Tourism strategy of Thomas Cook

Introduction:
Thomas Cook is a well functioning international tour operator. It is the only one company in which the participation of the tourists and vacationers in ensured for their vision "The Whole World of Travel." It started its business operations in the year 1841, by Thomas Cook, an English publicist. It attained higher growth rate in the tourism industry through sustained business strategies. Package tours and mass tourism strategies are adopted by them and it ensures growth with higher market share. "Today with ?7.7 billion in sales and 23,300 employees, the company is the world's top three travel services companies and is Europe's number two travel provider. Services offered include travel shops, tour operators, and charter airlines. To complement the company's brand strength, Thomas Cook also owns a whole host of other renowned tour operator brands and airlines, including Thomas Cook Reisen, Neckermann, JMC, Condor, and Thomas Cook Airlines." (SAP customer success story, p.2). Corporate social responsibility is the motto of Thomas Cook Group. They provide support to the responsible tourism programs of the Travel Foundation by minimising the negative impacts arising from intensive tourism and maximising the benefits from the tourism to the local community. Through positively influencing the native society of the tourism destination, they contribute to the development of the industry itself. "Thomas Cook's mission is to "perfect the personal leisure experience." "In keeping with the values of Victorian society, Thomas Cook believed that by offering alternative, more virtuous and educational leisure activities, the lives of working people would be greatly improved and that everyone could become better educated through travel." (Steps towards a sustainable future). In order to achieve the operating profit target of $ 620 million in the period of 2009/ 2010, Thomas Cook differentiates their focusing from the main stream tour operating to independent travel and financial services. "Thomas Cook said it would increase targetedonline sales to 35% in 2009/10 as part of its strategy of increasing controlled distribution." (Fearis 2007).
Brief synopsis of the sustainable tourism strategy of Thomas Cook: Sustainable tourism is also referred as responsible tourism. It is based on the development of
positive attitude towards the community and the environment of the destination to which the tourism is focused. Careful utilisation of valuable local resources for the benefit of the community and the protection of local environment is part of sustainable tourism. In this concept the following points are involved.
1. Admiring the local culture and environment of the destination.
2. Giving adequate economic returns to the people in the local community by buying their
products and utilising their services.
3. Considering the savings of water and other natural resources in the environment. To co
operate with the energy saving programs initiated by local government is the main
consideration required.
4. Contribution to protect the endangered wild life species in the destination.
5. Safeguarding the natural and cultural heritage of the tourism destination while tourists are
in visit.
6. Self enjoyment and at the same time being responsible for one's own actions.
7. Caring and enhancing the attraction of the favourite destination through brilliant actions for
the future generations of visitors.
Sustainable tourism strategy adopted by Thomas Cook:
Thomas Cook adopted sustainable tourism strategy. By holding the concept of social responsibility, they started the first holiday package. The sustainable tourism strategy of Thomas Cook is divided into six sections and for each of the section, detailed insight is provided for fulfilling the targeted goals.
Thomas Cook is showing commitment to their sustainable tourism strategies. For the fulfilment of their objective they ensure the support and help from their clients. For helping to boost the local economy, local purchasing is greatly encouraged by them. To enrich the holiday experience they insist up on their clients to enjoy the real taste of local life. Caring of local resources as well as preserving the originality of the places is the main policy of Thomas Cook. They insist on their clients to follow the guidelines described below:
1. Be buyer of the locally made products ranging from food to arts and crafts.
2. Be the buyer of local bars and cafes.
3. Adopt the services of local guides and drivers for going out on pleasure trips.
4. Use the public transport system for local travel requirements.
5. Do not buy the products from endangered plants or wild animals.
These are some of the guidelines prescribed for the holiday makers.
In partnership with CARE France, Thomas Cook introduced responsible tourism strategies. Their partnership is mainly focused on the following objectives.
