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    http://jvm.sagepub.com/  Journal of Vacation Marketing  http://jvm.sagepub.com/content/13/4/321The online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/1356766707081009 2007 13: 321 Journal of Vacation Marketing  Karen A. Smith Distribution channels for events: Supply and demand-side perspectives  Published by:  http://www.sagepublications.com  can be found at: Journal of Vacation Marketing  Additional services and information for http://jvm.sagepub.com/cgi/alerts Email Alerts:  http://jvm.sagepub.com/subscriptions Subscriptions:  http://www.sagepub.com/journalsReprints.nav Reprints:  http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav Permissions:  http://jvm.sagepub.com/content/13/4/321.refs.html Citations:  What is This? - Sep 12, 2007Version of Record >>  at University of Sunderland on October 8, 2013 jvm.sagepub.comDownloaded from at University of Sunderland on October 8, 2013 jvm.sagepub.comDownloaded from at University of Sunderland on October 8, 2013 jvm.sagepub.comDownloaded from at University of Sunderland on October 8, 2013 jvm.sagepub.comDownloaded from at University of Sunderland on October 8, 2013 jvm.sagepub.comDownloaded from at University of Sunderland on October 8, 2013 jvm.sagepub.comDownloaded from at University of Sunderland on October 8, 2013 jvm.sagepub.comDownloaded from at University of Sunderland on October 8, 2013 jvm.sagepub.comDownloaded from at University of Sunderland on October 8, 2013 jvm.sagepub.comDownloaded from at University of Sunderland on October 8, 2013 jvm.sagepub.comDownloaded from at University of Sunderland on October 8, 2013 jvm.sagepub.comDownloaded from at University of Sunderland on October 8, 2013 jvm.sagepub.comDownloaded from at University of Sunderland on October 8, 2013 jvm.sagepub.comDownloaded from at University of Sunderland on October 8, 2013 jvm.sagepub.comDownloaded from at University of Sunderland on October 8, 2013 jvm.sagepub.comDownloaded from at University of Sunderland on October 8, 2013 jvm.sagepub.comDownloaded from at University of Sunderland on October 8, 2013 jvm.sagepub.comDownloaded from at University of Sunderland on October 8, 2013 jvm.sagepub.comDownloaded from at University of Sunderland on October 8, 2013 jvm.sagepub.comDownloaded from   Distribution channels for events: Supply anddemand-side perspectives Karen A. Smith Received (in revised form): March 2007 Anonymously refereed paper  Victoria Management School, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140,New ZealandTel: 00 64 4463 5721; Fax: 00 64 4463 5180; E-mail: karen.smith@vuw.ac.nz Karen A. Smith   is a senior lecturer in tourism management at Victoria University of Wellington.She is a member of the ‘Innovations in New Zealand Tourism through Improved Distribution Channels’ research project and her other aca- demic interests include the management of tour- ism and event volunteers, literary and film tourism, and tourism education. A BSTRACT KEYWORDS: distribution channels, infor- mation, package, special event tourism  Distribution involves the dissemination of infor-mation, the means of booking and purchase, and  product bundling or packaging. In an increasinglycompetitive market place, special events, like other tourism products, require an effective distributionstrategy to reach their target tourist and local markets. This article systematically integrates data  from interviews with events organizers and asurvey of attendees at four events in Wellington,one of New Zealand’s main event tourism desti-nations. The complexity of event distributionchannels is influenced by the event’s target market,capacity, partnership relationships, and other fac-tors. Free events have simple distribution channels  focused on disseminating information; channels for ticketed events are more complex. There is limited bundling of event tourism packages and a number of barriers exist to their further development in thisdestination. INTRODUCTION There is a growing recognition that distribu-tion is a crucial element of tourism market-ing. Most research has focused on packagedleisure travel; 1 however, more recently, re-searchers have recognized that different typesof tourism and tourists generate differentdistribution channel structures, behavioursand issues. 2 Special events form part of thetourism product of many destinations andwhile promotion of an event can raiseawareness among potential audiences, likeother products and services, events need astrategy to be effectively distributed in anincreasingly crowded market place.Distribution is ‘what makes the productavailable’; 3 it creates the link between sup-plier and consumer. Distribution makes ‘anorganization’s offering available to the custo-mer when and where it is required’. 