There are a number of definitions that exist to describe what the word tourism refers to. In simple terms, tourism can be described as the act of leaving one’s usual place of residence to visit a non-resident location. People will engage in tourism for a variety of reasons and these are in most cases unique to every individual traveler. Motivations for touring places include; education, seeking health services, to undertake work related tasks or for the purpose of relaxation.
In their work, Swarbrooke & Horner (2007) define tourism as that short term movement of people to places some distances away from their usual residences with the inte3ntion of indulging in pleasurable activities. At times, one may travel to attend to official business matters. Closely connected to tourism is the hospitality industry which involves taking care of people by providing them with relevant services to ensure their comfort.
The world over, tourism is now considered a major source of income and for many countries, incomes received from the tourism and hospitality industries form a major part of the domestic spending. With this realization, countries are now doing their best to promote the growth of the tourism industry. Though the developed nations are greatly profiting from tourism activities, there is still so much to be done in the developing nations to get there.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) innovations have considerably revolutionized the way people interact and perhaps, one of the greatest effects of technological advancements has been the change in the way business operations are handled in different sectors of the economy; tourism being one of them.
In the recent past, the Internet has experienced substantial growth and the fact that is available globally has contributed to the increase in the number of service providers who have now turned to the use of the Internet as a key marketing tool for their products and services (Vich-I-Martorell, 2002).
The many hurdles that originally created a barrier between consumers and providers are now a thing of the past. Suppliers are now presented with alternative ways of marketing and distributing tourist services and products. Though this has come with plenty of benefits for the suppliers it has tremendously affected the operations of others, denying them their means of livelihoods.
A majority of consumers and providers are now able to communicate directly with each other without having to depend on intermediaries. Great technological discoveries are seen to provide a working solution for the challenges of growing the tourism industry. Providers are able to cut down on operating expenses allowing them to render their services much cheaply especially by bypassing middlemen. It is also possible for providers to reach a wider audience with very minimal costs.
Sadly though, many developing nations are still lagging behind and have not fully embraced the use of ICT though they are well placed just like the developed nations to improve their economies through this vibrant industry.
According to Mills & Law (2004), the rapid expansion in the travel industry has led to a quest for superior quality information services that are necessary to help meet the demands of a growing number of tourists while at the same time, guaranteeing clients quality tourism services.
There is no doubt that a lot of good has been achieved through the use ICT. This paper mainly discusses the impact of technology on the tourism with some mention of other industries. Also addressed is consumer behaviour when it comes to making decisions on choosing tourist products. The paper also talks about the negative impacts that ICT has had in the tourist industry.
Tourist Consumer Behaviour Processes
The consumer behaviour process can be described as the procedure taken by a consumer when making a choice of what tourist product or service to purchase or use. A study by Swarbrooke & Horner (2007) point out that the purchase decisions can be made either by individuals or in groups.
Consumer behaviour has a big effect on an organization’s marketing of its products and is definitely an important consideration for any organization seeking to benefit from marketing. If thoroughly understood, knowledge of consumer behaviour can help an organization to profit considerably from its marketing activities.
In the work of Pizam & Mansfeld (1999), research on how tourists consume tourist products is central to the success of the tourist industry. The noticeable changes in the tourism industry coupled with strong competition in the market place and the desire to remain competitive, service providers are becoming more and more attentive and want to understand what influences the traveler’s purchase of tourism products.
To capture the customers’ attention, it is critical that tourist products are designed such that they are able to address the many expectations and wishes of the potential tourists. Before making a tourist destination choice, the mode of travel and where to stay, consumers have been found to undergo various decision making processes that eventually influence the choice of tourist products and services.
The choice for a travel destination is influenced by among other things, environmental, cultural and socioeconomic factors and these present the consumer with such a complex issue that requires enough time to ponder about.
According to Swarbrooke & Horner (2007), efficiency in tourism marketing can only be realized when one to understands the way consumers make decisions regarding the purchase and use of products and services.
