Towards Effective Tourism Dynamic Packages

Towards Effective Tourism Dynamic Packages

Luís Ferreira (Polytechnic Institute of Cávado, Portugal), Goran D. Putnik (University of Minho, Portugal), Maria Manuela Cruz-Cunha (Polytechnic Institute of Cávado and Ave and University of Minho, Portugal) and Zlata Putnik (University of Minho, Portugal)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/irmj.2012040101
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Abstract

This paper describes the Open Tourism Initiative (OTI) as a framework to support tourism activities, following the Tourism Virtual Enterprise (TVE) organizational model and pragmatics based collaboration decisions. To assure the better alignment among tourism services providers and client’s expectations, the framework (and its architecture) must support reliable interoperability and dynamic networking reconfiguration as well as the (co-)creation of the tourist’s activity regardless of information systems and using real-time collaboration mechanisms. When a member of the TVE scheduled to provide a given service is somehow conditioned, unable to participate, has to be disentailed from the network, or due to events not necessarily measurable or deterministic, the it is necessary to reconfigure the VE in almost real time. The need to reconfigure could result from changes in controlled (measured) parameters as well as from uncontrolled (contextual and pragmatic) ones. OTI enhances dynamic tourism packages management under the requirements of reconfigurable environments and human direct participation. This article proposes a logical model for TVE organizations as well as an UML formalization for its supporting architecture.
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1. Introduction

1.1. Tourism Business is Changing

Tourism is an important global industry. International tourism receipts reached US$ 852 billion in 2009, and accounted for a contribution of some 5% to economic activity worldwide (UNWTO, 2010). The contribution of tourism to employment tends to be slightly higher relatively to 2010 and is estimated in the order of 6-7% of the overall number of jobs worldwide (direct and indirect). Tourism ranks fourth as an export category, after fuels, chemicals and automotive products (UNWTO, 2010).

Many developing countries strive for sustainable tourism, as it represents an opportunity of economic growth, high unemployment, and environmental protection (Watson, Akselsen, Monod, & Pitt, 2004).

Information is the lifeblood of tourism and, until recently, information technology was not much more than a tool for managing purposes; with the advent of the Web, ICT progress and tourism have been going “hand in hand”; the Web became a tool to support search, selection and reservations. But today the ubiquity of the Web is clear, and determines the necessary and fast adaptation of processes that took much time to be implemented and assimilated. The emerging need (and ability) to systematically integrate technologies with processes, in order to efficiently and effectively align information variants with its inherent search is certainly a major challenge for computing sciences. In actual economic activities, client-supplier frontier vanished. E-Business, e-Commerce, u-Commerce, transformed business and commerce processes, making them less self and unique, less “ours” and more global (Berners-Lee, 2008; Zabel, Bönke, & Constanta, 2000).

Buhalis (1998) was one of the first authors to offer a framework for the utilization of technology in tourism by adopting a strategic perspective, and Buhalis and Law (2008) present a very comprehensive review of the R&D in the ICT and tourism intersection domain (e-Tourism) during the last 20 years, highlighting the main efforts in the field and the challenges that tourism researchers are and will be facing. The future of the travel agencies is to become virtual tourism enterprises, based on the existence of a flexible virtual travel agent (VTA) information system (Assimakopoulos, Dimitriou, & Sotiriou-Xanthopoulos, 2011).

Since the web has been the main commercial support mechanism for tourism activities, it is natural that promoting companies by one hand, and the customers, on the other, change their way to participate in this process. The distance between the tourist and the service providing company is growing to the point that the important is the service effectiveness, independently of how and who executes it.

Besides the announced ubiquity of services, the present concern is focused on the ability to meet the customers’ expectations. Since a tourism activity involves a wide and heterogeneous set of variables and resources, such as time, schedules, traveling, accommodation, food, etc., it will easily appear factors that constrain and introduce changes in the initial plan or specification. Ideally, these changes should not be related to the events that constitute the activity itself, and hence to disturb the client, but be restricted to the way these (events) will be performed, and keep the tourist away from the implications of these changes. In short, these changes should not affect the tourist activity, only the service providers.

Considering the typical tourism business of nowadays, almost all tourism activities are composed by several integrated services (transportation, accommodation, etc.) and are not accomplished by a single enterprise. Several entities work together, each one specialist in a particular service, and the combination of their capacities result in the final activity offer. To archive this cooperation the service providers must be able to be integrated as members of a more complex “enterprise” of other several providers which, as a whole, assure the activity execution. As the tourist request changes or some other factor conditions the normal execution of the activity, the service could also need to change and consequently this new “enterprise” could be different in his capacity, their members, etc. The current tourism enterprises do not cope well with unpredictable factors as usually happens, for instance, when there are strikes (transports, public services, etc.) or environmental disasters that prevent flights between the countries.

In almost any tourism solutions there is a great “distance” between the announced service and the real support of it, especially from the customer point of view. Web sites advertisements and current publicity even well explored are made without tourist participation and focused on estimated tourist interest or motivation. Sometimes that publicity is erroneous. Once disappointed, the tourist needs ever more to have an activity according to his interest and capacities.

Looking at the present and imagining the future tourism activity, it is a fact that the web encouraged and enabled a new way to reach and construct tourism activities, where participants are each day geographically more distant, could be in everywhere and any region. Therefore, could this social activity be completely transformed into a cyber activity? How could it be possible if the tourists still prefer to decide for themselves too according to their preferences or possibilities of tourism complex scenarios?

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