1. ICT APPLICATION TOOLS - INTRODUCTION ICT has beyond doubts made huge contribution to the development of hospitality and tourism services. Due to the advancement in technology, the fierce competition and also due to the complexity of the hospitality and tourism markets, organizations from all over the world now depend almost on the use of ICT to plan, manage and market their services. There was a time when organizations would depend on using effective BPOs also known as call-centres to reach out to the consumers, but now the use of the internet has changed the whole scenario. Organizations have now integrated their system with ICT tools such as GDS, CRS, PMS, DMS etc to facilitate in the overall management and marketing of services especially in the hospitality and tourism industry. For a country like Singapore, where hospitality and tourism is one of the major industries, the use of ICT tools to support and facilitate the industry can be explained and justified with many examples but before that we need to understand the function of these ICT tools. Let us first explain in brief some of these tools and their functions. 1. 1GDS/CRS: For a technical definition, Global Distribution System (GDS) also known as Computer Reservation System (CRS) is an electronic distribution infrastructure; worldwide computerized reservation network used as a single point of access for reserving airline seats, hotel rooms, rental cars and other travel related items by travel agents, online reservation sites, hotel & travel organizations, car companies, rail companies etc (Business Dictionary, 2009). It is a system for logistical functions (information transfer). It stores current information about all available service providers and have the necessary infrastructure to transfer such data. The Global Distribution system (GDS) was first introduced by the airline industry during 1960’s in order to keep track of flight schedules, price and availability, and then later they began installing their propriety internal reservation systems in travel agencies. Before this, travel agents spent huge amount of time manually entering reservations. The airlines realized that by automating the reservation process for travel agents, they could make the travel agents more productive and also use them in the airline’s sales force. Now GDSs have become the backbone of internet travel distribution system. Das, 2002) Some of the major GDS systems are Amadeus, Galileo International, SABRE, Worldspan, Abacus and Fantasia etc. 1. 2Functionality of CRSs Using these global CRSs, travel agencies make reservations directly from their terminal with service providers (airlines & hotels) without having to go through contract negotiations. The basic functions of CRSs include product presentations, reservation, fair quote & ticketing and additional services. These functions can be explained using the diagram below. (Source: www. electronicmarkets. org/issues/volume-6/... /v6n2_schulz0. pdf) Product presentation: The most important part of information for a CRS is the presentation of products and services offered by providers. Each service providers will have their own specific features and contents depending on the nature of their service. It may be flight reservations as well as hotel bookings and other travel related services. (Schulz, 1996) Reservation: The main function of reservation systems and for developing them is the reservation of offered services in the travel industry. A Passenger Name Record (PNR) or a Guest Name Record (GNR) is created for each passenger, which contains all the information required of the passenger/guest. This information is then transferred to the internal inventory system of the service providers who thus have the latest information about availability at any point of time. This system is also used to store customer related information such as services provided to certain customer, type of payment, service information etc. (Schulz, 1996) Fare Quote & Ticketing: Fare Quote and Ticketing is basically the different kinds/types of fares or rentals offered to the passenger/guest depending on the nature of the service. For example, flight fares may vary according to reservation category, date of journey, length of stay etc and for the ticketing, travel agencies receive a fixed number of ticket forms which may only be used after confirmation has been received from the service provider. (Schulz, 1996) Additional Services: Due to the fierce competition and complexity in the market, system operators are forced to offer not only information and booking system but also additional features and services that enables passengers/guests to access to more direct information and customize their service requirements. Schulz, 1996) Apart from the above four main functions, a high speed network is the second basis for a CRS. 1. 3PROPERTY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (PMS) It is also a computerized system that deals with guest bookings, online reservations, point of sales etc in other words it is a computerized system used mostly by hotels to integrate all the elements of hospitality information and management. (Hotel Management-Network, 2009) PMS such as Micros Fidelio Opera are in-house applications that support the central electronic structure of the hotel. It is used to manage customer reservations and billing processes and it contains all information about the units of the hotel such as room status, types of rooms, price, housekeeping status etc. PMS is used for both front office and back-office functions. The front office application helps in simplifying and enhancing customer contact through customer relationship management which contributes to the overall service quality. It includes reservations, check-in, room management, housekeeping, guest relation etc. The back-office applications are used as an aid to decision-making in management functions by providing comprehensive reports. It includes stock management and controlling, financial planning, book keeping and wage payment. Apart from these, PMS can also be used as a central point between the different systems of the hotel, bringing all functions under one system. (Egger & Buhalis, 2008) 1. 