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Introduction

Nowadays number of people involved in travelling is being constantly growing. When addressing a travel agency people almost always know where exactly they want to go, what kind of rest they would like to have and what sum of money they are going to spend. In such cases the main task of any travel agent is to recognize real desires of his customers and make a relevant travel plan. If this task is completed professionally, the client is more likely to be satisfied and stick to the offered tour plan.

In this report I am going to act as a travel agent and plan a one week stay schedule for two sets of clients: Couple A and Couple B, who belong to different VALS (Values and Lifestyles) segments. Couple A is newlyweds going to Venice to spend their honeymoon. They fit within the Young Optimism VALS segment and are aged between 20 and 30 years of age. Couple B is wife’s parents, who chose the same destination place, but will have a separate accommodation and travel plan. They fit within the Visible Achievement VALS segment, and are aged between 50 and 60 years of age.

VALS is a psychographic segmentation scheme that unites psychographics and demographics into detailed description of nine types it distinguished (Cahill, 2006). People belonging to different VALS segments have discrepant values and targets. Knowing what the VALS segment person fits to, one can better analyze this person’s views, consumptive behavior, expectations and level of media influence.

Couple B is not already young, they are mature and it is often impossible to impose something on them. They already do not choose things because they are simply cool. No pressure is to be used while communicating with such people.

When planning the itinerary for Couple A, we should take into account that they are more computer literate than the older couple. They might have searched over internet all the places of interest they would like visit in Venice. Unlike the older generation, these young adults feel optimistic about their earning potential, but also they are often more practical and economic. They know the lowest hotel prices and optimum places to have meal and rest. The couple I deal with in this report has the desire to have an unforgettable honeymoon, but on a budget.

  1. Couple A accommodation choice

The accommodation chosen for Couple A is hotel “Tintoretto”, which has all necessary modern facilities and has been recently refurbished. The choice of accommodation was based mainly on the “place” component of marketing mix. Hotel “Tintoretto” is situated alongside the San Felice canal and offers rooms with beautiful view from them. Moreover, hotel is five minutes walking from the famous Rialto Bridge and the Venetian Ghetto. Both these sights are situated in historic center of Venice. Location not far from Venetian Ghetto will give Couple A an opportunity to enjoy the settlement’s unique synagogue architecture and civic buildings, where the sustainable urban preservation is being maintained today, as the community is still part of this historical settlement (Volchenkov & Blanchard 2007). Rialto Bridge, in its turn, will provide the romance the young couple seeks for in Venice. For what can be more romantic than the bridge with a nice view on the Grand Canal with authentic gondolas passing by, that was highly praised by William Shakespeare in his plays (Freed 2009).

  1. Couple A daily itinerary

Thursday, the 30th of August: 2 hours Venice walking tour excluding interior visits.

Itinerary: Saint Mark’s Square, Saint Mark’s Basilica, Marco Polo’s House, Rialto Bridge, Venice Rialto Fish Market, Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli.

Starting point: Saint Mark’s Square at 4 pm.

Price: 27 US $.

The most relevant P’s that form the choice of this itinerary are Price and Place. I took into consideration Couple A’s desire to see plenty of sights, but on a budget. This means they want to visit places of interest and pay little for it. That is why this tour fits their expectations.

Place factor is also of great importance for this very choice: the variety of historic and cultural sights is what everyone expects to see when visiting Venice for the first time. The itinerary for this sightseeing tour includes Saint Mark’s Square, the true center of Venice and Saint Mark’s Basilica, the most important church in Venice. This place is interesting for the visitors as a perfect example of Byzantine architecture in the Western world, which contains astonishing mosaics decoration dating back to the 11th century (Schuller & Uetz 2006, p. 16). Beautiful Rialto Bridge with its smooth marble façade, Marco Polo’s house with its capturing history and church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, located in a tiny square, are sure to be the places that my clients would eagerly visit.

Friday, the 31st of August: Hidden Venice half-day walking tour, 35 minutes small-group gondola ride.

Itinerary: old red-light district, Frari church, old artisan quarters, Ponte delle Tette bridge, old Venice prison, Grand Canal.

Starting point: Rialto Bridge at 11 am.

Price: 80 US $.

The “Hidden Venice” half-day walking tour was chosen for Couple A as it contains visits to unusual places, fascinating stories about the revealed secrets of Venice’s past. The key factor for this choice was “Promotion”. While promotion travel agent should describe not only features of the service, but also the benefits customer will receive from it. In case with Couple A being my clients, promotion materials (booklets, advertising sheets) are sure to grab their attention. The description of places of interest from this tour sounds mysterious and spellbinding – that is exactly what young newly married romantic couples prefer.

