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Analysis of the tourism products presented by the LEADER I groups

document type: article
keywords: tourism
source: LEADER technical dossier
last update:3/95

The 44 holiday descriptions presented at the Gubbio seminar (November 1994) in the framework of LEADER I and collected together in a folder-catalogue(*) constitute a real "photograph" of the variety of the tourism proposals in LEADER I areas.

1 The tourism products in LEADER I territories

Designed in 7 countries of the European Union (Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, United Kingdom), from Scotland to Crete, from the Canary Isles to Tuscany, these descriptions enable one to grasp the style, the concept, the image of the tourism products in the LEADER areas.

They demonstrate that:

- most of the tourism products presented have above all a "cultural" content. Patrimony and rural traditions are the back cloth to the holidays proposed; Man more than Nature is the first actor in the scenario proposed; "countryside", "country folk", "landscapes" are the concepts put forward by the LEADER territories; the very numerous "excursion" products (a third of the catalogue), are more linked to cultural discoveries than to sports activities;

- included in the range there are also holidays designed around local gastronomy, the discovery of local foods products, flavours and smells;

- a convivial atmosphere, an appeal to sensitivity, to the sweet things of life, an opportunity for intimate knowledge of places and people distinguish these products from a tourism involving the accumulation of sites and monuments to be visited;

- the reception is different too: the accommodation facilities are mostly made up of lodging houses, B&Bs, inns, village homes, small hotels or farms. The style of welcome is marked by the presence of the host and participation in the local way of life;

- from these 44 holiday proposals, comes across an impression of diversity and richness coming from the generally strong identity of the territories concerned;

- beyond their marked cultural identity, a lot of these territories are also situated in regions that are exceptional from the point of view of nature and the environment:

* a dozen of them are natural reserves

* most of the time they are areas

. with few inhabitants

. often close to the coast

. in mountainous areas of medium or high altitude

. with few tourists

(*) "New tourism products in rural Europe", available from the LEADER Coordinating Unit.

2 Two product conceptions

The tourism products proposed are divided into two main categories:

- a number of them are "supple" products, with little structure, proposing "à la carte" accommodation and leisure activities. The objective is more a desire for freedom in the organization than a desire to have organized holidays including pre-arranged daily activities.

It is a conception of tourism that privileges relations with people, direct contact between the producer and the consumer. The products are "personalized", very much targeted on individual tourism. They suit the nearby tourist market.

This description particularly suits the products proposed by the British and Irish LAGs;

- the Mediterranean LEADER areas, on the other hand, are often more oriented towards theme products (more based on culture than on nature). They are structured and intended for groups and they correspond more to the standards of tour operators.

Structure in the organization of the products is more noticeable than the role of individuals: those organizing this type of holiday seem to be trying to compensate the weakness of the tradition of rural tourism and the scarcity of professionals by creating ad hoc production and marketing structures.

The various LEADER meetings on tourism have brought forward the necessity for each area to conciliate these two approaches.

The meetings have also given useful lessons for all the LEADER areas in matters of product design, of promotion, of marketing strategy, and of the possible role to be played by local action groups. These themes are taken up in this dossier.

3 Analysis of the tourism products presented

Among the sixty or so areas that took part in the work group on tourism, only a dozen - mainly British, Irish and French - have tourism products that are truly operational and already commercialized (by direct selling or by the intermediary of tour operators).

The great majority of the LEADER I areas can only present holidays in the process of being set up. The LAGs and the local tour operators have to correct a number of weaknesses in order to reach a significant tourism economy, founded on a relevant product/marketing strategy that takes into account the characteristics of the local context.

a. Three types of tourist product

Among the 44 dossiers produced by the LEADER groups, three types of product emerge:

- the "classical" products, of a general nature (of the discovery holiday type, for example) - they need a strong image, the territory has to be known (the customer chooses a destination rather than a type of activity). It is this type of relatively simple, easily reproducible product that interests tour operators;

- specialized products - they require real local potential:

every area does not lend itself to excursions or to horse-riding holidays for example. This type of product is aimed at a specifically targeted clientele and enables the implementing of a "precise" marketing strategy, facilitating direct marketing or marketing by specialized tour operators;

- short stay products - they are intended for individuals, and propose "à la carte" entertainment. They are marketed directly on nearby markets.

b. Products that are more often than not at the prototype stage

The products presented are more often than not at an experimental stage. Their reproducibility, their development, their diversification, the prospect of a global offer that takes into account the tourist potential of the area do not appear clearly.

