Technology, ICT and Tourism
Call for Abstracts
Deadline: 1 May 2019
Expressions of interest in contributing a paper to this special issue are invited in the form of a working title and 750 word abstract of your proposed paper by 01 May 2019, to be submitted by e-mail to: email@example.com. Abstracts should include paper title, authorship, author affiliation(s) and contact information (including the email addresses of all authors) and keywords (maximum six). Full papers will be invited following a review of submitted abstracts. Authors will be notified of the outcome no later than 29 May 2019.
The deadline for the submission of full papers will be 01 November 2019, for publication in 2020. All submissions will be subject to the journal’s normal high standards of peer review. All accepted papers will be published online without delay, with print publication of the special issue to follow.
Technology innovations and in particular Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have changed tourism in very fundamental ways. The magnitude of these changes is not only evident in their degree of disruptiveness, upsetting long-established economic models, it is also unprecedented in terms of the speed at which it pushes a wave of tourism and hospitality innovations at a global scale, altering consumer cultures and influencing tourist choices and traveller identities.
Prominent examples of change include platforms such as Expedia or Booking, which, founded some 20 years ago, have had great importance for price comparisons. Making it possible for anyone with access to the Internet to reserve flights or accommodation, these portals also made travel agents redundant. Even though no longer representing a recent innovation, these platforms continue to grow, with estimates that Booking is managing some 2% of global room capacity. TripAdvisor, founded in 2000, introduced user-generated content to tourism, collecting information and opinion from millions of travellers. TripAdvisor ratings and listings now inspire holiday choices as well as intentions to visit specific attractions, and the platform is thought to have a significant role in overtourism phenomena. The emergence of AirBnB, founded in 2008, has added significant bed capacity to destinations, disrupting accommodation models, with far-reaching consequences for residential housing, neighborhood structures, and a range of associated issues, such as safety or tax evasion. Notably, there now exist many smaller platforms of similar design, copying the business models of the global players, alongside a host of specific services from property management to language translations to city guides to georeferencing (maps and orientational aids).
From a consumer viewpoint, platform innovations have implied new opportunities, specifically with regard to cost comparisons as well as certainty to identify the “right” destination, or the best restaurant, the hottest hotel deal, or the most exciting attraction. Less noted is the fact that platforms have also shaped consumer cultures, as they streamline opinion and encourage, if not demand, that users admire, evaluate and judge. To a considerable degree, ICT is about travel communication and self-surveillance. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have important functions as loci of self-representation, where travel generates attention and creates social and network capital. This affects personal and social identities, which increasingly co-evolve with these technology innovations.
As consumers reveal much information about themselves, ICT developments have also meant a move towards totalitarianism, in that a limited number of global corporations handle (and own) a growing flow of data on the individual. This may include the entirety of all tourism-related Internet searches, holiday pictures taken, or journeys made. The data processed by corporations may also include information on spending, friends and relatives visited, and activity preferences. Each search on the Internet, each use of an app is adding to individual consumer files, with evidence that this data is used to tailor hospitality offers, with the goal to increase spending and to strengthen bonds with specific corporations.
Global corporations, often owned by investors, pursue aggressive growth agendas, rooted in neoliberal economic models. It is in their interest to prevent critical reflection, for instance regarding the environmental, economic or social impacts of tourism. They also dictate many developments that may not be in the interest of consumers and society at large, such as the use of technology to increase productivity. Point of sale programs and apps for restaurants help designing cheaper menus, by comparing the cost of each food item included in a meal. Self-service scanning systems in grocery stores have already begun to make a large workforce redundant, and automated cashier systems, as currently pioneered in Amazon Go stores (in itself a tourist attraction) will mean that significant employment opportunities will be lost.
On the business side, there are monopoly tendencies among platforms, which have meant that marketing efforts have to rely on these, while businesses have simultaneously lost control over their online reputation. For example, is now essential for businesses to appear in maps, where Google is the dominant search engine. Online discoverability, going along with a rating, represents a make-or-break situation for many businesses. Businesses, as well as destinations, have thus desperately sought to strengthen relationships with customers through social media sites such as Facebook, though with unclear outcomes: Success, it seems, is now largely measured in ratings, and evidence of manipulation of online content is omnipresent.
Yet, technology has also contributed to making tourism more sustainable. For example, technologies such as solar panels, micro-windpower, pellet-based furnaces, or geothermal cooling have made it possible to radically reduce the energy requirements of accommodation. In combination with new building standards focused on appropriate insulation and options to purchase electricity from renewable sources, this means that any hotel with the ambition to become carbon-neutral can now achieve this. Accommodations in particular can also rely on a wide range of ICT tools to measure, record, compare and manage their energy and wider resource use and waste generation. Available tools are becoming increasingly refined, with for instance restaurants now having the opportunity to calculate the carbon intensity of the meals offered. Tourists can also rely on platforms to inform decision-making – from car rental websites including information on environmental performance, to listings of hotels ranked on the basis of their carbon footprints. The potential of these innovations to contribute to tourism sustainability on wider scales is as yet little explored.
Technology is also penetrating tourism in many other, more tangible ways. Virtual reality applications are used to create an understanding of the holiday environments tourists may find, to better market hotels, rooms, or activities. Augmented reality applications, as well as 4D movie technologies, make for more intense tourist experiences in museums, zoos and other attractions. Automated forms of transportation have already been introduced at fairs and shows, mostly in the form of self-driving mini busses. In the future, automated mobility will become a game changer, with as yet insufficiently understood outcomes for tourism. Transportation is also an area where technology innovations and ICT work in tandem. As an example, an increasing number of cities offer e-scooters, coordinated through smartphone apps, and more electric transport modes are likely to emerge in the future.
These examples gauge the disruptions introduced by technology and ICT. Given the enormous implications of these changes for tourism, socioeconomic systems and consumer cultures, this special issue focuses on questions including, but not limited to:
- All aspects related to the development of global platforms such as AirBnB, Booking, Expedia, TripAdvisor, and their effects on tourism;
- Social and cultural change related to ICT, for instance in regard to consumer cultures, choice-editing and freedom of choice, data privacy, or self-surveillance;
- Environmental outcomes and opportunities of ICT, including businesses and consumer information tools;
- The role and implications of emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence;
- Prospects and implications of automated and autonomous forms of transportation;
- The importance of platforms in ‘creating’ sites and concentrating tourist flows; in hyping restaurants or putting attractions on global maps;
- Forms of self-surveillance on the Internet, including the travel of celebrities, and their implications for destinations and travellers (e.g. in terms of aspirational traveller identities);
- Interrelationships of business reputation or destination image and social media;
- Virtual and augmented reality applications and outcomes;
- Staff training (and control) through new forms of ICT;
- Outcomes of applications designed to reduce waste (e.g. in restaurants) or to inspire more sustainable choices;
- Manipulated content, for instance in the form of photographs on Instagram, and their implications for perceptions of what is real or desirable;
- Blockchain technology and digital payment in tourism;
- ICT and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.