Ifran, Morocco - Responsible for 10% of the global gross domestic product (GDP) and for 8.7% of the world’s jobs, tourism is today considered an important economic booster and the world’s largest economic activity.
Ifran, Morocco – Responsible for 10% of the global gross domestic product (GDP) and for 8.7% of the world’s jobs, tourism is today considered an important economic booster and the world’s largest economic activity.
Moreover, a strong tourism industry can be viewed as a sign of a country’s social development, evolution, and progression. Furthermore, because of the impact of globalization, more people are nowadays encouraged to buy touristic products in different countries.
Since tourism is a major sector/industry in today’s world, many countries are competing to attract tourists through all means of communication, and such communication has become a major driver of touristic sectors all over the world. The role of communication is to inform prospective tourists and influence their choices vis-à-vis touristic destinations and the type of touristic products they purchase.
In order to attract prospective tourists, well-crafted communication strategies are needed, and since we are living in a digitalized world, it is necessary for the tourism industry to rely on ICTs (information and communication technology) and especially the Internet as tools of international communication.
Many countries have succeeded in using ICTs and more precisely the Internet to develop their tourism industries. For example, Malaysia and Australia, two cases I will discuss below, have been very successful in attracting many tourists through these means. On the other hand, countries such as Iran have not been able to increase their number of international visitors, largely due to a lack of ICTs and Internet development. The last point that will be discussed is the case of Morocco as an emerging world tourism destination.
Touristic promotional activities through ICTs and especially the Internet are today managed by governments and particular businesses. Governments take necessary measures to encourage private sector organizations to play the role of promoters of their country as a touristic destination. Because ICTs have transformed the touristic sector globally and offered a variety of new opportunities for its development during the last ten years, governments also rely on particular businesses in enhancing their tourism sectors through the employment of innovative technological tools in order to persist in the global competitive arena.
Numerous countries seek strategic and operational hardware, software, and networking technological benefit tools for the development of their touristic sectors. For example, understanding the economic gains that could result from their touristic sector through ICTs, the Chinese government increased the portion of its budget dedicated to private touristic businesses that develop and promote China as a touristic destination.
My emphasis on the Internet as the most important ICT is due to the fact that the Internet is the fastest growing communication medium of all eras. As an illustration, currently, there are 1.8 billion Internet users all over the world. Internet use in the tourism sector chiefly concerns the promoting of touristic destinations by providing prospective tourists with information about products, such as comparisons of products’ prices and recommendations of institutions and businesses.
The Internet allows the processing and comparison of information related to the following industries that are part of the tourism industry: (1) the hospitality industry, (2) the transportation industry, and (3) the mobile systems industry, which principally concerns distinctive mobile applications that are found in the following areas: hotels, restaurants, airlines, weather and traffic conditions, transportation, city guides/monuments guides, currency conversion, and translation.
Next, I will discuss the most essential web strategies that are used in the tourism sector and the following value strategies. First, the value extraction strategy allows the process of client outsourcing and automation, such as in the case of self-check-in of tourists in hotels or airports. Moreover, this strategy reduces the costs of products and increases the efficiency of processes. Second, the value capture strategy is a strategy about data mining for information prediction and production management.
To be more explicit, through this strategy, clients contribute to marketing goals through providing feedback and ratings. Third, the value addition strategy encompasses a direct combination of services and products in order to create richer and more diverse product packages/bundles. Fourth and last, the value creation strategy mainly allows tourists to participate in destination planning and package/service definition.
The wide range of tourism and travel websites that have been created in developing countries illustrate the significance of ICTs in the tourism industry. This demonstrates the development of e-tourism in all parts of the world, since developed countries are not the only ones using ICTs in order to expand their tourism industries. It is true that tourism and ICTs have been linked for more than 30 years, but it’s during the last decade that the Internet has emerged as the fastest growing media and communication medium and has played a boosting role in the tourism industry.
Malaysia, a developing country, makes billions of dollars from tourism. Malaysia ranked 10th in a list of worldwide touristic destinations in 2011 with 24.7 million international tourist arrivals and an increase of 0.6 % from 2010 to 2011. Malaysia then received 25 million international tourist arrivals in 2012 with an increase of 1.3% from 2011 to 2012. This trend demonstrates a great achievement in the growth of a tourism industry, particularly for a developing country.
So what’s the secret of the Malaysian tourism industry’s success, and why haven’t other developing countries achieved similar success? It is worth conceding that it is not only due to Malaysian natural attractions and the PETRONAS Twin Towers that Malaysia has achieved this success. Instead, it is because of their increasing use of ICTs and improvement/development of e-tourism and e-commerce that Malaysia was able to expand its tourism industry, through the creation of a precise and complete information system that responds to and fits to the needs and desires of prospective tourists.
The Malaysian information system facilitates the procurement of visas and the acquisition of travel tickets, transportation, hotel bookings, and information about climate conditions. In addition, the vast majority of international tourists who visited Malaysia affirm that they were satisfied with the Malaysian system of information since it helped them to stay in close connection with the Malaysian facilities as well as with tourist attractions.
