With the rise of online booking sites, are travellers' behaviour changing? Find Pierre GHEWY's analysis in this post.
Towards the end of packages ?
Tourists behaviors are changing. They seek more mobility and freedom of choice in their activities at the best price. To do so, they look for information prior to their stay to know what to do, where to go and how. The easily accessible information available online is helping this evolution of tourists’ behaviors. Indeed, according to a Coach Omnium study, a third of the clients, whether they have been well received or not, express their opinions on their housing directly to their host establishment or on websites platforms. Among those who express their opinions, 12% share it on websites such as Booking.com or TripAdvisor. Among them, only a few do it to express negative comments (17%). Most of them express their satisfaction or give factual neutral information. Although only a few will express themselves, half of them have declared consulting the opinions of previous travelers. The importance given to comments varies according to their quantity. If there are only a few, the users will wonder if they have not been written by the establishment itself.
Starting at a hundred, the users will start to rely on the opinions. Half of the interviewees have declared having trust in the online comments or ratings. This trust has increased by 6 points in 2 years. This trend should not slow down as the numeric barometer of the CREDOC, the field of IT is ready. Indeed, three quarters of the French population owns a smartphone. It’s the most used tool to browse the internet. The percentage of use of a smartphone reaches 61% through social networks.
The search for information to prepare a trip is crucial to maximize chances of being satisfied by the stay. Indeed, according to satisfaction measures often used in marketing, satisfaction is the result of coherence between expectations (defined prior to the trip) and the performance of the host establishment (experimented during the stay). Thereby, technological means allowing tourists to reach plentiful resources allows them to know what to expect from the services furnished by the establishments. We witness the development of disintermediation at the expense of travel agencies or on contrary to digitalization of these. Some travel agencies go online through Application Programming Interface (API) offering more flexibility, more offers and better prices to their customers. The notion of “dynamic package”  is now brought up to describe tourists’ trend to manage their holidays program themselves. The benefit of a self-made program is that their stay matches their expectations and budget. Even though classic packages have options, they go against a global trend in tourism.
They trap tourists in a predefined program to which they must adapt themselves, and it often leads them for example, to stay in hotels in French Polynesia.
The data given by Booking.com or TripAdvisor to name only a few, allow tourists worldwide not only to plan their stay themselves but also to travel planning one day at a time without having to fix a specific itinerary beforehand. Thanks to low-cost air companies or websites such as Lastminute.com travelers may leave on a whim. Once they have reached their destination, they starting thinking about what to do, where to eat and stay. This type of traveling organization is increasing and travelers wandering without specific plans are becoming a new norm. They plan only a day ahead or on a day-to-day basis. Some of them even take advantage of the cancelling policy given by reservation platforms to get the best bargain on the market even for the same hotel. Another trend that cannot be taken into account in packages.
The prepacked commercial offers go against the evolution of a global touristic behavior trend: the search for lower prices and the refusal of catering. Some tourists seem to avoid in-house restaurants orienting themselves to housing where they can cook for themselves such as vacation rentals. They have more freedom to plan their day at low-cost without the obligation to eat at the restaurant.
Is the constant evolution for global touristic behaviors announcing the end of packages in French Polynesia? Probably, but not immediately. Packages still represent 80% of the offers in French Polynesia and its remoteness put the destination in a particular situation. But maybe it is time to think of a new model? Can Polynesia be spared by this global trend?
The change of economic model is supposed to strengthen visitors’ mobility may it be for housing or activities. It aims at increasing diversity and access to non-compulsory activities. This change cannot be made without the collaboration of all the actors involved in the tourism industry and training has a major role to play.
To make it possible, tourists must have access to the information. This may be reached through a successful communication plan via internet. Internet is nowadays the utmost medium of the tourism industry (housing, activities, transportation). API platforms are also another great solution to centralize offers and make booking easier.
It is deemed important to avoid that French Polynesia will become an amusement park where visitors would be limited to the only attractions he planned to do beforehand.
Is French Polynesia ready to welcome that kind of travelers? the answer is not so obvious. The tourist is startled when he gets out of the airport or the harbor and realizes there are Uber around. Where to go? what online reservation website to rent a jet ski, a kite surf or a paddle board or to go on a tour? The competition is tough in the tourism industry; French Polynesia must be careful not to miss the train.
Lecturer in Management at the University of French Polynesia
Co-director of the CETOP
Original article written in French.
 "A set of services constituting a complete programme, and insured for a fixed price" (Le Larousse): plane ticket and hotel, for example.
 Omnium Coach - Marketing & economic studies for tourism and hospitality - ©-April 2013
 CREDOC, Survey on "Living Conditions and Aspirations", June 2017.
 According to the research firm Raffour Interactif, cited by lavieeco.com, 77% of French people prepared their trips online in 2016.