4 For events, ‘place’ in the marketing mix can havea dual meaning: 5 first, it can refer to thelocational aspects of choosing a venue andensuring access to that site for visitors; sec-ond, and its use here, it can refer to thedistribution of tickets. Marketing has been amajor theme of events research, 6 but issuesof distribution have received little attention.This is despite the important role distributionhas in ensuring the efficient and effective useof marketing resources. 7 The operation of an event’s distributionchannels, particularly the ticketing process,can be an integral part of the attendee’s Page 321 Journal of Vacation Marketing Volume 13 Number 4 Journal of Vacation MarketingVol. 13 No. 4, 2007, pp. 321–338 & SAGE PublicationsLos Angeles, London, New Delhiand Singapore.www.sagepublications.comDOI: 10.1177/1356766707081009  decision-making process; 8 it plays a role inthe consumer’s evaluation of the event ex-perience; and is important for buildingstrong customer relationships. 9 While eventevaluation studies rarely include distributionas a factor, case studies 10 make it evident thataspects of distribution, even if not labelled assuch, can influence the outcomes and successof an event.Buhalis 11 identifies three functions of tourism distribution channels: to provideinformation; bundle or combine productstogether; and establish the means wherebyconsumers can make and pay for reserva-tions. This article uses these functions as aframework to analyse the structure and op-eration of event distribution channels in onetourism destination: Wellington, New Zeal-and. It integrates the factors that influence anevent organization’s distribution strategy de-cisions with data from visitors at four eventson their distribution behaviour and prefer-ences for particular channel structures. Un-derstanding how these elements interact iscrucial for advancing knowledge of bothvisitor behaviour and event operations andmarketing. In addition, a better understand-ing of distribution systems and of visitors’purchasing behaviours should enable eventorganizers and their tourism partners to se-lect and use an appropriate range of distribu-tion channels more effectively. LITERATURE REVIEW Each of the three functions of distributionhas individually received some attentionwithin the event tourism literature; how-ever, there has been little attempt to drawthe elements together and consider distribu-tion more holistically. Case studies of infor-mation search behaviour focus on individualevents and have identified differences be-tween repeat and first-time visitors, 12 differ-ent age groups, 13 and local and touristaudiences. 14 Pearce et al. 15 established thattourists’ information search for attractionsoften occurs ‘at destination’, and this mayalso apply to events as McKercher et al. 16 found that most international tourists at cul-tural festivals in Hong Kong were unawareof the event prior their arrival in the desti-nation. However, a limitation of theseevent-related studies are their focus on thedemand-side and the dominance of singlecase studies means it is hard to generalize thefindings more widely. 17 In the events literature, distribution isusually equated with ticketing: the means of reservation and payment. While a number of authors discuss elements of ticketing, 18 thereis a lack of empirical data on the structure of ticket distribution systems or event atten-dees’ purchasing behaviours. Thamnopoulosand Gargalianos’ case study of the ticketingprocesses at the Sydney 2000 OlympicGames, 19 and a consumer report by theBritish Office of Fair Trading 20 are notableexceptions. Event organizers have a range of options for distributing tickets: direct to theconsumer, or via primary or secondary dis-tribution channels. By using a primary inter-mediary such as a ticketing agent, consumerscan choose to purchase their event ticketusing a range of technologies (commonly thetelephone, the internet, or face-to-face at abox office or retail outlet). Beaven andLaws 21 suggest that an organization’s choiceof ticket distribution system will depend on arange of factors including the size and typeof event and the nature of the audience.Ticket sales are a source of income for eventorganizers and ticket-scaling strategies (for example, varying price by seat position, thetime of sale, or category of attendee) can beused to obtain the best value from sales. 