There are 3 groups of players: first level suppliers, service operators and marketing operators:

1st level suppliers. Human resources, land owners, infrastructure operators, utility operators, government as license supplier and the construction sector are the basic suppliers for the tourism industry operators. As we have seen in the five forces model, they play a key role in defining the industry’s profitability when tourism is not so developed in a territory or we are analyzing the attractiveness of a tourism sector that would require the construction of new facilities and services. We may take into account Governments as active players in the industry whenever they are in charge of marketing the destinations.

Service operators. Food & beverage, accommodation, transport and activities providers are the key operators of the industry, as service providers. Whenever we analyze the attractiveness of tourism business that would be based on existing services and facilities, we will consider them as suppliers, except for the activities’ operators, which could be considered as incumbents in this case.

Marketing operators. Here lies the complexity of the tourism industry, where we define several kinds of operators, which may be either competitors or partners.

  • Booking centers & portals: online and/or telephone based commercial platforms managing bookings for one or more kinds of services operators –mostly focused on accommodation and also activities-, usually gathering the tourism services offered within a local or regional territory. They usually get their profits by keeping a percentage of the business they bring to their local service suppliers. In this concept we can also include new business models like Airbnb, whose service suppliers are local householders marketing their spare rooms.
  • Incoming agencies: operators located in the destination in charge of creating packages including accommodation, transportation and activities. These are the most genuine marketing operators, as they are in charge of product development, combining services and experiences available in the destination for the satisfaction of every target. They may sell their packages to tour operators, travel agencies or directly to the final customer. In many cases, they are also the activity providers.
  • Tour operators: operators located in the outbound market in charge of creating packages, usually marketing several destinations and several kinds of products. However they may be tour operators specialized in one destination and more often in one kind of product (golf, ski, sun & beach, cultural touring, incentive trips, etc.). These may deal directly with the service operators or with the incoming agencies, and then sell their packages to the travel agencies or directly to the final customer. They usually buy service capacity long in advance to the service operators or incoming agencies at a lower price ensuring them business, and then have to sell this capacity to the outbound markets.
  • Travel agencies: service retailers usually located near to the customer, selling either incoming agencies’ or tour operator’s packages, or directly booking to the services’ operators. Many travel agencies sell through the internet. Their value is based on the confidence of the customer, offering packages from different operators and sometimes specialization in certain products.
  • Travel social media sites: even if they are not included in the previous scheme as business players, sites like Tripadvisor and many similar models are key influencers in the decision making process of both the chosen destination and mostly the chosen operators within, therefore they deserve a relevant mention as key players in the tourism industry.

In this table are summarized the main features that define each of the marketing operators:

Marketing operators conceptual features
 

Location

Product development

Dealing with final customer

Marketing focus

Booking center

Destination

No

···

One destination. One or many products
Incoming agency

Destination

Yes

·

One destination. One or many products
Tour operator

Outbound market

Yes

·

Many destinations.  One or many products
Travel agency

Outbound market

No

···

Many destinations.  One or many products
Travel social site

Internet

No

···

All destinations.

All services

 

Being that this conceptual outline is representative for most of the industry operators’ models, we should also note that many operators have developed business models integrating several concepts and functions altogether, in most cases as a result of a forward integration process.

Would you consider other key players when analyzing the tourism industry structure?

Posted by Jordi Pera

Jordi Pera is an economist passionate about tourism, strategy, marketing, sustainability, business modelling and open innovation. He has international experience in marketing, intelligence research, strategy planning, business model innovation and lecturing, having developed most of his career in the tourism industry. Jordi is keen on tackling innovation and strategy challenges that require imagination, entail thoughtful analysis and are to be solved with creative solutions.

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