"1. To bring awareness to customers about sustainable development on their travel location by creating a 'Travellers' Charter'
2. To train the employees in the field of sustainable tourism
3. To increase consideration for social and environmental concerns in the groups
decisions (product development and management, supply chain control, local
collaborators)
4. To contribute to the development of sustainable tourism by participating in
international institutions and local initiatives
5. To raise funds for participation in CARE's development projects." (Thomas Cook Partnership with CARE 2009).
Always ensure significant payment to the seller for the products and services consumed. The local rules and regulations have to be understood properly before entering in any type of contracts. Through the helping of the local economy by purchasing the locally made products and services, it would be helpful for the well being of the local community and thus they would show positive attitude towards the foreign travellers. It should provide a better enhanced experience to the travellers. Environmentally disastrous cruel products should not be consumed even though they may be attractive. Aircraft emissions:
Thomas Cook is greatly considering the controlling and reduction of pollution from the holiday flights. In order to reduce the environmental impact of holiday flights, they adopted flights ensuring comparatively reduced carbon emissions. They are naturally committed to adopt all possible ways to reduce the environmental impacts.
The airlines of Thomas Cook are part of the UK sustainable aviation strategy. They provide support and contribute to the creation of an EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Issues relating to the emission of green house gases, noise pollution from aircrafts, and other environmental impacts are effectively controlled by Thomas Cook. The carbon reduction program of ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents), The Travel Association and the AITO ( Association of Independent Tour Operators) named as " Reduce My Footprint" is greatly supported by Thomas Cook. Thomas Cook has contributed to can recycling programs with the Travel Foundation and it resulted in greater contribution to the recycling process and energy saving. Evaluation of the appropriateness of the sustainable tourism strategy: Sustainable tourism strategy is important for sustainable future of the travel industry as well as sustainable holidays. Through this strategy, the holiday makers get everlasting opportunity for recharging their travelling experiences and the tour operators are benefited from enhancing their business through creating positive attitude in customers towards travelling and the local community is benefited from flow of funds on sustainable manner. Thus sustainable tourism strategy has greater potential in the growth and development of the overall tourism industry.
The tourism industry is facing serious challenges in the present environmental conditions. "Resorts often put the very resources that they rely on at risk: over-development destroys pristine beaches, rivers and forests. Businesses which have poor workplace practices and which generate few benefits for the local community can reduce the friendly welcome that tourists are looking for. And the industry's carbon emissions contribute to climate change, which at the same time threatens holiday destinations all over the world - from skiresorts to coastal regions." (Travel and Tourism).
In these changing environmental situations the concept of sustainable tourism has growing significance for maintaining the growth and development of the industry. Increasing business mentality among the parties involved in the tourism industry has created an environment which imposes challenges to the sustainability of the global tourism destinations on long term. The sustainable tourism strategy is built on concepts such as lower consumption of the natural resources.
Environmental issues such as climate change and increasing pressure on natural resources are badly affecting the global travel and tourism industry. These factors reduce the attraction of the global tourism destinations to a greater extend. It will have negative impact on the profitability and business growth of the tourism operating companies. Sustainable tourism strategy is built on good business sense. Good practise of the strategy provides profitability and sustainability improvement in the industry. Through the encouragement of the local sustainable tourism, the sustainability of the tourism business is greatly ensured. Overland travel is a major part of the holidays and in the sustainable tourism, strategy is ensuring low -carbon travel through increased use of road, rail and ship based travel rather than aeroplanes.
The environmental impacts of aviation such as increasing carbon emission is controlled in the sustainable tourism ways through using low carbon emitting vehicles ensuring most efficient operational performance. Through the sharing of the core values of the corporate social responsibility with the business partners, the protection of the natural environment and culture of the destination is greatly assured. Thomas Cook is co-operating with Travel Foundation and the FTO for formulating appropriate strategies in the field of corporate responsible tourism. Through these activities they aim to sustain their business growth and development in future also. Awareness among the consumers about the necessity of sustainable tourism approach is developed through campaigns and other communication devices.
