Essay: Tourism, Technology and Innovation

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Tourism

The Influences of Technology and Related Innovation on Tourism

Tourism is a highly competitive industry, technology has helped aided many tourist destinations. Owners and managers of tourist destinations have to compete to attract visitors, so need to understand the ways in which technology may influence, or may be leverage, the marketing and decision making of potential tourists who might visit their locations.

One of the main influences on tourism marketing and purchasing has been the rise of the internet (Schwanen & Kwan, 2008). The internet itself has influenced tourism in a number of ways, initially through disintermediation and empowerment of travelers which also reduced the utilization of travel agents (Buhalis & Zoge, 2007). The ability of travel destination owners and managers to market directly to potential target audiences, as well as make direct sales, changed the structure of the travel industry significantly. Overall, the importance and market share of traditional retail-based travel agents started to decline as more tourists were making their own travel arrangements with direct contact with the travel providers (Jeong, Oh, & Gregoire, 2003), or through intermediaries in he in the form of travel portals such as Expedia and Travelocity (Law, Leung, & Wong, 2004).

Those in the travel industry have had to innovate in order to compete. The ability of the Internet to provide information has been leveraged by many organizations and travel providers in order to connect with the potential target markets, and try and attract visitors. The travel and tourism companies have created their own websites, often undertaking specific strategies such as ensuring that the websites themselves are search engine optimized (SEO), is a process undertaken to try ensuring that their web pages are listed high on related search engine results. SEO content can include the utilization, and repeating, of certain key phrases which may be relevant to tourists looking in a particular area, as well as the provision of back links, and web page tags (Chaffy, 2011). Morrison (et al., 2001) noted there is an increasing level of reliance placed by potential tourists on the information may garner from the Internet. This assertion is also supported with research undertaken Luo, Feng & Chai (2004), with the main method of accessing information being the use of major Internet search engines, such as Google (Gursoy & McCleary, 2004). Therefore, there is a high level of reliance placed on the ability to attract traffic from search engines. This has resulted not only in the use of search engine optimization strategies, but a new form of advertising through paid placements, and use a sponsored links, both on search engines, as well as on related sites (Gursoy & McCleary, 2004).

The structure of the tourism industry, which once saw travel agents as an important influence, has now rendered retail travel agents superfluous too many tourists (Lou et al., 2004). This has created very different scenarios from many tourism managers and owners, as they now have to compete more directly, and undertake a higher level of marketing for themselves. SEO optimization may have been inundated a decade ago, but it is now standard practice. Innovation of the past becomes standard practice for calm practices. Indeed, it is now been argued that organizations that seek to attract tourists may suffer significant disadvantages in the way they competed they do not have an Internet presence, and do not make sales both directly, and where relevant through online travel portals such as Expedia (Bai, Hu, Elsworth, & Countryman, 2003).

In a generic period for industries, it has been argued by Michael Porter, those companies which are able to attract and retain customers are likely to benefit from a form of competitive advantage, if the cost advantage or differentiation. Cost advantage is only attainable by one company in each industry, being able to provide the goods or services they sell at a cost to themselves which is lower than the industry average, facilitating superior profits which may then be utilized to fund advantage. The alternate is that of differentiation, making themselves appear different in some way to the competition. The vast majority of tourist destinations differentiation is a key aspect. While the destinations themselves may be different, they also need to consider differentiation in the way that potential tourists may be attracted, including through the Internet. It is proven development of technology, including Web 2.0, that the latest round of innovation for tourism has been seen.

Web 2.0 technologies have seen specific changes with in the Internet environment, from the use of the Internet as a source of information, to a more interactive environment (Sigala, 2007). Web 2.0 technology includes a wide range of different types of application, and create a scenario where Internet users themselves not only read content provided by website publishers, but they themselves become co-producers of that information, and in effect co-designers and co-marketers (Sigala, 2007). Web 2.0 includes a wide range of interactive technologies, including but not limited to social networking media such as Facebook, Twitter, online forums and discussion groups including general travel forum such as TripAdvisor and FlyerTalk, as well as more specific travel forums dedicated to individual areas or subjects, such as Disboards.com. These all provide some common characteristics, with the ability of users to interact with each other, post reviews and as result either promote or discourage visitors from visiting the relevant destinations (Dimanche, 2010). These forms may be seen as controversial in some cases, as they are beyond the control of the tourism managers and owners, but there are playing an important way in the decision-making process. To this end, those involved in marketing and supporting tourist destinations are increasingly engaging with social media. The responses are not only seen in terms of responses to independent review sites, where the marketing moves onto an approach more Kent public relations, but also more proactively undertaking their own marketing, including creating Facebook pages and Google+ accounts to support their own activities. Furthermore, innovation is also seen the development of social marketing, websites and applications through industry or interest groups of different tourism providers.

Current areas of innovation have included the utilization of the most recent trend of gamification, and use of advergaming (Xu, Weber, & Buhalis, 2014). The growth of smart phones and the development of a wide range of applications, including games, have provided a new outlet for many types of marketers. Gramefication involves the creation of a game which is developed in order to create interaction between the consumer and the brand, or to support marketing in some way (Dahl, Low, & Eagle, 2012). Games that are able to create psychological gratification will not only increase the positive associations with the tourist destination that are within the game, as the gratification associated with the game may be associated with the marketing subject (Xu et al., 2014; Dahl et al., 2012). Anderson & Srinivansan (2003) argue that were there is a sense of satisfaction associated with a destination, the satisfied are more likely to visit or revisit, the concept of advergaming may incorporate this theory. Examples include 'Ireland Town' from the Irish Tourism Authority and a ski jump game from the Visit Norway, Interactive apps are also being seen, such as the Virtual Tourist app launched by Tourism Victoria. These all create interaction that is related it the destination and is empowering as well as providing satisfaction to the potential visitor (Xu et al., 2014).

The development of customer relationship management (CRM) technology, revenue management technology supporting dynamic pricing, and analytical programs may also be considered in the context of technology in tourism, with their use able to support decision making by tourism providers, such as identifying the best markets to target, and optimizing the potential benefits of marketing decision (Govers & Bleeker, 2003). These may not provide for innovation directly, but their… [END OF PREVIEW]

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