They further argue that when a service provider is equipped with proper information on the behaviour of consumers, it is possible to understand how best to sell the tourist products and obtain the expected output. Besides learning the art of persuading clients to purchase a product, one also gets to know who to target, at what time and with what type of product.
Pizam & Mansfeld (1999), observed that a number of authors consider motivation to be one major determinant of the tourist behaviour. According to Swarbrooke & Horner (2007), consumers’ decision making processes are greatly influenced by internal and external motivators determinants when making product and service choices.
The effects, however, vary depending on the type of product or service a potential tourist wishes to purchase. A considerable amount of time, for example, is required to make a decision regarding the purchase of a holiday than when deciding on what type of outfit to wear to work on any given day.
Effect of Motivation in Tourism Behaviour
Pizam & Mansfeld (1999) observed that a great number of authors are of the opinion that one thing that is central to the behaviour exhibited by tourists when choosing products and services, is motivation. A number of theories exist to try and explain how tourist behaviour or actions are influenced by the motivation.
Popular theories include; Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Murray’s Classification Scheme, Dann’s Tourism Motivator, and Crompton’s Nine Motives. Central to all these theories though, is the concept of consumer need which is seen as the main driving force behind the stimulation of motivation in individuals.
In the needs hierarchy theory, Maslow made an attempt to explain how motivation affects the behaviour of a tourist (Pizam & Mansfeld, 1999). Maslow’s theory lists the needs hierarchical depending on the level of importance.
Originally, Maslow designed the theory for his clinical psychology work but over the years, its importance has grown and it is now commonly referenced in many other industries, tourism being one of them. Its simplicity in comparison with other existing theories is considered go be the main reason why its usage has increased among tourism researchers.
According to this theory, if the needs specified are not met then the lowest ranked needs will take centre stage in determining the tourist’s behaviour. On the other hand, incase satisfaction was realized at any particular level, then the individual will have to move on to the check whether the other needs were met and so on.
This process continues with the consumer moving up the hierarchy as the needs of each level get satisfied until they are all satisfied. Some of Maslow’s propositions have been rejected while others have received doubtful support. Critics have argued that Maslow’s theory does not provide a complete list of consumer needs that could influence human behaviour.
Murray’s theory on the other hand, lists a total of fourteen physiological and thirteen psychology needs and from these, one can identify factors that could influence a potential tourist’s preference for a holiday. Supporters of this theory believe that it is a better model compared to Maslow’s since it gives a detailed list of the human needs that are likely to determine a consumer’s travel behaviour. Because of its complexity, however, this theory is not that popular with tourism researchers who prefer to use Maslow’s theory.
Dann’s tourism motivator’s are very closely linked to Maslow’s list of needs. The theory singles out two factors that influence a traveler’s decision to purchase tourism products and services. Push factors are those that make one want to travel while pull factors are those that affect where one travels. The theory proposes seven categorizations of travel motivation.
Crampton’s theory is in agreement with Dann’s regarding the push and pull motives. Nine motives are identified in this theory with seven of them being classified as push motives and two as cultural or pull motives. The study further shows that people may sometimes be reluctant to make known their real reasons for travel if these reasons are personal or intimate.
The Influence of ICT on Tourist Behaviour
The above discussion on consumer behaviour theories provides a very good base for appreciating the part played by motivation in determining the consumer’s actions.
As mentioned elsewhere in this paper, the growth in ICT has had a great impact on the way tourism is carried out. Looking at the physiological, safety, love, esteem and self-actualization needs highlighted in Maslow’s theory, one can immediately see the relationship that exists between the use of ICT and the tourist’s behaviour.
In the work of Vich-I-Martorell (2002), technological advancements have driven consumers to shift to the use of the Internet and other technology related services to access the required travel information. On their own and at a convenient time, tourists can visit different Web sites that interest whether commercial or non – commercial to research, plan and if necessary, purchase tourist products and services.
This radical change in consumer behaviour has left providers with no option but to turn to the use of technology in their work so as to answer to the increasing tourist demands and to remain relevant in the travel and hospitality business. Any other remedy short of this will only lead to loss of a provider’s market share.
