In the travel and tourism sector, our customers take a real journey. The concept means something very different in other sectors. Oxford Strategic Marketing developed the concept for the British government as part of its efforts to improve the consumers’ experience of service delivery by departments, agencies and local government.
Setting aside the issue of whether government interacts with us as consumers or as citizens, I think the latter, the concept is more complex in our sector. Oxford Strategic Marketing used Eurostar’s efforts to improve its customer service as one of its examples of the value of “customer journey marketing”.
The concept is now widely used to analyse the complete experience a customer has with an organisation in order to improve it and secure repeat business and referrals. “It encompasses all customer interactions across all channels, devices and touchpoints throughout every stage of the customer lifecycle – from awareness to loyalty.” More here.
This is not without some value for tourism businesses. However, the challenge of tourism businesses is much more complex and difficult. The vast majority of our business is tourism. Before the nineteenth century, there were travellers who went on journeys and pilgrimages.
Travel came for the French travail used to describe painful or laborious effort. Tourism first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1811 originating from a Greek word used to describe a circle. Contemporary tourists have a much higher expectation of returning safely than did medieval travellers or pilgrims.
For our sector, the customer journey is about much more than the way the customer experiences the airline, hotel or tour operator – the whole chain matters. The challenge has been laid bare by the pandemic. The tourist needs to travel from home to the airport and then to pass through check-in, security and the departure lounge to the plane. Then to disembark, pass through immigration and collect baggage before travelling to their accommodation.
In the destination, they need to be able to safely explore the place and then to return through the same chain to their home. At each stage of this customer journey, they need to be assured of their safety. The Covid-19 threat comes from the businesses, the staff and premises, but also from other travellers and in the destination the local community. There is also the risk of a government-imposed quarantine in the destination or at home. The tourism chain has always been long and complex; the sector worked hard to reduce risk, but Covid-19 has reintroduced it – we need to work to recreate the chain and to build its strength. Customers need assurance that the weak links in the chain have been addressed. There is much still to be done.
To read more about the latest Developments in Responsible Tourism click here.