The Semantic Web in Tourism

The Semantic Web in Tourism

Salvador Miranda Lima (Escola Superior de Tecnologia e Gestão, Instituto Politécnico de Viana do Castelo, Portugal) and José Moreira (IEETA / DETI, Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-650-1.ch033
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The emergence of the World Wide Web made available massive amounts of data. This data, created and disseminated from many different sources, is prepared and linked in a way that is well-suited for display purposes, but automation, integration, interoperability or context-oriented search can hardly be implemented. Hence, the Semantic Web aims at promoting global information integration and semantic interoperability, through the use of metadata, ontologies and inference mechanisms. This chapter presents a Semantic Model for Tourism (SeMoT), designed for building Semantic Web enabled applications for the planning and management of touristic itineraries, taking into account the new requirements of more demanding and culturally evolved tourists. It includes an introduction to relevant tourism concepts, an overview of current trends in Web Semantics research and a presentation of the architecture, main features and a selection of representative ontologies that compose the SeMoT.
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The concept of tourism emerged in the geographic area which is currently known as the European Union, and came out as a strongly European phenomenon in such a way that Europe is still the prime touristic destination as well as a spinning platform for intercontinental tourist flows, as confirmed by the statistics of the World Tourism Organization. In fact, tourism is the economical and social activity with the biggest impact and significance within the European Union, in such a way that it constitutes a strategic activity for sustained development that ensures the current patterns of living in countries like Portugal, Spain, Austria or Greece.

Tourism demand in the following years or decades will be regulated by the a new social paradigm (considered in the current developments of Alvin Toffer’s “third wave” (Toffler, 1980)) centred in the multiplicity of “selves”; in other words, the new consumer will be profiled as having a great diversity of information which will be used as an instrument of demand, agile in the use of intelligent technologies and caring for environmental, cultural and ethnic problems.

In order to face the sustainability demands of European tourism development, as well as the new wave of more demanding and culturally evolved tourists, the development of models of touristic information in the light of the Semantic Web paradigm may play an important role.

Over more than a decade and a half after Tim Berners-Lee presented his original proposal for creating a universal platform of access and dissemination of information between the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) researchers, the Web became one of the artefacts that have metamorphosed all dimensions of society in an extraordinarily decisive, powerful and fast way. Such an artefact has also limitations that can be numbered as follows:

  • i.

    Information search: Current search engines ignore the context of the terms (restaurant, museum, handicraft, etc.) or the connections between them (a museum has a restaurant, a restaurant is classified as a space for smokers, etc.);

  • ii.

    Extraction of information: Obtaining decisive and influential information demands relying on human interpretation both for selection and filtering (“Margarida da Praça” can be both a restaurant or a cod-fish specialty);

  • iii.

    Management: Website content management can be complex, despite the simplicity of the documents’ organisation structure; in this way, the application of appropriate Web Engineering practices will play an important role in both the organisation and classification of touristic information in the Web;

  • iv.

    Automatic document generation: The inclusion of adaptability mechanisms will reduce the level of user dissatisfaction regarding Webpages which are adaptable to their profiles (museums with the most favourite painters, traditional fish-based gastronomies, etc.).

A touristic itinerary, in its essence, is an aggregator of touristic objects which semiotically have a significant and a meaning given by the resident communities, associating sufficiently attractive eclectic and singular values which promote or stimulate tourism. In this chapter, we contextualise such touristic objects in three kinds of information: spatial information (particularly, the geographical location defined by geographical coordinates and the type of location), temporal information (such as the working schedule and the duration of an event) and thematic information (such as intrinsic and extrinsic values of attractions and touristic descriptors).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Tourist: “can be defined as a person who travels away from their normal residential region for a temporary period of at least one night, to the extent that their behaviour involves a search for leisure experiences from interactions with features or characteristics of places he chooses to visit” (Leiper, 2004, p. 35).

XML (Extensible Markup Language): is a language developed by W3C as a universal format for structured data on the Web, overcoming the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) limitations, by defining rules that allow Webpages to be written in such a way that they are adequately visible to the computing machine.

URI (Uniform Resource Identifier): is a unique identifier-address for Web-resources that identifies, either its concrete content (for instance, servers or Webpages), or its abstract content (for instance, concepts or conceptual relations).

Tourism: “can be defined as the theories and practices for being a tourist. This involves travelling and visiting places for leisure-related purposes. Tourism comprises the ideas and opinions people hold which shape their decisions about going on trips, about where to go (and where not to go) and what to do or not do, about how to relate to other tourists, locals and service personnel. And it is all the behavioural manifestations of those ideas” (Leiper, 2004, p. 44).

Webware: is an “artefact with a set of functionalities and components which are adequate to the Web context” (Lima, 2003, p. 10), that is, it is a software with specific proprieties which are inseparable from the Web environment and that we do not find in traditional software products. Therefore, it may be considered an information system in which a great amount of volatile data – highly semi-structured and structured, semantically enriched and located in Web-servers – are consulted, processed and updated by information navigators which are designed according to patterns of usability, adaptability, ergonomics, accessibility and autonomy.

OWL (Web Ontology Language): is a language developed by the W3C which allows, by using its sets of syntactic constructors based on RDF, to represent ontologies which are understandable by machines, hence providing, apart from the mechanisms for creating concepts, instances, proprieties and axioms, three levels of expressivity: OWL Lite, OWL Description Logics (OWL DL) and OWL Full.

RDF (Resource Description Framework): is a conceptual model for the description of the content of the Web-resources, sustained by a syntax based on XML, and which is guided by three concepts: resources, proprieties and statements.

RDF-Schema (Resource Description Framework-Schema): is a defined structure, using the inheritance and instantiation mechanisms, of the resources in classes, including the restrictions on the objects in the relations existing in an RDF model.

SWRL (Semantic Web Rule Language): is a rules language, based on the combination of OWL DL and OWL Lite languages (OWL sub-languages) with Rule Markup Language (RuleML) which, through an abstract syntax, allows Horn clauses to be defined that represent rules in ontologies and, on the other hand, the treatment of the rules as antecedent ? consequent axioms to be assumed.

SPARQL (SPARQL Protocol and RDF Query Language): is a language developed by the W3C to support queries, handling the knowledge represented in ontologies in RDF, that is, it allows the handling of specific information extracted from the ontologies.

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