Package holiday

Package travel, or organised travel, consists of a combination of services put together by an operator with a view to marketing it to tourists as it is or tailored to a specific request. In common parlance, it is called a tourist product, although the participation of tourists implies joint production, and the coincidence in time between production and consumption, that is specific to service activities. Jean Gadrey (1992; 1996) proposed the term “servuction” to qualify these operations.

Spatial technology

Package holidays are the subject of harsh criticism from the elites who consider their peers to lack foresight, while they live a life full of privileges, sparing them the need to have recourse to this form of holidays. Indeed, mobility presupposes aptitudes and skills, that are the preserve of heirs (Guibert, 2016). In Les Bidochons en voyage organisé (1984), Christian Binet features, not without humour, Mr and Mrs Bidochon who take the plane for the first time to an imaginary country but which would seem to be to the East of Europe going by the pictures. The guide overprotects his group and treats the participants like children. That does not prevent them from revolting and expressing their dissatisfaction with the repeated visits to monasteries. However, in the well-meaning reviews, the tourists are like sheep, herded and coerced.

Yet, besides the fact that a package travel is a free choice, a package holiday is a spatial technology of “elements of mediation […] which aim to solve issues of space […], distance, […] access, […] otherness” (Stock, in Lévy, 2008: p. 157). Indeed, in their travelling plans, tourists have to face the distance and otherness of the world defined as “the quality of what is other for an individual whose personal identity (“I”) and social identity (“we”) are the familiar, even unquestioned, references, relative to a foreign world whose norms and conventions, and ways of doing things are radically different” (Stock in Lévy, 2008: P. 147). A package travel is therefore the solution for individuals who are not very worldly and who wish to travel the world.

The development of aptitudes and skills through practice and socialisation, particularly with the family, and through learning (Brugère and Fabbiano, 2014) suggests that the package holiday in its purest form, i.e., the all-inclusive package, is on the decline in the face of diversified and more autonomous forms of travel. The development of the internet and social media work in the same direction. The diversified modes of access to places therefore contributes to the third tourism revolution (Violier, 2016).

However, in the current state of tourism statistics, these developments cannot be measured precisely. On the one hand, they are complex: while the more worldly individuals seem to be able to overcome the rigid frameworks of package holidays, it is likely that access to holidays by new social strata, due to higher purchasing power or to technological innovations, will continue to drive all-inclusive packages. Indeed, worldwide, demand for such packages is on the rise due to the entry in the tourism landscape of tourists from emerging societies.

On the other hand, given the shortcomings of tourism statistics, it is not possible to assess these developments precisely: the approach to mobilities is overly global, combining tourism with other very different types of travel, leading to very approximate assessments. Thus in Mémentos du tourisme published by the DGE, personal trips are assessed but they include visits to relatives and friends, which are not always of a tourism nature, and which obviously do not involve booking or recourse to tourism professionals.

Divided into two, and more

Two major forms of package or organised travel are proposed to explore the world as a tourist (Violier, 2017): (i) tours, in the form of a network of destinations created by the wanderings of tourists, contribute to the practice of discovery, and (ii) stays, generally proposed in one place, sometimes two, are rather suitable for rest, especially in an exclusive resort.

However, there are exceptions and nuances. First of all, the combined package includes a rest time at the end of the tour. This is particularly the case when the first part of the tour is especially demanding, as is the case for cruises along the Nile, which include sunrise or sunset stops to catch different views of the monuments and landscapes, or for safaris that require early morning and evening outings dictated by the behaviours of animals looking for cool temperatures. Stays of several days, and therefore overnight stays, in a single accommodation, are suitable to discover metropolises where there are numerous places to visit. Finally, with the so-called hub and spoke tours, a discovery tour is organised around a single, centrally-located accommodation. It is an adaptation for a discovery tour intended for tourists with reduced mobility. Coach tour operators are the specialists of this type of package holidays.

Philippe VIOLIER


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