“The tourism product is a complex human experience” (Middleton). Discuss and give specific examples. Tourism is an activity that individuals enjoy and they are motivated by a wide range of desires. The tourism phenomenon is challenging to understand and businesses must carefully evaluate the tourist’s perceptions of what constitutes a tourism product. This has to be done in order to understand individual behavior, the psychology of tourists and potential tourists and identify their wants and needs, which need to be satisfied.

When we speak of the tourism product, we are dealing with tangible components, such as brochures, travel magazines and maps, and also with intangible components, because this human experience cannot be touched or seen but it is something felt and associated with emotions and reactions. Some of the intangibles which are fundamental determinants of tourism demand include the yearning for holidays, the propensity of spending of the consumers and the changing popularity of holiday styles, which is most often influenced by current travel trends.

Taking into consideration these intangibles, the management process of every tourism related business has to identify, anticipate and supply for the customer’s needs and wants efficiently and profitably. For a business to gain a ‘competitive advantage’ over others it needs to fully understand the desires of the tourists, what are they looking for in a tourism product and what they want to experience. For instance, if a couple is looking for ‘romance’, does this entail a secluded bungalow on a tropical beach with palm trees or a luxurious ski lodge with a fireplace in private rooms?

Therefore is a hotel’s potential for romance best advertised through images of a couple enjoying each other’s company, or perhaps though images of intimate decor and discrete service? The specifications that create a feeling of ‘romance’ or any other desired experience by travelers, is of great relevance to tourism operators who benefit from the well-thought formation of an environment that promotes the desired experience.

Studying and observing how environments are created and manipulated by operators is also of interest to scholars who seek a better theoretical understanding of human motivations and perceptions. ‘The package is perceived by the tourist as an experience, available at a price’ (Middleton & Clarke 2001). Consequently the tourism product can be divided in two levels, being the total level referring to the complete experience of the tourist from the time he leaves home to the time he returns and the specific level, which is that of a distinct product offered by a single business.

When developing a tourism product it is important to carry out a research on product development, which must not be ignored as it plays a vital part in developing a destination, which involves individual products and experience opportunities that are combined to form the desired total experience of the area visited The development and testing of models help explain the consequences of human behavior and are an important research priority in tourism.

Such information is very valuable when it comes to designing a new tourism product and initiate marketing to promote these products. Comprehending how individuals make decisions about alternative products, what sources of information they require at different stages of their decision- making, how they evaluate this information and how they structure and interpret their experiences can offer important benefits to businesses as well as to our general understanding of the tourism experience.

Only by understanding its buyers and their decision-making processes can an organization develop a service which is appropriate, accessible, appealing and at the right place, as Medlik and Middleton (1973) suggest that the destination product consists of five components: destination attractions, destination facilities, accessibility, images and price. This is where the tourism industry has to evaluate the marketing mix- made up of the 4 P’s, namely the products, price, place and promotion and nowadays, also are included 3 more P’s- people, processes and physical evidence.

The experience of the tourists will be influenced on the way the product is presented to them and how it is priced, as they would like a good value for the money they spend. They would be requiring a good quality service with friendly and helpful personnel, which will make their holiday more pleasant. The whole process of their travel from the moment they leave their home, the utilization of transport, hotels and other tourism related services would determine how enjoyable their overall journey was.

That is the reason why each step of delivering the tourism product experience needs to be examined carefully paying particular attention to the demographics of the customers and their personality traits, which will establish their expectations and requirements. The commercial products, which are also components of the overall tourism product, have to be understood and assessed and these include accommodation, transport, attractions and other facilities for tourists, such as car rental and ski hire.

Therefore there are three levels of the tourist product, which are the core product, the formal product and the augmented product. The core product is the idea and main message imbedded in the service being designed to satisfy the identified needs of target customer segment, such as health tourism being the main aim. The formal product means the specific offer for sale for the consumers, the goods and services which will be presented to them, like the health products being sold and the associated health services like spa treatments and massages.

Finally the augmented product comprises of all the forms of added value producers build into their formal product offers to make them more attractive, such as adverts of the benefits of health tourism and the beautifying effects it has. The overall tourism product also comprises of the demand side by visitors, which is the reason why people travel like for leisure, business, education, religion or health, and also the supply side by national tourist offices (NTO’s).

The tourist product means customer value, which is ‘the perceived benefits provided to meet the customer’s needs ands wants, quality of service received, and the value for money’ (Middleton & Clarke 2001,89). This value is added in each stage of the production process and the consumer is unchangeable a part of this process. In order for the tourism demand to be satisfied and catered for, there are three classifications, which have to be taken into consideration by the tourism industry.

Accessibility determines the relative ease or difficulty with which customers reach the destinations of their choice. It entails transport infrastructure, such as airports, harbors, motorways and rail networks. It is also a matter of transport technology which alters the cost of travel and the time it takes to reach destinations. For example nowadays travelers search for the cheapest flights available and want to get to the desired destination in the fastest way possible, not to waste time and time is considered as money in recent days.

Images are also part of the overall tourism experience. They contain meaning, ideas and beliefs which people hold about all forms of products they purchase or reflect upon and become attached to. A very powerful motivator in leisure travel that influences tourism decisions are the destination images, which are created for tourists and draw them to a destination, for example people’s perceptions of Paris being an exquisite and romantic place to visit, or Las Vegas carrying the image of the city with ‘bright lights’ that never sleeps.

Finally but not least, the price is the summation of what it costs for a visitor to pursue the components of travel, such as accommodation and the participation in a range of activities and the use of various services like restaurants, health centers, tour guides and others. The price of tourist products varies by choice of accommodation- the ranking of the hotel, the season of the year, the types of activities undertaken and the distance traveled to a destination.

Most developed destinations deal with a large number of products for a wide range of segments, but the continuing success of a destination must always involve coordination and recognition of mutual long-run interests between all the components of the overall tourism product. To stay ahead of the competition, proactive tourism companies must constantly look for new product innovations and be aware of the life cycle of their product, as to always renovate it and keep up with new trends, the fast growing and changing expectations of the travelers, in order to create a successful and profitable tourism product.

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