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Promotion of Circuit Tourism: Gains Participating Countries Can Make in General and Bangladesh in Particular

By Prof. Dr. Md. Ashraful Islam Chowdhury
Founding Chairman Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Presently Professor, Department of Marketing
University of Dhaka, Bangladesh

Research on intra-national travel (circuit) patterns has largely been limited to analyses of flows between sets of generating and receiving countries. There continues to be comparatively little recognition in the literature that these intra-national movements are complemented by two sets of intra-national movements: One in the generating country as tourists leave home and make their way to a port of departure (and subsequently return home via the same or a different port of entry). The other in the receiving country (or countries) as the tourists move to a destination or visit a variety of destinations. In a strict sense these intra-national movements may not be international, but logically they form integral parts of an international travel system. Lack of attention to intra-national flows appears to be due to the rather narrow outlook held by many national tourist organizations and other institutions which see their role largely in terms of increasing total arrivals and boosting gross foreign exchange earnings. An understanding of intra-national movements becomes particularly important when other goals are pursued, such as regional development or spreading the impacts, both positive and negative of tourism. Information on internal travel may also contribute to overall expansion. From a marketing perspective, a growing number of tourist organizations and businesses are also beginning to identify the sub-national origins of many of their visitors and, faced with the costs and challenges of tapping huge markets such as the US, are increasingly developing more targeted campaigns aimed at the specific regions within those countries which have the greatest propensity to visit their destinations.

Conceptual issues of Circuit Tourism and the global picture thereof:
Global tourism is not merely restricted to travel between pairs of origins and markets. Travel to one destination may be pooled with visits to other destinations in what is variously recognized as circuit tourism or multi-destination travel. The core of the concept was clearly outlined by Cullinan et al. in 1977 in their Central American study. According to them “a circuit tour is a pleasure trip which includes two or more countries by a resident of a third country.’’ The basic concept has been articulated and measured in a multiplicity of ways all over the world, but in most of these instances the analysis involves all travelers not just those on a pleasure trip. Many countries, however, continue to record arrivals in seclusion, taking account barely of the fraction of any tour spent inside their frontiers.

In 1990 three quarters of US travelers visited only one country on each trip abroad, only a tiny fraction of travelers visited three or more countries. All US travelers to Caribbean restricted their visit to a single island. In contrast, the opening up of Central Europe appears to have occasioned additional itinerant visits there, with a mean of 3.2 countries visited. Africa and the Middle East also produce higher than average multi destination trips.

In 1992 visitors to Hong Kong stayed overnight in only two different international destinations, that is, on average they were visiting Hong Kong plus one other country. Visitors from the long haul markets of North America, Europe and Australia tended to mingle a visit to Hong Kong with about two other countries, while Asians, particularly Japanese, averaged only one and a half countries per trip, including Hong Kong.

Hong Kong, as both a well intense regional focal point and a physically small destination with a narrow assortment of attractions, relies principally on circuit visitors.
In contrast, the small South Pacific destinations of French Polynesia and Vanuatu are more secluded and have a ‘sun-sand-sea’ image that is possibly more advantageous to stay put holidays makers.

An affinity for higher levels of circuit tourism is linked with long-haul travel. Greater length of travel will augment not only the need for technical stopovers but also a wish to break one’s journey and possibly obtain a better return on transport costs by combining visits to two or more destinations on the one trip.

Information reveals that visitors to Great Britain from outside Western Europe reported their intention to mingle a visit to Britain with at least one other European country.

Hong Kong is evidently part of a broader Asian circuit for North American and European travelers, but Japan and Taiwan are allied more closely into the circuits of Americans than Europeans.

The bulk of New Zealand visits to Fiji consist of destination travel or circuits involving other Pacific destinations. Australia also follows this model.

European circuits demonstrate a roughly parallel model to that of the Americans.

Little remains known concerning the motivations and preferences of circuit tourists and what distinguishes them from those who visit only one country.

The Progression of Global Tourist Flows:
The evolutionary trends of worldwide tourism recommend that the volume of traffic to more far-flung destinations will rise over time and that the nature of the tourist visiting given destinations will also vary.