Furthermore, 35-minute gondola ride along Venice's famous Grand Canal will undoubtedly be a highlight of the customers’ trip. Here the most relevant issue is Process. As services are performances done for the customers, they typically involve a sequence of steps and activities. The combination of these steps constitutes a service process which is evaluated by the customers. The process of riding an authentic Venetian gondola is likely to captivate Couple A by glamour and elegance of Venice and its magnificent palaces and churches lining the Grand Canal. It gives a new point of observation of Venice's most memorable attractions (Hahn 2008, p. 218).

Saturday, the 1st of September: Venice art and architecture walking tour.

Itinerary: San Giovanni and Paolo Church, Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli.

Starting point: Saint Mark’s Square at 2 pm.

Price: 40 US $.

Focusing on areas of architectural and artistic abundance away from the well-trodden routs is very typical for young people. In this case the Physical evidence plays the key role. The physical evidence of service includes all the tangible representations of service. For “art and architecture” walking tour the physical evidence is the environment in which the service is delivered. Tangibles that help to communicate the service are pictures of places of interest, reproductions of paintings which clients will see with their own eyes, broshures describing the tour.

Couple A will see the interior of the Grand Gothic San Giovanni and Paolo Church, with the biggest stained-glass window in Venice, and the jewel-box Renaissance exterior of the Miracoli Church. But the most impressive elements of physical evidence in this tour are artistic works by Giovanni Bellini and Veronese. On the square in front of the church there is the equestrian statue depicting the mercenary captain Bartolomeo Colleoni, designed by Verrocchio, Leonardo da Vinci’s master. It strikes with its huge size – “it is about 4 m. tall (excluding the base) and weighs about 4000 kg” (Cesareo et al. 2006, p. 18).

Sunday, the 2nd of September: Wine tasting evening.

Itinerary: two different wine bars.

Starting point: Canareggio neighborhood at 5 pm.

Price: 60 US $.

Wine tasting evening was chosen for Couple A based on the Process element of marketing mix. The process of tasting wines guided by professional sommelier seems to be a perfect way of spending free time for a young couple in love. The atmosphere of this process also promises to be romantic and indulgent: wine bars with typical Venetian interiors are situated in authentic areas of Venice, well off the beaten path. Moreover, young people always enjoy pleasant new experiences, and the Venetian wine goes far beyond the everyday wine tasting.

The trained specialist and sommelier will introduce visitors to some of the best wines the Tri-Veneto has to offer (and some from beyond these lands for comparison) – focusing on native varieties – while passing along some of the most enlightening, practical, and thoroughly unintimidating wine information.

Monday, the 3rd of September: Venetian lagoon: Murano, Burano and Torcello islands half-day excursion.

Itinerary: Murano, Burano, Torcello islands.

Starting point: Alilaguna pier at 11 am.

Price: 30 US $. Entrance fees to Torcello Church excluded.

Visiting Venetian lagoon islands is a must for every first-time traveler. Couple A is young and active, they seek adventures and romance and the suggested excursion is just what they need. Still I consider Price to be the most relevant factor for this choice. The excursion offers such a low price as it excludes entrance fee to Torcello Church and gives travelers a lot of free time to hang around, buy souvenirs and explore the territory themselves. Price includes boarding a motor boat, excursion to glass-blowing display on Murano where travelers can watch “skilled glass-blowers creating works of art” (Ribault 2010, p. 209), trip to Burano museum dedicated to the craft of lace and the Torcello Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, founded in the 7th century.

Tuesday, the 4th of September: Night Venice ghost walking tour.

Itinerary: Rialto Bridge, the street of the Assassins, Bovolo staircase.

Starting point: Rialto Bridge at 8 pm.

Price: 25 US $.

Night excursion is not what everyone will enjoy, but after analyzing Couple A’s preferences and targets, I can suppose that this “ghost” trip will be liked by them. The Process plays the most important role when making a decision concerning this tour. The whole idea of wandering along Venetian narrow canals at night time sounds romantic and mysterious. The excursion is called “ghost”, because the guide tells four ghost stories connected with the buildings and monuments which travelers pass by. The walking tour also highlights architectural gems and follies lost in the backstreets of Venice, including the delightful Bovolo staircase built for a wealthy Venetian at a time when many Venetians still traveled around the city on horseback. The elaborate spiral staircase enabled the wealthy nobleman to ride his horse up to his private apartments within his palace.

Wednesday, the 5th of September: Venice Grand Canal boat trip.

Itinerary: Grand Canal.

Starting point: Saint Mark’s square at 5:30 pm.

Price: 50 US $.

Probably, the best way to explore the city situated on water is by boat. That is why gliding through Grand Canal is most suitable to once again see the beautiful places of Venice before leaving. To my mind, two main criteria that influence this choice are Product and Process. The Product in this case is the service itself, i.e. boat trip. The perfect product must provide value for the customer. This value is in the eyes of the beholder – we must give our customers what they want, not what we think they want.

