RESEARCH QUESTION & OBJECTIVES
New Venture Opportunities in the Travel Agent Industry in the UK: A case study of Bucket List Travels.
The days have passed when travel bookings were only possible by visiting a travel agent or by ordering it on phone. Travel websites and mobile applications have made travel bookings easier than before. Today, travelers can create their own itineraries with the help of online travel planning websites, price comparison websites and review blogs. The tourism industry is growing every year with 922 million tourists arrivals in 2009 and is expected to reach 1600 million arrivals by 2020 (http://www.coolgeography.co.uk/GCSE/AQA/Tourism/Tourism%20growth/Tourism%20Growth.htm).
Similarly, the online travel agency services has been growing every year and the digital travel sales worldwide in 2016 was recorded at 564 billion USD and is expected to cross 817 billion USD by 2020 (https://www.statista.com/statistics/499694/forecast-of-online-travel-sales-worldwide/). In the UK, the travel agency industry has shown a steady growth over the years with an annual growth rate of 1.9%. The revenue for the industry in the UK is 31.1 billion GBP and is further expected to grow at 1% annually (Fisher, 2017) (http://clients1.ibisworld.co.uk/reports/uk/industry/ataglance.aspx?entid=4200). The number of travel agents and tour operators in the UK has shown a decline in the last six years due to the increase in online traveling services and there still exists a gap which needs to be filled by online traveling websites more uniquely and efficiently (https://www.statista.com/statistics/563557/travel-agents-and-tour-operator-numbers-united-kingdom-uk/).
Bucket List Travels is a travel website which will offer its travelers with various unique ways to travel around the globe. The website will allow its users to pick their interests based on which destinations will be suggested. These interests can be cuisine based, adventure activities based, or even sightseeing interest based like historical monuments or modern art gallery, etc. Also, as there are preferred seasons to visit a country, the website will offer various seasonal group trips. The customers will be able to choose between customized trips and readymade group trips. Another unique feature of the website is the ‘bucket list' feature which will allow the users to create a wish list of the things they want to do or places they want to visit, based on which the website will suggest budget trips when the time is right. The website aims to create a platform where the travelers can fulfill their dream trips while having a unique traveling experience. The website will also have a blog where travel enthusiasts can post their traveling experience and share some advice on how to travel a particular destination.
The website will serve the needs of everyone, but it will specifically target the international students in the UK as they have trouble planning for trips while they are studying abroad. The website will act as a complete travel planner for these students as the website will provide information regarding visa, travel tickets, accommodation, sightseeing, public transport, car bookings, etc. and will do the bookings for the same. One of the major concern for the students is maintaining the budget, so the website will also take care of their budget by suggesting low cost options such as group trips, hostels, cheap mode of transportation, etc. The trips are fully customizable and can be planned according to the interests of the students. Also, lots of students prefer to go on solo trips with the purpose of meeting new people, Bucket List Travels will also act as a medium through which students can contact other travelers going to the same place on the same dates and get to know each other even before they start traveling. Also, these students dream of traveling to certain places in certain ways but don't know when to travel; Bucket List Travels will help them sort out these problems by allowing them to create a bucket list based on which the website will suggest the place and the perfect time to visit.
Bucket List Travels will be operational only through website and a mobile application. It will partner with different third-party agencies for the requirement of travel tickets, travel guides, accommodation bookings, etc. The basic idea of the website is to plan trips in an economical way, provide complete guidance regarding a destination and help them to make bookings for the same through third-party agencies.
This section of the paper provides a theoretical framework on the research topic. The main focus of this section to analyze prior research articles on travel agent industry in relation to the growth of internet. Many articles were found which shows prior research has been done on topics relating to use of online travel agent services and how it has been growing in the past decades.
