Last update at http://inet.nttam.com : Sun Apr 30 9:31:58 1995

Tourism Promotion using the World Wide Web

Tourism Promotion using
the World Wide Web

28 April 1995

Martin Lennon - mlennon@chcsn1.ait.ac.nz


Abstract

Many tourist organisations are using the World Wide Web (WWW) to promote their regions and tourist attractions. New Zealand is poorly represented on the WWW, although a number of organisations and individuals are trying to change this situation. Although the WWW seems to be the ideal vehicle for tourism promotion, there are a number of barriers to overcome before this type of organisation is willing to use the WWW. Wanaka is one area in New Zealand that has begun to use the WWW.


Contents

1 Introduction

2 Tourism on the WWW

3 New Zealand as an Example

4 Barriers

5 Goal

6 The Wanaka Experience

7 Conclusion

References

Author Information


1 Introduction

The World Wide Web (WWW) has opened up opportunities for commercial organisations to promote and sell their products and services using the Internet. There are now many national and regional organisations, and tourism operators using the WWW to promote their regions and tourist attractions.

2 Tourism on the WWW

Hawai段 is an excellent example of a country providing a wide variety of tourism information on the WWW in a highly professional format. The Hawai段 Visitors Bureau [1] provides a wide variety of information of interest to the tourist. There are many other tourist organisations also providing information. Of particular note, the Outrigger Hotels [2] chain provides full details of its hotels, together with a booking facility, and other Hawai段 information.

Easy links to this information are provided by the Hawai段 Home Page [3], created by an organisation of Hawai段 Webmasters and the University of Hawai段. From this page are links to business, education, government and tourism pages.

The types of tourism organisations using the WWW include:

Several link pages have been created to assist the WWW user interested in tourism to find the appropriate pages. The most important of these are:

In addition, many countries have created link pages to information on the country and its attractions. These include Australia [13] and Hungary [14].

The nearest equivalent promotional tool available for promoting tourism is the printed brochure. The WWW provides many advantages over this traditional tool:

It is much harder to compare the value of a brochure with an access to a WWW page. No comparative study has been carried out. A brochure may have an advantage over a WWW page access because of its more permanent nature.

3 New Zealand as an Example

Tourism is New Zealand's second largest export earner, with 1.2 million visitors generating NZ$1,100million (US$670million) in 1993, increasing at 8% per annum. Our main tourism markets are Australia, USA, Japan, UK, and Germany [15]. This closely matches the location of Internet users [16]. An increasingly important aspect of New Zealand tourism is adventure and eco- or nature tourism. There is a strong correlation between the demographics of the Internet user [17] and the type of person attracted to this form of holiday.

New Zealand, and in particular tourism information, is poorly represented on the WWW. The first presence [18] came from Michael Witbrock , an expatriate New Zealander, currently studying at Carnegie Mellon University. The presentation of the initial information was of mediocre quality, although the pages have much improved, and Michael was awarded a [19]. The [20] link page description of Michael痴 pages states 摘ver want to learn about New Zealand? Go here. Many New Zealanders creating WWW pages include a link to these pages, often indicating this as the best source of New Zealand information.

Michael痴 pages began as a travelogue of a tour round New Zealand. He has since added additional New Zealand information and developed the pages into an important link page to other New Zealand information. Myself and many others are grateful to Michael for his efforts. They are certainly the most comprehensive set of information available on New Zealand. However, they are an individual痴 view of New Zealand and contain much personal opinion, together with the occasional error. They are also incomplete and do not always show New Zealand to its best advantage.

Rotorua is one of New Zealand痴 leading tourist destinations. The main visitor attraction is the thermal activity in the area, including geysers, bubbling mud and colourful silica terraces. The pungent odour of hydrogen sulphide wafts through the town, resulting in it often being referred to as 全ulphur City. The number of visitors to the thermal areas has led to the growth of a wide variety of other tourist attractions. Michael痴 pages describe [21] as `a smallish town ... [of] tacky shops selling culturally insensitive trinkets'. Many New Zealanders would agree with Michael, but this is not the impression we wish to convey to potential visitors. Although Rotorua does have its share of such shops, the town is of interest to many tourists and can provide an excellent insight into New Zealand and our bi-cultural heritage.

I advised Tourism Rotorua of this information being widely available on the Internet. Their initial reaction was a desire to sue Michael for saying this and to try to get the information removed from the Internet. I indicated that neither was likely to be successful and the best course of action was to provide their own official information. They have expressed interest in the idea, but have still not committed to proceeding.

New Zealand's presence on the WWW is gradually increasing, with efforts by a number of local councils, independent consultants, including myself, and Internet connection providers. However, the overall approach is uncoordinated, of mixed quality and not widely known. Examples include:

There is no 双fficial link page for New Zealand WWW pages. However, there are a number of individual efforts to coordinate the New Zealand presence by creating a link page. These include:

Those promoting the use of the WWW have met with a lukewarm reaction from our inbound tourism operators. There are still many barriers to be removed before these organisations are willing to use the WWW to its full potential.

