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Bristol City UK: Marketing of a Tourist Destination Case Study

by Suleman

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Marketing Concepts
  • Discussion
    • Market & Marketing
    • Development of Product & Service
    • Needs & Desires
    • Marketing Objectives
    • Marketing Strategies
    • Marketing Mix
    • SWOT Analysis
    • PESTLE Analysis
    • Sustainability
  • Conclusion
  • Recommendations
  • References
  • Bibliography


The tourism industry operates in a dynamic and market led business environment (Michigan State University Extension, 2002). This highly complex service industry involves a complicated web of different agencies developing tourism products and services and offering the same to the consumers who are miles away from them. The marketing is quite tough when it comes to market the intangible services like tourism. Proper marketing and service offering would be needed to attract the tourists, offer them a comfortable transportation system and make their stay comfortable with proper arrangement of entertainment and accommodation. The strategy needs to be formulated in a way which can be attractive for the tourists and hence would boost the tourism industry. In today’s competitive market it is very much required to offer quality service at a competitive pricing to maintain a sustainable growth.

Bristol City UK: Marketing of a Tourist Destination Case Study


Bristol has a unique blend of history, heritage and culture which has helped the vibrant city to emerge as one of the attractive places to visit around the globe (Bristol City Council-website-a, n.d.). Its location, dramatic landscape, architectures, admirable communications, accommodation, cultural and social facilities have been the building blocks for the growth of the tourism industry in the recent years. Still, there are certain downsides which can result as a hindrance to the industry. Bristol has a number of architectures and buildings which are still inaccessible for the tourists. Hence, a considerable part of the social, political and cultural aspects of this wonderful city is still unrecognised by the rest of the world. The city is yet to recognise the importance of the overseas tourism. Starting from the year 1985 till 1995, the number of nights spent by the this kind of visitors have seen a rise of around 0.4 million; while the very next year saw an impressive increase to a figure of 2.05 million from a number of 1.5 million in the previous year. This business has been the core of its tourism industry. The city has introduced ‘Conference Bristol’ which offers help to promote a conference, to arrange an event or exhibition. The quality and quantity of accommodation and sector and the conference business have seen a considerable growth since the Conference Bristol was launched in the year 1994 (Bristol City Council Leisure Services Committee, 1998).

Marketing Concepts

In the backdrop of the current business scenario it has become increasingly evident that organisations belonging to almost all industrial sectors make attempts “to collaborate in order to achieve the goals they have set for themselves” (Fyall & Garrod, 2005, P. 3). Owing to fast-paced technological innovations and a need for globalisation, it is often observed that conventional competition between organisations is being replaced by collaborative arrangements that strive to achieve synergistic outcomes. The global tourism industry is largely fragmented as well as multi-sectoral, and the nature of its operations being interdependent “provides a powerful catalytic focus for inter-organisational co-ordination and collective decision-making” (Fyall & Garrod, 2005, P. 3). According to the beliefs of Kotler et al. (1999), collaborative strategies are gaining importance because they may be helpful in augmenting the competitive advantages of organisations as well as tourism destinations through the sharing of “combined knowledge, expertise, capital and other resources” (Fyall & Garrod, 2005, P. 3). As collaborative strategies aim at addressing problems related to organisational competence, the key drivers of these strategies are identified to be globalisation, international agreements on politics and trade, shareholding restrictions, networks and integration, economic power, technological advancements, increased demand for tourism, strategic alliances, keen competition, enhanced customer expectations, sustainable development, and public funding (Fyall & Garrod, 2005, P. 6-17). According to Wood and Gray (1991), “collaboration occurs when a group of autonomous stakeholders of a problem domain engage in an interactive process, using shared rules, norms, and structures, to act or decide on issues related to that domain” (Fyall & Garrod, 2005, P. 134).

Jamal and Getz (1995) had improvised on this definition by opining that “collaboration for community-based tourism planning is a process of joint decision-making among autonomous, key stakeholders of an inter-organizational, community tourism domain to resolve planning problems of the domain and/or manage issues related to the planning and development of the domain” (Fyall & Garrod, 2005, P. 136). From these definitions it may be observed that the tourism sector of any particular destination should operate as a collaborative entity in order to rout the impediments and take necessary measures to develop marketing strategies that promise sectoral growth, development and profitability. Theories pertaining to consumer marketing find extensive applications in tourism marketing, and service industries that exhibit particular characteristics also require to be understood prior to the implementation of marketing strategies. Apart from these, organisations should also consider the fact that the service products related to travel as well as tourism sector shares certain common characteristics and hence require specific market response. When observed on a global scale, the tourism industry exhibits extensive service operations as an integral part of its marketing strategy (Middleton et al., 2009, P. 41). Being similar to retail marketing in some aspects, tourism marketing requires heavy branding activities that are generally supported by advertising as well as competitive pricing. As the marketing activities are quite complex, they should be undertaken by a central authority located at corporate headquarters. While conceptualising marketing theories for the tourism industry it has been reiteratively observed that an increasingly demanding consumer profile has been responsible for the global development of this lucrative industry.