Through the protection of the natural resources for the sake of attracting the tourists and travellers, along with unique experience to the visitors natural environment also is benefited. Buying of local crafts and other produces will mean protection to the small scale industry in the local region and its sustainability can be ensured. The sustainable tourism approach is contributing to make a positive difference in the attitude of the people towards the natural environment and the protection of endangered species. Through the involvement of the children in the activities of the sustainable tourism approach, greater awareness among the future generations of travellers is ensured.
Thomas Cook strengthened its corporate social responsibility program though the business collaboration with the MyTravel. Effective communication is developed among the employees and customers and this contributes to the successful implementation of the strategies. "The success of our CSR strategy depends on the quality of our communication.
We need to raise awareness and understanding among key stakeholders and partners of what CSR is, and what individuals and groups can do to make 'a world of difference'." (Communicating with Stakeholders 2009). Reduction in the use of natural resources is the basis of sustainable tourism strategy. This will
provide greater contribution to the positive difference in the attitude of the travellers towards the environment and its scarce resources and its protection for future generation. Disposal of waste is the primary responsibility of the travellers under the CSR concept. For contributing to the local waste reduction and processing programs, available recycling schemes of the local regulatory have to be used by the travellers. And this ensures a better, safe and hygienic
environment.
Theoretical aspects of the sustainable tourism strategies:
In order to identify the importance and appropriateness of the sustainable tourism strategy in the growth and development of the industry, it has to identify the theoretical support. The major tourism theories are discussed here for identifying how the CSR concept is relevant in
the tourism development and growth.
Tourism theories:
Travel and tourism theories are mostly based on travel motivation. The basic factors that influence the travelling decisions are tourist need satisfaction, customer satisfaction and destination loyalty. Tourist motivation factors have higher influence on the tourist behaviour of travellers with regard to their destination choice, needs, goals and preferences. In case of ecotourism, social psychological desire to break out from the habitual ordinary life is the primary push factor. The major pull factors which force travellers to take travel decisions aredestination attributes such as natural attractions like wild life and immaculate environment.
(Kim Lian Chan & Baum 2009).
As per the theory of Iso- Ahola interpersonal escape and interpersonal seeking motivate tourism and recreation among the individuals. In case of personal seeking and personal escape dimensions, tourism experiences have great role in motivation. Sporting events, beaches, amusement parks, and natural parks improves the motivational levels of tourism and recreational activities to a greater extent. (Snepenger etal 2006). Tourism motivation in holiday trips is the desire to travel for satisfying the internal needs and wants. Incentive tourism is a motivational tool among the employees as well as other organizational personnel. Most of the weekend travel decisions are related to the intention to take rest and spend the weekend for relaxation. Travel behaviour among individuals can be described as a function of quantifiable aspects such as socio-demographic characteristics and physical characteristics of the region. Most of the travelling decisions are situational in nature. Travel behaviour of individuals is influenced by individual personality, attitudes and perceptions. Attitude of travellers has influence on beliefs and behaviour in travel decision such as the frequency of use. Novelty seeking is the prime motivating factor that affects the travelling of most of the individuals. The positive and negative feed back from the travel affect their future decision to travel a particular destination.
