Analyses - February 9, 2006



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February 2006


Print Accommodation, Marketing , Trends,

Are tourism brochures still effective?

Technological advances have called into question many traditional models, including the common tourism brochure. And yet, this form does not appear on the brink of extinction. Two studies have confirmed its usefulness, for it remains one of the most popular information sources for tourists. This is all the more true since most travellers alter their plans while travelling. In this respect, brochures play a greater role than the Internet, for example, in influencing the decisions of travellers who have already left home.

Measuring effectiveness

A traveller’s impression of a destination and choice of vacation spot and tourism services are influenced primarily by the individual’s prior experience. When a traveller opts to visit a place for the first time, other information sources like name recognition, reputation, price, advertising, the Internet, word of mouth, etc. are all very influential.

Kathleen L. Andereck, a professor at Arizona State University, wanted to better understand the effectiveness of the tourism brochure as a decision-making tool for tourists. To that end, she administered a survey to a sampling of people who had requested tourist information about Glendale, Arizona. According to Professor Andereck, the study showed that traditional brochures still have a major influence on travel decisions. Potential tourists who had requested a brochure showed an increased interest in the region, thanks to the information they received (Figure 1). In fact, 51% of respondents said they were interested or extremely interested in visiting Glendale after they received the brochure, while only 19% said this before they received the brochure.

Tourist brochures have a significant influence on other major travel decisions, particularly the decision to include the region in one’s travel plans (33%) or stay longer in the region (15%). The study’s author concludes, nonetheless, that a traveller’s initial impressions of a destination remain the strongest predictor of whether or not it will be included in one’s travel plans. On the other hand, a brochure’s effectiveness definitely increases interest in the destination and plays a part in determining how much time a tourist spends in the area.

The experience factor

Two segments were defined to measure the effect of the brochure: repeat visitors (those who had already been to Glendale) and visitors with no previous visits. The data showed that repeat visitors were more interested in visiting the area than the others were, before receiving the brochure. Interestingly, however, the two groups expressed virtually identical interest levels after receiving the information.

Therefore, among tourists who have never visited a given destination, a brochure can be very effective at positively influencing their level of interest. In addition, tourists who had never visited Glendale also indicated that the advertising had significantly altered their initial image or expectations.

Brochures appeal to women

The study sampling also illustrated significant differences in brochure effectiveness, according to the socio-demographic profile of potential visitors. The researchers noted that women were more likely than men to be positively influenced by this form of advertising. This was also true for the population segment of middle-aged people with lower incomes.

For destinations that are further away or less popular, as well as for organizations with limited financial means, confirmation of the traditional brochure’s effectiveness is good news. Relatively low production and distribution costs make the brochure accessible to everyone. However, it is important to take full advantage of the brochure’s two primary strengths, simplicity and colourfulness, and to find appropriate distribution points.

What about the Internet?

There has been much discussion about the importance of the Internet as a travel planning tool. According to the latest data from the CEFRIO (Centre francophone d’informatisation des organisations), 35% of all Quebeckers report that they use the Web to plan their travel. Obviously, destinations need not question the importance of a strong online visibility strategy. On the other hand, it is important to remember that not all travel decisions are made before leaving home and that many details get worked out during a trip. In fact, 62% of travellers look for information while travelling.

Professor Patrick Tierney from San Francisco State University interviewed 2569 tourists in Canada, the US and Ireland at hotels, attractions and visitor centres. His study reveals that once travellers leave home, brochures become the top planning tool (21%), followed by friend/relative and travel guides (15% each). Few people bother consulting the Internet while they are on vacation (11%).

The study also points out that, among tourists who had taken a brochure from a rack, 37% changed their travel plans due to the information in the brochure and 47% purchased something featured in the brochure.

Adapting the message

Another important consideration is the role of women in deciding and planning family vacations. Too often advertising is geared towards men, when women are the ones making the decisions. Furthermore, since women are more likely to be influenced by this form of marketing, it is crucial that promotional strategies be adapted to ensure that women can identify with the message.

Many experts are predicting a rosy future for electronic brochures, because they cost less to produce and are easier to update. However, they do not meet the needs of travelling tourists. It is also important to remember that the behaviours described above were in fact observed among people who wanted to receive a tourist brochure. The expected results of a mass mailing via a major daily or through other unsolicited channels would certainly not be comparable to the examples presented here.

Producing an attractive brochure is only half the battle. It must then find its way into the proper hands at the proper moment.

– Andereck, Kathleen L. “Evaluation of a Tourist Brochure,” Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, Vol. 18 (2), 2005.
– Bieger, Thomas and Christian Laesser. “Information Sources for Travel Decisions: Toward a Source Process Model,” Journal of Travel Research, Vol. 42, May 2004.
– Riseley, Mark and Adam Daum. “Tour Operators Taking First Steps to Shelve Traditional Brochures.”
– Tierney, Patrick. “Comparison of the Effectiveness of Brochure Distribution in Racks to Other Tourist Information Sources,” San Francisco State University, December 15, 2003.

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