Being such a powerful tool for sourcing timely and accurate information that is appropriate to the needs of the consumers, ICT is now a must use for everyone.
From the comfort of wherever they are, and at the click of a button, consumers can easily access a great deal of reliable information about just any tourist topic of interest.
Going back to Maslow’s theory, a potential tourist who is already satisfied that all other needs have been met but still has a concern about the security of the destination has no reason to worry as this information is readily available as long as they have access to an Internet connection. With increased terrorism attacks and civil wars all over, security is certainly a threat to many potential tourists. Using ICT, governments are doing all they can to assure the travelers that all is well.
The use of radars to monitor airport operations, and surveillance systems in hotels and other major places are just but some of the technological solutions being used to create a secure environment. Incase of any doubts, however, and one is not satisfied with the information obtained through the Web; there is the option of directly get in touch with service providers at the intended destinations to and request further information as needed. Among other services, the use of email systems, and mobile technology is critical here.
Another example is where one wants to travel to receive treatment away from home. It would be a disaster for anyone to just show up in a foreign place without prior information of what to expect or even what to do. The traveler can tap into the huge pool of information available on the Internet to get their facts right before embarking on the journey.
Impact of ICT on the Tourism Industry
Even though the role played by ICT in allowing organizations to be competitive and stay above the rest was identified many years back, it is only in the recent past that the potential provide by ICT received acknowledge in the tourism and hospitality industries (Nadkarni, 2003) .
Sigala (2002) also observed that very little is known regarding the impact of using ICT on employment trends despite the fact that ICT use has widely been adopted in the tourism and hospitality industries. The use of ICT has presented the tourism industry with amazing capabilities that have to a very great extent transformed business operations in so many ways.
Some of these capabilities include; speedy data processing, compact storage, and accuracy. Online storage of information has made it easy for anyone needing information, to access it from wherever they are. The existence of communication links or networks is distinct advantage of ICT development. The presence of services such as video conferencing has minimized the need to have face to face meetings with consumers or suppliers as the case may be.
In a nutshell, technology has really changed the way people live, travel and do work. With the introduction of technology, consumers are now better placed to demand quality services from service providers and to ensure that they receive vale for money paid.
For success to be realized in the tourism industry therefore, it is essential that the service providers are well prepared to meet the consumer demands.
For this reason, providers have no option but to take advantage of the numerous opportunities made available by ICT to enable them meet the consumer requirements and further their business operations. Embracing the use of ICT will certainly make it possible for any company or organization in the tourism sector, to stand out by offering competitive products and services to its customers.
The use of the Internet for the purposes of planning, making reservations, booking, and payment of travel products accounts for the highest number of sales in the tourist industry when compared with any other online industries (Govers & Go, 2003).
Apart from the many advantages that have resulted from the use of ICT in the tourism and hospitality industries, there are associated negative impacts that one has to be aware of. The application of ICT in business operations has contributed to loss of employment depending on where and how the technology is being used (Sigala, 2002). One negative impact that is apparently obvious to everyone is the huge reduction in employment caused by automating routine tasks.
In their work, Govers & Go (2003) argued that there has been substantial increase in the amount of information available on the subject of tourism due to radical technological changes as well as globalization. Though this might look like a positive development, it poses a major challenge to both consumers and service providers. There is therefore, a need for one to be really careful when sourcing information lest they end up dealing with rogue providers.
The use of technology and the existence of a direct communication channel between the consumers and suppliers have led to reduced business for middlemen and tour operators who have ended up being sidelined in a number of occasions.
This is an act that has not been received well by tour operators contributing to the existence of numerous conflicts between tour operators and service providers (Vich-i-Martorell, 2002). To survive, tour operators have had to invent tricks of dealing with the service providers such as hotel owners and airline operators. Time and again, they will exert pressure on the service providers to reduce prices.
A major effect of the low pricing has been the depletion of local resources in most tourist destinations, with very few initiatives being undertaken to sustain the invaluable environmental and cultural wealth that makes tourism attractions. The following discussion on the Balearic Islands should help to shed some light on this.