It has also been found that “in all developed countries, reflecting economic growth over the last half-century and the more competitive business climate in the early years of the twenty-first century, businesses in travel and tourism and those responsible for destination management are having to respond to the expectations of more demanding customers” (Middleton et al., 2009, P. 58). As a result, these organisations continuously strive to enhance customer experience through the quality of their services. The customers are more affluent and hence excellent standards have to be met in order to stroke their egos as well as satisfaction quotients. They are also better educated and hence the service organisations such as travel and tourism players should have significantly strong KSA (knowledge, skills and abilities) capitals to satisfy them. Owing to the fact that customers are healthier, service packages should incorporate activities that cater to their interests in active lifestyle. An increase in life expectancy rates have necessitated the organisations to pay attention to the attitudes as well as behavioural aspects of the senior citizens as they form a significant percentage of the global consumer profile. Today’s consumers are a more travelled lot and have frequent experience of international travel. Moreover they are increasingly aware of the media as well as global information. All these factors taken together put the tourism industry on the edge and hence the players have to improvise their business policies as well as operations and services on a continual basis. Among the other factors that influence the formulation of marketing strategies for the tourism industry, organisations should consider events that “unfold at a variety of spatial scales that impact on local tourism sectors and can cause temporal market disturbances of varying duration” (Hall, Timothy & Duval, 2003, P. 175). The effects of such events may often be sensed in destinations that are far away from their points of origin.

As Murphy (1985) and other scholars have observed, “Such events take a variety of forms from natural landscape disasters to episodes of famine, disease and pestilence to wars, terrorist atrocities and political instability” (Hall, Timothy & Duval, 2003, P. 175), and may even be predicted owing to their particular periodicities. Several researches related to crisis management have unanimously advocated that “an ideal tourism recovery scenario includes eventually returning at least to the routine levels of production and consumption enjoyed before the shock” (Hall, Timothy & Duval, 2003, P. 175). In the context of South West England, the major tourism destinations are Cornwall, Dorset, Devon, Bath, Bristol, Somerset and North East Somerset. The vital traits that characterise the industry in this region are as the following:

  • South West England alone accounted for around seventeen percent of the total tourism spending that takes place in England.
  • As per 1997 figures, the English tourists made around twenty one million trips and incurred £3200 million in expenses, while the number of trips made by foreign tourists was slightly more than ten percent of that and their cumulative spending stood at £728 million.
  • Apart from other contributions, this zone alone accounted for ten percent of regional GDP, in terms of tourism spending, and supported 225000 jobs and more than 11000 businesses (Hall, Timothy & Duval, 2003, P. 183).

Inherent to the spirit of tourism industry is the necessity to undertake redevelopment schemes in order to augment consumer-interest. It has been observed that “in cities such as Liverpool and Bristol, for example, access to considerable areas of waterfront has been regained with redevelopment schemes” (Selby, 2004, P. 53), which in turn has increased the space available for tourist activities.


Market & Marketing

Bristol has been included under the regional tourist board, South West Tourism. As the city has come into collaboration with 8 more cities in the south west England, the marketing of Bristol tourism has been enhanced a lot. At the same time it has been advantageous for Bristol tourism as it has reduced the cost to a certain amount and encouraged the optimal utilisation of its investment.

Development of Product & Service

Bristol has introduced ‘product based marketing’ which would focus to design the products and services as to meet the customer needs. It mainly focuses on the people who are supposed to buy the services rather than looking at the entire mass market. The marketing efforts must be in accordance to the overall business objectives of tourism. The product in the tourism industry can be ‘ideas, local goods or services’ (Michigan State University Extension, 2002). Since the industry is mainly a service industry the products are supposed to be travel and entertainment experiences, hospitality. As these products are intangible it is much tougher to market these products. The quality control for these kinds of products is difficult but quite crucial for the business. The tourists would compare the offerings of different regions and then pick up the area of his or her choice. The products would not go to the customers, instead the tourists needs to be attracted towards the products or services. So the development of the product and service mix for the Bristol tourism sector would need cautious analysis of the desires and needs of the tourists and should shape up the services in compliance to those needs and desires.

Needs & Desires

Tourists, worldwide, can have different need and desires and they choose their destiny as per their needs and desires. A number of tourists visit Bristol for their business purposes or may be want to take a short halt while going for other destinations. A considerable part of tourists come to spend their leisure periods. The needs and desires would be different for each group of tourists. Bristol should meet up those specific needs and at the same time it should fulfil some common needs like safety, enhanced communication, hassle free transportation and need of proper accommodation.         

