Term Paper, 2007, 13 Pages
As a result of globalization, the borders between the countries have started to disappear. The transportation became much more easier compared to the last century, even the last decade. There are many airplanes going to the other end of the world every single day (Business Week, 2005). Moreover, after the foundation of European Union, the permission of free flow of people between the member states; in other words, after the elimination of the borders, people do not prefer to go to their summer houses anymore, but to other countries in their spare times. All of these lead to the growth of the tourism sector.
In today’s world, there are many kinds of tourism including; business and conference tourism, cultural and historical tourism, sex tourism, health tourism, spa, sports and adventure tourism, event tourism, and space tourism (L’Etang, Falkheimer, Lugo, 2007). In order to attract consumers to various choices in this highly competitive market, there are many marketing and management tools that shall be taken into consideration. The most important of these tools is public relations which play a role in constructing images of locations, activities and identities (Morgan and Pritchard, 2001) which will be discussed further. Public relations’ role is not only attracting visitors but also to keep them happy after they arrive (Wilcox, Ault, Agee and Cameron, 2000). Its primary purpose is to:
“...effectively support other sales and marketing activities attempting to build up a positive image of a company and its products and services” (Roberts, 1993: 132).
Furthermore, another role of public relations is to save money for the organisation by building relations with public that “constrain or enhance the ability of the organisation to meet its mission” (Grunig, cited in Deuschl, 2006).
Public relations differs from other marketing tools –mainly advertising- in communicating messages because it is the public relations that best creates the launch of a brand, as it has a greater credibility. Moreover, public relations is quite inexpensive compared to advertising (Raza, 2004; Ries, 2004).
Public relations is becoming the one of the most important parts of marketing and sales functions of tourism as its definition includes “to promote improved understanding between operators and their public” (Roberts, 1993). Increased competition in the industry forces the operators to create awareness of a new product or facility for the customers. Images are built and created by public relations through print media, word of mouth, and the attitude of the targeted audience. If done properly, potential tourists will know how they will benefit, learn and grow from visiting a particular site or event (Krapfl, 1998). As Witt, Brook and Buckley (1992) mention, tourism market is characterised by freedom of choice on the part of the individual in terms of selection of destination, transport mode and so on and by strong competition among the various segments of industry (including the destinations) that supply the market (Witt et al., 1992: 41).
Companies are still building their images by travel and tourism brochures and advertisements. Everyday, on television or by display windows of the travel agencies, people are exposed to the visuals of exotic destinations with swaying palm trees, white sandy beaches next to azure blue seas or a fine dining at sunset. However, today, the press is taking tourism industry more seriously. A reason for that change is that industry communicators have succeeded to convince journalists that travel and tourism has a powerful impact on local and national economies (Deuschl, 2006).
For example, Travel Industry Association of America, published in their website that travel and tourism ranks as America’s third largest retail sales industry and it is the nation’s largest service export industry, and is one of America’s largest employers (TIA, 2007). The case is not different in United Kingdom. Worldwide, the UK ranks the seventh in the international tourism earnings category despite the fall in arrivals (approximately 9.4%) after the terrorist attacks. And the tourism industry represents 7.1% of total employment. Moreover, tourism generates 8% of London’s GDP which is at the same time, the city’s second largest industry (Mintel, 2003).
This sector is predicted to grow more rapidly than any other. And, The World Tourism Foundation predicts that,
“By 2012, the Destination Management Organisation will be the dominant, most influential and most respected force behind the world’s largest industry, or…not exist at all” (WTF, cited in Mintel, 2005).
The operators may utilise public relations in order to evaluate the market demand, “create additional sales opportunities in the competitive market”, and to “reinforce quality of a product against adverse publicity” (Roberts, 1993). Travel and tourism practitioners are using all of the Public Relations tools. But the most common tools used (Deuschl, 2006) in this industry are;
-Press Releases; for example Hotel PR practitioners attract travel writers through well-written news releases and creative e-mail “pitches” designed to persuade reporters to visit.
-Fact Sheets; when journalists are in the hotel, the PR manager should be certain that the journalists’ rooms are furnished with a complete fact sheet (or press kit) containing information on every detail.
-Web Sites; Due to the explosive growth in the technology in the last decade, people are buying their vacations on the net. As there are many opportunities, a tourism company must advertise the destination attractive with the photographs and also positive feedbacks on the Web site. Furthermore, Web sites today are also vital during crisis communication situations (Ward, 2000).
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