Syria has all the elements that are required to constitute a perfect climate for tourism. It is considered to be one of the world’s largest natural museums with its various kinds of artifacts, ancient buildings and castles that belong to 20 different civilizations, which one day used to call Syria their home. Add to this, its strategic location in the middle of the old world with few hours’ flight from tourists exporting countries- namely Europe and the gulf area (Gilligan & Wilson, p. 143-149, 2009). Tourism in Syria has gone through pressing regional impacts since the uprising of our folks in Palestine in September 2000, followed by the events of 11 September 2001 in the USA, and later the war on Iraq in 2003. These events resulted in the decline of the travel movement from Europe to the region in general, including Syria, while Arab tourism has accelerated as a result of the Ministry’s activities in different Arab countries to promote tourism to Syria, and the shifting of Arab tourists from America and Europe due to stiff security measures at the airports and border points, in addition to the development of some of the elements of the Syrian tourist product.
Elements of The marketing concept
There are some elements of the marketing concept they are represented by:
- Identifying the best target markets and segments: through splitting the market into segments, evaluating the attractiveness of every market, then selecting accordingly appropriate target markets (Gilligan & Wilson, p. 143-149, 2009), and finally positioning or generating a distinctive world perception of the tourism industry in Syria.
- Researching tourist needs: research is required to continually investigate about how tourists feel and what they want (Nijssen & Frambach, p. 87-93, 2000). Whether online or offline tourist feedback forms, tourist conversations and focus groups are very crucial for the ministry’s knowledge of constant changing attitudes, interest, behaviours, lifestyles and orientations.
- Satisfying needs with the best offering: mixing the right marketing mix for every target market.
- Building profitable tourist relationships: Repeat tourists are far more profitable than new ones (Nijssen & Frambach, p. 87-93, 2000). Whether online or offline relationship marketing involves careful planning covering all stages of selection, acquisition, retention and extension.
- Apply integrated marketing: mean all stakeholders in the tourism business from the Ministry to hotels, banks, restaurants, tourist companies, and border control points, strategic partners to transportation companies must all integrate on staff, departments, systems and information levels (Gilligan & Wilson, p. 143-149, 2009). In order to have a seamless integrated communication network that guarantees a constant flow of information, inherently needed for the best functioning of the industry.
Marketing research techniques
A detailed research for current and potential tourists is crucially important in order to know the size, structure and requirements of target markets. This research can be undertaken using the following Marketing Research Techniques:
Qualitative research techniques:
It clarifies the reasons behind why tourist come and spend their money and what are their impressions and attitudes. From the most important techniques that are frequently used:
It allows us to deeply explore the thoughts and opinions of targeted customers (Drummond & Ensor, p. 76-83, 2005). It also provides us with an exclusive chance to discuss matters of personal importance and by that gaining an open channel of communications where mutual trust is perfectly enhanced, and resulting Information is highly precise in accuracy and quality.
The summery of the technique: a specialist conducts a personal meeting with every individual in the carefully chosen sample separately to discuss and clarify the individual’s opinion in a specific marketing subject. Where the specialist presents a number of questions to the tourist and encourages him/her to reply with lengthy answers explaining his point of view. Of course, the conversation is mainly lead by the specialist whose job is to discover the stimuli behind his/her decisions to buy or not to buy. Depth interviews take a considerably long time that may stretch even to two hours or more and the specialist plays quite a vital role in its success, his role as a conversation leader substantiate the fact of him being highly-trained and qualified so the tourist could be encouraged to speak freely without exerting any sort of personal influence or bias (Lamb, Hair & McDaniel, p. 59-68, 2008).
It assists in conducting primary research related to the Ministry of Tourism, with which we can discover tourist attitudes, opinions and impressions about new techniques for launching new services and/or advertising campaigns. It also helps in examining tourists’ inquiries and problems. It’s simply a useful means for listening to tourists and getting to know exactly what they want (McDonald, p. 42-48, 2008).
