This week many people are taking winter holidays. Skiing, going to the beach, visiting Prague or Paris… Travel companies propose many offerings. Do you want to spend a week alone or with your friends? Are you going with your family or will you choose a romantic trip with your significant other? Will you choose the countryside or a city? Do you want to relax or do you want to party? No matter what you choose, the main thing is that the trip should really fit with your needs. How can you create the perfect travel experience?
What does a holiday mean to people? It means leisure, fun, a break from daily life. Travel product differs a lot from other type of products, as it should offer unique experience that must be remembered all the year. One week of skiing – 12 months of memories. If I buy a bag and I realize that I don’t really like it, I take it back and buy another. But if something went wrong with my travel plans – my teenage daughter wasn’t satisfied because “it was boring”, the activities proposed to children didn’t interest her, the food was bad, hotel personnel were unpleasant – it can affect my entire holiday and I remember it all year long.
Tourism product is complex, it has multiple facets, both tangible and intangible: food, weather, plane seats, the view from a hotel room, activities, and even hotel personnel’s smiles! The more travel company knows about the elements that influence traveller’s experience, the more it can be sure to fully satisfy its client’s needs.
Developing the cultural aspect of the tourism product is also important. If a Spanish tourist visits Finland he perceives sauna experience as something exotic, while it is almost daily experience for tourists coming from Nordic countries; and if you don’t propose a dessert to a French tourist just after meal, he won’t be very happy!
Therefore there are many different elements that make up a travel experience that should be taken into account when developing an ideal travel offering. The best way to do it is to ask people what they want and to create a travel package with them! According to Koert de Jager, “tourism product is produced and consumed at the same time”, so the consumer is much more involved in its development than for other type of products. It means that travel companies can successfully use this involvement for tourism product innovation purposes. According to the author, the co-creation should be an answer to bridge the gap between the new tourist (who is seeking authentic experiences and who has access to more information than ever before) and the more traditional-marketing-oriented travel companies.
Furthermore, the co-creation approach used by travel professionals can help to extend the attractiveness of the destination and increase its competitiveness: “the extent to which a tourism destination is capable of continued competition with other destinations is closely related to the way in which this destination responds to the (changing) behavior of the tourism consumer”, stresses de Jager.
An interesting example of co-creation in the tourism sector is Finnair’s campaign “Quality Hunters”. Finnair has created a forum called “Rethink quality” to define what people expect in terms of service quality. Then the company selected 4 people whose mission was to travel around the world for two months and share their experiences through the Finnair blog. The purpose was to know what the company can propose as the best experience for future travellers in each city. This is a perfect example of a travel company listening to its customers’ needs.
So the co-creation approach in tourism product development can help to answer to these questions:
- What type of new destination experiences do tourists want to have?
- What are their expectations in terms of product development?
- What kind of travel services do tourists prefer?
- What king of unique experiences can a travel company propose?