World Travel Market: Interview with Professor Dimitrios Buhalis

Professor Dimitrios Buhalis is world-leading tourism and hospitality researcher, teacher and adviser. He is currently Established Chair in Tourism, Director of the eTourism Lab at Bournemouth University and Professorial Observer at the Bournemouth University Senate. He will be attending two forums at this year’s World Travel Market, the first being Technology Enabling Travel talk on Monday 4 November and the second being the Bournemouth University Tourism Futures Forum, which he will Chair.

YUDU sat down with Professor Buhalis ahead of these events at the World Travel Market and asked him some thoughts about the nature of e-tourism and its future in an increasingly mobile-led world.

1) For our readers who are less familiar with the term, could you explain what e-tourism is and how the e-tourism has shaped the wider tourist industry landscape over the past decade?

In a nutshell: E-Tourism is a way of bringing together the travel industry’s process of digitization and computerization. Further to this, as a concept it agglomerates a whole range of products and services so industry can communicate with consumers in a more streamlined way. This doesn’t just mean more efficient purchasing methods, but more efficient and better ways of delivering information too.

To illustrate, there’s a very wide range of technologies that are being used in very different ways to ultimately make things easier for the consumer: Generally in terms of interaction and engagement before, during and after their trip, giving the consumer context-driven travel information about his or her destination is a classic example. I mean, ultimately this is a holistic concept: There’s a great deal of interdependence between these methods.

2) How are the hospitality and tour-operator industries employing e-tourism methods at the moment?

Well firstly it has to be said that traditionally these companies have always used technology to manage inventory: This meant things like looking into capacity management, in terms of managing capacity, yield, and price.

The second thing and more contemporary thing that we’ve seen huge efficiency gains made in are the booking systems. That means having your name next to a certain seat and bed, the Amadeus network for airlines and so on; this has been one of the key areas that have really made things easier for consumer purchasing.

The third thing is systems that help drive collaboration and interpretability. Increasingly what we find are open systems, like social media for marketing and PR, associations developing systems to engage social media. Facebook, Twitter and so on. There are all kinds of things companies can do in these spaces, for example, deals that are targeted solely towards fans of their Facebook page.

3) How do you think the emergence of mobile and tablet devices such as the iPad have changed e-tourism?

Smartphones and tablets are obviously the future. What we’re seeing in travel is that people are using mobile as a concierge that is always alongside them. As people’s apps, choices and data becomes ever more filtered and personalized, the smartphone assumes the role of a personal assistant. This means it will learn from your past choices and filter through the environment’s surrounding information according to your needs.

This mobility also sits alongside a concept called “social, context, mobile – SoCoMo marketing”, your mobile phone will know your context (say, the language, weather or time) and it will filter information relevant to you from this, it’s a way of making marketing extremely relevant and personalized. With this in mind, if you look ten years ahead, a defining part of mobile e-tourism will be driven by intuitive, wearable devices.

4) How does digital publishing form a part of successful e-tourism strategies?

I think what’s happening in general, and this is of particular relevance to publishers and digital publishers is that there’s a great sense of content in terms of scale – A lot of content, in the drive to digitize, is still based around physical paper, especially in the travel industry.

Alongside this traditional, paper-based content, the fact is that a lot of the data that exists in the world today has been created over the past few years, and dwarfs anything that has come before. So what you have is a need to bring all of this content together and again, referring back to my original point, filter it through to the end-user in a way that’s relevant to him. In the context of digital publishing this means things like creating brochures tailored to certain kinds of travellers, and only disseminating the right kind of digitally published travel content to the right kind of demographic, so that people don’t feel like they’re just receiving generic marketing material.

5) Where do you see e-tourism ten years from now?

We’ll be able to customize service based industries in general and tailor what it is they offer in really miniscule ways because of the ubiquity of data that the internet has brought about. In the past, tourism and travel were, generally speaking, fairly static industries. Nothing changed – There were physical brochures at a destination for say, ten hotels and five museums and that was the extent of what you were given as a consumer. E-Tourism is really about allowing the traveller themselves, the consumer, to create experiences that don’t currently exist, and facilitating that through the sort of filtering and context based approach discussed.

For example, say if you travel around a particular city with your daughter, mobile devices will understand that the context, based on your company (along with everything else) is slightly different and the suggestions it will raise and information, including digitally published information it will offer will be different.

Or in my case: I Just came back from Brazil and I went there for a business meeting with a friend. This particular situation lends itself to certain kinds of filtering methods. But if my trip was primarily an eco-trip, these would change again. So it’s an incredibly dynamic process that will rely on everything from apps, website-based content, digitally published content, and augmented reality content eventually among numerous other ways of reaching the consumer.

If you’d like to get in touch with us about our publishing solutions for the travel industry, please contact us through email and we’ll be happy to assist. If you’d like to contact our guest Professor Buhalis about e-tourist research, his contact details are below.

Professor Dimitrios Buhalis
Director eTourism Research Lab http://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/etourismlab
Deputy Director, International Centre for Tourism and Hospitality Research, School of Tourism, Bournemouth University,
Talbot Campus, Poole, Dorset, BH12 5BB, UK
Tel: +44 1202 961517 Email: dbuhalis@bournemouth.ac.uk
Dimitrios web site: http://www.buhalis.com

Fellow, International Academy for the Study of Tourism http://www.tourismscholars.org
President, IFITT http://www.ifitt.org

Categories: Experts, Industry Research

1 reply

  1. Very interesting insights and I like the direction we are headed in terms of contextual web experiences. The travel market is a great place to show these advances.

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