Tourism industry is one of world’s fast-growing and gained economic benefits in many countries all around the world. In recent year, technology became important part in many industries particularly the internet in tourism industry. The development of the internet has increased dramatically and many countries in the world have made efforts to improve their internet service. On the demand side, the internet consumer base increases globally every day. Consequently, the use of internet and web technologies is important and is becoming a direct marketing tool for improving the success of a business in the online environment, which is very appropriate to adapt to tourism industry as call e-tourism (Khemthong & Roperts, 2006)
This paper is presents what are the effects of e-tourism on tourist behavior and how to manage it. It analyzes the role of tourist behavior before and after e-tourism came to Thailand. In addition, discussions on the benefits, disadvantages and trend of e-tourism in the next coming year.
Tourism and tourist behavior in the past
Tourists’ behavior involves a consideration of various important issues regarding current tourism trends. Tourism has many factors which can define as Leiper mention thirteen factors and antecedents such as nomadism, travel for trade and business, travel by scholars and scientists, resort tourism migratory and etc. In general, tourism can be defined in behavioral terms as persons who travel away from their normal residential region for a temporary period of at least one night. Their behavior involves a search for leisure experiences from interactions with features or characteristics of places they choose to visit (Leiper, 2004). Referring the Leiper’s statement, it can be confirmed that understanding tourist consumer behavior is not merely of academic interest but doing so would provide knowledge for effective tourism planning and marketing. Although some writers (e.g. Meethan, 2001; Jelincic, 1999) consider that understanding the behavior of tourism consumers is less important in the globalization era. The study of consumer behavior focuses on how individuals make decisions to spend their available resources (time, money, effort) on consumption-related items (Schiffman and Kanuk, 1997). Individuals and households decide how to spend their free or leisure time in many different ways, including domestic, outbound or inbound.
Tourism before technology era, the Second World War, impeded the growth of international tourism even in 1939 fewer than 50 percent of British population spent more than one night away from home. In the inter war period, the cruise liner and air travel led to changing tastes and trend in holiday taking in. in post war, the demand for holiday had increase it seen from growth income, leisure time and opportunities for international travel. These travels cannot happen without tourist demand. The definitions of demand are concerned primarily with “the schedule of the amount of any product or service which people e are willing and able to buy at each specific price during a specified period of time” (Cooper, 1993).
According to Uysal (1998), summarized the determinants of tourism demand as shown in Figure 1. It provides a general context for tourism demand, but does not adequately explain how and why people decide to select and participate in specific form of tourist. Key factor such as age and income are significant determinants of the demand – for example, the amount of paid holiday and an individuals or family’s income both have an important bearing on demand.
Figure 1 Determinations of tourism demand (source: Uysal, 1998)
The tourist, many factor to make a decision to serve the demand to travel but before the tourist design to have a trip they have to plan and find the information. Planning generally is concerned with ‘predetermining a course of action’ to achieve a desired goal (Hayes-Roth & Hayes-Roth, 1979) The planning and decision-making processes employed by tourists are complex, as a touring holiday involves assimilating information from many different sources and a continual assessment of options.(Becken & Wilson, 2006). In primitive societies, for most people the world beyond home was a scary an unknown place.(Leiper, 2004) In the modern world, radio, TV, book and, to a lesser extent, attendance at schools have provided almost everyone with knowledge of places around the world that might be visited. Moreover, tour operator and travel agent can be a main assistant for tourist.
Tour operators are businesses that combine two or more travel services (e.g. transport, accommodation, catering, entertainment, and/or sightseeing) and sell them through travel agencies or directly to final consumers as a single product (package tour). The components of a package tour might be pre-established, or can result from an ‘a la carte’ procedure, where the visitor decides the combination of services s/he wishes to acquire. A tour operator is often described as an intermediary
‘The principal role of intermediaries is to bring buyers and sellers together, either to create efficiently and thereby to expand market sizeâ€¦ In all industries the task of intermediaries is to transform goods and services which consumers do not want, to a product that they do want.’ (Cooper et al. 1998:189)
In Thailand, 1393 travel agency available (Association of Thai Travel Agents) and more than 100 books and magazines it shown that many tourist find the information by book or magazine and buy the product and service from travel agency. In the past, travel book (manual) is very popular because is the one of most we can find the information at book store. There is done in every province in Thailand and some country around the world where most Thai people like to visited as well. Moreover, map is another travel material that most tourists have on hand. Another factor that tourist would design to have a trip is experience sharing, this can be a main influence to travel.
