E-Tourism – Professor Dimitrios Buhalis

E-tourism is critical for the competitiveness of the industry in the longer term.

E-tourism includes all business functions like E-commerce and E-marketing, E-finance and E-accounting, E-HRM, E-Procurement, E-Strategy, E-Planning and E-Management.

The Tourism Innovation Lab had the privilege of speaking with Dimitrios Buhalis that explained a little more of E-tourism.

“E-tourism is the digitisation of all the processes and value chains in the tourism, travel, hospitality and catering industries that enable organisations to maximise their efficiency and effectiveness.” (Buhalis 2003).
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Tourism Innovation Lab – How important can be the technology in Tourism?

Prof. Dimitrios Buhalis – The Internet has assisted tourism organisations to use a wide range of promotional activities to supplement, if not replace, offline promotions. This change is important as the Internet is generally considered as a multi-promotion tool and distribution channel. Web marketing is therefore gradually becoming mainstream.The flexibility of the Internet and the ability to address different target markets support tourism organisations to develop a marketing proposition for each target market and to create themes or routes through the destination to address the needs of each market. Thus, customers are dynamic targets at which marketers can aim promotional messages.

The Internet promotes the mass-customisation of tourism products as it supports the industry to target niche markets of significant size in different geographical locations.

TIL – How important are the Online Travel Agencies to Tourism?

Prof. Dimitrios B. – Online travel agencies or meta search engines could distribute both static and dynamic information such as availability and pricing. Electronic intermediaries are also emerging dynamically and increasingly challenge traditional distributors. These changes force all tourism players to rethink their business models and to take drastic actions in re-developing their value chains. Tourism organisations aim to disintermediate all intermediaries that add cost to their production and distribution. For example, tour operators aim to sell their packages direct, bypassing travel agencies. They also dis-bundle their packages and sell individual components. On the other hand, travel agencies dynamically package tour products and support the development of customised packages, disintermediating tour operators. Consumers who search the Internet for accommodation or airlines for example would be offered listing of products based on price or commercial arrangements with intermediaries, rather than product attributes or brands. This had great implications, especially for branded products and services that could observe their customers switching products or channel if another product was cheaper by few dollars.

TIL – Online Travel Agencies will disappear in benefit to the books by Online Hotel sites?

Prof. Dimitrios B. – Customers search for travel-related information, make online air-ticket bookings, online room reservations, and other online purchases themselves instead of relying on travel agencies to undertake this process for them. Due to the popularity of Internet applications, most tourism organisations such as hotels, airlines, and travel agencies have embraced Internet technologies as part of their marketing and communication strategies.

TIL – Do you agree that the technology came to improve the Tourism sector?

Prof. Dimitrios B. – Technological progress and tourism have been going hand in hand for years. Since the 1980s, Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) have been transforming tourism globally. Developments in ICTs have undoubtedly changed both business practices and strategies as well as industry structures. The establishment of the Computer Reservation Systems (CRSs) in the 1970s and Global Distribution Systems (GDSs) in the late 1980s, followed by the development of the Internet in the late 1990s, have transformed the best operational and strategic practices in the industry dramatically. If the past 20 years have seen an emphasis on technology per se, then since the year 2000 we have been witnessing the truly transformational effect of the communications technologies. This has given scope for the development of a wide range of new tools and services that facilitate global interaction between players around the world.

TIL – What are the main issues?

Prof. Dimitrios B. – A wide range of issues must be therefore resolved before the tourism industry can take full advantage of the ICTs and maximise its virtuality.

The reasons of consumers not purchasing travel products online are the lack of personal service, security issues, lack of experience, and time consuming. People purchasing travel products online are more likely to have been online for 4 years or more and trust can be built between customers and online businesses through positive experience of past transaction. The Internet is already influencing the consumer behaviour in developing countries such as China enabling consumers to have much more choice.

Additionally, privacy issues are found to be of major concern to many consumers. This leads to the situation that many travellers use the Internet to search for information but still purchase offline.

The team of Tourism Innovation Lab would like to thank all the availability of the Professor Dimitrios Buhalis.

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