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Implication of a Scientific Destination Study in Tourism Product Management: A Case Study in Sikkim
Debasish Batabyal1

Abstract
Understanding a place (destination) with respect to tourism is a matter of research. Traditionally, economists defined a destination in terms of its increasing number of tourists and related economic impacts while sociologists observed significant changes in the society of a destination and related guest-host interaction. Geographers considered physical and economic settings of a place and differences were on the basis of resource pattern, socio-economic issues among tourist generating region and tourist destination region. Marketing professionals tried to perceive a destination with respect to a DemandSupply aspect dealing with tourists and their needs. The conventional market led approach which aggravates and undermines the supply side issues needs a modified holistic approach to incorporate a typical destination system and its management with a destination perspective. Tourism literature supports that destination as a product is typically varied from one another and there is an immense scope for innovative thinking and managerial implications. Innovative destination systems are varying from one destination to another because destination itself is resource specific, political philosophy oriented, community oriented and deeply influenced by suppliers and intermediaries .The present article is a case study in Sikkim State with a new perspective and have some new managerial implication in product management. Keywords: Demand and Supply Variables of tourism, Destination, Destination Development, Destination Marketing, Destination Product Development Destination Study, Exogenous factors in Tourism.

Brief Introduction of the State Sikkim is a small hilly state, bounded by vast stretches of Tibetan plateau in the North, the Chumbi Valley and the kingdom Bhutan in the East, the kingdom of Nepal in the west and Darjeeling (West Bengal) in the South. The state lies between 2704 46 North and 28 07 48 North and 88 00 58 East and 88 55 25East covering an area of 7096 sq. Km. Sikkim is famous for scenic valleys, forest, snow clad mountains, magnificent Buddhist culture and heritage and peace-loving people. Though small, the environmental, social and cultural diversities are not so. Some scholars believe that the word Sikkim involves Nepalese dialect and it refers to a new place or the term has been derived from a Sanskrit word which means a mountain crest. The people of Sikkim have ethnic diversity. The Bhutias came from Tibet, the Lepchas
1. Lecturer, DSMS, Durgapur, West Bengal E-mail: debasish2006mba@yahoo.co.in

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were the aboriginal community and the Nepalese came from Nepal. When Sikkim was an independent state it faced many invasion by its neighboring countries and the king took the help of the British India and, later, gifted some of its region including Darjeeling to the British India. Now this 22nd Indian State (joined Indian Union in 1975) has Over 81% of the total geographical area under the administrative managerial control of the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India. Over 45% of the total geographical area of the state is under tree cover and nearly 34% of the geographical area is set aside as protected area network in the form of national park and wildlife sanctuary. Economic Condition, Tourism and its Marketing After liberalization, privatization and globalization (LPG) India has become an integrated part of the global open economy. Indias large market is its strength and tourism is no exception to that. Even in this period of recession its large domestic market has been showing its prowess and large scale informal sectors heavily contributing to recoup and retain its economic strength. Indias tourism economy is also largely informal and as such not heavily affected like developed countries. Of course, this service sector is incomparable with other informal sectors where the risk of being small in size can aggravate the risk of uncertainty, deteriorated service quality and incompetencies to adopt ever changing technological advancement. Traditionally inbound segment of tourism largely contributed to the promotion of service standard, foreign exchange earning, alternative income and employment generation, provision of infrastructure, cultural exchange etc. But the recent world wide economic meltdown is not only affecting the inbound tourism itself but also adversely affecting all those contributions. The effect of the economic meltdown has direct and indirect impacts on tourism or tourism economy of India which has been changing its directions altogether. Direct effects of the recession include less foreign exchange earnings, investment leakage ( may be resulting from increasing outbound tourism and decreasing inbound tourism), increased importance on domestic tourism, negative balance of payment, dwindling multiplier effect resulting from international tourism, negative input-output ratio etc. Indirect effects with respect to tourism include adverse effects on other industries that will reduce travel propensity for leisure tourists, the frequencies and number of business travelers. India is not going to remain one of the exotic destinations as new destinations are mushrooming up all over the Pacific and existing destinations have been increasing their marketing efforts. Backward infrastructure and technology in airports, insufficiency of airports and space have resulted in technical constraints and negative image. Drastic reduction in airfares, poor quality services, ever fluctuating oil prices, poor airworthiness maintained by the DGCA and unhealthy competition have resulted in a tough condition for civil air transport operation in the country. After becoming 25th state of the Union Government of India in the year 1975 the rapid development activities ushered in a new era of tourism in Sikkim. Increased accessibility by roadways and air transport, rapid socio-economic development, competitive advantage both from the side of the destination and geographical proximity to tourist generating states contributed to the development of tourism in Sikkim. Recognizing the increased tourist arrivals, accommodation units were set up in Gangtok and a few towns mostly by outsiders without proper land use planning and architectural design.