Marketing Objectives

Setting up marketing objectives is quite important for regular monitoring of the objective of the respective businesses. Most of the times it would be measured with the help of some quantitative and measurable units to map the progress. In this tourism industry the marketing objectives would be mostly measured by the profit, market shares and the occupancy rates for Bristol tourism (Michigan State University Extension, 2002). The market share would be measured in the south west region as well as in the UK territory.

Marketing Strategies

The tourism industries mostly make mistakes of offering all services to the mass market. Strategies, which are developed for the average tourists, are supposed to be unappealing for the premier tourists. So it is better to do the market segmentation and shape up the strategies as per the target segments.

Marketing Mix

Bristol tourism department must create both internal and external marketing mixes for different marketing segments. The external marketing mix would include product or service, place, promotion and price. The products or services for the tourism industry have been discussed above. The pricing would be profitable and at the same time competitive enough to maintain a sustainable growth among the competitors. The promotion of the tourism would be mostly dependent on the target audience. An internal mix would mainly depend on creating an environment in which the employees would desire to offer good services for the tourists (Michigan State University Extension, 2002).

SWOT Analysis

The following analysis articulates the strengths, weakness, opportunity and threats of the tourism in Bristol;

  • Strengths: Bristol has got a number of strengths which act as influential factors behind the emergence of the tourism industry. The quality and range of its accommodation sector has been it strength for a long time. As mentioned above Bristol has been a part of South West of England region. Travel and tourism attraction to this region has been recognised and admired by the tourists. Because of its location Bristol has been able to place itself as a short break or mid way holiday centre. This attractive British city has been enjoying a number of retail centres, enough greenery, and cultural facilities to fetch quality attractions towards its travel and tourism sector. Its harbour sides and a number of temples offer considerable momentum to the tourism industry. The strategy of British City Council’s Leisure services committee have been enhance to incorporate more tactical decisions to improve the structure of strong tourism industry. Transportation and communication with other cities have been a strong influential factor to strengthen up Bristol’s tourism industry (Bristol City Council Leisure Services Committee, 1998).
  • Weaknesses: The benefits of the tourism industries are mostly city centric. Like most of the cities on the globe, this city is also suffering from traffic congestion and hence lacking in tourist friendly transport system. The hospitality departments are unable to find the right calibre to recruit. Compared to the competitors, the investment in the tourism of this respective city is quite low. The cultural sectors, architectural and other heritage buildings are still quite unregimented. The tourist information centres are quite poorly located. The accommodation is not quite up to the mark for the tourists, coming in the mid of the week. Some of Bristol’s amazing attractions are still inaccessible for the tourists (Bristol City Council Leisure Services Committee, 1998).
  • Opportunities: The city has been into a partnership with some more cities in the south west of England including Bath and North East Somerset. As the partnership is based on its cooperative structure, the cos5t effectiveness of the relative marketing activities is supposed to increase. The partnership with Bath has opened some new opportunities to introduce and enhance product based marketing. Bristol, for its location, has enough potential to establish itself as a short break destination hub. The potential is still very much untapped. There has been a growth in the amount of private sector investment which can surely readdress the investment issue with the help of public private partnership in the marketing of tourism industry (Bristol City Council Leisure Services Committee, 1998). The growth in the short break tourists and the appearance of UK cities as the attractive destination hubs can provide a growing tourism market for Bristol.
  • Threats: Other UK and overseas destinations are raising enough competition for the city tourism. Most of all overseas destinations are offering products and services at quite competitive prices and hence getting gradually more accessible. Recent economic downturn has put an immense effect on the tourism sector. Bristol has seen an uncontrolled and unorganised development in its accommodation sector which can put a serious impact on its existing business environment (Bristol City Council Leisure Services Committee, 1998).

PESTLE Analysis

Travel and tourism industry in any city is very much dependable on its social, political, legal, environmental, economical and technological state. These factors are articulated in the following analysis;

