Paths to the Market: Distribution Channels for Community-Based Tourism. A Case Study of Banteay Chhmar CBT, Cambodia
This study is to investigate the structure of distribution channels for community-based tourism (CBT) in Banteay Chhmar commune. It explores the factors influencing the distribution channel structure and then examines and discusses the implications of these factors as a means to help improve CBT sales. This study takes both the demand and supply side perspectives into account in order to understand the issues being investigated more comprehensively. Taking a case study approach, this study is based on in-depth interviews with the community and other relevant key channel members, and a survey is employed to collect information from visitors to the community. The examination of the distribution channel structure for CBT reveals considerable channel diversity. The Banteay Chhmar community is found to utilize a distribution mix which includes a wide range of both direct and indirect channels to enable them to reach broader markets. The findings suggest that the CBT direct distribution channel is relatively short and straightforward while the indirect distribution channels are rather diverse and lengthy. Given the diversity of intermediaries involved, indirect distribution channels for the CBT are complex and often multi-levelled. The majority of visitors who travel to the community purchase their packages through ground travel operators making indirect distribution more prevalent in the CBT distribution structure. The study also reveals that there is very limited connection among local channel members, such as, accommodation providers, transportation service providers and souvenir shops. This limitation inhibits CBT product sales. Regarding the domestic market, (mainly school groups), the findings show that the direct channel is more prevalent. There are a number of factors that influence the structure of the distribution channels for CBT. These include commissionable products, product characteristics and market access, information communication and technology, partnership issues and the nature of the operators, capacity issues, and lastly, but most importantly market trends. This study identifies several implications for the Banteay Chhmar community. However, growth (increased sales volume), looks promising if the community develop sound distribution strategies and implement them accordingly; essentially bringing the community and the market together. In addition, the strategies could also help the community to have more control over the development process and opportunity to minimize adverse impacts.