The motivational factors have a key role in the tourist decision making behaviour. In the motivational factors, push and pull concept was introduced by Crompton and Chon in 1979. Push factors affect the desire for travel whereas pull factors affect the actual destination choice. In the concept of Crompton 1979, there are nine motive factors influencing the leisure travellers. Seven of them are socio psychological factors and two are cultural motives. Push factors are internal factors whereas pull factors are external The seven push factors include, making a change in the routine life environment, meeting self needs, relaxation, establishing social relationships, prestige and social interaction. Novelty and education are the pull factors. According to Iso-Ahola, 1980, there are mainly two motivational factors in tourist behaviour. The first feature is approach, focusing on recreational opportunities for intrinsic rewards, and the second feature is avoidance which is escape oriented. The increasing trend of shorter holiday breaks is a signal of escape dimension among the tourists behaviour. The study by Teare ( 1994) on peoples' motives for selecting hotel leisure breaks in the UK states that there are six factors such as attending a pre arranged event, as a break from personal commitments, as well as employment pressures, to fulfil the desire of relaxation or visit a particular destination and to exploit the seasonal benefits of short breaks. The personal motivation factor may differ as per individual behaviour. (Dunne, Buckley & Flanagan). When considering the theoretical concepts it revealed that protection of the natural environment is an essential factor for motivating the travellers to visit the destinations. Through the keeping of novelty of the destination environment, its attraction can be sustained over a longer period of time. Thus the tourism theories better support the appropriateness of sustainable tourism strategy for the sustainable growth of the industry. In the year 1997 through the introduction of internet sales of the holiday packages, Thomas Cook became the first one offering such services in the UK retail travel agency. The guidelines of the Sustainable Tourism Initiative started by Tony Blair government in the year 2001, forced Thomas Cook to adopt sustainable tourism strategies. With the financial support of Thomas Cook, and support from UK government, Travel Foundation was launched. In the responsible tourism committee of FTO, Thomas Cook is a prominent member. In the year 2004, Thomas Cook adopted responsible tourism policy and they appointed Responsible Business Manager for controlling and directing its activities in the field of responsible tourism. Through these series of activities they earned greater comments from the regulatory in the industry. "Thomas Cook Airlines joins UK Sustainable Aviation Strategy to reduce aviation's environmental impact. Thomas Cook posts its responsible tourism policy on website and features Responsible Tourism Awards in brochures. MyTravel appoints
Responsible Tourism Manager, develops and publishes its responsible tourism policy and adds responsible tourism pages to its intranet and consumer websites. Neilson wins World Travel Market Highly Commended Responsible Travel Award. Start of Ј2m Kings College Critical Care Unit appeal." (History & timeline 2009). Sports tourism strategy of Thomas Cook:
Sports tourism is a growing sector in the global tourism industry. In the concept of sports tourism, hosting of international sports events, maintenance of historical sports monuments and local sports events etc are involved. Organisations involved in the tour operating field have also significant position in the sports tourism. Traditional tourist destinations are facing challenges with reducing tourism attractions and recession. In his situation sports tourism in an emerging concept providing various opportunities to the players to grow and develop in the industry. Sports events are causing flow of large number of foreign travellers to a particular destination. Tour operators have great role in providing better experience to the visitors of sports events through providing them attractive tourism packages. "While big events will attract large number of spectators, mass participation events can have a sizeable economic effect. And, in the longer term, creating a tourism package that includes sport among a range of attractions may well deliver more sustained benefits." (Spot tourism: Strategies for successful development 2009).
Sports tourism strategy is also adopted by Thomas Cook for stimulating its overall economic growth. As a part of its sports tourism strategy it acts as participating tour operator for important international sports events. In case of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which would be held in South Africa, Thomas Cook is appointed as participating tour operator. It will undertake the tours operating from five European regions. Authorised travel packages should be arranged by them for the fans of the participating teams from the UK; Germany, France, Netherlands and Sweden are other countries focused by Thomas Cook for its services.
"Thomas Cook Sport is also an Official Licensed Operator for the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 2009 and has established travel partnerships with most of the UK's leading football clubs including, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Aston Villa." (Thomas Cook Sport appointed tour operator for 2010 FIFA World Cup 2009). As the official travel operator for the international tournament, they are targeting to provide a unique and unforgettable experience to the football fans through Thomas Cook's sports authorised travel packages for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Conclusion:
Direct marketing techniques are adopted by Thomas Cook along with mass marketing campaigns and it attained high conversion rates. The image attained through the greater participation to the CSR programs enhanced their business value and goodwill. Technological applications are adopted by them to leverage the transaction history. They adopted environmental audits of hotels. It became the world's number one travel company. In the year 2008, Thomas Cook achieved Silver British Travel Awards for the greater contribution in the field of environmentally responsible tourism activities. This shows that the sustainable tourism strategy adopted by them has succeeded in providing greater benefits for their improved operational performance and at the same time providing sustainable growth to the tourism industry also.

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