Today, travel websites are the most frequently visited place for information regarding traveling (https://0-www-sciencedirect-com.wam.leeds.ac.uk/science/article/pii/S0261517710002505#bib4). The tourism industry is the largest industry which uses internet and websites as a medium to grow their business and provide its customers a better traveling experience (Horng & Tsai, 2010). There are a number of research studies which examine different matters and show that internet has made an impact on the tourism sector (Law et al., 2010). Although, the motivation which drives the users to browse and look for places online, there only a few research work available (Law et al., 2010). After the advancement of internet, there has been a growth in the number of online travel agencies and it has managed to develop new business models over time which changed the relationship among various participants in the travel agent industry (Eastes, 2010). The introduction of Information Technology in the travel sector has helped companies to reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction by providing reliable and accurate information (Standing & Vasudavan, 2001). Internet in the travel agent industry has helped in shifting the power from the service providers to the consumers where consumers now have much more choices and flexibility in terms of price and information (Law et al., 2010). As internet access to public is increasing day by day, the online purchase of travel products has also been positively impacted as it is much more convenient than traditional practice (Ramos & Rodrigues, 2010).
The effectiveness and efficiency of a travel website cannot be defined as a process but benchmarking the system quality, service quality and information quality can facilitate in creating a successful travel website (Wen, 2009). Focusing on system quality, it may influence the intention of a customer's online purchase (Liu et al., 2000). Recent studies have shown that the increase in number of online travel agencies offering varied travel choices has led to reluctance in tolerance for poor system quality (Rheem, 2010). Good system quality includes adaptability, reliability, usability, availability and faster response time (DeLone & McLean, 2003).
RESEARCH QUESTION & OBJECTIVES
The research question is:
1. How a new venture in Travel Agent Industry in UK be launched and developed successfully?
2. Up to what extent there is need of a travel website which plan the trips uniquely and differently from traditional websites?
The paper aims to identify problems that travelers face before planning for a trip and the challenges faced by them after reaching the destination. It also aims to provide solutions to the problems faced by international students in the UK.
The objectives of the paper are:
1. To identify the opportunities in the travel agency market in the UK and examine how a new venture can be launched successfully.
2. To investigate how an innovative and unique travel website can be beneficial for planning a trip.
3. To identify and provide solutions to the problems faced by international students in planning a trip while they are in the UK.
The research is designed to assess the potential of a travel website in the UK that can serve the needs of travelers and more specifically the needs of the international students. The data for this research will be collected through various medium for the purpose of assessing the need of such a travel website. The data will be harnessed through various segments such as existing students in the UK, existing travel agents in the UK, travelers in Europe and various travel website companies.
Both primary and secondary research will be conducted. Primary data is the data which has not been collected before and secondary data involves gathering existing data which has already been collected (http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/business/marketing/marketresearchrev3.shtml).
For the primary data, the data from the existing students in the UK will be collected by the medium of surveys and questionnaires (Quantitative). This data will help in knowing the actual requirements of the students in the UK and the problems they face will they are studying here. A short questionnaire will be designed asking about their problems and the expectations from an improved travel agency and will consist of various open-ended questions. Existing students are being selected because they can give valuable information which will be required to carry out the research project.
Data from existing travel agents will be collected by the medium of interviews (Qualitative). This data will be collected for the purpose of knowing how travel companies work in the UK and also what are the major requirements of travelers. Various travel website companies will be contacted through e-mail and after receiving a positive response, interviews will be conducted. The sole purpose of contacting these companies is to know what the gaps in the markets are and their views on how to fill them. Also, various travelers will be informally interviewed across Europe. Their opinions and views will matter a lot since they are frequent travelers and will give a clear picture of what problems they face every time and what new things they expect which can be fulfilled in a structured way. Lastly, out of the questionnaires filled by different students, a focus group of 6 to 10 participants will be conducted for deep research into the matter. This focus group is necessary to obtain better results from the survey held.
Apart from this various secondary data will be search for and collected by the medium of online journals, articles, travel blogs and various e-books.
As mentioned earlier, the intended participants for this research will be students in the UK, different travel agents, frequent travelers across Europe and big travel companies.
The students in UK will include participants from different parts of the country. The online questionnaire will be sent to students residing in Leeds, Nottingham, Oxford and London. These selected places are confirmed, and more places will be added during the summer-break when the project will be undertaken. The reason for selecting different places is to get a variety in information because there will a difference in opinions of people residing in different places and the aim is to get diverse information to obtain better results.
The travel agents will consist of different local travel agents and a telephonic interview or a personal interview will be arranged depending on the time they are willing to spare. The list of travel agents has not been finalized yet but mostly these will be from Leeds and Manchester.