For my clients, Couple A, boat trip itself has great value: it is last excursion before leaving and last chance to make nice pictures of all the sights. Moreover, it is an opportunity to see splendid palaces, churches, bridges, gardens and warehouses lining the city's liquid streets, which they have not yet visited.

Process is not less significant. Unlike riding a gondola, on the Grand Canal Boat Tour there is an opportunity to travel through many diverse areas of the city and enjoy a thorough introduction to the city of Venice. Travelling in boat is perfect for photographers and those who prefer listening to the detailed commentary provided by a guide (Walker 2011). All boats are equipped with microphones and speakers so tourists can clearly hear the commentary.

Thursday, the 6th of September: Buying souvenirs, packing process.

I left the last day free of excursions for the couple to buy souvenirs, pack their things and visit places they liked most of all.

  1. Couple B accommodation choice

Hotel “Tre Archi” was chosen as suitable accommodation for Couple B. The basic factors for this choice were Physical evidence and Promotion. In the hotel industry, the design, furnishing, lighting, layout and decoration of the hotel, as well as its appearance and attitudes of its employees, will influence customer perceptions of the service quality and experiences.

As Couple B is looking for a luxury holiday, I chose the corresponding hotel design. “Tre Archi” hotel is a fully restored 18th century palace that combines antique Venetian interior with all modern comforts. It is situated in the heart of Venice near the Cannareggio Canal. All main sights are in a walking distance from hotel. The area is also full of convenient shops, restaurants and venues. Moreover, hotel has a garden, what is very rare in center of Venice. 

In addition to Physical evidence, Promotion may also be of great relevance. Hotel brochures, customers’ positive references and professional photos of interior can’t leave Couple B indifferent, as a result making the entire customer experience positive.

  1. Couple B daily itinerary

Thursday, the 30th of August: 2 hours Venice Walking Tour without interior visits.

Itinerary: Saint Mark’s Square, Saint Mark’s Basilica, Marco Polo’s House, Rialto Bridge, the Rialto fish market, Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli.

Starting point: Saint Mark’s Square at 4 pm.

Price: 27 US $.

This tour coincides with Couple A’s on the day of arrival. Both couples are supposed to be satisfied with a mutual walking tour as their first impression of Venice. The reasons for choosing it are same as for Couple A: price and place. Though the aims and desires of both couples differ, still this excursion unites them in their expectation of getting acquainted with history and culture of Venice, as well as discovering the Venice of today.

While walking along narrow streets both couples can find exactly what they are looking for: Couple A – for romance and memorable impressions, Couple B – for original architectural monuments and their historic overviews. Saint Mark’s Basilica will fascinate the older couple with its centuries-old beauty of mosaics and facades, while Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, a perfect example of Venetian Renaissance architecture, will impress by multi-colored marbles decorating both the exterior and interior of the church.

Couple B may be more interested in visiting the Rialto fish market, than the younger customers. This place is perfect for observing life of local people, who daily come to the market to buy fresh fish and seafood from Adriatic Sea.

Friday, the 31st of August: Saint Mark's Square highlights excursion.

Itinerary: Saint Mark’s Basilica, the Sansovino library, the Bell Tower, the Clock Tower, Palazzo Ducale.

Starting point: Saint Mark’s Square at 3 pm.

Price: 20 US $.

In this tour the Product itself is appealing to the customers. Couple B belongs to Visible Achievement VALS segment, which means that they intend to choose services that bring them certain profit. As this couple is interested in history and culture, visiting famous Venetian sights will be their primary intention. The tour focuses on splendor of Saint Mark's Square with external visits of the square, the Sansovino library, the Bell Tower and the Clock Tower with its unbelievable legends. This highlighted tour of Saint Mark’s Square includes visiting Saint Mark’s Basilica, where tourists can see the "Pala D’Oro" (golden altar).

Furthermore, the Price amount is of great importance in this choice. Couple B is experienced grown-ups who know the value of their money; that is why the combination of plethora of sights and attractive price, sure thing, is alluring for them.

Saturday, the 1st of September: Murano glass and Burano lace tour from Venice.

Itinerary: Murano glassblower's workshop, Burano lace workplace, Burano Lace Museum.

Starting point: Saint Mark’s Square, boat dock at 2 pm.

Price: 60 US $.

Same as for Couple A, I suggest visiting Venetian lagoon, famous islands to Couple B. The tour differs in price and available free time: this one is more expensive, but contains more guided excursions.

In my opinion, Place plays a dominant role while choosing this tour. My customers are eager to travel and experience new cultural impressions. During a half-day tour they can get to know about the history, customs and traditions of three famous islands of Venetian lagoon, known throughout the world for picturesque scenery, handicraft and history. Murano is well-known for its glass making, Burano – not only for its lace but it is also a pretty fishing village – its streets are lined with bright colored houses. Torcello is a delightful little island, the earliest center of civilisations in the estuary.