4DESTINATION MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (DMS) DMS is also another computer system used by Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) in order to manage and coordinate all tourist information, events, suppliers and products. It is also referred to as destination database which gives comprehensive information about a destination. Hotel Management-Network, 2009) Destinations are important in the tourist industry. DMOs play both the role of the producer as well as the intermediary- they assume the functions of building the tourism product and presenting the offer. They interact with wide variety of stakeholders such as the local government, the host community, the local tourism board etc in order to develop and market the destination as a tourism product. However due to socio-democratic changes in lifestyles, changes in travel behaviour and the complexity of the nature of tourists, the need for quick destination and travel information arose. Then there was the internet, which became an important source of information for travel preparations. Tourist contacts the destination directly for information through the internet and expects up-to-date, correct and relevant information about accommodation and other travel related activities and services. Therefore the need for DMOs to integrate with ICT arose, and DMS, which included a destination-wide and integrated search, advice, reservation and handling system, became a vital tool for DMOs and their stakeholders for the promotion of tourism networks and most importantly the satisfaction of tourists’ needs. Egger & Buhalis, 2008) DMSs are used with an aim to provide the customer with access to the different types of services in a simple and transparent manner and to ensure a comprehensive destination management, which includes information about attractions, accessibility, accommodations and other travel related packages. (Buhalis, 2003 cited in Egger & Buhalis, 2008) 2. ICT TOOLS AND THEIR APPLICATIONS IN THE HOSPITALITY & TOURISM INDUSTRY The advancement in the internet technology, the increase in the number of travellers, the growing demands of travellers and the complexity in the buying behaviour of tourists have led to the intense competitions among service providers and destination management organizations in the hospitality and tourism industry. Nowadays, thanks to the internet, travellers can quickly search for up-to-date and relevant information through the web instead of going through the hassle of contacting the service providers through call centres or through travel agents. It is because of this reason that the service providers realized the importance of integrating their service offerings with ICT tools such as GDS, PMS and DMS in order to give more options to their customers as well as the stakeholders. Each ICT tools have their own functions and it is up to the creativity of the service providers on how these tools are effectively used. Hospitality & tourism industry is the major contributor of Singapore’s national economy. It is a well known global tourist destination which hosts some of the biggest festivals and events in Asia Pacific. Some of the upcoming events include the Singapore Grand Prix F1 2009 and the Youth Olympics 2010. Let us have a look on how the above mentioned ICT tools can be effectively used to support and facilitate these upcoming events. 2. 1Global Distribution System Travelport Singapore (http://www. travelport. com/sg/) is under Travelport GDS which is one of the world’s largest GDS providers operating both the Galileo and Worlspan, providing real-time travel information and booking to online and offline travel agencies in over 145 countries. Travelport, 2009) When we look at the website Travelport Singapore (http://www. travelport. com/sg), we can see the different types of travel technologies, solutions and services offered to airlines (Galileo Airline Private Fares TM), car companies (Galileo CarMaster TM), Cruise providers (Travelport Cruise & Tour TM), Hotel organizations (Galileo RoomMaster TM), Rail Companies (Galileo RailMaster TM), Airports (SkyHigh TM) etc. They also offer productivity solutions to travel agencies such as Galileo Agency Private Fares TM, Travelport ViewTrip TM, Travelport e-Pricing TM, Travelport Rapid Reprice TM etc. Apart from all these, they also provide customer solutions on all products and services, training and help-desk services. (Travelport, 2009) These products and services comes with the latest technologies and are specifically made available for travel providers, travel agencies, hotel organizations, rail companies, car rental companies and airlines. By using these latest technologies/applications, service providers are able to reach out to more tourists/travellers in a more simplified and refined way. As such, there is no doubt that these ICT tool could be used to support and facilitate H&T industry in Singapore especially for the upcoming major events. GDS integrated with PMS and DMS would help the local government, local tourism board, the sponsors and the stakeholders to reach out to the people. 2. 2PROPERTY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM Micros Fidelio Opera is one of the most popular PMS applications used by organizations. Micros-Fidelio (http://www. micros-fidelio. net/) offers a complete range of software and hardware solutions for business- hotels & resorts, restaurants, stadiums and arenas, retail, cruise etc. For example Opera Property Management is used by hotel & resort chains as well as independent hotels for property management system, finance, sales force and reservation system for operations of all sizes. For restaurants there are software tools such as RES 4. 