often related to the environment and culture and seen to be unaffected by "mass" tourism.

The New Tourists prefer to be regarded as travellers and not tourists. Some specific points which need to be kept in mind while dealing with the New Tourist are:

- This type of traveller requires a completely different marketing approach. They avoid conventional glossy marketing mechanisms and prefer to use reliable sources such as word of mouth referrals, their own independent research and trusted publications;

- They desire experiences as opposed to products and services;

- They can be called experiential traveller s, they extend across all age groups and traditional market segments;

New Tourism for the New Tourist

To enable new tourism attractions to stand the test of time and satisfy the demanding requirements of the evolving 'new' tourist, the following criteria should be applied to existing and proposed attractions:

- That the attraction offers a distinct, unique experience that cannot easily be replicated by competitors;

- That the attraction is value added through 'best practice' interpretation, which preferably utilises a 'human element' such as interpretive guides, seasoned veterans and/or local characters;

- That, where possible, the experience is externalised within the natural/actual setting rather than internalised within a false/reproduced setting;

- That the attraction offers an exciting, authentic, interactive and educational experience;

- That 'comfort' should not compromise the authenticity of the experience;

- That the attraction adheres to ecologically sustainable development principles;

- That the attraction avoids the over reliance on technological interpretive devices that will become quickly outdated; and

- That the attraction offers a choice in the form of interpretation offered.

Responding to the shift in market dynamics towards a "New" style of tourist, a number of initiatives need to be taken so as to fuel the growth of experiential tourism these include :

- Network tourism initiatives;

- The development of interpretive highways;

- The explosion of interpretive centers

- The latest trend towards regional base camps.

Network Tourism Initiative : Tourism experience consists of a large number of factors, which have different levels of importance dependant on the perspective of the visitor. For experiential travellers, the experience may be strongly influenced by the experiences between attractions such as the expert commentary provided by a trained guide or the friendliness of locals along the way.

The aim of Network tourism is to package a diverse range of products and services throughout a broad region to create a quality experience that capitalises on a region's strengths and comparative advantages. This principle recognises that the combination of discreet experiences within the network creates a greater attraction than its individual components and serves to increase economic benefits and market profile for the entire region. To satisfy the diverse experiential requirements of the "new" tourist, it is imperative that a strong referral system is developed between attractions contained within the network. This therefore goes beyond current promotional attempts by the tourism agencies to promote the entire network, and rests with the individual attractions within the network themselves and the need to actively cross promote between attractions.

Interpretive Highways : Travel is seen to be a part of a network of experiences as opposed to the mere mechanism for going from point A to B. Interpretive highways have been a successful device to link a number of disparate experiences to provide a more comprehensive visitor experience. Whilst principally a tool for satisfying the travel desires of self-guided travellers, a framework should be developed that has also serves to assist experiential requirements of commercial guided tour operators. This is primarily attributed to improved interpretation offered along the travel path to break the monotony of long haul travel between attractions.

The Explosion Of Interpretive Centers The purpose of the center is to educate the general public and children in particular on the importance of a particular tourist site, historical monuments, natural resources, wetland ecosystems etc.  These centers can contain permanent and evolving exhibit galleries, meeting space, a classroom and teaching laboratory, an auditorium, and a gift shop, along with offices and other support facilities. Indoor exhibits on natural history and other objects of tourist interest can be complemented by regular showings of multi image presentations.

The Wildlife Institute of India, United States Fish and Wildlife Services and Madhya Pradesh Forest Department collaborative programme aims to achieve long term conservation of the park by increasing awareness and appreciation towards Panna National park among visitors as well as local people through the use of interpretive centers. The main components of the programme are :

- Outreach Programme : It is aimed at sensitizing the local community about the benefits of the programme to the park and eventually to them.

- Resource Material : In the form of books, brochures and CD-ROMs would be developed to highlight the conservation needs. An exclusive website on Panna National Park is also planned for attracting international attention.

- Interpretation Center and Visitor Center : They are an important component of the project and would comprise of exhibits on Panna National Park and its conservation needs. This is a means of education mainly targeted to the tourists, School children and local community.

- Capacity Building : Training of local youths as guides, Park staff and tour operators on Interpretation and communication skills to enable them to run the programme.

The Latest Trend Towards Regional Base Camps : While the traditional centralised awareness centre can be thought of as a strategic hub located at a major strategic travel point, it is proposed that a 'hub and spokes' approach be the next evolutionary step. The hub can be thought of as the 'base camp' for regional exploration and provides advice, essential services, orientates the visitor, provides all the necessary supplies and equipment to enable the visitor to safely and sensitively explore the region. In delivering these services, the hub can also become an important community asset by encouraging mixed use. The spokes visit important remote sites and recognise that where possible, interpretation should be undertaken in the authentic setting. The 'hub' attempts to put the heart back into a township and revitalise the local economy.

Conclusion

A new tourism is emerging, sustainable, environmentally and socially responsible, and characterised by flexibility and choice. A new type of tourist is driving it: more educated, experienced, independent, conservation-minded, respectful of cultures, and insistent on value for money.

Starting in the eighties and mid-eighties (depending on the tourism receiving region in question) a number of dramatic environmental changes occurred which moved the "tourism industry" much closer to the characteristics of the new economy. Used to more convenience, faster service and more options from his/her every-day-life the new tourist also insisted on more options, more entertainment and fun, more diversified sports facilities and cultural variety in his/her vacation (see e.g. Weiermair & Fuchs, 2000). This new consumer (tourist) thereby has exercised pressure upon the tourism industry and tourism enterprises to develop new products, services and experiences. Information technology is opening up an astonishing array of travel and vacation options for this new tourist. To remain competitive, tourism destinations and industry players alike must adapt. For many, the challenge is to "reinvent" tourism. Market intelligence, innovation, and closeness to customers have become the new imperatives. Thus, on the horizon of the postmodern landscape, a New Age of tourism is dawning: New Age tourism for New Age people.

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WEIERMAIR, K., FUCHS, M. (2000). The impact of cultural distance on  perceived service quality gaps : the case of alpine tourism. Journal of Quality Assurance in Hospitality and Tourism, Vol. 1, No. 2, p. 59-76
 


Dr. Aparna Raj
Reader & Coordinator
Institute of Tourism & Hotel Management
Bundelkhand University
Jhansi
 

Source: E-mail May 3, 2007

       

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