Sunday, the 2nd of September: Doge’s Palace secret itineraries excursion.

Itinerary: Doge’s Palace.

Starting point: Doge’s Palace at 2 pm.

Price: 40 US $.

Taking into account that Doge’s palace is one of the most important and striking Venetian buildings, I could not leave behind the Place factor when choosing this excursion. Moreover, this is not an ordinary visitation, but the one including rare access to the Piombi attic prison and the Bridge of Sighs.

Physical evidence can also influence satisfaction of the customers in this very case. Just listing the tour highlights can be effective while communicating with the customer, e.g. Chambers of the Doge’s Palace, Bridge of Sighs, Prisons, works by Tintoretto, Titian, Veronese, Tiepolo and many others. Tourists also will visit the Casanova's cell and hear all the fascinating stories about his adventures.

Monday, the 3rd of September: Gondola serenade.

Itinerary: Grand Canal.

Starting point: Santa Maria del Giglio Square, gondolas mooring point at 4:30 pm.

Price: 60 US $.

Riding a gondola with expert gondolier seems to be a pleasant experience. Moreover, if there is also a professional musician playing local tunes. I chose a gondola ride for both couples, but this one also includes serenade and is more entertaining than educating. It could be suitable for young couple, too, as it is in some way romantic, but it is more a group experience: there are ten gondolas with six people in each.

It is not surprising that I chose this trip based on Process element of marketing mix. While riding an authentic gondola each tourist can feel himself as part of the unique city of Venice. Moreover, gondoliers can be very informative. The gondolier does not fit neatly into the usual paradigm of public service. Yet they have existed in a similar form for nearly 1,000 years and have operated within performance measurement systems during that time (International Journal of Productivity & Performance Management 2005).

Tuesday, the 4th of September: Italian gastronomy and wine small group day trip from Venice.

Itinerary: Vineyards of the Veneto and Friuli, hills of Corno di Rosazzo and Cividale, the Devils Bridge.

Starting point: Piazzale Roma at 8:30 pm.

Price: 150 US $.

Taking into consideration that Couple B are experienced grown-ups 50-60 years old, I can assume that the idea of tasting Italian meals and wine can sound tempting to them. Moreover, the vineyards of the Veneto and Friuli contain magnificent landscapes and pure air. Travelling in a small group of eight people makes the trip rather convenient. The customers are likely to enjoy the Process of this tour.

Furthermore, Product itself is a primary factor of choice. Wine tastings include great whites and full-bodied reds: Cabernet, Merlot, Refosco, Friulano and Tocai. Lunch includes home-made seasonal specialty. In the afternoon tourists will travel to the picturesque medieval town of Cividale del Friuli, founded by Julius Caesar in 50 B.C. (Corrado & Odorici 2009).

Wednesday, the 5th of September: Venice Grand Canal boat trip.

Itinerary: Grand Canal.

Starting point: Saint Mark’s square at 5:30 pm.

Price: 50 US $.

This boat trip coincides with Couple A’s on this day. This may be a wonderful opportunity for both couples to spend some time together, discuss their vacations, share emotions and impressions before leaving Venice.

The factors of choice are the same: Product and Process. This kind of excursion is suitable for a wide range of VALS segmentation groups, including both sets of my clients.

Thursday, the 6th of September: Buying souvenirs, packing process.

Same as for Couple A, I left the last day free in order Couple B would like to buy souvenirs, pack their things and visit places they liked most of all.

Conclusion           

During making a travel plan for both sets of clients, I stuck to 7 P’s of marketing and considered the VALS segments the clients belong to. The overall cost of Couple A’s one week stay in Venice including all excursions and accommodation cost equals to 1,125 US $ for one person. Couple B’s overall cost is 1,457 US $ for one person. We should consider that travel agencies usually have price agreements with various hotels and tour operators that meansAnalyzing the process of making a customer’s offer I have come to the conclusion that applying a simple marketing scheme enables to identify which activities are effective and under what circumstances. In summary, the 3 P’s of services of the marketing: People, Physical evidence and Process are within the control of the firm and its contact employees. They influence the customer’s initial decision to purchase a service, the customer’s level of satisfaction and repurchase decisions. Physical evidence such as brochures, letterhead, business cards, reports, signage, internet presence and equipment should be professsionaly developed and easily accessed by the customers.

Marketing of service products, first of all, focuses on the most fundamental requirements of the companies to identify customers, research their needs and preferences, analyze their attitudes to promotion and other factors that influence their purchasing decisions and persuade them to buy services from you rather than competitor. All this requires a marketing strategy that is coordinated and considered – not a piecemeal approach to each part of the task – and realistic in terms of making the most effective use of the resources and budgets available.

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