Statistics on four markets – the US, Germany, the UK and Japan – are not firmly comparable as they are taken from diverse sources, they are based on different definitions and they are presented in varying degrees of geographical facts. Nonetheless, using a general approach – spatial variations in market share – it is likely to draw out a number of common trends.

Significant escalation occurred in German outbound travel over last few decades as the inclination for holiday-taking in general and international travel in particular grew. Notable changes in the relative composition of German travelers also occurred. Bordering Austria saw its share of the German market for main holidays reduce.

Italy also experienced a noticeable fall in market share, while Spain’s share increase appreciably over the years with parallel rates of growth being experienced by France and Yugoslavia.

The German traffic is still intra-regional, where stable increases were recorded in the traffic outside Europe.
The number of British visits overseas increased in the same time. A major relocation of British traffic occurred as Ireland’s share dropped.
Italy’s share also decreased progressively. Slighter declines were registered by the Alpine destinations of Austria and Switzerland.

It is known that three East African countries will jointly promote the region as a tourist destination, James Bahinguza, the general manager of Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) has said. James Bahinguza was quoted by The New Vision as saying recently that the tourist boards of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania are meeting in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha shortly to work out strategies that would enable tourists to visit the region without difficulty.

Data of Japanese outbound tourists depicts a considerable increase over the last few decades due to strong yen and a couple of actions taken by Japanese government to increase foreign tour by Japanese thus reducing Japan’s trade surplus. Asia has accounted for about half of the Japanese departures (Taiwan, Philippines, Singapore etc.).

The largest destination for Japanese travelers is the US until recently. Europe has registered about 10 percent of Japanese outbound travel since 1980 with France, the UK and Germany being the three leading destinations. Australia started to show some growth, accounting for less than 10 percent of Japanese departures.

The percentage of Germans traveling outside Europe is increasing quickly. The changes in the market share that do occur are basically recorded within each respective region. The most fundamental is a decline in departures to conventional neighboring non-sun countries and a parallel growth in the traffic to sun-sand-sea destinations, most of which are characterized by lower living expenses. Thus the German traffic to Austria declines and holidaymakers head towards cheaper Mediterranean destinations, as do British vacationers discarding Ireland. Mexico gains in attractiveness for US travelers as Canada’s appeal is weaken. The Japanese model is less clear-cut, there being few readily reachable sunlust destinations. Hong Kong declines in significance, much of sun-sand-sea traffic is oriented to Guam, Hawaii and later to Queensland in Australia.

Destinations will be affected by these and other market trends in different ways and to varying degrees depending on their location and individual market mix.

The tourism industry is playing a growing role in both new/old industrialized countries and emerging/developing countries. While the manufacturing sector is undergoing a profound crisis and transformation process at a world-wide level, the service and tourism industry is attracting new investments and capitals, often playing a vital role in the international diversification processes; it is increasing its average size, involving multinationals as well. Consequently the situation has radically altered and is continually evolving. Tourism is no longer a prerogative of countries such as France, Italy, Spain, with their SME systems, but a wider and more complex phenomenon linking local and global networks, not only individual products/services, strictly linked to the area features. Nevertheless, within such a circumstance the European model still plays a central and specific role; thanks to its broad range of diverse cultures (also allowing for the new entry of the eastern countries).

Networking and Tourism Regional Systems:
Developing countries are evolving as well and are directly involved in the competitive game. The new major Asian countries such as China and India, leaders of the world industrial development, are no longer playing an inactive role as tourism destinations managed by the major international tour operators; they are rather becoming vigorous subjects generating tourism demand and new entrepreneurship.