The frequent travelers, whose opinion will matter the most, will be searched for in the entire Europe. The places will be selected on the basis where most backpackers, solo travelers and students visit. Also, my personal experience suggests that people are more interested in sharing opinions when they are living in hostels and are looking for new people to meet. Currently, the places selected are Amsterdam, Paris, Dubrovnik and Prague. This is only a proposed plan and only one or two places might be visited in the end.
The big travel websites / companies will be contacted for deep research about the gaps in the market but the method of contacting them has not been finalized yet. Also, the companies who are to be contacted has not been finalized yet and it is very uncertain that these big companies will be interested in giving any kind of information.
The focus group will be conducted after receiving all the responses for the questionnaire as at the end of the form the participants will be asked if they would like to be contacted for a focus group and only the interested participants will be contacted.
Lastly, the questionnaire forms will be circulated to various other places apart from the UK where travel enthusiasts in the student sector are found, for example, India.
All the research work will be conducted ethically and responsibly. For the interviews, a request letter via e-mail will be sent to all the interviewees, asking their permission to conduct the same. The e-mail will clearly state who I am and why this research is being conducted. It will also state the date and time of the interview and assurance will be given to them regarding the confidentiality of the data. The data collected will not be posted or published in any article, journal, blog or any other public domain and will be used only for this research project. For the questionnaire, only limited personal data of the participants will be collected such as name, age, gender and contact number and will not be forwarded to any other agency. All the secondary research work undertaken will be properly referenced and will not be plagiarized in any form. None of the information from the interview will be used for the final dissertation without the consent of the interviewee. I will be in regular contact with the tutor assigned to me. Permissions and approvals regarding questionnaire, interview questions and out of country fieldwork will be taken in advance from the tutor.
The project will take about 12 – 13 weeks to complete. The project tutor, with his / her approval, will be contacted and met multiple times to show the progress. The basic structure (broadly discussed) of the project plan is as follows:
1. Design questionnaire and send request letter: Firstly, the questionnaire for the survey will be designed and also the interview questions will be developed. After the approval, the questionnaires will be circulated and the request letter for the interviews will be sent. This will take roughly around two weeks.
2. Literature review: The next step would be to read literature and present a draft literature review.
3. Fieldwork: The fieldwork will be done outside of UK and the exact time cannot be guaranteed but will be completed before drafting the findings chapter. The fieldwork will be carried out at least twice.
4. Developing prototype: A prototype of the website will be built using online website builder and will be tested among various individuals and will also be presented in the focus group to see the response for it.
5. Collecting and analyzing data: After the response from interviewees and participants of the survey, data will be compiled and analyzed. Based on this, a focus group will be conducted, and further data will be collected.
6. Draft findings chapter: After carefully analyzing the data, the findings and discussion chapter will be drafted.
7. Formatting, revising and submission: After the draft is completely ready, it will be presented to the tutor and after his / her approval the project will be submitted as per the required format.
Below is a Gantt Chart for the project plan:
ACTIVITIES MAY JUNE JULY AUGUST SEPT
WEEK 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1
Develop interview questions and send request letter
Fieldwork 1 (est.)
Host interviews and focus group
Collect and compile data
Fieldwork 2 (est.)
Draft findings and discussion chapter
Submit to tutor
Revise draft and formatting
Print and bind
Table 1.1: Gantt Chart
The key resource which will be required to complete this project is time, for which I have 13 weeks. Fieldwork activities will involve cost of traveling for which I will be fully responsible. Certain softwares will be required to compile and analyze the collected data for which I will use MS Excel. MS Word will be required to compile all the elements of this project. To build the prototype website, online website building sites will be considered, for example, Wix.com. To conduct surveys, online questionnaire building tools will be used such as Google Forms and OnlineSurvey UK since the survey forms will be handed out digitally. Also, access to special database like IBIS World is required. Other resources include availability of interviewees and room to conduct focus group.
The most important outcome expected out of this project is the dissertation project which will be submitted within the timeframe. A business plan for the new venture will be specifically explained by using Business Model Canvas. A literature review will be explained by using prior research done on this topic. Also, a summary of the market research which will be conducted by means surveys, interviews, fieldwork and focus groups will be carefully presented. A prototype of the new website will also be presented by using online website creating tools.
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