I am currently busy with my Doctoral degree and intend using QuestionPro.Com for my research survey. The title of the thesis is:
The Marketing Information System as management tool for South African tour operators
South African tour operators are daily confronted with problems regarding the uncertain tourism, business, and marketing environments within which they operate. Tour operators have to determining consumers' needs and preferences and this task is complicated by the dynamic nature of these environments, as well as the changing nature of consumer behaviour within these environments. The environmental variables, together with the influences on consumer behaviour, compound the difficulty tour operators face in their endeavor to anticipate opportunities and threats.
Given the current situation and ongoing changes in South Africa, Strydom (1991:288) indicates that retail experts have expressed concern in the past about the future existence of independent retailers and have determined that larger retailers can be held responsible for the declining numbers of small retailers. According to the author, this contributes to large-scale changes in the South African retail environment, of which tour operators are part of. The result is that tour operators' future planning is made extremely difficult. Tour operators need reliable marketing information for decision-making purposes, information that can be used as a managerial tool by those who are shrouded in uncertainty.
South African tour operators need information to be able to carry out analysis, planning, implementation, and control. These tasks should furthermore be performed within the guidelines for responsible and sustainable tourism business practices. Information about customers, competitors, suppliers, and other forces in the marketplace contribute to reducing the risk involved in decision-making - seeing that making the right' decisions determine the future success of a business. Middleton and Clark (2001:171) indicate the importance of information by stating that "the lower the quality (or absence) of information used for marketing decisions, the higher the risks of marketing failures, especially in strong competitive markets."
As South Africa is part of the global marketplace and business environment, tour operators need information on larger, more distant markets; about how tourists respond to different offerings and appeals; about intensified competition and the effectiveness of their marketing tools; and, finally, to enable tour operators to make timely decisions in today's rapidly changing marketing environment. Added to this is the world trend for tourism businesses to shift towards an information-based economy. Tour operators should however take care not to drown in information. It is, therefore, important for tour operators involved with decision-making to disentangle copious amounts of information by identifying the right kind (being precise and timely) of information inputs, which are specifically applicable to the business of tour operations by means of a sophisticated marketing information system (MIS).
This study focuses on bringing the marketing information system into the operations and management of a tour operation. The reason (motivation) for researching the marketing information system as a managerial tool for tour operators will now be amplified.
A large part of the tourism industry consists of sophisticated organisations and the scene is rapidly changing as more organisations expand globally. Independent operators have become increasingly fewer and their numbers will continue to decline (Lewis, Chambers & Chacko, 1995:xv) as more strategic alliances are formed.
Tour operators are involved in an ongoing process of gathering information informally and subconsciously in the course of their everyday duties and through contact with colleagues in the industry, by observation, listening to discussions, and reading press-related material. This process of being aware of what is happening in tourism should be supported by a more formal procedure in a systematic and scientific way, by means of a marketing information system. This system will ensure that a tour operator collects regular and planned information, analyses it, and disseminates it to a designated decision-maker. The marketing information system calls for two distinct tasks: firstly, to consider the decisions managers need to make, and, secondly, to determine what information is needed to be able to make those decisions.
The aim of this research study is to determine the current methods used by tour operators for collecting and processing market and marketing-related information as a point of departure. This information will then be compared to existing models of a marketing information system. The final outcome is a new workable model that will enhance the usefulness and application of marketing information as a management tool to enable tour operators to adapt to the dynamics of the business and tourism environment within which they operate. It should, however, be kept in mind that the purpose of research is not only solving problems but also preventing problems. This proposed model will enable tour operators to have a sophisticated marketing information system that will act as a timeous warning system and as a managerial tool, to be informed about, and plan futuristically. This can only be accomplished by means of relevant and useful research.
Up to date, a substantial amount of information about tourism in South Africa has been collected and analysed, for various purposes, by a variety of individuals, bodies, and organisations. Existing information focuses mainly on quantitative data. Research in the field of marketing information systems in tourism, its uses and applications, has not received its fair share of attention - it is needless at this point to mention that all managerial decisions are based on market and marketing information. Various existing databases have been searched and results obtained refer to information systems, marketing information systems, and tourism per se, but do not reveal studies published on the marketing information system as managerial tool for tour operators. This study will therefore make a positive contribution to the study field of tourism marketing.
The outcomes of this study aims to enable tour operators to put and keep a workable and sophisticated marketing information system in place. This will contribute to their identification and planning for utilising opportunities, identification of potential threats, and the survival of their business, as well as devising and maintaining a responsible and sustainable pre-emptive position, when compared with competitors.
This study will further enable those who anticipate entering the market as a tour operator to be informed about what should be known about the tourism business and marketing environment, and how to go about collecting, processing, analysing, interpreting, and utilising information to their benefit.
Tour operators in South Africa will contribute directly and/or indirectly to the success of this study and the findings and recommendations will be made available to the benefit of existing and aspirant South African tour operators.
The business environment within which tour operators in South Africa find themselves is changing at an ever-increasing rate and the need for real-time market and marketing information is greater than at any specific time in the past. The exploding information requirements give rise to impressive information technologies providing tour operators with rapid and detailed information necessary for managerial and strategic decision-making.
Many business ventures (including tour operations), as repeatedly stated by Kotler (1991:96, 1994:124, 1997:109, 2000:100), pay less attention to the fifth critical resource of an organisation: information (the others are money, materials, machines, and human resources). Many tour operations lack a marketing research department whilst others have departments that limit its work to routine forecasting, sales analysis, and occasional surveys. In addition, many tour operators complain about not knowing where critical information is located in the business; getting too much information that can't be used and too little of what they really need; getting important information too late; and doubting the accuracy of information.
The problem from which this study emanates is that numerous South African tour operators lack the knowledge, and a method, to facilitate marketing information sophistication. This in-depth empirical study researches the marketing information system as management tool for South African tour operators. In other words, what are the distinguishing features of a model for a sophisticated marketing information system?
The primary objective of this study is to compile a model according to which South African tour operators should establish and utilise a marketing information system as a management tool.
The secondary objectives for this study are:
to determine the current types of market and marketing information collected for management purposes,
to determine the current methods used by managers of tour operations for collecting market and marketing-related information,
to determine how tour operators process and disseminate collected information, and
to determine how and to what extent market and marketing information is utilised in the management process.
The success of this study, in complying with the set objectives, is based on following a specific methodology. The methodology applicable to this study will now be deliberated.
There are, according to Bless and Higson-Smith (1999:Chapter 1), many ways of acquiring knowledge, and in many cases it is not necessary to undertake sophisticated research to be able to develop some understanding of the world around us. Sophisticated research, in the form of the scientific method of acquiring knowledge, also called scientific research (a systematic investigation of a question, a phenomenon, or a problem using specific principles (Black, 1999:3)), applies to this research study to be able to fulfill the stated objectives. This then also gives tour operators the assurance that the outcomes of this research are valid and reliable (Bless & Higson-Smith, 1999:6). It should, however, be noted that the scientific research, as mentioned above, should not be confused with research performed within the domain of science.
This study focuses on marketing research seeing that a marketing information system involves more than just the behaviour of consumers (tourists). It should be kept in mind that market research (consumer behaviour) is of paramount importance to the success of a tour operation and therefore forms an important and indispensable input into a sophisticated marketing information system. This study is based on the research principles of the analytical survey method (collecting data by means of questionnaires and analysing it statistically) supported by the historical method (in the form of secondary data - existing statistics and publications.