Latest News
HomeColumnsResearchInformation Communication Technologies And Tourism Industry (part 1)

Information Communication Technologies And Tourism Industry (part 1)

Information technology advancements have revolutionised over the past two decades the functioning of business all over the world. Its impacts have been most felt in the information dependent industries, such as tourism.

For many years, tourists have had access to computerised tourism information and reservation systems through travel agencies only. Today, however, more and more tourists get information directly through the Internet in an efficient way. The importance of the Internet in tourism has been highlighted by Inkpen (1998), as “possibly one of the most exciting developments in travel and tourism since the industry was invented”. O’Connor (1999), also highlights its global reach, as one of its most important characteristics. However, the adoption of new technologies and the Internet is characterised by overwhelming diversity and complexity, exactly as the tourism sector in general. The technological diversity in tourism can be explained by the fact that various markets or destinations are at different development stages in their adoption of new technologies.

The information intensive nature of tourism

Tourism is an intangible product, in that it exists only as information at the point of sale, and cannot be sampled before the purchase decision is made (Cooper et al., 1998). An evolving communication tool, like the Internet has vast potential due to the information-based nature of the tourism product (O’Connor, 2002). Tourism’s diverse range of information flows, lends itself well to the support offered by developing multimedia, communication technologies and information systems. Hence, authors such as Connell and Reynolds (1999), comment that tourism industry is at the forefront of users of new communication technology.

More specifically the tourism industry is particularly suitable for adoption of IT and Internet because of its following features:

  • It’s heavily dependent on information distribution and marketing and is characterised by the need to supply and exchange information throughout the chain of production and distribution. IT systems govern many aspects of travel and tourism products, from airline and hotel reservations to multimedia packages designed to market travel destinations. IT helps in managing this information flow in a better manner (Poon, 1993).

  • Perception of tourism services depends upon information provided. Tourism services are bought before the time of its use and exclusively depend upon representations and descriptions provided by the travel trade. Thus, communication and information transmission are indispensable to the tourist trade. Timely and accurate information, relevant to the consumers’ needs, is often the key to satisfaction of tourist demand (Friel, Sombert and Crimes, 2000).

  • Technology affects information flow between buyer and seller. Information systems are critical for the success of this sector where the actual quality of information is dependent on the method to transmit it accurately and efficiently between the different sectors and the consumers (Chaudhary, 2000:129).

Rapid diffusion of the Internet

The Internet as a communication medium and market space is growing at an unprecedented rate. New technologies are having the effect of changing the ways in how customers are looking for information and purchase travel goods and service. Moreover, it has affected the way tourism companies conduct their business and ways companies communicate with their suppliers (Connell and Reynolds, 1999). Existing players need to develop the skills to use new processes and understand their effects on their business models. However, all players in the chain will need to recognise the global nature of business investment and that new processes mean that destinations are not competing for tourists globally but also for investment and infrastructure. Buhalis (1997) describes this process of adaptation by tourism companies in order to improve competitiveness as one of re-engineering. It has been argued by the same author that using information technology as a stand-alone scheme is inadequate and that only with the re-engineering of all business processes the full potential will be exploited.

A plethora of web sites on travel information exists and the number is increasing. When one considers the fragmented nature of tourism, the number of direct or indirect relate sites is enormous, ranging from regional information to travel services to accommodation provision and all serviced by different providers. However, despite the increasing amount of information available to potential tourism consumers, several problems exist in generating a satisfactory level of service from the Internet. One of the main problems is that users cannot always find the information they are seeking. Meanwhile, the convenience of many online initiatives is questionable. For example, passengers wishing to use the online ticketing system of China Eastern Airlines had to live in Shanghai, buy a ticket origination from that city, use a credit/debit card from one particular bank, and then pick up their tickets at the airline’s downtown office (Martinsons, 2002).

New business models

Many of the existing online organisations include traditional travel agents, tour operators, national tourist offices, airlines, hotels and car hire firms. Nevertheless, these are mostly well-established companies. Same examples include single suppliers such Delta Airlines, Hilton, Hertz. Traditional intermediaries developed their online provision i.e. Thomas Cook , Thompson . In addition, several destinations developed DMSs that present the destination as a holistic entity i.e. the Netherlands Tourism Board official site Holland.

Alongside these traditional providers other operators unique to the Internet emerged (Costa, 2001). New business approaches, innovative players among those providing Internet-based tourism services, have entered the industry. A number of web- based travel agencies have emerged i.e.,,, Yet, it has been argued by some authors that these are mainly associated with information technology companies i.e. Microsoft’s Expedia, rather than with traditional tourism industry companies (Sharma, Carson, DeLacy, 2000; Rayman-Bacchus and Molina, 2001). Last minute opportunities i.e. LastMinute, reverse auctions i.e. Priceline. and special interest programmes Ski are also some of these new web based services (Costa, 2001). These novel forms of business organisations -Internet businesses- are contributing to the evolution of the competitive eCommerce landscape of the tourism sector (Rayman-Bacchus and Molina, 2001).

The introduction of the Internet is one of the great revolutions of our time and its importance can only grow. Technological developments are increasingly touching and changing the nature of and processes in industry and society. Tourism is by no means exempt from these changes. The suitability of travel industry for adoption of IT has led to its increasing usage all over the world.

Rania Deimezi is eMarketing Executive of Travel Media Applications.

She holds an BSc on International Hospitality and Tourism Management and an MSc in eTourism both from the University of Surrey, UK. Dr Dimitrios Buhalis is a course leader of the first worldwide MSc eTourism, University of Surrey, UK.