E-Tourism: E Tourism is the digitisation of all the processes and value chains in the tourism, travel, hospitality and catering industries which enables these organisations to maximise their efficiency and effectiveness. The scope of e-tourism includes not just computer reservation system, but also incorporating the tourism sector as well as its subset the hospitality industry. E-Tourism includes all business functions such as E-commerce and E-marketing; E-finance and E -accounting; E-HRM; E-Procurement; E-Strategy; E-Planning and E-Management.
Operations: ICT has changed the way existing tourism businesses such as hotels, airlines and tour operators communicate and exchange services with each other. “Best supplier opportunities all over the world can be detected via the internet and buyer-seller transactions are easily accomplished in a completely electronic environment” (Fyall et al., 2009: 114-120). Management information systems, enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management (CRM), and other systems based on ICT can accelerate and facilitate information flow, including acquisition, storage, processing and transfer of information concerning both internal processes and the external tourism business environment. Online Flight Tracking System: Travel technology is used to monitor as well as manage travel, and also includes flight tracking system. Global aviation software such as Plane Finder, RadarBox24, Flight Stats.com, etc., is useful in tracing the activities of flights from across the world.
Dynamic Packaging:It gives freedom to customers in order to create their own travel package by choosing the transportation services, flight tickets, accommodation types, activities, rental services, etc. instead of choosing a package predefined by the agent. This type of packaging allows the real time sourcing of flights, trains, hotels, cars, etc. according to the requirement of the customer.
Marketing: Tourist products and destinations are better advertised via the internet rather than via traditional means, such as brochures, advertising catalogs, etc. Furthermore, ICT allow direct and interactive relationships between tourism organizations and customers. However, the most interesting perspective of ICT applications on marketing is that, companies can build a customer’s profile and make personalized offerings (Fyall et al, 2009).
Payments for services and sales: ICT have created a global market place where forms and payments can be completed directly online (Fyall et al., 2009), and this makes the Internet even more useful for tourists all over the world who can easily make transactions from their homes. In fact, research conducted by Dömeová and Zeipelt (2011) found that the majority of rural tourism customers are gained “through the internet”. With the internet, sales can be successfully accomplished without the need of any intermediaries. For example, a customer is able to perform online payments without the intervention of a travel agent. There is also the possibility of using intelligent agents in some stages of the selling process, thus leading to increased overall productivity of the tourism organization by releasing human resources.
Computerized Reservation System:It is famous for the ability to store the information and retrieve it when required. It is also used for conducting transactions related to hotel bookings, air tickets, car rentals etc. Some of the most widely used CRS around the world are Amadeus, Abacus (currently owned by Sabre), KIU, Mercator, Navitaire, Sabre, Travel Technology Interactive, Travel Sky, Travelport, etc. With the advent of ICT in general and of the internet in particular, people from all over the world can access prices and accommodation availability. In fact, many rural tourists use the internet to find information about their destination and plan their trip. Similar findings are reported by Komninos, MacDonald, and Barrie (2010) according to whom a good majority of rural tourists use the internet for information. Bai and Law (2006) also state that ever since the introduction of the internet for business applications in the early 1990’s, making online reservations for tourism products and services has turned out to be a popular trend, and Fyall et al. (2009) further state that it reduces the cost of reservations by eliminating both travel agency commissions and conventional telephone bookings.
Global Distribution System: GDS forms is a linkage between the service providers in the travel industry, such as airlines, hotels, car rental companies and enabling automated transaction between travel service providers and the travel agencies. It concentrates across three main domains of the industry, viz., accommodation, ticket reservation and car rentals. It not only links the bookings, but also the rates at which each of the services are available. Famous GDS are Amadeus, Galileo, Sabre, Worldspan, etc.
Customer Relationship Management: CRM is famous for the convenience it brings in when it comes to managing an organisation’s interaction, not just with current customers, but also future customers. CRM helps in analysing customer data and pulls out the history which helps in understanding the needs of the customer and what to cater to. This helps in retention of the customer and maintaining ideal business relationships with customers which ultimately helps in driving sales growth.
Audio Tours: Another interesting development in the world of Information technology’s integration into tourism is the Audio Tours. An audio tour is a pre-recorded message which includes the details of the places of tourist interests. Usually fed into a handheld device with headsets, the commentary provides the background information and other context related to the place of visit. Audio Tours are usually used in historical sites and museums.
GPS Tours: A GPS Tour, similar to a an audio tour includes pre-recorded audio commentary through a handheld device, for mobile applications such as trains, walking tours, buses, boats, trolley, etc. GPS tour uses the visitor’s location via satellite technology and provides the relevant information to them. These tours are available in multiple language which can be downloaded and makes it possible to mine the common interest location of the visitors using the data from multiple users.
Virtual Tour: A virtual tour is an online media presentation representinga real location in the most realistic form possible. It comprises of videos as well as still images and may include sound effects, text, narration and music. Especially hotel chains provide a 360 degree view of not just the room buy also the amenities and property in general as well.