The competitive game is no longer controlled by individual organizations but involves the territories that, through the agreement and multi-level co-ordination of their resources, become supply systems and, then, tourism destinations. Thus, the tourism destinations become the unit of analysis and the focus shifts to “networking”, co-operation, formal and unofficial networks and partnership management in order to gain a competitive edge and increase products quality. Accordingly, tourism firms are required to implement radical management changes; first of all they are required to take on a systemic approach to analyze the competitive context and manage relationships and resources. Achieving and retaining the firm’s competitive advantage firmly depends on the firm’s capability to incorporate and define its product/service within the region, to co-operate with other regional stakeholders so as to provide an bona fide, differentiated and unique tourism experience. In this situation, application and propagation of ICT technologies can effectively support the new processes aimed at integrating destinations, tour operators of the regional destinations and services provided by them. With this work we want to participate in the debate on these issues, including “Networking and Tourism Regional Systems”. Scholars, tourism operators and policy-makers these days have focused their attention on the issues related to networking and partnership involving tourism stakeholders of destination countries and NTOs (National Tourism Organizations) of the respective region; they have stimulated a lively debate and suggested analytical approaches and empirical applications. A host of linkages among cluster members result in a whole greater than the sum of its part. In a typical tourism cluster, for example, the quality of a visitor’s experience depends not only on the appeal of the primary attraction but also on the quality and efficiency of subsequent destinations as well as complementary businesses such as hotels, restaurants, shopping outlets and transportation facilities. Because members of the cluster are mutually dependent, good performance by one can boost the success of the others.

The growing increase in international and inter-regional competitiveness, linked with the evident shortcomings of traditional regional development models and policies, are some of the reasons that have triggered the interest of academic and researchers for studying clusters and networks. Research in this area suggests that economies tend to develop through the appearance of clusters. In fact, the development of clusters contributes appreciably to the world’s economies and provides paths to developing national and, in particular, regional economies. Several examples of regional clustering provide evidence that even as competition and economic activity globalize, competitive advantage can be localized. Having in mind the reality of the tourism sector, which is mainly constituted by micro and small enterprises, the advantages of working jointly are huge. Physical closeness, investment in R&D and cooperation between countries of the respective region increase information exchanges. This leads to knowledge spillovers and generates (technological) innovation, which are pointed as indispensable factors in promoting economic growth. Partnerships and strategic alliances in tourism and hospitality were classified among the 10 most important world tourism issues for 2004 (Edgell, 2004). According to several authors, the strategic positioning of peripheral regions can be accomplished through the identification of product clusters, the establishment of public–private partnerships and the establishment of networks.

Globalization can also be seen as a prospect to benefit from the open world market. In order to cope with the threats of global competition and develop strategic positioning, tourism destinations should encourage the emergence of tourism clusters, the establishment of networks and strong partnerships, among neighboring countries.

Interest in regional clusters and their role in economic development have grown considerably over the last years among academics, politics and professionals. “One reason for the massive interest in regional clusters is the simple fact that ‘they are there’” (Enright, 2001). Historical investigation suggests that economies tend to develop through the appearance of regional clusters. A basic reason for the growing interest in partnerships in tourism development is the belief that tourist destination areas and organizations may be able to gain competitive advantage by bringing together the knowledge, expertise, capital and other resources of several stakeholders (Kotler et al., 1993 cited in Bramwell & Lane, 2000, p. 2). According to Costa (1996), the importance of networks and partnerships for tourism seems huge. Firstly, they offer planners an organizational framework in which more comprehensive, wide-ranging, participatory, informed and democratic approaches may be put forward, because policies are not entirely designed by planning agencies but are, instead, supported by a wider range of stakeholders. Moreover, they bring destination areas the assurance that development is no longer viewed from a short-term economic approach; instead, the planning and development of resort are viewed from a wider standpoint, which comprises the surrounding natural, social and economic environment, and, therefore, takes into account notions such as uniqueness, carrying capacity and sustaining development.

Additionally, they bring the tourism industry the hope that economic growth is seen not only in the short term but also in the medium and long terms. By conveying more stability and competitiveness to the web, networks also bring more safety and profitability to private sector investments.

Lastly, networks transmit governments the advantage that the development of tourism is seen with respect the natural and social patrimony; that development takes into account the economic structure of every place; and also that, by inspiring the inter-regional coordination of policies, the indirect and induced economic impact produced by tourism are enhanced.