0, MICROS 9700 etc, MICROS POS system for stadiums and arenas and Fidelio Cruise for cruise providers. (Micros-Fidelio, 2009) (Screenshot of Micros Fidelio Opera PMS Application) For example, Fidelio Opera is used to manage customer reservations and billing processes and it contains all information about the units of the hotel such as room status, types of rooms, price, housekeeping status etc. This ICT tools or applications enhance guest experience with streamlined services and provides the H&T industry with the most advanced and integrated hotel automated solutions, stadiums & arenas, cruises etc. For example, the upcoming Singapore Grand Prix F1 2009 would result in more inbound tourists which would increase the hotel occupancy rate, more consumption of hospitality services (such as restaurants, bars, cruises etc) and also the management of race tracks, stadiums and related infrastructures. This is when ICT tools and application supports and facilitates the in development and success of the event. 2. 3DESTINATION MANAGEMENT SYSTEM DMS is another ICT tool/application used by Destination Management Organizations to manage and coordinate all tourist information, events, tourism products and services. It acts as a destination database which gives comprehensive information about a destination. Destination website Visit Singapore (www. visitsingapore. com) is a DMS used by Singapore Tourism Board in order to support and facilitate the inflow of international tourists. It provides comprehensive information about Singapore. If we look at the website we can see that it provides complete range of services and information in a simple and transparent manner. It provides information about the latest upcoming events such as the Singapore Grand Prix 2009, Singapore Sun Festival 2009, Jazz by the Beach (Sentosa) etc. The system is also integrated with hotel and flight reservations option, itinerary planner, currency converter, newsletters etc. (Visit Singapore, 2009) Some of the important features and services include: Detailed information about Singapore, its tourist attractions * Online booking for travel, promotion offers, accessibility to Singapore (Airlines, Trains etc), Visa Free Transit Facilities, Information for transit passengers * Online booking for accommodation, accommodation facilities, Singapore hotels directory, promotion offers * F&B experiences, Food events, food tours, dining precincts * Other options include ‘what to do in Singapore’, ‘what to see in Singapore’, ‘getting around in Singapore’ and also MICE related services. Source: (Visit Singapore, 2009) Therefore we can see that it is important for DMOs to reach out to the public/customers/tourists by providing all these information about a destination and service offerings of the service provider through the use of DMSs. Providing a detailed, up-to-date information of a destination and its attractions, followed by other travel related services is another way of marketing the destination as a global tourist destination, which at the end explains the role of ICT tools in supporting and facilitating the H&T industry. Word Count: 2189 Words) 3. 1INTRODUCTION The case study is about VisitScotland. com a DMS website of VisitScotland, owned by the National Tourism Board of Scotland and its relationship with small tourism businesses in Scotland. VisitScotland is the Scottish tour operating name of e Tourism ltd which was originally set up as a private limited company in 2002 before being wholly owned by Scotland national tourism board in 2008 i. e. , 36 % share owned by VisitScotland. E Tourism ltd is owned by VisitScotland (36%), Atos Origin Ltd- a global technology company (7%), Tiscover, the world’s leading provider of tourism website and destination management technology (35%) and Partnerships UK (22%). (Visit Scotland, 2007) In the past, VisitScotland have had many criticisms for their incompetency to accommodate changes in their service offerings, resulting in less number of inbound tourists. In other words the system in which they operated were not good enough to compete with other destination providers. In order to address the criticisms, visitscotland. com signed a deal with Tiscover, the world’s leading provider of tourism and destination management technology, with the objective to deliver a multi-channelled booking and information service for tourists. In order to understand how this new deal would help VisitScotland, we should first understand how Tiscover functions- their business model and the service and technology they come up with, about visitscotland. com and other related technologies (ATOS). 3. ABOUT TISCOVER Tiscover is the leading provider of e-tourism solutions to destination management organizations (DMOs) and tourism businesses throughout Europe and Southern Africa. The company also powers the individual websites of DMOs, such as Visiteurope. com, Austriainfo. com etc. Apart from that Tiscover also supports all types of organizations at a destination, including small independent hotels, B&Bs, restaurants and attractions. (Egger & Buhalis, 2008) 3. 2. 1Tiscover Service Offerings: 1. Destination Management System (DMS) Solutions: It provides DMS solutions at national, regional and local levels, which includes wide range of modules to support a DMO’s internal, partner and consumer communication, accommodation booking and reservations, customer relation management etc. (Egger & Buhalis, 2008) 2. Web Solutions: Tiscover uses a Content Management System (CMS) which allows DMOs and tourism suppliers to build websites where they can feature destination content and search facilities for the DMOs. (Egger & Buhalis, 2008) 3. E-marketing: Apart from the main Tiscover. om portal, it has many different websites such as Tiscover. uk, Tiscover. de etc where users can register and the company uses its online newsletter to do extensive consumer marketing. (Egger & Buhalis, 2008) Another value added services include multi-channelled distributions which enables DMOs to reach out to different market segments and visitors of different consumer buying experience. Once the DMOs and tourism providers enters the data, the information is made available through different range of channels such as websites, mobile devices, kiosks, BPOs etc. . 