Online chatting rooms on the Ministry’s website
It’s a form of Focus Groups. It allows us the opportunity to understand tourists by having free conversations through which advantages and disadvantages could be thoroughly discussed leading up to satisfying positive solutions.
Quantitative research techniques
It provides us with information relating to tourists numbers and the amount of their spending or the scale of reactions to a particular advertisement (Lamb, Hair & McDaniel, p. 59-68, 2008). This research can be undertaken using the following
Marketing Research Techniques:
Face to face: Specialists conduct the research with tourists at airports or hotels by asking them questions face-to-face where they could get direct opinion polls.
Via Telephone: helps to know tourists opinions more precisely.
Via E-mail: it’s a perfect means for the examining of a bigger sample of tourists or tourists who exist in different geographical locations (Owens, p. 55-61, 2003). And with the considerably low cost and easiness of using, it’s considered to be one of the most efficient means for collecting information.
Online and Offline Questionnaires: through using carefully studied questions and presenting it in best way (McDonald, p. 42-48, 2008). That’s by incentivising tourists to complete them through offering them free information packages and special access to the Ministry’s website and sometimes special discounts.
Building a marketing information system is build from different resources
Internal information: This data can be acquired from the Ministry itself. It’s about the number of tourists coming into the country, their respective nationalities and their personal preferences using a well-constructed data-base, add to this the vital information related to investment opportunities and administrative issues (Drummond, Ensor & Ashford, p. 43-53, 2007). This data is vitally important in tailoring tourist-oriented offerings that fits tourists’ requirement in the best possible manner.
External information: This data is about the size, structure, trends, opportunities, threats, and competitors in the tourism industry for instance ‘Arabic countries market share from the international tourism industry’.
Position information: by combining internal and external information together, the ministry can calculate its market share (Paley, p. 272-281, 2000). Thereby, it can aim at enlarging its market share by keeping an eye at competitor’s policies by learning from their best-practices and avoiding their mistakes. In this sense, looking to the Jordanian and Lebanese experience would surely make a substantial shift towards a better status for the Syrian Tourism industry.
Forecasting information: is of a special importance since it is the base upon which future marketing decisions is to be built. For instance, questions relating to the extra needed hotels, staff, guides, tourist companies, transportation facilities are to be answered using this kind of information.
The marketing mix to be adopted
Generally speaking, the level of services provided in Syria should be in a way or another similar to the level of services provided in tourists’ home countries. The quality of service has a great impact on tourists’ attitudes, perspectives and inner satisfaction. In fact, this is the only drive for them to return back and back again to the same place to enjoy this special service or that special flavour (Drummond & Ensor, p. 76-83, 2005). For instance, it makes an overwhelmingly good impression when a tourist gets into one of those hotels and sees all staff dressed in unified costumes, with a welcoming smile on their faces. Also well-signposted departments using special clear-cut signs could make tourists the least confused when it comes to moving about in any particular place.
Prices have a substantial role to play in decisions taken by tourists about choosing one service or country and another (Lamb, Hair & McDaniel, p. 59-68, 2008). For instance, the EU/US tourists would be extremely interested in the quality of services provided. They don’t care about how much they spend as much as they do care about the worthiness of their spending. On the other hand, Arabs would be outstandingly interested in spending the least amount of money possible. Their satisfaction is always based on a difficult trade-off between cost and value received which most of the time is won by the cost factor. However, the government has taken the necessary measures concerning the maintenance of reasonable, fair prices so the price factor would not constitute a barrier in front of tourists coming back to their preferable touristy places. Those measures are represented by defining strict price quotas that all hotels have to always stick to:
Five stars cost $150 per person staying for one night.
Four stars cost $120 per person staying for one night.
Three stars cost $90 per person staying for one night.
Two stars cost $50 per person staying for one night.
There are a considerable amount of historical and touristy places scattered all over the Syrian soil that should be exploited in a proper way so that it altogether contribute in the best possible manner to the whole Syrian tourism industry. All these sites should be well supported in terms of availability of all services required for the utmost satisfaction that should not just meet tourists’ expectations but even supersede it.
