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Tourism Marketing: The analysis of Como Shamballa


I.  Product design & management

A.   Product mix

1.   Core product

The core product is the basic form of the product. In other words it is the main benefit sought by customers in an attempt to satisfy their needs as recognized by the gap between the ideal state and the actual state. For COMO Shambhala, which offers a new wellness concept allowing people to enjoy proactive holistic wellness, the core product includes therapies (massages, body care, facials, Ayurvedic and spiritual pursuits) and well-being activities (yoga, fitness, martial arts, outdoor activities, Pilates, wellbeing advices) as it will resolve the consumer’s state of ill-being.

2.    Facilitating product

The facilitating product can be defined as services that enable the customers to consume the core product. In consequence, they must be present to make the product available when and where the customers want to use it. For COMO Shambhala it can be the front desk with the receptionist to welcome visitors, the reservation centre or the internet website to book online, the fitness centre featuring with huge range of equipments (cardiovascular, aerobic, etc.) and personal coaches,  a consultation room for Ayurvedic Therapy made by a specialist doctor, some treatment rooms for massage therapies, body and facial care with certified massagers and rooms for yoga, pilates meditation classes and wellness courses given by expert teachers.

3.   Supporting product

The supporting products are additional goods and services that can be add to the core product in order to increase the overall utility or value for the consumers. For COMO Shambhala the accommodation, the restaurants or the possibility to organize events over there can be considered as supporting product as it allows the customers to complete their experience. However multilingual staff, 24-hours room service or beauty salon for hair, nails and make-up services can also be seen as supporting products.

4.   Augmented product

The augmented product can be defined as the core product and the peripheral services that combine to form the package of benefits offered by a product or a service. Moreover it includes also the way how the service is delivered. As a consequence, the augmented product encompasses everything surrounding the service and its delivery, including intangibles attributes such as accessibility or atmosphere. In the COMO Shambhala case, it can be the location in various inspirational places around the world such as in Parrot Cay, Bali or Cocoa Island. But it can also refers to the relaxing and luxurious design of the resort, the cultural and well-being packages and special offers for lovers or family, the travel assistance or the high quality restaurants and chefs for instance.

A. The values & qualities implied from the brand

As an Asian brand, COMO Shambhala is defined by a special Asian spirit: a quiet commitment to servicing guest to ensure their total respect, a real passion to nurture each guests by anticipating the smallest need to ease their day-day cares and a particular attention given not only to the service standards but also to each property through its architecture or the food provided. So in order to make guests’ memories last, COMO Shambhala have established an inclusive enterprise culture based on trust, integrity, humility and passion as there is a direct correlation between quality of a guest experience and the leadership used in the company.

It implies different qualities from the brand. The most important thing is the location. Indeed, it is crucial to make sure that they get the right location, where their core segment wants to stay. The second most important quality for the company is to offer the right product for what their guest want today and what they will want later. That implies a constant investment to renovate buildings, rooms and to offer the last high tech equipments.  Finally, they work on the leadership to make sure the guest will enjoy an unforgettable experience.

B.   Stage of the product life cycle

To be able to define the stage of the product life cycle it is first important to analyze the scope of the market trends and forecast. Indeed, Spa tourism has showed an amazing growth over the decade (Mintel Group International Ltd, 2005). The first factor leading to this development is represented by an increasing ageing population. Indeed, as they want to enhance their personal health and wellbeing by an active approach, the overlooks for health and medical-related product look to be promising. Similarly, the rising health consciousness, underlying by worldwide media coverage, has led to the emergence of alternative therapies, including spa practises. Then, in a communication world, people are more and more concerned by the stress. This endemic problem has driven to a real desire for people to escape from busy lives. Finally, the growing traveller sophistication, linked to the recent change in socio-cultural attitudes, has led people to experience something different. By supporting people’s individualization, spa tourism offers them the possibility to express their personality as well as show their interests (Mintel Group International Ltd, 2007).

As a result, spa tourism appears as a growing market as its market size is evolving. First of all, the US market tends to diversify its product to avoid the market saturation implying by the recent astounding growth of its value. Then, as powerful emergent countries, Asia and Pacific has showed, these last years, an increasing interest for spa activities (Mintel Group International Ltd, 2007). Finally, we can observe a revival of interest for European spa activities especially in Germany and the UK (Tourism Queensland, 2003). So we can say that the COMO Shambhala, as most of the spa structure in the world, is a mature business corporation.