2. 1Tiscover Business Model Tiscover develops and sells technology solutions to DMOs and tourism suppliers, solutions that provide an e-business platform on which tourism business can attain competitive advantage via the internet and also enables a DMO to present its wide range of tourism businesses and control on an e-business platform. On the demand side, the CRM tool enables the DMO to gather information about the market. Again, Tiscover’s revenue model is based on application service provider (ASP) solution aimed at two customer group i. . , DMOs and tourism suppliers. For DMO, revenue comes in the form of annual licences which are priced according to the different DMO levels. For tourism suppliers (mostly accommodation) revenue is earned in the form of licences and commissions (commission depends on whether accommodations are booked directly from the website or through Tiscover) If we visit the website www. tiscover. com, we can see that most of the services are tailored specially for the four countries namely Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Italy. All tourism and travel related products and services from different tourism providers and DMOs like accommodation, destination information and tour packages etc are gathered and made available to the customers through this main portal. (Tiscover, 2009) 3. 3About visitscotland. com Visitscotland. com is the DMS website owned by the Scottish tourism board. This destination website provides all information about Scotland to the tourists, with the main objective of delivering a multi-channelled bookings and information services for tourists and to create global awareness of Scotland to the world. Some of the features of this website include: * Information search bar (Detailed information about Scotland) * Accommodations search bar (All kinds of accommodation providers like hotels, B&Bs, guest house etc) * Multimedia interactive showing famous attraction places of Scotland in pictures and videos, flash etc * News portal (showing updates on travel promotion, important info for tourists such as H1N1 news etc) * Event guide (upcoming events in Scotland) * Customer relation services (contacts details, press releases) (Source: Visit Scotland, 2009) Visitscotland. om is one of the best examples of a destination management system (DMS) website. If we look at the website, we see that the whole concept is about creating global awareness of Scotland to tourists. The main objective for the Scottish tourism board is to promote tourism by using this website. Unlike other tour operator websites like orbitz. com etc which offers all kinds of tourism services to generate revenues, visitscotland. com is purely focussed on promoting the particular destination as a global tourist attraction. Again if we compare this website with another DMS website, say www. australia. om is also a DMS website owned by DMO Tourism Australia purely focussed on creating awareness of Australia to the world. We can see that all these DMS websites are used by their respective DMOs with the same objective i. e. , to create awareness of the particular destination and therefore we may not find and major differences except for a few differences in the features of their websites. Both the website are user friendly, contains lots of information about their respective destination, other similar features include newsletters, event guide, search bar etc, but when compared it closely, I find visitscotland. om more user friendly due to its rich media interactive, the content of information, the search options and the customer feedback. 3. 4About ATOS Origin Ltd Atos Origin Ltd is a global technology company that provides IT services, i. e. , they provide integrated design, build and operate solutions for business industries. It owns 7% share of eTourism Ltd (visitscotland. com), and it provides for the IT platform and services for the website visitscotland. com along with Tiscover. It may be mentioned that Atos Origin Ltd owned the maximum share of eTourism Ltd before being taken over by visitscotland in 2002. (Visit Scotland, 2007) Atos Origin Ltd provides business solution in three major service lines. They are: 1. Atos Consulting: Atos offers advice and a realistic, practical approach to addressing client needs. It provides end-to-end services and solutions such as strategy development, enterprise solutions and technology decisions. It provides for innovative approach to business process, integrated supporting technologies and strategic investments. Atos Origin, 2009) 2. Systems Integration: By successfully combining new technology solution with the established ones, it helps transform the complete enterprise architecture into a single, seamless system, and also by integrating people, processes and technologies, they design, build and operate practical solutions. (Atos Origin, 2009) 3. Managed Operations: They also provide high outsourcing operations to manage core IT infrastructures for clients, including datacenters, desktop support, server farms and network communication system. It also provides guides through the process of assessment, planning, implementation, transition and ensures consistent, high quality service delivery to its clients. (Atos Origin, 2009) 3. 