Journal for Development and Leadership
This article focuses on relationship marketing strategies utilised by Eastern Cape travel agents. To evaluate the current relationship marketing strategies being used, a conceptual framework for relationship marketing was identified and an empirical study using mail questionnaires was undertaken.
A mail survey was selected because of the relatively low cost involved which also eliminates interviewers and field supervisors, facilitates central control, and promises anonymity to respondents. A predicted low response rate was remedied by follow-up action entailing telephone calls and e-mails.
The study findings concurred with the literature review that relationship marketing is important.
The tourism industry has been persuaded to acknowledge and apply relationship marketing to a greater degree. This was the result of a changing environment landscape (Palmer & Mayer, 1996; Antia & Frazier, 2001; Christopher, Payne & Ballantyne, 1991), which included: an increase in internet use, suppliers (mainly airlines) restructuring commission and economic climate downscaling. Furthermore, smaller travel agents joined larger consortiums and greater emphasis was placed on business versus leisure travel. This move allowed structural bond formation to take place resulting in long-term relationships.
From the evidence collected during the study the following conclusions were reached: relationship marketing is growing in importance throughout the industry, highlighting the importance of internal marketing and often the client’s first contact is with frontline staff, telephonically or in person. Managers have realised that relationships with all role players (personnel, clients, suppliers, competitors) have to be managed to ensure that they become long-term. To enhance long-term capability, travel agents acknowledge that they need to form partnerships with preferred suppliers.
Further study to include all members of the distribution channel (particularly customers) is recommended to obtain a holistic view of the tourism industry environment.
Keywords: Relationship Marketing; Retention Strategies; Service Marketing; Commission Restructuring.
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