Multi Channel Marketing in tourism
by Michael Bütterhoff, Jochen Hintemann, Martin Markoff and David Nielsen
1.1 What is multi channel marketing?
Multi Channel Marketing is a strategy in order to call the customers’ attention to
various distribution channels and to inform them about products and services they
offer. Customers gain the possibility to choose their preferred channel to inform
themselves and buy the product or service. Essentially the channels do not have to
be the same. [WiBe]
1.2 Development of multi channel marketing in tourism
Especially in tourism there used to be only one distribution channel offered. The
customers had to go to a travel agency for getting information, but due to technical
improvement enterprises were able to offer new possibilities. From the 70s to the
90s the first electronic booking systems were developed by the airlines and allocated
to the travel agencies. Unfortunately, only 5 % of the total reservations were booked
with this system. From the 90s onwards there was a boom in the electronic booking
system market, because several improvements had been brought about. As a result,
the percentage of holiday reservations rose up to 20 %, but at high costs for the
customer. The share of distribution costs of the total costs was about 30 %. On
account of growing internet popularity, especially among private households, a shift
from the classic marketing channel travel agency to direct marketing from producer
to customer was caused. [FeAm]
2. Functions and benefits of distribution channels
The main function of a Distribution Channel is to connect the production and the
consumption by filling any gap or discontinuity which could exist between them.
Some discontinuities could be caused by geographical allocation or time (with the
exception of personal services, production and consumption rarely occur
Another explanation of the distribution channel functions gives D. Buhalis:
Distribution channels provide information for prospective tourists, bundle products
together as well as establish a mechanism, which could enable consumers to make,
confirm and pay for reservations. [BuDi1]
Some benefits derived from the definition of Multichannel Marketing [BuDi2]:
• Identify consumers’ needs, requests and expected experiences
• Facilitating of access to often remote tourism products, for both bookings
• Assemble tourism products from different providers according to customer
• Provision of co – ordinate and seamless tourism products
• Facilitate the selling process by reserving and issuing travel documents
• Reduce prices by negotiating and pre‐purchasing tourist products in bulk
• Ameliorate inventory management by managing demand and supply
• Issue and deliver travel documentation, i.e., ticketing, vouchers, etc.
• Asses the quality of facilities and products
• Assist in legal requirements for consumers (e.g., visas) and suppliers
3. Facts of tourism channels
3.1 Where do customers purchase?
In the bar chart “Where are
tourism services purchased”
you can see that internet
portals won influence from
2005 to 2007. Furthermore,
the share of direct booking
increased, whereas travel
agencies and regional
tourist offices lost market
share. [RA 2007]
3.2 Which communication channels do customers use?
In the bar chart “How are
tourism services purchased”
can be seen that a shift
from the traditional
communication channel like
“Letter/Fax” to the Internet
place. Besides, all other
channel kept their share.
The internet has increased its importance as regards information and booking
channel in the last years. In 2007 39% of Germans had already used the internet to
search for information on holidays. In the same year 19% of Germans had already
booked online. [RA 2007]
A number of advantages and disadvantages can be identified. They can be subdivided
into two categories: benefits for a. enterprises and b. customers:
Enterprise > Tap the full market potential
> increased coordination costs
> inconsistencies between the
> Improved customer orientation
> Economic advantages by using a
> insufficient load of distribution
capable channel‐mix concerning
> lack of data concerning "channel‐
> Independence from the provider
> Differentiation between
Customer > irritation of customers due to
> generate higher customer benefit
variety of channels
> Improvement of availability for
services and products
> combined use of different channels
> clearing of information asymmetry
[RA 2008]: Forschungsgemeinschaft Urlaub und Reisen e.V.: Reiseanalyse aktuell.
[RA 2007]: Forschungsgemeinschaft Urlaub und Reisen e.V.: Reiseanalyse aktuell.
RA: The sources [RA 2008] and [RA 2007] are information sheets from F.U.R
(Forschungsgemeinschaft Urlaub und Reisen e.V.). The data is taken from two surveys
in 2007 and 2008. In both cases about 7.500 Germans have been randomly chosen for
the survey and make up a representative group for Germany’s population of 14 years
of age and above.
[BuDi1] Buhalis, D.; Laws, E.: Tourism Distribution Channels. Practices, Issues and
Transformations, 1st edition Continuum New York
[BuDi2] Buhalis, D.: Relationships in the distribution channel of tourism: conflicts
between hoteliers and tour operators in the Mediterranean region.
Dimitrios Buhalis is professor at the School of Services Management, Bournemouth
University. He concentrates his research on eTourism.
In his book Tourism Distribution Channels he combines contemporary case – studies,
theoretical and practical perspectives based on many sectors from around the world.
[BaBr] Baker, M.J.; Brown, A.J.: Distribution channel. 1998
www.themarketingdictionary.com. Abrufdatum 2008‐11‐5
[FeAm] Amgwerd, F.: Die Distribution von Hotel‐ und Tourismusprodukten – Gestern,
Heute und Morgen. 2001.
This source written Felix Amgwerd, president of HOSPITALITY SALES AND MARKETING
ASSOCIATION INTERNATIONAL, deals with the influence of technological
improvement on the distribution of tourism products.
At first the development of last 30 years is shown where the intermediate trade had a
good market position. Later on with new technology especially the internet the whole
situation changed. Different kinds of marketing and distribution strategies were
[WiBe] Wirtz, B. W.: Handbuch Multi‐channel‐marketing. 1. Aufl.
Gabler Verlag 2007
In this source enowned national and international authors from science and
practice give an overview of the relevant marketing beginnings and success factors
as well as chances and risks. Numerous examples and case studies from
automobile, communication, trade and tourism industry clarify practiceoriented
solutions. The manual addresses itself both to executive committees, managing
directors and highlevel personnel and to students and lecturers of the business