5Reaction to the case study (Visitscotland) Now that we have discussed in brief about visitscotland and its destination website, Tiscover and its function and services, other related technologies like Atos and their services, we should be able to understand the success of visitscotland. com after its integration with Tiscover. There is no doubt that the internet technology has changed the way business organizations communicate with its stakeholders, partners and most importantly its customers. Over the years we have experienced rapid changes in technology, which also led to increase in competition among business organizations especially service providers like the tourism and hospitality industry. Nowadays consumers are well aware of the wide range of service providers competing among themselves in order to sustain or achieve competitive advantage over the other, which results in changes in the buying behaviour of the consumers. Consumers/travellers are now looking for service providers who can provide relevant, up-to-date information quickly, for example a traveller looking for information for a particular destination would prefer to use the internet for quick information, and for this purpose DMS websites like visitscotland. com, Australia. com are some of the user-friendly websites that provide comprehensive information about a destination. Therefore it is important for any kind of service business like H&T industry to acknowledge and embrace the rapid changes in technology in order to gain competitive advantage in this world of complex market. Now when we talk about visitscotland. com, it is just after signing a deal with Tiscover that led to the growing popularity as one of UK and Ireland’s most successful tourism website attracting more tourists than the national websites for England, Wales and Ireland combined (Visit Scotland, 2007). In fact researchers forecasted that Tiscover would create a faster and more powerful visitscotland. com and that Scotland’s internet booking agency’s target to increase its online visitor by 50 percent to almost 16 million in 2008 (Fields, 2006). Since the launching in November 2002, visitscotland has sold over ? 60 million of bookings in total. It is consistently ranked in the top 25 of all travel and destination sites and user sessions have more than doubled in the last few years (Visit Scotland, 2007). All these developments and success of the website comes from the use of business solution and technology solution from Tiscover as well as Atos. Tiscover provided DMS solutions, web solutions and emarketing for visitscotland. Similarly Atos provided IT platform and services for the website. Overall it was a good move by visitscotland for integrating its service with latest technology solutions and services from Tiscover. In the past visitscotland. om had problems of discontent from smaller tourism businesses about the way the website operated due to which smaller tourism businesses ended up allocating a percentage of rooms to the site and commissions paid for every bookings made through the site. For this, Tiscover came up with a solution which allowed other service providers to take booking through their own website without having to pay any commission. This new Tiscover technology provides tools which allow other tourism businesses to take their own bookings but at the same time maintain collaboration and flexible relationship with other tourism businesses. In conclusion, while we appreciate the positive outcomes of the collaboration of visitscotland with Tiscover, we should also understand that business organizations, especially for service-oriented businesses like tourism and hospitality, should have the flexibility to adapt to changes in technology and changes in the complexity of consumer behaviour in order to maintain the competitive edge. 3. 6Summary Looking back at the history of visitscotland and how it revamped its service offering over the years has been a popular topic of discussion for many tourism market researchers. Although it is quite apparent that after the collaboration with Tiscover, it made huge success by increasing the number of visitors year after year and maintaining its position among top 25 travel and destination sites, it is also important to further develop and maintain the quality of services being offered. For any tourism business organization, communicating and providing access to such diverse and rich content is a challenge. Perhaps the success of visitscotland. com is mainly due to its quality of the homepage, the ability to access information, calls to action and on search engine performance. This should serve as a challenge as well as an example to many destination management organizations, especially for developing and under-developed countries. Finally, this case study should also serve as one of the explanation for the role of ICT in the Hospitality and Tourism Industry. (Word Count: 1941 Words) 4REFERENCE LIST BOOK REFERENCE 1. Egger, R & Buhalis, D (2008). etourism case studies. UK: Butterworth Heinemann. P5-12, p175-178, p234-240. ELECTRONIC REFERENCE 1. Atos Origin, 2009, (Online), (Retrieved on 6th September 2009). Available: http://www. atosorigin. com/en-us/about_us/Company_Profile/default. htm 2. Business Dictionary, 2009, (Online), (Retrieved on 1st September 2009). Available: http://www. businessdictionary. com/definition/Global-Distribution-System-GDS. html 3. Das, S, 2002, Global Distribution System in Present Times, (Online), (Retrieved on 1st September 2009). Available: http://www. hotel-online. com/News/PR2002_4th/Oct02_GDS. html 4. Fields, J, 2006, VisitScotland to revamp web portal TOURISM INTERNET, (Online), (Retrieved on 7th September 2009). Available: http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_qn4156/is_20060723/ai_n16638865/ 5. Hotel management-Network, 2009, (Online), (Retrieved on 3rd September 2009). Available:
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