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Ever increasing tourist arrival and increasing dependence on tourism as a powerful industry and employment generating source, restoration of peace and harmony, hospitable people, plenty of diversified natural and cultural resources, a typical interest of the people of India to discover the unknown hidden Sikkim brought about a new dimension for the development and marketing of tourism in Sikkim. Prof. Kotler has defined marketing mix as the set of marketing tools that the firm uses to pursue its marketing objectives in the target market. Marketing mix can also be defined as a mixture of elements which interact and complement each other to achieve targeted results. Marketing mix for a destination is unlike that of the product. Destination as a bundle of facilities and services or a bunch of attribute need better coordination, control, direction, and flexible planning. So the preparation of an effective marketing mix necessarily the result of the analysis of the tourist product(s) / destination ( s) , customer segment(s), coordination between public sectors and private sectors and all intricate managerial issues. Very often, Indian tourist destinations lack the full range of managerial and professional control and dont consider or assess the important variables and attributes because of the well formulated planning and sequential measures.
Table 1: Factors Affecting Destination Marketing Mix of Sikkim Macro environmental factors Typical interaction between destination(s) and tourist generating market(s). Emergence of substitute destination(s). Socio-economic, political and cultural conditions of neighbouring countries or states. International convention, conference, declaration etc. for tourism. Collaboration, cooperation, joint effort between member countries of an agency/organization operating at international and regional level. Economic, political and socio-cultural discrimination between destinations and market areas. Emergence of new types and forms of tourism and tourists worldwide i.e. trends of world tourism. Competitive cooperation of different Indian states and Union Territories. Through Incredible India campaign the central government has been promoting India as a tourist destination. Micro environmental factors Landscape, topography, geology, physiology, drainage system etc. Presence or absence of important tourism legislation. Implementation and/ or adoption if international conference, convention, declaration etc. for tourism. Collaboration, cooperation and joint effort among the members or stakeholders within a destination. Political and economic condition of the destination area. Analysis and assessment of tapping the international market keeping in view the important trends. Market assessment and link between a destinations domestic market and its international market.

Product is the key element of tourism marketing mix as the basic element of tourism products can not be easily changed except offering other places/ attractions near around. Tourism products contribute largely to the destination imagery, customer satisfaction and retention. If we considerably note the product mix of Sikkim for tourism industry then we can get the following product lines which can again be separately treated for market development and promotion. The product mix (fig. 1) contribute largely to the Unique Selling Proportion (USP) of the State. This Unique Selling Proportion is

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the basis of tourism to be developed and promoted, types of tourists to be targeted, infrastructure to be developed etc. While selecting the USP of a place, a detail of all products and their relationship should be clearly understood along with the exogenous factors. These exogenous factors have high impacts on the quality and performance of destinations or tour products.

