Today’s Spring Break
This spring, I wanted Michael Czinkota’s students to remember their “Marketing Across Borders” class while they traveled to azure beaches and Caribbean getaways. They were to connect their break experiences to some of the themes we have explored in class. Their responses offered an interesting – and illuminating – glimpse into how international marketing shapes the decisions of young travelers.
As digital natives, most of my students performed the research and planning for their trips online. Whether scoring cheaper flights or finding top restaurants, these young travelers turned to social media platforms and travel websites like AirBnb and TripAdvisor, to find affordable, and often all-inclusive, deals for hotels and flights. Students noted the power of word of mouth, which they far preferred over mass-market pamphlets, in guiding travel decisions. Much trust was placed in the reviews of peer travelers.
Much international travel was to Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Germany.
But even when my students ventured outside their comfort zones, they still encountered elements of the familiar. They noted the prevalence of Japanese manufactured cars, such as Toyota, in countries like Mexico and Jamaica. For food, they found a preponderance of American brands – like McDonalds and Starbucks – that were almost identical to those in Cincinnati, Ohio.
A student, involved in a social justice immersion trip to Jamaica, found international marketing to be an important tool in business development. She found billboards with emotional global brand messages: “Kakoo loves Pepsi!”; “Jamaica, land we love; Honda, car we love.” Many messages were targeted toward tourists and rendered in English rather than local languages.
In terms of favorite topics, many of my students’ broached food. There was a fascination with the globalization of food products. Students were delighted to taste the delicious meals of the world. “Food trends from around the world had penetrated the Costa Rican market: Breakfast places were serving cold brewed ice coffee, kombucha, acai bowls, avocado toast, and homemade vegan bread. Australians own the best taco joint in Tamarindo. A woman from Minnesota was the chef at a local breakfast café. Markets served poke bowls (sushi bowls from Hawaii), arepas (shredded beef sandwiches from Venezuela), and traditional French pastries.”
Students saw a choice of goods that were produced in the U.S. but tasted differently abroad. In the Dominican Republic, there were different taste versions of Coca Cola. Snacks of choice, such as Doritos, were sold at two different prices depending on whether they were sold in American or Mexican packaging. In Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, the point of sale changed in supermarkets. Oreos were sold alongside American cereals rather than in the cookie section!
All these observations contribute to a wider understanding of international marketing forces that shape tourism for young travelers today. Travel can be good – it gives more perspective, more context and more variety. Surely, there will be more alternatives and new experiences, which make life more meaningful, spicy and more interesting.
Michael Czinkota teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Kent. His key book (with Ilkka Ronkainen) is “International Marketing” (10th ed., CENGAGE).
Georgetown University students, Dina El-Saharty and Lisa Burgoa, contributed to this report.