The push towards networked information and communication technologies (ICT), combined with increased customer expectations, has put extraordinary pressure on the information-centric and service-based tourism industry to include the Internet as a major new marketing channel. To date, most research into the implications of the Internet, especially for small tourism firms, has revealed many individual business barriers in relation to ICT adoption. There is widespread consensus that industry preparedness in terms of ICT and e-business skills and training falls well short of the requirements to operate within a now ICT-driven sector (Braun, 2004; Hollick, 2003). As Evans et al. (2001) have noted, small tourism firms may well remain lost in the electronic marketplace unless they are assisted in the usage of ICT tools and acquire the skills needed to participate in the digital economy. With technological change underpinning a global economy, small tourism firms can take advantage of their geographic concentration to form a virtual tourism network or cluster to develop competitive advantage for tourism their destination. In the context of emerging technologies and related e-business models, this article discusses the role of virtual tourism networks, clustering and value chains for small tourism operators in freely assembled destinations. In discussing destination benefits and barriers surrounding SME clustering and networking, business acumen and business performance are highlighted. It is proposed in this article that successful destination clusters can be created by boosting tourism operator performance, and matching skills and infrastructure with visitor expectations.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Supply Chain: A network of suppliers, storage facilities, distributors, transporters, and retailers that participate in the sale, delivery and production of a product either for a particular firm or as part of a particular industry.
Cluster: A geographic co-location of firms and/or activities that are linked along the supply and/or value chain
Social Capital: Social capital refers to the institutions, relationships, and norms that shape the quality and quantity of a society’s social interactions. Social capital is the glue that holds them together.
Value Chain: A value chain is a string of diverse companies working together to create or satisfy market demand for a particular product or a bundle of products.
Intermediary: Individuals or organizations that make bookings on behalf of their clients, frequently having access to bigger organizations or booking systems.
Freely Assembled Destination: A tourism destination that is made up of independent tourism operators. Unlike a resort or theme park that is part of a chain or controlled by a large corporation or multinational company.
Network: A collection of interconnected elements, the nature of which is determined by the relationships connecting the elements.
SME: Small and medium size enterprises, expand