E-Tourism E-Tourism, Shopping
E-tourism could be defined as the sale of tourist services via the use of information communication technologies. With the advancement in the usage of the Internet, an increasing number of independent consumers are now choosing to bypass intermediaries like tour operators and agents and purchase their tour packages online instead. As such, many travel agencies have expanded their mode of operations from solely brick-and-mortar retail stores to include travel arrangement services on the Internet. Online travel agencies have increased significantly in its numbers in Asia, accounting for 26% of the market with their greatest success in hotel reservations. Some successful online travel portals are Zuji.com.sg, Priceline.com.sg and Expedia.com.sg.
The Internet is the most preferred medium to gather information by leisure tourists. In 2008, more than 50% of tourists gathered information from the Internet (Research and Markets: an in-Depth Analysis of Present & Future Prospects, 2010). Nevertheless, corporate customers still prefer to engage travel agencies as they are able to provide integrated travel management processes such as tracking and consolidating travel data globally (Yee, 2005). Corporate travel agents have provided feedback that its corporate customers tend to use the services of online travel portals only for transactional purposes.
The main competitive advantage of e-tourism is the convenience that it provides to travellers. Since online travel portals are not physically bound like traditional travel agencies, they can be accessed anywhere where there is Internet connection. Travellers are also able to make online reservations or access travel information at any point of time as web pages are accessible 24/7. This characteristic particularly appeals to last minute travellers. The reservation experience for travellers are thus enhanced with the greater accessibility.
In addition, travellers can source for information on destinations on their own, independent of travel agents, while they compare prices among the product offerings offered by different tour operators and decide on the most valuable deal. Personalization of travel plans can also be done by allowing travellers to select their choice of airline, hotel and even travel itinerary. Tourists who enjoy flexibility in planning their travel schedules and higher quality of travel will therefore tend to customize their itinerary.
Increased Use of the Social Media
In their attempts to ride on the wave of e-tourism, a growing number of travel agents are utilizing social networking media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to reach wider audience.
The growing use of social networking media by travel agents is mainly due to the greater awareness that they are able to generate for their products and the convenience of keeping current and prospective customers informed of new promotions and travel deals. As a large number of people visit social media sites every day (Labour Market Analysis Unit, 2010), publicity done on these social networking sites can greatly increase brand awareness for the travel agencies.
Computer Reservation Systems and the Internet
The effectiveness of using the price mechanism as a tool to manage demand is greatly enhanced with the use of computer reservation systems (CRS). CRS allows tour operators to adjust prices easily, allowing for the implementation of dynamic pricing to maximise demand. On top of that, CRS also allow tourism providers to sell their product internationally (Buhalis, 2003). In being available to such a large number of people, the tour operators' understanding of the market is improved and therefore it is better able to predict demand trends.
Besides increasing the quantity of tour packages sold, CRS could also lead to an improvement in the service delivered. Prasad et. al. (2001) emphasises that the Internet allows for more efficient customer relations management and that customer service and support functions can be significantly strengthened. The system can note and save information on customer preferences, making recommendations to customers the next time they logged in. This adds a personal touch to the services offered by the tour operator, raising customer loyalty.
You probably can tell know how important the Internet is to the Tour Operators worldwide. Not only that, computerised booking systems also make life easier for us :) Don't you just love technology?
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