However it is important to note that the current spa tourism is also characterized by a recent change in market segmentation (Mintel Group International Ltd, 2007). Indeed, customers are nowadays more sophisticated and they tend to consider spa therapies and holidays as an integral part of their lifestyles, generating demand for luxury and discount spa tourism segments. Similarly, a number of trends have recently appeared. To quote only a few, the “only-men” spas or the “mothers and babies” packages have been recently introduced. As a conclusion we can say that the COMO Shambhala is the perfect example of a mature product who tries to differentiate from the other companies offering unique and distinctive products such as authentic treatments, spiritual activities or green and ethical practises which are nowadays really popular.

II.  Product market and segmentation

As an international business corporation, COMO Shambhala’s core segment market will reflect the overall spa tourism market in terms of geographic, demographic, psychographic and behavioural variables.

1.     Geographic segmentation

Geographically, US residents appear as the most important market for spa tourism (Mintel International Group Ltd, 2007). However, Australian people represent an interesting market, as the number of national spa visits is rapidly growing. Finally, according to a Tourism Queensland’s survey (Tourism Queensland, 2003), European people are inclined to become a rising segment, as Germany generated a total of 17, 2 million spa visits in 2004 (Mintel International Group Ltd, 2007).

2.  Demographic

Demographically, spa tourism is dominated by female consumers, even if there is an increasing number of males who take part in spa activities. A Mintel International Group Ltd’s Report (2007) indicates that the majority of spa holidaymakers are in their early 30s to late 40s, which making Baby Boomers Generation the core market for this type of tourism.  Lastly, as they belong to the employed classes and are in a full-time employment, they also tend to be well educated and have a fairly large disposable income (Tourism Queensland, 2003).

3.   Psychographic

Psychologically, these people tend to be self-reliant, more demanding, stressed and experienced as only 39% of 1999 spa guests in America were first-timers (Mintel International Group Ltd, 2006). In terms of attitudes and sought experiences, we can identify four sub-segments: the “Seekers” who appear as the core market for luxury spas, the “Conformists” who are reluctant to pay for superficial treatments, the “Independents” who want to explore eclectic ways, and the “Radicals” who tend to be attracted by self discovery and a work-life balance (Mintel International Group Ltd, 2007).

4.    Behaviour

From a behavioural point of view it is quite hard to define the core market as according to the International SPA Associations (ISPA), Spa Tourism is associated with a wide range of products and services varying from a one-day use basis in closeness area to seven-day stay in long-haul destination for well-being or medical aims (Douglas et al, 2001). This is the same in terms of activities. Indeed, visitors can take part in wellness and sportive activities as well as massages and health cooking classes. The types of treatments are very diverse as they range from body cures to mind treatments and can use water, food, herbals, supplements, medicines and botanical agents in their many forms (Mintel Group International Ltd, 2006). However, we can suppose that the COMO Shambhala’s core market is mainly represented by visitors, who book a long stay from 4 days to 7 days in long-haul destination as most of their properties are located in islands such as Cocoa Island in Maldives, Bali in Indonesia or Parrot Cay in Turks and Caicos.

III.   Brand positioning

I decided to map and measure the COMO Shambhala’s brand positioning in comparison with two others establishments: Les sources de Caudalie in France and The Banyan Tree Spa in Seychelles as they were elected the first three best spas worldwide in 2003 by the Condé Nast Traveler magazine (Mintel Group International Ltd, 2005).

In term of positioning first of all it is important to note that Les sources de Caudalie and COMO Shambhala are really different. Indeed, whereas Les sources de Caudalie position itself as an establishment where you can find the sense of detail and service of a Palace combined with a warm and family atmosphere, one of the COMO Shambhala’s value is to ensure a quiet commitment to servicing guests. Similarly, due to its position in the famous vineyards of Bordeaux, the Source of Caudalie’s positioning strategy is more based on the gastronomic tourism with specific activities such as vinotherapy, cooking classes, wine tasting classes or wine tours, whereas COMO Shambhala’s focus its positioning strategy on the wellness and sportive activities.

If we compare now the Banyan Tree Spa and the COMO Shambhala there is less difference. Indeed, both of them position themselves as luxurious establishment offering unique scenery and a wide range of wellness activities. However, we can note that the COMO Shambhala’s brand positioning is more focus on well-being as it defines itself as an awardwinning wellness concept featuring products, spa services, yoga centres and active adventures whereas the well-being activities are more seen as a peripheral product for the Banyan Tree Spa. Similarly, The Banyan Tree Spa promote itself as an ideal place to experience the island’s exotic culture and long history whereas the COMO Shambhala never mention the cultural and historical aspect in its different means of communication.

As a conclusion we can say that COMO Shambhala’s brand positioning is unique as this is the only one to position itself more as a spa venue than as a hotel or resort with a spa. Indeed, it offers a unique concept and that is why the communication are more focus on the well-being activities available than on the accommodation or others activities.