  • Political Environment: In 2009, for the first time, the Liberal democrats were able to attain the overall control over the city council of Bristol. For the past thirty years the city council has been dominated by the Bristol labour party. As most of the cities, the city has seen a page turned from the old politics to a new political environment, mostly dominated by the liberal democrats. Even the Bristol tourism is supposed to have a more enhanced coordination with other cities as cities like Liverpool, Newcastle, and Sheffield are dominated by the Liberal Democrats (BBC, 2009).
  • Economical Environment: Being the capital of south west, Bristol is known as one of the foremost UK city regions. The city is one of the most attractive and culturally enriched cities in UK and enjoys its rising profile as an emerging economy in Europe. The world class economy based on aerospace engineering, defence, electronics, entertainment and environmental industries and its knowledge based on the four world class universities. Bristol has been consistently offering a buoyant economy. The evidence behind this comment is that as measured by Gross Value Added, the respective economy has seen highest growth compared to any other city in England other than London in between the period 1995-2005. Additional evidence could be that the economy has given birth to numerous renowned global companies like Airbus UK, BBC, AXA, Rolls Royce Toshiba Research Europe, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds TSB, Hewlett Packard and Bank of Ireland (Bristol City Council-website-b, n.d.).
  • Social Environment: Bristol city council has introduced ‘Equalities Policy’. As per this policy the council is committed to create fairness in the society. This would also consider the harassment of the employees working in Bristol and would take enough prevention to stop the same. Social inclusion is the main aim of Bristol society.
  • Technological Environment: Bristol has been the host of four leading universities worldwide. Still the technology, in case of Bristol tourism, is yet to emerge as one of its kind’s technical hub in UK. The information regarding the tourism industry is not organised yet to have easy access for the tourists.
  • Legal Environment: There have been a number of regulations which can have an impact on the Bristol tourism industry. Regulations like Alcohol and entertainment licensing, Fire safety regulations, Food safety regulations, Holiday Cancellation & Travel Insurance, Music regulations, Traffic signs for tourism businesses are quite important from the perspective of Bristol tourism (SouthWest Tourism Ltd, 2010).
  • Environmental: Recently three of UK’s renowned sustainable waste management businesses have been merged together. This will enhance and accelerate the processes of reduce, re-use and recycle of the wastes in Bristol (The Recycling Consortium, 2006).


Tourism industry, irrespective of the differences in locations, remains a lucrative segment of the global economy. It has been seen that the governments of nearly all countries adopt necessary measures to enhance their tourism activities through a well aligned department because this industry contributes significantly to the national coffers in the form of healthy revenues and in turn help in showcasing the countries’ cultural heritage and other prospects to a global audience. Owing to the profitability of this industry, it is extremely necessary to ascertain its sustainability. According to a 2009 report “The UK travel sector is to launch an industry-wide sustainability strategy with the aim of improving consumers’ perception of tourism” (Brownsell, 2009), that will centre on collaborative strategies because individual tourism organisations will find it difficult to resolve the various industry-wide issues.


During the course of this research it has been seen that Bristol has a unique melange of history, heritage and culture which have together secured this English coastal city the position of a lucrative tourism destination. The various aspects of this city that add to its charm are its geographical location, picturesque landscape, architectures, amicable as well as admirable communications, and facilities related to accommodation as well as socio-cultural attractions. These are the same factors that have been the building blocks for the remarkable growth and development of the regional tourism industry in this city. It has also been observed that Bristol has certain intrinsic features that are potential enough to impede the prosperity of the highly profitable tourism industry. The city has a number of architectural specimens that remain inaccessible by tourists, and moreover, the world is yet to fully recognise and appreciate much of the socio-cultural as well as political aspects of this charming city. The main reason behind this is found to be the fact Bristol is yet to recognise the vitality of overseas tourism. The industry is subjective to a number of factors pertaining to the external business environment. While socio-political, legal, technological, economical and environmental issues largely influence the operations and profitability of the players, disturbances in the form of terrorism and internal conflicts cause substantial damage. As the industry is highly fragmented, and the nature of its operations is interdependent, it is required to focus on inter-organisational co-ordination as well as collective decision-making. Simultaneously, it should also concentrate on developing new products and services in order to cater to the needs and desires of a demanding global consumer profile. The industry should recognise the importance of synergy in the achievement of globalisation and thus develop collaborative strategies in order to enhance competitive advantage.


Accessibility plays a major role in determining the levels of consumer delight, especially in the case of the tourism industry. Bristol is found to be suffering from the perils of traffic congestion and is thus lacking considerably in tourist friendly transport system. Necessary measures, preferably through public-private partnerships, should be adopted to get rid of this problem.

As the hospitality departments in this city are unable to find the right calibre to recruit. Specialised recruitment drives should be undertaken to procure the necessary talent and the departments should categorically focus on various institutions that provide formal education in tourism and hospitality management. This step requires immediate execution because of the growing volumes of global consumers.

It has been observed that the investment in the tourism sector of Bristol is surprisingly low. This calls for the necessity of public funding. Individual players may also enter into strategic alliances in order to achieve economies of scale and operational excellence. Moreover, they may form syndicates in order to negotiate with financial institutions as well as private investors to inject funds into this sector.

The cultural aspects including the architectural specimens are unregimented to some extent. The tourist information centres are also sparsely located. These factors definitely add to the woes of the tourists, most of who travel from across the globe to visit this heritage city. It goes beyond saying that the regional administration of this city should redevelop its heritage sites to enhance tourist-attraction. Simultaneously, it should also make necessary improvements in the area of accommodation. The city should follow the successful models of tourism management and take a holistic approach towards the substantial refurbishment of its highly potential tourism sector.

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