In recent year, the trend of globalization and the advance of information and communication technology, particularly internet play an important role both for consumer and business in tourism industry. The growth rate in tourism have moved much faster than in the overall world economy, and this trend is not expected to slow down in the near future (The European e-Business Report, 2007) As the tourism industry expands globally, the need for expanding the communication networks to connect the customers and service providers has increased. ICTs have been utilized as a mean for communication widely over the past decade in the travel and tourism industry. It has been instrumental in helping the tourism sector to expand its market across the continent and has played a major role in helping the growth of the industry. Moreover, it is leading to a shift from product-oriented organizations to a flexible and responsive market place, where success depends on sensing and responding to rapidly changing customer needs, using for delivering the right product, at the right time, at the right price, to the right customer.
E-tourism reflects the digitalization of all processes and value chains in the tourism, travel, hospitality and catering industries. The e-tourism concept includes all business functions (e.g. e-Commerce and e-Marketing, e-Finance and e-Accounting, e-HRM, e-Procurement, e-R&D and e-Production) as well as e-Strategy, e-Planning and e-Management for all sectors of the tourism industry. As demonstrated in Figure 2, e-tourism bundles together three distinctive disciplines, namely
Figure 2 The e-tourism concept and e-tourism domains (source: Buhalis, 2003)
E-tourism presenting by web, the web is a cost effective means for enterprises in the travel and tourism sector to directly market their offerings to a large customer population across the globe. It is also a very convenient means for the customers to gather information as well as data about the resources, history, social and economic structure of destinations. In this sense certain consumer groups are better equipped to engage in social interaction with locals and use their travel as a educational experience. Research of tourist demand proves that it has become more important for tourists how to spend an unforgettable holiday than where to spend it. Special events have to become a tourist product designed especially for tourists, which is already the case in successful tourist destinations in order to appear different on the market and create or strengthen their image and create a recognizable brand. In such cases the support of web design becomes crucial. (Bevanda, Grzinic & Cervar, 2008)
In general, tourism and hospitality websites tend to be easy to comprehend with a single level home page. There are different ways in which clients reach the webpage of a tourist facility, like direct access to a certain page, after which one reaches the web page through various advertisements or banners on portals. The picture is one of the most popular to present the product and service because the picture can explain by itself. These are summarized tourism website into two types.
One stop service
Website developed for use in information, advertising, communication and a system of reserve seats, accommodations and/or transportation. The tourist can find everything in website as one stop service. For example; www.agoda.co.th is online hotel reservation service and providing the lowest available hotel prices in every destination worldwide. www.kaoyai.info is another website that useful for tourist this website specific for who is interesting in Kaoyai and Nakhonratchasima. The website presented the general information, attraction, history, map, restaurant, and accommodation and also booking system for accommodation as well.
These websites would help tourist to make a decision easier because the tourist can get the information from text and photo that the owner presented it and then the tourist may decide from these information and reserve it immediately. It is better than other websites that would not have the reservation system on the website because the tourist might change their decision.
Businesses’ website development should be done with the purpose of providing information only do not have the channel for tourist to make a decision immediately. This website is appropriate with non-profit organization as the government or association such as Tourism Authority of Thailand (www.tourismthailand.org) or Thailand Incentive and Convention (www.tica.or.th). These website shown the general information to guide the tourist make a decision or for tourist knowledge. Moreover blogs and Bulletin boards (www.pantip.com) these are another website that most Thai people like to share their travel experience
Advantages and Disadvantages
Information technologies have a dramatic impact on the travel industry because they force this sector as a whole to rethink the way in which it organizes its business, its values or norm of behavior and the way in which it educates its workforces (Faulkner, Moscardo & Laws, 2001). Tourism is another industry that has the competition intense especially in borderless communication era. Internet is tool condense of world community included businesses and consumers. Most people would use the internet as a communication channel with other people, find the information or do the business. This communication channel is very useful in tourism industry as many business and tourist have interaction in this channel. Marketing is another factor that effected many businesses uses this channel to do marketing with less cost but more efficiency and promote their business as well. This can be a one stop service which can find everything in one place and also comparing quality and price of product as well. This is an open source, everyone can access and higher possibility of new customers into the business 24 hours a day. Moreover, the consumers could see the product and service as many times also ask of help immediately by e-mail or call on working hour, it speedily and do not waste time.
On the other hand, the internet also has the dark side, it easy to compared price and quality which more competition in the business. The consumer can access the internet at home or everywhere that has signal so they might lazier and forget how to participate like conversation on face to face. On the internet, the business may know the real feedback from their customers. The customer may give the real of not real feedback but how did they know the real feeling without see the face or lesson the voice. In addition, business online has less employee that affected to high unemployed.
How tourist behaviors change?