The evaluation of tourist potential is often insufficient although it is mainly this that determines the development of products and the marketing strategy. Five principal factors should be taken more into consideration:

- the analysis of the reception infrastructure and of its deficiencies - this is a problem of special importance in Mediterranean areas;

- the evaluation of the nearby clientele catchment areas on which the local tour operators can count rather than trying to attract a more distant clientele;

- good knowledge of the flow of the peripheric clientele that can be "diverted" to the area;

- realistic understanding of the renown of the territory as a tourist area based on a survey that enables the determining of an efficient marketing strategy;

- a precise study of the natural and cultural potential of the area.

c. Products that need to be better targeted

First of all it is noticeable that the image of the theme products proposed by the LAGs is often unclear and does not easily fit into the current categories in the sector: "nature holidays" - "sports holidays" - "excursions" - "culture" - "agri-tourism".

The definition of the product and its contents are not sufficiently clear and precise in relation to the type of activity proposed. They do not allow for the targeting of a specific clientele nor the determining of an appropriate marketing tool to reach this clientele. But ";the client comes first", and a product should not be created until one knows to whom it is to be sold.

This principle is rarely respected and many LEADER tourist product descriptions do not answer the three simple questions that would facilitate marketing:

What is the specific potential of the area?

Who are the clients sought?

What activity is being proposed?

d. Tourism professionals are insufficiently involved

Generally-speaking, it can be noticed that the technical setting up of the products presented by the LAGs is often insufficient: it shows insufficient involvement of the professionals in tourism in the development of the products. In many cases it is in fact the LEADER group that is the exclusive support for the development and marketing of the product.

The main problem for LEADER areas is the weakness of their reception networks: accommodation, catering, leisure activities, etc. Few areas are in fact able to get together the various partners that contribute to the realization of a tourist product: suppliers of accommodation, of leisure services, "animators", transporters, distributors, etc.

The best tour operators are not the LAGs, whose main role is an incitive one, but rather the organizations which group accommodation professionals who try to optimize their sales by creating attractive holidays.

The example of "Irish Country Holidays" is significative of this point of view: this organization has been able to mobilize a large network of rural accommodation around leisure activities.

In the same way the ";Comité départemental du Tourisme de Lozère" (France) and the LAG "Navarra" (Spain) have grouped together a large number of reception facilities around an "à la carte" leisure programme.

e. A presentation of the products that lack detail

Most of the products presented by the LEADER groups are still at the "idea" stage, mere sketches, and do not correspond to the type of presentation desirable for complete information on potential clients.

An efficient presentation generally includes:

- the name of the product - a product must have a name that is both sufficiently clear and vivid to retain attention. It should refer to the activity and the destination;

- the presentation of the territory of the activity - this means supplying in synthesis an attractive but exact presentation of the site, of its locality, of the climate, of its geographical, historical and ethnological originality. Very often a map or a sketch are important complementary elements;

- the presentation of the product itself - this includes:

* a text that catches the eye describing the holiday in literary terms. It is better to avoid clichés, superlatives "to lure clients". The text should be centred on the activity and present a summary of the holiday;

* a precise, sober description of the programme day by day that should reassure the client by transmitting to him a maximum number of elements concerning the contents. It is the main part of the product description. The setting up of the product should be rigorous and avoid generalities. The text answers the questions where? when? to do what?

* the presentation of the holiday guide. It is a particularly important element of the tourist product. The guide's skills (references, his knowledge of the territory, his role as an "animator" during the holiday , etc.) are put forward. It is preferable for the animator to be named in order to underline the personal aspect. The photo of the animators can be found in many catalogues;

* the exact description of the accommodation -name of the hotel, level of comfort, gastronomic aspects, geographical situation, address, telephone, etc.;

* holiday dates, the place and time of the meeting (indicate the place on a road map);

* practical advice - type of activity, list of belongings to bring, advice for trips abroad, bibliography on the place, cartography, etc.

It can be pointed out that specialized tour operators use nearly all of these setting up elements in their catalogues (generally one page is devoted to each product and includes at least two photos).

It can also be pointed out that the current trend of tour operators is to make very precise catalogues that are purchasing documents and not tenders.

To reach this level of professionalism in the construction of a product, the LEADER areas must have recourse to product managers who are real specialists and who work one year in advance by testing the product in the field.

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