Fig. 1: Product Mix of Sikkim

Results and Discussion A total of 475 customers were contacted in hotels at four places of Sikkim after the completion of their trip and 201 questionnaires were found to be considerable for analysis. The survey exhibited that 70.60 per cent tourists are male and rests are female. Out of all adult tourists 53.7 per cent is unmarried and 46.3 per cent is married. 65.2 per cent tourists is working in service sectors while 21.4 per cent depends on agriculture and family business. Other respondents were educated unemployed in which a large section was young students and housewives. This ineffective but important segment has an important relationship with the development and promotion of Alternative forms of tourism. Domestic adventure tourists would not be able to afford costly adventure tourism or other alternative forms of tourism even though they are keenly interested therein. Based on the above product mix the opinion survey exhibited various purposes of travel. Here all respondents were asked to rank the reasons keeping in view the importance at each point. Following were the presumed opinion of the two hundred one respondents for which they visit Sikkim. Tourism is very sensitive to changes in private household incomes (no primary need). It is in direct competition to other products in the household income basket such as books, newspapers entertainment, but also electronic products. More specifically various purposes of traveling to Sikkim is given here under in Table 2.

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Table 2: Purpose of Travelling to Sikkim Purpose Holiday VFR No. of 99 persons (49.25) Religious Adventure Providing Eco tour Rural Holiday Tourism 7 8 20 24 23 11 (3.48) (3.98) (9.95) (11.94) (11.44) (5.47) Special Interest 9 (4.48)

Source: Primary Data survey

For simplification, the multiple causes of travelling to Sikkim by a person have been avoided and simply accorded importance was sought. Conventionally, importance was accorded on leisure and recreation but a noticeable new trend was found in terms of providing holidays to family and spouse as it was quite high and even greater than contemporary alternative forms tourism for which the Government is planning so many things. Adventure tourism, ecotourism, rural tourism and special interest tourism would suppose to play an important role in the development and promotion of tourism in Siikkim. Another important trend, though not included therein, was development of MICE tourism particularly in mature hill stations or where institutionalized forms of tourism are in vogue. Hoteliers want large number of tourists in group in these places. So, Sikkim is going to be a Resort MICE Centre in future where Conference and Leisure would go side by side. When the same tourists were asked to individually rank the sources of information for attraction, accommodation and transportation, the results displayed in Table 3 gives the clear understanding of complete source of information for various amenities/facilities.
Table 3: Sources of information Source of Information Guide Book Print Media Television/Radio Internet Relatives/ Friends People Visited (other than Friends/Relatives) Tourism Department (Offices) Source: Primary Data Survey Transportation 56 (27.86) 2 (.99) 5 (2.49) 68 (33.83) 44 (21.89) 10 (4.97) 16 (7.96) Accommodation 54 (26.87) 5 (2.49) 2 (.99) 60 (29.85) 42 ( 20.9) 22 (10.94) 16 (7.96) Attraction 58 (28.86) 2 (.99) 3 (1.49) 70 (34.83) 26 (12.93) 20 (9.95) 22 (10.94)

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Guidebook, internet, relatives/ friends are important sources of information people are depending on. Surprisingly the role of internet is more effective than the national trend. A significant number of tourists are collecting information from their friends and relatives and the persons visited earlier. Here persons visited earlier are other than the friends and relatives. Tourism department offices, people other than friends and relatives are other important sources of information people are depending upon. The role of print media other than the printed materials of the tourism department is not satisfactory as it is not found in other cases. Whatever information people get through radio and television are not applied as they identify and question the gap between the facility that has been talked about and its allotment for them. Again the duration of stay of the tourists was another interesting fact as exhibited in Table 4 below. Table 4: Duration of Trips to Sikkim
Duration of Trip ( hypothetical) 10 days or more 99 (49.25) 20-30 days 62 (30.85) 30-40 days 6 (2.99) 40-50 days 30 (14.95) More than 50 days 4 (1.99) Source: Primary Data Survey by the author Duration of Trip to Sikkim 1-3 days 17 (8.46) 4-6 days 69 (34.33) 7-9 days 62 (30.85) 10-12 days 32 (15.92) More than 12 days 21 (10.45)