22 Using a ticketing agency can bring additionalcosts: potentially a booking fee for consu-mers and a commission on ticket sales, whichcan reduce the event’s income and yield per ticket.The third function of distribution is bund-ling; this involves the packaging of an eventwith other tourist products, such as withtransport and accommodation, or with other entertainment, food and beverage, and mer-chandising; these packages may be aimed atboth tourist and local markets. Allen et al. 23 see packaging as ‘one of the most under-developed elements of the [event] marketingmix’. Packaged event tourism products ap-pear to be largely confined to sporting mega Page322 Distribution channels for events  events such as the Olympic Games, Soccer World Cup, Grand Prix, and overseas sport-ing tours such as cricket’s Ashes series.Bundling has also largely been ignored bythe academic event tourism literature. For the consumer, a package can maximize con-venience, lower cost, or provide ‘valueadded’ elements; 24 bundling can also mini-mize the costs of distribution as ‘transactionsdo not need to be bargained on an individualbasis’. 25 Packages can be developed by eventsand/or destinations in conjunction withintermediaries such as travel agents and in-bound operators. The ability to package anevent is partly dependent on its ‘drawingpower’, 26 but it is unclear to what extentevent organizers consider bundling opportu-nities as a way of increasing an event’s appealto tourist markets.Distribution and bundling can also play akey role in building relationships with keychannel members, such as opportunities for corporate hospitality and sales packages,often as elements of a sponsorship deal. 27 Event sponsors have multiple and variedobjectives, 28 which may include using spon-sorship to build and reinforce relationshipswith various audiences. This is predomi-nately identified in relation to present andpotential consumers, 29 but the opportunitiesfor sponsors to develop and enhance rela-tionships with other businesses (includingtheir channel members) 30 and internal audi-ences (such as employees) 31 are also ac-knowledged. Event organizers may thereforework with the sponsor to distribute eventtickets or hospitality packages to these audi-ences. Brown’s research on sponsorship atthe Sydney 2000 Olympic Games found thathospitality packages were seen as an impor-tant leverage tool by sponsors and werehighly rated by their guests. 32 There is lessempirical research on the benefits event or-ganizers’ seek from sponsorship; 33 but poten-tially this could include ‘in-kind’ support inthe form of access to the sponsor’s customer base in order to distribute event informationor tickets.In summary, while some research has beenundertaken on each of the three functions of event distribution, they do not systematicallyintegrate the elements. This article attemptsto bridge this gap by investigating the dis-tribution channels utilized by events in theWellington region of New Zealand and abrief background on the destination providesa context for the study. An integrated re-search approach is taken with data both fromthe supply-side – interviews with eventorganizers – and demand – a survey of attendees at four events. By combining theseperspectives, both the design and use of theevent distribution strategies can be consid-ered more holistically. The Wellington region as an eventtourism destination The  New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010  highlighted the potential of events as a meansof growing year-round and regionaldemand. 34 The North Island region of Well-ington includes both the capital city and therural Wairarapa. As an urban and gatewaydestination, Wellington attracts a range of leisure and business visitors. 35 The regionaltourism organization (RTO) aims to developits events calendar, particularly targeting thedomestic market to address issues of season-ality and to grow weekend leisure travel. 36 However, a constraint on tourism develop-ment is that many of the City’s attractions,including events, are non-commissionable. 37 To the north of the City is the rural regionof the Wairarapa where the environmentand wine tourism are the main attractions.Its location 1.5 hours drive from Wellingtonresults in tourism with a strong day trip anddomestic focus. Attracting visitors is one of the region’s strategic economic aims, andevents are identified as the key driver for generating visitor numbers. 38 Pearce et al. 39 have established that thetourism distribution channels for Wellingtonare complex and vary by market segment, aswell as by type of accommodation and at-traction. Their research considered businessevent travellers to Wellington but those at-tending leisure events did not feature promi-nently. Non-event attractions in the city,many of which are culturally-based, are Page 323 Smith
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