• The channel relationship between tour operators and travel agents in Britain and Poland

      Ujma, Dorota (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2001-10)
      The aim of this research was to compare the distribution channel relationships in two different tourism markets: the mature market of Britain and the evolving market in Poland, with a view to assessing likely courses of tourism development in Poland. Relationships in channels of distribution can be understood as all the interactions, processes and flows taking place between companies involved in exchange of products and services. The focus of the research was an investigation of channel relationships between travel agents and tour operators. The evolution of tourism channel relationships in Britain and Poland was investigated in three stages: initiation, implementation and review, following the Kale and McIntyre (1991) and Crotts et al. (1998) models. Analysis of existing literature established that historical, political and economic backgrounds, as well as demand and supply, impact in different ways upon the structure of such channels in each country. Following that recognition two phases of empirical research were conducted using a mixed methods approach. The exploratory phase was based on interviews with British and Polish travel agents and tour operators, and from this phase a set of propositions was developed regarding travel agents' and tour operators' attitudes towards channel relationships. These propositions were explored using data collected from a detailed questionnaire survey distributed to a sample of British and Polish tour operators and travel agents. The results from this quantitative research were qualitatively augmented by outcomes from indepth interviews. The key findings from the research were that the Polish distribution system resembled to some extent the old British tourism structure. It was, however, unable to directly follow the development route undertaken by British companies. The pattern of operation was different in both countries due to four factors. Firstly, the distortions in operations in Poland originated from the post-socialist business structure; secondly, the diversity of business in Poland was much greater than in Britain, whilst, thirdly, the level of vertical integration between companies and the level of the development of information technology was more extensive in Britain. Finally, although the relationship development process consisted of similar stages in both countries, the field investigations showed differences in partners' selection, monitoring and support. The Polish companies relied heavily on social bonding and social ties in the selection stage, while in Britain the transparency and higher stability in the market reduced the necessity of close social bonding between employees and companies. The overall conclusion from the research is that the Polish travel companies are likely to follow many aspects of the British route, though with some specifically Polish characteristics. The initial evaluation of channel partners and the evaluation of the relationship between agents and tour operators would be strengthened in Poland, if there were a strong, regulatory and advisory association in the Polish market such as ABTA in Britain. Further research is recommended in terms of the impact of information technology on channel relationships in tourism and the role of tourism associations in the organisation of the tourism market.