Syria has to work on all levels to better its image locally, regionally and internationally. Different methods of promotion should be exploited for the sake of having turmoil (McDonald, p. 42-48, 2008), which aims at the transformation of Syria’s reputation from a terrorist heaven-ground to a tourist-popular destination.
All staff working in the tourism industry (in hotels, restaurants, tourism companies and transportation facilities) and everyone who has any sort of contact with tourists should be rightly trained and perfectly skilled in firstly the know-how of tourists’ treatment and secondly his/her own field of work so the Syrian level of service could match the international levels of service.
A well-organized system has to be put in place. This system should guarantee an excellent level of service from the first moment the tourist arrives in Syria until the last day of his/her visit (Owens, p. 55-61, 2003). Easy visa requirements, the facilitation of entry formalities into Syria at airports and border points and the facilitation of tourist’s movements by providing them with suitable brochures and special maps along with utilitarian world-class transportation system that connects different cities and touristy places. Those are three of the many procedures that have to be carefully planned and executed for the sake of the utmost satisfaction and convenience of tourists.
The general appearance of roads, hotels, parks, restaurants and transportations plays a vital part in shaping an important vision about Syria in the tourist’s mind. Therefore specific and detailed plans have to be set forth and organized in the best possible manner (Drummond & Ensor, p. 76-83, 2005). These plans must include wide-scale national campaigns talking about the importance, potential and the great benefits in store for Syrian people and the country as a whole if the tourism sector had been fully exploited and flourished to the point where it constitute the first source of income for even greater number of Syrian people.
International Marketing Strategies
Efforts have to be activated to develop the Syrian tourist product, to lay down the pillars for true partnership with the private sector through the Chambers of Tourism, to increase the flights to Syria at peak times and to facilitate the entry formalities into Syria at airports and border points. Work has to go on also to intensify the tourist activities and to encourage investment in this field, to pay attention to the marketing as a tourist activity, to increase the accommodation capacity of the staying tourists in all staying forms, and to encourage the investment in the apartment hotels (Drummond, Ensor & Ashford, p. 43-53, 2007). The completion of the hotel projects under construction should be accelerated through simplifying the licensing procedures.
The appropriated lands, the historical buildings or those owned by the State and fit for tourist investment has to be offered in an investment Market open to all nationalities and investors whose interests lies with Syrian interests. The Ministry has to form a tourism committee whose job is to innovate in ways to market and advertise for Syria as a preferable tourists popular destination through organizing the use of different sorts of media types and budgets.
The Ministry of Tourism should coordinate with the Ministry of Information or with any other interested party in the private sector. These coordination efforts should culminate in having a well-constructed English-based tourism channel that runs special programs and footages about different touristy places in Syria. This channel could also be exploited by showing different promotional offers, which definitely is going to have a tremendous impact on the tourism industry and also on Syria’s overall picture as a whole. In addition to the aforementioned promotional TV channel, a huge audience reached by other internationally popular TV channels has also to be covered through exerting great efforts in order to produce high-quality modern TV footages featuring Syria and its different attractions that are aired on those channels (for instance, the footages can be displayed on BBC, CNN, ABC and so many other channels depending on the budget spent) (Gilligan & Wilson, p. 143-149, 2009).
The Ministry’s website on the Internet should have professionally designed virtual tours that are talking about Syria and its historical, religious and natural attractions. In addition, it also talks about Syrian people their attitudes, religions, conventions, traditions, folklores, garments and cuisine. It should also contain some incredibly detailed information about different maps, major banks, parks, hotels and different tourism establishments.
The Ministry has to run continual campaigns that promote foreign students to come and study in Syrian universities through encouraging them to get to know the Syrian culture. The Ministry should invite different international tourism companies, journalists, and tourism specialists to visit Syria and take a thorough look at the real situation of the Syrian tourism industry and try to avail from their thoughts and opinions and different expertise in the field of tourism.
Due to its immense importance in showcasing the Syrian culture and arts, different local and national fairs and festivals should always be supported, sponsored and encouraged by the Ministry.