Tourism Distribution Channels in the Northern Tourist Circuit of Tanzania
This study investigates the structure of tourism distribution channels in the northern tourist circuit of Tanzania. It explores factors influencing channel structures and also examines operational characteristics of the channels. It is a destination-based study that takes a supply-side approach. The study is based on in-depth interviews with different businesses across tourism sector at the destination. The northern tourist circuit is the heart of tourism industry in Tanzania; it is a core in a peripheral country. Tourists in the northern tourist circuit are primarily attracted by mountain climbing adventures, photographic and hunting safaris. Putting together different activities involved in a safari or adventure product requires the presence of ground tour operators. The former have links with all the suppliers at the destination and are the most knowledgeable about the destination among channel members in the destination. There is a complex relationship among channel members in the northern tourist circuit which partly contributes to the complexity of the distribution channels used. The majority of tourists who visit northern tourist circuit book their holidays through overseas agents; a few purchase directly from the suppliers. The majority of those who shop through overseas agents are package or customized tourists while most independent travellers buy their holidays directly, often making multiple purchases. Ground tour operators in Kenya are important channel members as well. This is because a significant number of tourists who visit the northern tourist circuit come through Kenya and ground tour operators there pass them down to their counterparts in Tanzania. Hunting tourists access the destinations through professional hunters, either directly or through overseas marketing agents. Secondary activities like cultural tourism rely more on "at destination" distribution as their drawing power is less than wildlife resources and adventure attractions. Factors which influence the structure of distribution in the northern tourist circuit include size of the business, nature of the attraction, tourists' preference, distance from market to destination, lack of capital and marketing knowledge. Channel performance is based on two main criteria: volume of clients the channel produces and the profit generated from the channel. Indirect channels produce more clients while direct channels are observed to generate more profit per client than indirect channels. Information technology is mainly used for creating awareness and communications. All the businesses interviewed have websites for those purposes.