Mobile Technology:Advanced developments such as Global Positioning System service, Geo Tagging, search based on location, and online mapping facility has so much more to offer to the traveller at their respective travel destinations. Yet another advancement which is revolutionising the industry of travel and tourism is Personal assistant which is the application thatassists the traveller in having a smooth and safe travel. They also contribute largely on the distribution of resourceful information including great offers and important deals.
Social Networks: Social networking sites related to travel and tourism allow travellers to build a network of other travellers and share their travel stories and experiences. The reviews and feedback left by other travellers gives a realistic picture of the destination or service provider. Sites such as Trip Advisor, Matador, Tripsay, Couchsurfing, GeckoGo, Travbuddy, etc are all example of such sites.
Challenges of ICT implementation in Rural Tourism
Lack of awareness about benefits of ICTs: Though India has a strong and fast growing IT industry; access to ICTs remains very low, particularly in rural areas. IT penetrations in Indian society are far from satisfactory. PC penetration is 1.21% (China with 4.08%, Asia at 6.39% and world average at 9.63%).Internet penetration in Urban India was 64.84% in December 2017. In comparison, rural Internet penetration is 20.26% in December 2017. Given that total urban population is much lower than total rural population, the Urban-Rural Digital divide is actually more acute. Despite growing number of people who own a computer and have Internet access, most people in the rural areas have little opportunity to connect to the Internet. They are unaware of socio-economic benefits and stimulus to good governance that ICTs can bring.
Lack of infrastructure- The major limitations in rural India is full time availability of electricity, telephony, Internet connectivity and other kinds of basic amenities which are a key challenge for the development of Rural Tourism. Also the mass poverty is affecting India’s ability to compete against countries with better physical infrastructure for connectivity. About 1.2 billion people are experiencing extreme poverty that is considered by many to be the worst human rights violation in the world.
Language barriers in using the Internet: This issue prevent people from familiarizing themselves with benefits of Internet based information resources that invariably require an ability to understand international languages, especially English. As a result, most people in rural areas cannot read and understand most of the Internet content. Another factor is high illiteracy rate among rural people.
Lack of access facilities:Despite the ongoing deregulation of India’s telecommunications sector, the access facilities mainly comprise computers and connectivity in rural areas. Rural teledensity is 57.02% as compared to urban teledensity 172.28%.
Lack of local language information products:Lack of suitable information products tailored to the needs and assimilation capacities of rural people in the state. In order to better adjust their investment decisions people need updated information in concerned field.
Lack of motivation to use information over the Internet: In spite of connectivity, people will not use ICTs unless they are motivated to do so. Community ownership of access facilities and availability of facilitator are key factors to induce motivation. Limitations in electricity, telephony, Internet connectivity and other kinds of basic infrastructure in India’s rural areas are a key challenge for a number of development organizations (Rao, 2002).
Recommendations leading to success in Rural Tourism
The success of business in rural tourism is influenced by a good-quality and realistic evaluation of entrepreneurs’ possibilities as well as the possibilities of the area of their place of business with the use of various marketing and other tools (e.g. certification schemes).
Entrepreneurs should leverage the internet to reach out the customers across world by showcasing their market offers in digital format and display on the website and description and unique features of their offerings. It will enable the users or buyers or middlemen to collect more information about the destinations. The buyers from urban and rural customers can access the information across the internet and evaluate the quality of information and it facilitates them to take a decision.
ICT can be used to interact effectively with the consumers and personalize the product. It will enable the entrepreneurs to identify the needs and taste of the users so that the product offering can be developed according to the needs and tastes of the users and it will improve their sustainability.
ICTs can be used to revolutionize tourism intermediation and increase the point’s of sale. It will remove the intermediaries so that they can directly sell the product to the customer at lower costswith better profits.
The websites should be upgraded and updated with the latest ICT technologies to increase the business visibility, profitability and potentiality. The Govt and enterprises should encourage and train the industry people on utilizing the social media. The govt should see that the high speed Internet availability and affordability to reach common man and prices of the computer systems or mobile systems should go down further. Wi-Fi facilities should be provided by the government and power failures should be avoided. The government should encourage the development of mobile commerce (e.g., promotion, payments etc.
In India, Rural tourism is an emerging concept and the future of such niche tourism is very promising as rural India boasts of rich culture and heritage. Moreover, its greeneries, fabulous scenic beauty and wide range of biodiversity can easily grab the attention of city dwellers. Therefore, seeing availability, accessibility and affordability some macro-level marketing strategies should be adopted along with long-term planning, scrutiny, monitoring and regular inspection. In addition, proper market research will remove the uncertainty of business and can bring lots of socio-economic benefits to the rural community. It is essential that the current Information and communications technologies should be updated, upgraded and seamless integration both internally and externally should be done to improve the ruraltourism business operations. The integration of ICT in rural tourism would benefit both entrepreneurs and customers bringing together and other stakeholders on a common platform. The selection of right information communications technology tool is crucial to match the customer requirements with service dimensions.ICTs integration provides a power tool that brings advantage in promoting and strengthening the rural tourism industry