Rochus Winkler (concept m) & Raf Manna (Stream Brazil) Europe as a tourist destination: still the most desirable for Brazilians?
Despite many challenges faced by travel and tourism in Europe during the past few years and intensifying from the end of 2015 (e.g. terroristic attacks, the economic crisis, Brexit, allocation of refugees etc.), the sector is still enjoying a solid growth confirming tourism as one of most remarkably resilient areas within the services industry, even in times of economic recession.
Among the various global destinations, Europe is the continent with the highest tourism demand. More specifically, growth is particularly impressive in emerging markets and, amongst these, Brazil definitely stands out, with travellers to Europe more than doubling between 2009 and 2015. Only visitors from China have grown more than that in the same period.
Push and pull factors: what brings Brazilians to Europe?
A study conducted in conjunction with academic institutions, both Brazilian (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro) and European (University of Salerno) set out to explore which are the key triggers of Brazilian travellers when considering holidays in Europe. More specifically, to study the relationship between "push" and "pull" factors.
According to scientific literature, tourists travel because they are "pushed" to adopt a specific behaviour towards the destination by their psychological factors; at the same time, they are “pulled” by the destination's specific characteristics.
Push factors reflect the psychological area of behaviour, such as the desire to escape, adventure, relaxation, prestige. Pull factors include specific destination features: they are considered as external, situational, or cognitive drivers influencing consumers' behaviour, deriving from the perception of the destinations’ characteristics.
In particular, four categories of destination attractiveness can be highlighted:
- a qualitative dimension (related to the service offer proposed by accommodations);
- a cultural dimension (related to the relevance of cultural heritage in choosing a destination);
- a leisure activities dimension (namely, entertainment, shopping and how to spend free time during destination staying);
- an accessibility and transportation dimension.
The survey was conducted amongst a sample of middle and upper middle class travellers from Rio de Janeiro. The choice of the city was due to a number of considerations: it is one of the two main economies (together with Sao Paulo) in the country and (again, with Sao Paulo) one of the two major conurbations. It is also the city where middle class has expanded the most in the past decade in Brazil, resulting in a significant increase in Rio de Janeiro State's gross domestic product. This emerging middle class, characterized by higher spending power, represents the driving force of outbound tourism demand: as a consequence, Rio is the city which has experienced the highest growth in international travel over the past decade.
Push factors are particulary strong for virign travellers
Push factors seem to be the key drivers of travel towards European destinations. More specifically, especially in the initial drive towards a destination, curiosity emerges as the most popular theme, followed by other push factors such as sense of adventure, desire to socialize, fun, challenge and achievement. Their impact is cross-generational, with no significant differences between genders and is particularly strong for "virgin" or "semi-virgin" travellers, that is people who have no or limited experience of international travel. The importance of curiosity, in particular, is reduced when repeat visits are taken into account: in this case all push factors tend give way to holistic destination attributes (pull factors).
In terms of pull factors, accessibility to the destination is, somewhat surprisingly, the key factor, followed by accommodation quality. This, therefore, seems to suggest that having direct flights to a destination which offers good quality hotels, with reasonable value for money, is more important than the relevance of the cultural heritage associated with that destination, or than that city's or country's offer of nightlife and entertainment.
Europe needs a common tourism policy
If the above is true, implications for European institutions' travel marketing policies are huge: it may not be sufficient for cities with an incomparable cultural heritage, as is the case of many in Europe, to rest on their laurels any longer. An integrated approach to infrastructure planning and private enterprise investments, in order to address key pull factors, looks crucial to avoid putting Europe's role as the leading global destination in jeopardy.
This comes at a time when European institutions (European Parliament, European Commission, etc.) are experiencing a moment of great difficulty, because of the combined effect of the terrorist threat and nationalist forces of many countries (not only Brexit): a situation which makes it is very difficult to plan any kind of European policy in any economic field (namely, transportations, cultural heritage, tourism, etc.).
Terrorism, in particular, highlights a shift in perception when we move from a European perspective to that of the rest of the world. Whilst Europeans have learned to get on with it, and few have changed their travel plans in response to the new situation, even at the height of the crisis (first half of 2016), the same phenomenon seen from Brazil seems to have a much deeper impact, with many respondents claiming to have put their European holiday plans on hold for the time being. This suggests the importance of specifically addressing this issue in communication in order to find a way of shifting this perception.
More in general, this study suggests that, in order to generate loyalty, it will be crucial for Europe to develop a common tourism policy, promote direct flight to more European cities, make travelling across Europe easy and, finally, propose an adequate quality standard of accommodation across all the countries composing the Union.
Rochus Winkler ist Gesellschafter und Managing Partner bei concept m research + consulting seit der Gründung des Unternehmens 2008. Zuletzt erschien von ihm gemeinsam mit Marco Ottawa der Band "Kompetenzen für die Marktforschung" (2018).
Raf Manna ist Gründer von Stream International (Brasilien). Seine Karriere begann er bei Pegram Walters International, das heute Teil der Ipsos Gruppe ist. Sein Forschungsinteresse gilt vor allem der Tourismus- und Getränkeforschung.
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