In order to promote and sell ideas, products or services every organisation must investigate the market place of their own industry. As Holloway (2004, p. 59) defines, marketing research is “the planned, systematic collection and an analysis of data designed to help the management of an organisation to reach decisions, and to monitor the results of those decisions once taken”. There are two main approaches of research that calculate and understand customers’ needs and desires. One is the qualitative method, which studies motivation, attitudes and behaviour of consumers.
The other analyses the quantitative aspect of consumer’s behaviour and opinions in form of numerical data and statistics. Within qualitative and quantitative methods used in the tourism industry, in this essay I will describe, evaluate and contrast one of each type in order to understand the differences and similarities in their objectives and how their may complement each other. Out of the qualitative approaches, attention will be devoted to the focus group, which explores consumers’ feelings and attitudes through interviewing small groups of people of the same or different culture, gender, class, age (etc.
) to draw conclusions about a whole segment of population’s behaviour. The larger picture is then supported by the data collected and analysed through quantitative methods like the survey, which measures consumers’ behaviour in numbers obtained through questionnaires made for larger groups. The focus group is a discussion guided by a moderator whose aim is to expose individual feelings on a selected issue or product that needs to be inserted or enhanced in the market place. Discussions usually involve a selection of individuals (from 6 to 10 people maximum) who can be representative of larger groups.
Data is usually collected through discussions that the moderator must carefully guide in order to expose the participants’ real feelings without manipulate them with his/her objectives (Palmer 2004, p. 149). The range of topics that organizations in the tourist sectors may investigate is extremely wide and, like for all other industries, it touches topics from personal attitudes toward an existing product or its customer satisfaction, to the investigation of a market place for a potential new product.
Individuals are usually selected according to the features that are most representative of a specific segment of society, from their age, gender, cultural background, class, to the place or community where they live. According to the organization purpose, the group may be formed of individuals of a specific segment if the objective is to target the larger group as a whole. In other cases researchers may observe the consequences of an interaction between individuals from different groups in order to understand broader social dynamics (Egan 2007, pp.
135-141). When properly monitored, this type of research is well effective to highlight features of groups that are targeted by the organization. For example First Choice Holidays studied the market competition by researching on the emotional values attached to other tour operators through group discussions. The study revealed interesting information about people’s feeling toward each tour operator and offered the company insights for improving their image (Holloway 2004, p. 85).
However the strategy presents a series of downsides, which mainly regard the difficulties related in identifying individuals as representative of a certain group along with logistic and cost-related problems that may appear when setting the discussion in a specific place. For example if a Tour Operator’s objective is to determinate the consumer behaviour of a specific group on a national scale, problems arise in the choice of a place where individuals from different areas since they may be required to travel long distances (Swarbrooke-Horner 2001).
The process therefore may be too costly and time-consuming for small enterprises or its results may not outweigh conspicuous investments of even larger organizations (Middlenton, Clark 2001, p. 170). By contrast quantitative methods like the survey aim to understand through numbers the behaviour of a specific targeted group. Researchers often choose surveys because of their effectiveness in reaching large numbers of individuals from different areas of interest (Lumsdon 1997, p130).
In the tourist sectors surveys may serve to analyse competitors, threats and opportunities or consumer trends and satisfaction. Surveys mainly consist in questionnaires or interviews whose results serve to draw statistics upon groups on a wider scale. The number of people surveyed therefore determinates the accuracy of the picture that an organization can obtain of the targeted segment of population. Research in the tourism industry privileges such type of investigation, since it allows the collection of large amounts of data that can be used for different purposes.
A survey can in fact touch a variety of topics and provide data for more than one research while remaining relatively inexpensive for large and small enterprises (Holloway 2004 p. 60). Surveys can be conducted face-to-face, by phone, by mail, online and in-site (Seaton, Bennett, 1996, p. 93). Each method presents positive and negative potentials, since the absence of direct monitoring either stimulates answers or rejections in people. The survey therefore must be clear and motivating for the respondent, who is often discouraged by factors like unclear objectives or questions appearing too personal (Morgan 1996, p.
57). For example Jarvis Hotel Group distributed questionnaires in the rooms of all its branches in order to study consumer’s satisfaction and needs. On one side the survey provided large amount of data that could be cheaply analysed through computer techniques. On the other side, the absence of an observer did not guarantee that questionnaires were filled only by a small group of costumers, namely the most or worst satisfied with the service provided. Those people were in fact the only ones to possess a real motivation for filling the survey (Taylor 2000).
Despite focus groups and surveys provide different insights to the researcher, they complement each other both in terms of results and resource for the research itself. On one hand the observation made during a focus group may be irrelevant if not supported with broader data obtained though surveys. On the other, a focus group may raise issues that can be used for the formulation of questions in a survey or to understand the features of a determined segment of population to which it is directed (Wade 1998). For example, a research on customer’s satisfaction of a Hotel group may be conducted leaving questionnaires in the premises.
However, without a focus group the organization may not understand important features of its service users or the issues behind their complains. Moreover without a focus group, the data collected cannot possibly reach ex-users and non-users, whose needs must be explored in order to extend the organization’s position in the market place (Swarbrooke-Horner 2001). In conclusion, focus groups and surveys are useful tools of research for organizations that need to investigate their market place and enhance their market strategy.
In the tourism industry both methods are widely used and provide very different insights to the research. A qualitative method like the focus group may help an organization in the sector to explore psychological and social features of their target population and to construct customers’ profiles with their needs and expectations. However this type of research presents a series of drawbacks such as cost, time and logistic issues that makes it accessible only to large organizations.
By contrast a quantitative method like the survey offer a less expensive alternative of research because it can reach the target with ease and the data collected can be analysed simply with computer techniques. Despite the amount of data may offer a broader picture of the issue explored, it fails to explore essential features belonging to the respondents. In fact, a survey may ultimately know the number of people who respond in a certain manner to a questionnaire, but it may not explain the reasons behind the answers.
The latter can in fact be obtained only through qualitative analysis, which in turn needs the support of the greater data provided by quantitative methods. Finally, both types of research are not only essential in order to understand an issue and the reasons behind it. In fact they also complement each other providing useful information for the development of the research itself. A survey needs in fact the observation made during a focus group in order to raise questions on particular issues emerged during the discussion.
In turn, a focus group needs the data obtained though the survey in order to understand broad trends and select individuals who best represent their target population. 1400 words Bibliography - Egan, J. (2007) Marketing Communications, London: Thompson Learning. - Holloway, J Christopher (2004) Marketing for tourism, 4th Edition, Pearson Education. - Lumson, L (1997) Tourism Marketing, Oxford: International Business Press. - Morgan, M (1996) Marketing for Leisure and Tourism, Wiltshire: Prentice Hall.
- Palmer, A (2004) Introduction to Marketing: theory and practice, Oxford University Press. - Seaton, A. V. and Bennett, M. M. (1996) Marketing Tourism Products: Concepts, Issues, Cases, Oxford: International Business Press. - Swarbrooke, J. and Horner, S. (2001) Researching Tourist Satisfaction, Tourism Insights, May. - Taylor, H. (2000) The Talk To Us Campaign - Market Research Techniques for the Hotel Industry, Tourism Insights, November. - Wade, R. Kenneth (1998) Focus groups can help develop survey issues, Marketing News, March 2, 1998, Vol. 32 Issue 5, p18-18, 1/3p