Tourist behavior has significantly changed in recent years. Increasing by tourism become much more sophisticated and discovering as they have experienced high levels of service and they enjoy advance of facilities. Tourism become demanding, requesting high quality products and value for both their money and time. Travel reservations are more likely to be made without using a travel agent’s expertise. The tendency is toward individualism due to the development of new computing techniques and especially through the possibilities of e-business. The technological age is the result of a series of sociocultural changes taking place in advanced societies that parallel postmodernism or “post-Fordism” (Ioannides & Debbage, 1997; Lafferty & Van Fossen, 2001; Smeral, 1998). Most people use the internet to search the tourism information and reservation by themselves it seem from internet user in Thailand was increased 12.89 million in 2007 to 16.1 million in 2008 (Nectec, 2009). In hotel industry, the number of travel customers booked accommodations online in 2007, researched by Tourism International Association (TIA), was 75% which 40% from all leisure and 35% from business travel. We can see that customers, today, prefer to use the internet than book through agencies because of speed, choices and flexibility
E-marketing is marketing on the internet, after the world smaller by internet this is the best way to do the marketing it less cost and published quickly. Tourism industry selected this way to promote tourism product to worldwide to increase tourist demand. In fact, it is found that many tourism reliant countries have developed various tourism products such as spas, natural-based resorts, and ecotourism destinations in order to supply the changing tourism demands. In this case, Thailand can be taken as an example. It is found that as a result of a current tourism trend in health-concerned tourism, Thailand has developed many spas and health-based tourism sites to supply the tourists’ demands (Circle of Asia, 2003). This shows an important of the e-tourism that people around the world can see what Thailand have as well as e-marketing. Moreover, it shows an important role of tourist consumer behavior in developing tourism products. It is possible to say here that understanding tourist consumer behavior is very beneficial for developing tourism products in order to supply the tourism demand.
How to manage e-tourism?
Innovative organization which respond to current and future challenges by designing new processes and adapting to new trends, will take advantage of the emerging opportunities and increase their market share. Corporations need to convert their operations from business functions to business processes, as well as redesign their distribution channels strategy. Even more significantly, this implies changes to long-term planning and strategy.
Website is one of the main factors of e-tourism, most visitors to your website need to know and understand your message instantly from the very first page. If not, visitors can leave your site as quickly as they could press a button in their TV remote control. Your site must load quickly and immediately direct your visitors toward your message. Too much information on the opening page of your tourism site can make it appear cluttered and unorganized. As a general rule, keep your message simple and to the point. Moreover, domain name is also important, the name should be easy to remember and relate to your online presence, use your operation’s name whenever possible.
Wed design is involved with customer’s decision; the graphics can be an important element on a tourism related website. A picture is worth a thousand words, particularly in this industry. Nevertheless, many of the people in your target market will be accessing your site from their computer; their speed connections maybe slow. Thus, the graphics that are too much consuming to download may cause visitors to leave your site before they get a chance to see it. Using your important keywords in your information and in your image tags will improve your ranking in search engines.
E-Tourism Trends in Thailand in the next coming year
In the future the tourism industry’s challenge is to provide increased value for money either through innovation-driven cost reducing changes in production and marketing processes or through product changes providing more varied tourism experiences for quality-conscious and saturated multi-option customer (Weiermair, 2001). Therefore, Thai entrepreneurs have to adapt themselves to the e-tourism environment. First, they have to focus their business to serve niche markets such as trekking tours, eco-tourism, or cultural tourism instead of competing directly with large enterprises for general markets (e.g. air tickets, accommodations, and car rental). Second, they may have to join with large enterprises as subsidiaries to help them handle domestic business or niche products. Third, they must accommodate the special needs of innovative-driven markets such as e-commerce development, customer relationship management, mass customization, product differentiation, and community involvement.
Travel agency products are usually sold as packages. Instead of offering only accommodation, they may include flight tickets, transfer fees and sightseeing. But if customers want to buy a package online, they may need to buy separate items and combine them which are not very convenient. These are some of the problems that the experts have noted. The effects of E-Tourism will be felt most seriously by the middlemen which, in this study, are the travel agencies. They need to adapt in order to stay in business.
Human resources are also becoming critical for the success of tourism organizations of the future as they will need effective and innovative user of information and communication technology who can lead change in a dynamic and uncertain environment.
Tourists are defined as persons traveling away from their normal places to other unusual places (Leiper, 2004). Understanding consumer behavior is very useful for developing tourism products. It is also an integral source of information for promoting tourism products and highlights how to sell tourism products particularly in this era, in which the patterns of tourist traveling is highly influenced by global factors such as the mass media (Pembroke, 1996). In short, the study of consumers’ behavior is solely of not academic interest but it is also substantially beneficial when practicing managers have the need to know and respond to tourists’ needs and wants correctly.