A simple question was asked as to how many days they want for traveling India and how many days they have considered for Sikkim. The duration of stay in India for travelling was hypothetical and compared with the actual duration of stay in Sikkim. Sikkim is mainly a destination for 4-9 days. But the foreign tourists are interested to stay longer if they are provided with all standard sports and amusement facilities. The duration of stay of the domestic tourists can be increased by analyzing their area of activities. Tourist satisfaction strategy, tourist retention strategy should be separately discussed keeping in view the significant demographic, psychographic and behavioral characteristics of them. Customer retention strategy for domestic tourists is comparatively easier than that of the foreign tourists but the per capita expenditure of the foreign tourists is 4-5 times higher than the domestic counterparts. Conclusion Tourism development plan for Sikkim as a destination considers all supply related issues and seeks a symbiotic relationship with all demand side aspects as discussed here under. As the term destination bears a central or focal point of all destination development all supply and some important demand related issues should be taken into consideration while thinking of quality destination development that is typically different from conventional product development strategy. Following are the issues taken into consideration for a better implication of destination and its development strategy.

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Product a. Promote the adoption of industry product and service standards; b. Take action at the national level to support work being done by CROSQ in the development of industry standards; c. Further diversifies niche products, services and tourism segments eco, adventure, sports, food, health; spiritual, meetings, incentives, convention, events, to list a few; d. Promote the Tibetan cuisine, indigenous hospitality and Buddhist architecture and include all these in the Unique Selling Proportions. Marketing a. Give a new orientation to Sikkim tourism; b. Pursue strategies to market the Sikkim as a single destination with a new positioning; c. Diversify into new markets. Research and Development a. Refocus on research with a view to offering Regional Governments analyses of issues and policy options for possible action; b. Encourage and assist the State in the implementation and use of Tourism Satellite Accounting as a tool to improve the measurement of tourisms contribution to the economic output of the State; c. Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation should greater focus to market research and intelligence, sector and market analysis, trend assessments and advice regarding policy options in regard to emerging opportunities, threats, market developments, industry practices and models of best practice; d. Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation needs to collaborate with various national and international organizations such as Himalayan Environmental Trust or foreign governments agencies and consultancies in carrying out industry research, recording industry best practices and serving as a repository for study reports and other industry publications Aviation and Railways a. Increase dialogue and collaborate with appropriate air transport authorities for the purpose of securing efficient and adequate air access into various parts of the State; b. Develop a regional air transport development strategy giving attention to airline capacity and appropriate route structures with the specified routes and circuits. Financing a. Review and strengthen regulatory framework to support and encourage foreign direct investment in the industry;

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b. Tourism development projects be offered to the local entrepreneurs, NGOs, Eco clubs and such other community organizations; c. Create vehicles and instruments for greater and controlled industry support. Information Technology a. Promote the use of IT in marketing the tourism product; b. Encourage the adoption and use of e-commerce as a vehicle for facilitating business transactions in tourism. HR and Management a. Develop centers of excellence in hospitality training to improve service standards, opportunities for career advancement and for the promotion of tourism and hospitality training as an export service; b. Exploit opportunities for further development and promotion of Caribbean tourism brands and tourism marketing and management services; c. Facilitate regional planning and sharing of lessons, experiences and ideas by convening a suitable biennium forum for technical industry personnel. Entrepreneurship a. Encourage enterprise and innovation handicraft, culture. Besides, exogenous factors such as environmental (climate change and sea level rise, bio-diversity loss, pollution) , health related (SARS, bird flu and occasional outbreaks of health threats) , economic (currency exchange movements, changes in macroeconomic indicators of tourist generating countries), and corporate (failure of major partners/suppliers in the business chain e.g. airlines, tour operators) issues play a greater role in describing destination with its own orientation. References
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