IV.  Customer experience

As I was not able to interview a customer on is experience and perspective after she or he has used the product, I based the customer experience analyze on spa tourism official studies.

A.   Source of information

The better way of targeting efficiently the spa tourism market and develop a customer loyalty is to have recourse to focused magazines and exhibitions, such the Beyond Beauty Paris (Beyond Beauty Paris, 2009). Then, Internet appears as one of the best ways to distribute such a product as a Mintel Group Ltd Report (2008) proves that 40% of the adults aged 16+ who have taken a holiday abroad in the last five years are booked online. So we can imagine than the most important source of information for that king of product are the direct mails, the allocation to companies focusing on travel such as Expedia (Expedia, 2009), and the “Dream Tour” website. Finally, distribute such a product via travel agencies or tour operator appears also as a good idea as only a tenth of the sample declare to have booked holidays without any contact with a salesperson.

B.  The motivation of purchase

In terms of motivations, we know that the primary reasons for visiting a spa are the relaxation followed by pampering and stress reduction, weight loss, health reasons and exercise and fitness (Tourism Queensland, 2003). We can consequently deduce that the majority of spa holidaymakers have for main motivation the desire to improve their interpersonal skills, health and wellbeing as well as escape from a busy life.

C.   Perspective using the product

According Tourism Queensland study (2003) most of the people who have once used a one-day use basis product in closeness area that king of product tent to not come back as they want to try another establishment. However when we speak about a seven-day stay in long-haul destination the things are different. Indeed, that kind of products represents most of the time a certain amount of money. So if visitors are satisfied about the services they will come back as it represents a good value for money.

V.  Distribution channels

The distribution channels can be defined as a path through which goods and services flow in one direction (from vendor to the consumer), and the payments generated by them that flow in the opposite direction (from consumer to the vendor). As a consequence, a distribution channel can be as short as being direct from the vendor to the consumer or may include several interconnected intermediaries such as wholesalers, distributors, agents, retailers. Each intermediary receives the item at one pricing point and moves it to the next higher pricing point until it reaches the final buyer.

COMO Shambhala is a vertically integrated company as each member (Club 21, COMO Hotels and Resorts and COMO Shambhala) of the supply chain (COMO Foundation) produces a different product or service (fashion, travel and health) in order to satisfy a common need: offer a healthy living concept to its customers. Moreover, vertically integrated companies in a supply chain are united through a common owner, which is the case for the COMO Foundation.

Concerning the distribution system, COMO Foundation has chosen to sell directly its health and travel products to its customers through its own website. Referring to the spa product (body oil, hair care, etc.) the company sell its product through its own shop or through wellness specialized sale sites such as: Lane Crawford House in Hong Kong, We are beauty in the Netherlands, etc. As a result, we can confirm that in general COMO Foundation uses a short or direct distribution system as it uses intermediaries only for its wellness products.


VI.  Promotion

We know that, as products move through the four stages of the product lifecycle (introduction, growth, maturity and decline), different promotional strategies should be employed to ensure the healthy success and life of the product. As we already seen, COMO Shambhala is the perfect example of a mature product, who tries to differentiate from the other companies offering unique and distinctive products. That is why the company’s promotion strategy consists of clearly communicating any differential advantage to the target audience in order to inform of their benefit over their competitors.

Indeed, in order to remain competitive over its competitors COMO Shambhala uses a persuasive tactic by using a corporate and product-focused message. The corporate-focused message has the objective to set the company as a unique wellness concept in the customers’ mind, whereas the product-focused message has the aim to guarantee the customers that the products offered are unique. By choosing “a healthy living concept” as a message strategy, COMO Shambhala perfectly successes to find a well though message on which build its communication campaign.

To reinforce the benefit of its products and develop the positioning strategy of the product, COMO Shambhala has chosen to work with specific promotional tools. Indeed, the company has perfectly understood that a successful product or service means nothing unless the benefit of such a service can be communicated clearly and easily to the target market. In order to reach them, COMO Shambhala has chosen to emphasise more on publicity than on television commercials as the last one is less suitable for a luxury brand than the first one. The company pays a specific attention to the public relations as it represents for a luxury brand an ideal way of developing positive relationships with the organisation media public. The personal selling have also a great importance as wealthy people like to be accompanied during their shopping. Finally the company uses the internet promotion too, as traditional luxury hotel customers are used to use that kind of social media before, during, and after their stay. That is why the company encourage its guests to visit their own website but also to see what people are saying on trip advisor for instance. They also encourage them to share information that they find on the site with their friends or family.

written by : Noemie Croccel