Lessons Bangladesh can take from the concept of regional integration to promote circuit tourism as few other Asian countries have taken:
Bordering country India already has realized this and has taken quite a few remarkable steps to this end. Recently India and Iran have agreed to increase cooperation in tourism and culture sectors. Indian government has emphasized the need to increase people to people contact between the two countries, realizing that such contacts will give people a first hand opportunity to understand each other better. Indian government is taking to expedite the signing of Cultural Exchange Program and an updated MOU on Tourism between India and Iran. India has proposed for the holding of Road Shows by Indian travel agents and tour operators in Iran and suggested that both countries can offer affordable tour packages to the citizens of India and Iran to increase tourist traffic. India has also realized that it should work seriously to attract more Chinese tourists there. Much was made of the fact that India and China together comprised almost 40 per cent of the world’s population. China is already the largest source for outbound tourism in all of Asia. Last year a weighty 40 million Chinese traveled abroad (up from 12.1 million in 2001), and according to the World Tourism Organization this number would rise to 100 million by 2020. But as officials from the Indian Tourism Ministry admitted, the cold fact is that last year India attracted only 68,000 Chinese visitors. There was thus much hand-wringing about the fact that Chinese travelers to India make up less than 2 per cent of the total number of foreign travelers to the country.

Tourism in China has greatly expanded over the last few decades. The emergence of a newly rich middle class and an easing of restrictions on movement by the Chinese authorities are both fueling this travel boom. China has become one of the world’s most-watched and hottest outbound tourist markets. The world is on the cusp of a sustained Chinese outbound tourism boom. According to the WTO, in 2020, China will become the largest tourist country and the fourth largest for overseas travel. In terms of total outbound travel spending, China is currently ranked fifth and is expected to be the fastest growing in the world from 2006 to 2015, jumping into the number two slot for total travel spending by 2015. Rising middle class incomes and a pent-up demand to see the rest of the world will make China one of the most significant outbound tourism markets in the coming decade. Controls on foreign travel are being gradually eased. Rising disposable incomes and constant exposure to foreign countries on television have also contributed to a surge in outward tourism. One indication of this is the increase in the number of travel agencies, from 6,222 in 1998 to 11,552 in 2002, which has accompanied a rise in the number of Chinese tourists going abroad from 3.2 million to 10.1 million in the same period. The proportion of Chinese going abroad for “private purposes” rose steadily during that time from 38.1% to 60.8%. Almost all the growth in travel agencies has so far been in Chinese-owned agencies, which increased from 4,910 to 10,203, while international travel agencies in China have remained at just over 1,300. Chinese nationals spent more than US$15 billion on tourism abroad in 2002, and US$19.1 billion in 2004. In 2006 some 34.5 million mainland Chinese trips were taken outside of China. China has been the leading source of outbound tourists in Asia since 2003, though most Chinese tourists (71% in 2005) only go to Hong Kong and Macau.

The impact of Chinese outbound tourism is starting to be felt in Asia (17% in 2005), with far fewer going to Europe (5% in 2005) and elsewhere. In addition, Chinese tourists are among the biggest spenders when they travel overseas, making them a highly desired market. South-East Asian countries specialize in cheap package holidays tailored specifically for the Chinese market. So, the bulk of the Chinese who travel abroad choose to go to destinations such as Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. If Bangladesh is able to draw a small percentage of these tourists here in the country, the entire scenario of the country’s tourism industry will change overnight. Bangladesh, joining hands with these Asian countries can gain a considerable advantage of Asian Circuit Tourism.

According to Mr Hiran Cooray, Member-Board of Management, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, India already accounts for the largest number of visitors to Sri Lanka. Approximately 120,000 Indians visited the country last year. While many of these Indian visitors are believed to be business visitors, at least 50,000 are on holiday, he added. Bangladesh through linking itself with India and Sri Lanka forming a tourism triangle will be able to attract at least some percentage of these tourists to the country. The top 10 Indian cities including Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi and Hyderabad contributed to 14 per cent growth year-on-year to log 7.49 lakh last year, a growth averaging more than 25 per cent. Cities like Tiruchy, Coimbatore and Madurai accounted for a growth of 32 per cent, 29 per cent and 25 per cent respectively. Though these cities had no direct air link to Singapore, the increasing number of visitors from these cities to Singapore has prompted the STB (Singapore Tourism Board) to intensify its marketing to Indian tourists. Bangladesh can also form another triangle with Singapore and India and can bring some of the Singaporean tourists here in Bangladesh.

The ministers and tourism officials of Malaysia and Singapore have agreed to embark on a two-year marketing campaign to jointly promote both destinations. Tourism bodies of both countries said in a joint statement recently that the agreement was reached on at a meeting on the sidelines of the Asean Tourism Meetings in Davao City, Philippines. Bangladesh can also enter into such arrangements with other Asian countries taking lesson from this for the benefits of the countries concerned in the field of tourism.

