‘Electronic commerce (e-Commerce) is such a service offering people the opportunity to do their shopping via modern information and communication technologies at home’ (Schultz, 2007). It enables everyone to conduct business via the Internet. The only precondition is a computer and a connection to the Internet.
The term e-Commerce is becoming increasingly important in the dictionary of today’s tourism managers all around the world. This is reflected in the development of the overall online travel market turnover in Europe reaching a total of EUR 70 billion in the year 2008 (V-I-R, Verband Internet Reisevertrieb, 2009). The introduction of the internet represented both, major opportunities as well as threats, for the tourism industry.
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The internet erased physical borders and enables everyone to participate in a global marketplace. The only requisite is a computer and an internet access. This section explores the current dynamics within the broader area of e-Commerce and provides definitions for the incorporating aspects of business transactions via the Internet.
The worldwide proliferation of the internet led to the birth of electronic transfer of transactional information. ‘E-Commerce flourished because of the openness, speed, anonymity, digitization, and global accessibility characteristics of the internet, which facilitated real-time business’ (Yu et al., 2002).
One can of course argue, whether the anonymity of the Internet is still valid today. Maya Gadzheva (2008) for example, suggests that the ‘achievement of unobservability and anonymity in the Internet is going to be much more difficult in the future, due to the possibility of unlimited collection of data’.
Through the aide of the internet tourism companies are able to market and sell their products to a far greater mass which represents substantial growth opportunities for them. According to Porter (2001), the ‘Internet technology provides better opportunities for companies to establish distinctive, strategic positioning than did previous generations of information technology’. However, those opportunities can also represent burdens for companies participating in transactions via the Internet.
Those companies are now more than ever forced to keep their web sites up-to-date and to provide reliable information. Since the Internet is a very fast changing medium, it requires their participants, in this case the e-merchants, to keep up with this pace. In case the companies cannot fulfil these requirements, they will probably face a shift of customers to the competition. Especially the area of tourism, being labelled as largely information driven (Morgan et al., 2001) requires constantly updated and reliable information. Customers need to find every information they require on the web. They need to know where to search and they need to be convinced of the trustworthiness and reliability of this information.
The ability to inform clients and to sell and market products in the virtual marketplace is a critical success factor for economic triumph of tourism companies nowadays and in the future.
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