Balearic Islands, is a tourist destination in the Mediterranean area, controlled by non-local tour operators. These operators will usually contract hotel rooms a year in advance and then go on to market them together with a travel ticket in the tourist’s home country. As a consequence, suppliers have been forced to heavily depend on the deals made with the tour operators.
This situation, together with threats to deviate tourists to other destinations within the Mediterranean area, is used by tour operators as a means to force hotels to bring down their prices.
The absence of a local tour operator to market this destination abroad, combined with the fact that most hotel companies in the Balearics have neither the resources to market themselves abroad nor the means to sell their product together with a plane ticket, make the foreign tour operators the only feasible way to commercialize and sell the Balearics as a complete tourist package. Using the Internet, however, this trend can be reversed and the extortion is bound to completely disappear eventually.
By using ICT, information can be made readily available to whoever is in needs it leading to the empowerment of the suppliers. Having the correct information will certainly be a source of strength and this can put service providers at a competitive position in the market place. This can later become a source of strength when negotiating business deals with other players in the field.
The Internet can be also be used by service providers in Balearic Islands to get an easier way to sell out their products and services to the final consumer at very reasonable prices without necessarily having to open up offices, shops, or points of sale in each country and city where the potential tourists live.
This is seen an alternative channel that will let companies market and distribute products, and eventually it could lead to a situation where the bargaining power of foreign tour operators could be reduced tremendously to the advantage of local service providers. A research done in the Balearic Islands on the use of the Internet among suppliers in the tourist sector demonstrated that on average, the Internet is highly regarded as a tool that could improve the way tourist business is done.
Another negative effect of the adoption of ICT in the tourism industry is the promotion of illegal activities in the society. Criminals can get exposed to that could promote negative activities in the society. Such information will include the selling drugs, terrorist activities and sex tourism among others.
With this information now widely available everywhere, thanks to Internet availability, it is possible for one to quickly get to know target locations where the activities can be undertaken in disguise. A case in point is Mombasa, a coastal city in Kenya, where sex tourism and drug abuse is the order of the day and is a real threat to the existence of the healthy growth of young generation. Efforts by the Kenya government to curb these illegal activities perpetrated by domestic as well as international tourists are yet to bear fruit.
According to Litvin & Crotts (2003), technology and particularly the use of Internet, has had a huge impact on the traditional approach to the sell of hospitality and tourism services globally.
Despite the existence of the above challenges that associated with the use of ICT, further integration of ICT in tourism and other industries is a reality and consumers and service providers alike, are willing to live with the negative consequences. For many players, technology offers a great foundation for growth in the tourist and hospitality sectors and it is almost practically impossible to imagine the present world without technology.
The use of ICT is considered a key enabler in the transformation of business processes and transactions. Rapid developments that have characterized the technological field have resulted in radical transformations that have taken place in various industries with the greatest changes occurring in the tourism and hospitality industries.
Beyond any reasonable doubt, the use of technology is here to stay and it is up to the service providers to get acquainted with the use of ICT to manage their work. Emerging market trends are now forcing suppliers to adopt the use of ICT so as to excel.
The high number of players present in the tourism sector has created a very competitive environment whereby only those determined to succeed can do so. Therefore, ICT usage cannot be over looked if service providers are to survive. One of the greatest rewards of implementing the use of ICT in the tourist sector is the power to handle competition calmly without any fears. It boosts the confidence of service providers when it comes to dealing the existing market struggles.
In view of all these, many have argued that the negative effects related to the introduction and subsequent uses of technology are necessary evils that only carry a negligible impact that can be managed. These effects are seen as nothing when compared to the huge proceeds derived from ensuring that technology is at the centre of core business operations.
As no one is about to let go of the use of technology, system developers have a challenge to create robust systems with little or no damage to consumers and that cannot be easily compromised. Though a very tricky task, another solution could be creating systems that can help to mitigate the negative impact that the use of technology is having or is bound to have on the society.
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