Bangladesh can identify few Asian countries as natural partners with very strong ties traditionally and exploit this warm relationship to enhance their tourism position globally. Such cooperation would drive the formulation of exciting tour programmes into all partner countries. The joint tourism promotion campaign would further foster closer rapport and understanding across all levels. Activities for the joint marketing campaign may be the promotion of bilateral tourism flows, and joint promotion to third countries.

Bangladesh can offer visitors from the partner countries complementary admission to various attractions on a mutually-agreed date and vice-versa. On the joint promotion, the focus may be on strategic advertising in the major tourist generating countries where both agencies may cost-share the funding on an equal basis.

Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are all geared up to boost regional tourism through enhanced cooperation. With the objective to promote cooperation among member countries in tourism and market ASEAN as a single tourist destination, a week-long ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) with the theme “Expanding the ASEAN Horizon Toward the 21st Century” ended recently. In its conjunction, the ASEAN Tourism Conference (ATC) held recently appealed to tourism industry companies in the region including airlines, tour operators and travel agents to promote the region as a tourist destination with a greater sense of responsibility. Besides, ASEAN tourism ministers had an informal agreement to promote ASEAN region as single tourist destination.

To promote the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a single tourist destination, it is also agreed that member countries need to open skies, build up single-visa regime and improve infrastructure. ASEAN should also engage dialogue partners like China, Japan, Republic of Korea (ROK), India and Russia, in tourism cooperation.

Other issues that also require attention are: co-branding, marketing, tourism investment promotion, tourism standards, human resource development and tourism information. Bangladesh, through tied up itself with this ASEAN proposition can gain quite significantly in the field of tourism.

This requires an understanding of the concept of “CIRCUIT or ORBITAL TOURISM” by the policy planners and business community of the tourism sector and work so that the circuit tourism is promoted. Following steps may be taken by the tourism stakeholders of Bangladesh to reap the benefits of Regional Tourism Promotion thus encouraging circuit tourism:

* Visa issuance can be abolished for those travelers who desire to stay Bangladesh for maximum stay of three months.
* Simplifying the entry and exit procedures.
* Simplification of currency regulations:
* Lightening of international tourists of their travel burdens through: group discount of fares on various domestic transportation means, lodging and dining tax
* Bangladesh Government can enact necessary laws and regulations
* Offering promotional prices on fares, hotel rates, prices of local transportation, and restaurant prices.
* Persistent efforts and joint cooperation of the concerned agencies – government, semi-government and private sector as well as with the tourism stakeholders of the regional countries.
* Strategic Tourism Marketing Plan, an Immediate Requirement
* There may also be joint form of advertising campaigns and public relations exercises in major tourist-generating countries
* A tie-up with the Asian tour operators can help our tourism industry to get something out of the circuit tourism.
* There may also be joint form of advertising campaigns and public relations exercises in major tourist-generating markets undertaken by BPC and private tour operators and travel agents in association with other tourism stakeholders of the Asian countries.
* Travel mart (fair) and Road Shows should be arranged frequently in the major tourist generating countries.
* Bangladesh can be co-branded with the other partner Asian countries”.
* Tourism channel of distribution should be made extensive for inbound tourism.
* The tourism industry must not be viewed in isolation but needs to be integrated into wider development plans.
* Personnel of Bangladesh missions abroad should be motivated to inform foreign tourists about country’s attractive places and facilities. A separate department may be set up in each embassy that can work continuously to develop Bangladesh’s image further and further to the foreigners.

Given the premise above, it is the responsibility of both the public and private sectors to come forward in developing Regional Tourism Promotion for Bangladesh tourism industry to move few steps forward thus contributing significantly to the country’s economy, reduction of unemployment and bringing manifold good to the society.

Writer Prof. Dr. Md. Ashraful Islam Chowdhury
Founding Chairman Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Presently Professor, Department of Marketing
University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

This article was first published in the BTTF-2010 Tourism Fair magazine. The BTTF fair was hosted by Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) on the 30th September to the 2ed November 2010 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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