Another interesting case of a country with a growing tourism industry is that of Australia. Tourism plays a very important role in Australia; tourism-related jobs account for nearly 85,000 jobs, 7% of the employment in the country. Moreover, the Internet has played a major role in key markets related to tourism. Using an effective information and management system, Australia developed high-level, sophisticated features such as online flight booking, secured credit card payments, and booking housings for travel reservations. For instance, Australian websites offered real time camera services and facilities, live shopping centers, free downloads of virtual presentations of touristic sites and monuments, live advertisement of products and touristic businesses and activities, and live weather predictions.
Since tourism is a very important economic driver of the Australian economy, the government and also independent businesses developed websites that present very important touristic destinations such as the Outback and its main attraction Uluru. These websites provide comprehensive and consistent marketing efforts that allow prospective visitors to look for destinations before their arrival to certain tourist locations.
Australian websites also allow visitors to rate and leave comments about the places they have visited. Used as a source of information by many prospective tourists who are looking up information such as ratings and comments before making reservations and bookings, these websites allow real-time interaction for the websites’ visitors, and this feature contributes to increased transparency and the overall satisfaction of tourists.
In addition, web and social media help websites become more interactive, and Australia was one of the first countries to move from exclusively providing information on websites to enabling websites’ visitors and social media visitors to participate and interact with the information provided, and this has played an important role in encouraging tourists to return to Australia following their first visits. Australian websites also provide navigational assistance through the Internet through a wide range of communication tools such as maps, photographs, and videos.
Australian websites and social media pages are continuously updated in different languages in order to attract the maximum number of visitors from different countries, cultural backgrounds, and educational backgrounds. There are also Australian tourism websites for the deaf, with a number of illustrations and videos showing people using sign language to describe monuments, natural sites, and other tourist attractions.
In line with the World Tourism Organization, the Islamic Republic of Iran is amongst the top five nations with natural and historical properties and resources dedicated to tourism industry purposes. However, Iran hasn’t done very well in promoting and presenting its touristic resources and monuments through the use of ICTs and especially Internet tools. As a result, the Islamic Republic receives 2 million foreign tourists each year while approximately 900 million international tourists travel each year. Iran is a country far from advancing e-tourism because its governmental and non-governmental profit-based organizations don’t give much attention to the power of ICTs. The Internet specifically, which allows the growth of tourism industries, hasn’t been developed in Iran, and this has resulted in the unsatisfactory number of visitors to the country.
Moreover, if Iran had developed its Internet based information system(s) which could have been applicable and beneficial for the facilitation of communication amongst suppliers of touristic products, intermediaries, and visitors (consumers), the country would have brought in a great number of tourists since the beginning of the last decade. According to the WTO, in the near future, nations that haven’t developed their ICT systems and infrastructure won’t be allowed or able to continue developing their touristic sectors and therefore won’t be able to keep up with the speed of growth of the touristic sectors in other countries: ones that are equipped with very developed ICT infrastructures.
As an emerging country in different industries in the MENA region, Morocco is expanding its web based commerce and e-tourism for the purpose of facilitating the movement and flow of services among sellers of products (either non-touristic or touristic). There is a project entitled “A Generic Marketplace Platform: Application to e-tourism” that would allow Morocco to reach its growth and development goals. This ambitious project is essentially about developing a web-based platform that would allow the gathering of shared touristic information.
However, according to Lahrach Zakaria, a journalist for a Moroccan online newspaper website called La Vie Eco, only 30% of hotels in Morocco are ranked on the Internet and have their own websites. Moreover, Lahrach clearly states that e-tourism only represents a small part of the 12% of shared electronic transactions in Morocco with a direct online sale penetration rate of 75% in the flight transportation sector. It is clear that e-tourism in Morocco is only developed when it comes to the flight transportation sector, but even in this sector, 25% of bookings are still done with the use of physical travel agencies.
Nevertheless, Morocco promises a strategy mostly based on e-tourism for its 2020 vision of tourism, one that primarily relies on signing more partnerships with European countries and IT corporations, which will provide Morocco with information system platforms such as the ones used in developed countries. There will also be an organization established that will be responsible for e-tourism in Morocco, and especially its implementation in growing areas of touristic development.
Even if Morocco is ranked as the top touristic destination in Africa with 9.3 million arrivals of international tourists in 2011 and with an increase of 0.6% from 2010 to 2011, it is still a country that isn’t advanced when it comes to the use of ICTs and e-tourism in promoting itself as a touristic destination. With that said, we can see that the Moroccan hospitality industry, transportation industry, and mobile systems industry should all be developed in order to develop the Moroccan tourism industry as a whole.
All in all, ICTs and principally the Internet have revolutionized the tourism sector. It is almost impossible nowadays to imagine touristic projects and visions without considering the major role of ICTs and the Internet. Moreover, the Internet has facilitated prospective tourists’ and current visitors’ services, communication, and information access. Bringing a better quality of service to the tourism industry, the Internet has pulled down prices, made information widely available, and allowed sellers and buyers to connect more easily and make transactions. Morocco should make many steps toward ICT development and especially the development of the Internet for use in the tourism industry in order to achieve the features of its 2020 vision of tourism in Morocco.
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Edited by Megan O’Donnell
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