4 Barriers

As we are often reminded, the Internet is not free. This is particularly so in New Zealand where the backbone provider makes a traffic volume charge. Any organisation providing WWW pages has to pay these charges for any access to their information. This can become a significant cost. An attractive and well publicised page can expect to attract around 1,500 accesses per week. If hosted by a commercial provider, this could cost up to NZ$1,200 (US$780) per week. This is out of reach of many of the smaller tourist organisations and, even for larger organisations, is very hard to justify when the benefits are poorly understood.

Even more important, the cost is very open ended and hard to control. Should a page prove particularly popular, such as would occur if voted as [19] or listed by Netscape Communications as a Cool Site [31], the number of accesses may be much higher. Hence, the costs can increase with little control. In comparison, the cost of producing and distributing printed brochures is under very strict control.

A recent demonstration of this problem occurred with the very popular University of Auckland School of Architecture, Property and Planning [32] pages. The network traffic cost of providing these pages rose to NZ$1,000 (US$640) one month, resulting in the pages having access restricted.

The value of promoting tourism using the WWW has not yet been adequately measured. The best current method of measuring the benefit is in terms of number of accesses to the WWW pages. However, many of those accesses are purely from 奏yre-kickers, people who have little interest in the content and have no intention of visiting the area concerned. Considerably more data on the impact of using the WWW to sell products and services is required to convince the marketing managers.

Many tourism organisations are testing or using CD-ROM and/or kiosk systems as a promotional tool. The quality of presentation on the WWW is poor in comparison to these media. Many organisations are put off by this relatively low quality.

5 Goal

The goal of tourism operators using the WWW is to increase the number of visitors to the area, the time spent at the destination and their spending. Ideally the WWW user should be able to make a travel booking. WWW pages that simply provide factual information together with some marketing hype are of interest to potential travelers. The value of pages increases rapidly by involving the user.

The current tourism oriented pages vary in obtaining a degree of commitment. A number request the user to complete a Visitors Book, including the name and some comments by the user about the pages or a visit to the area. These comments may be accessible as part of the WWW pages. A useful service would be the ability to start an e-mail dialogue with the tourism agency so that further information requests can be made - either answers to specific questions or a request to receive brochures.

The ultimate goal is actually to take a travel booking. As the Internet becomes more reliable and secure, and acceptance of this type of purchasing increases, more tourism organisations will use this capability.

6 The Wanaka [33]Experience

I was concerned at the poor presence of New Zealand on the WWW and contacted a number of tourism organisations, offering a consultancy service to create pages for the organisation. Once I realised there was considerable resistance to this idea, I made an offer to the Wanaka Promotion Association to create the pages at no charge. This would provide me with experience and act as a reference site.

I chose Wanaka because of family connections and my love of the area. I am a keen skier and the skiing is exceptional. The area is very dependent on the tourism industry, although it is not one of New Zealand痴 most frequently chosen tourist destinations due to its relatively small size and being less readily accessible. For many people this is part of its appeal. I considered that Wanaka would be unable to pay the sort of costs involved and that by doing this for free I would not lose a potential paying customer.

The Wanaka Promotion Association was still required to pay the network costs. At that time I made a very pessimistic estimate of the likely network charges as being in the region of NZ$100 (US$64) per week. This figure was based on 1,500 accesses of 100Kb. The estimate of the number of accesses was based on information I received from Hong Kong [4] and Crop and Food Research [34], a well-promoted New Zealand site.

I decided to locate the pages on the Waikato University WWW server. The university is at the centre of the Internet in New Zealand, providing the links to the USA and Australia. The university offers a semi-commercial, although not well known, WWW hosting service. Because of its location, Waikato is able to provide the lowest charge and best performance of any Internet provider in New Zealand.

I also considered using an offshore mirror site to reduce costs. However, I did not pursue this as I consider New Zealand pages should be hosted on a system that is clearly in New Zealand, ie in the .nz domain. Since the initial decision, Waikato University have begun investigating the possibility of providing a transparent mirror site in the USA. This should considerably reduce costs.

The pages went live, ie links were created to them, during the last week of March 1995. The graph below shows the number of accesses to the pages from outside New Zealand. This is the figure of most interest as inbound tourism is the main target market of the promotion and what incurs network charges.

The weekly costs were much lower than predicted, being less than NZ$10 (US$6.40) per week. A number of factors caused the actual costs to be much lower than estimated:

The pages include a Visitors Book and the facility to request a brochure. The brochure request is purely a marketing device to assess interest in visiting Wanaka. The available brochures contain less information than the WWW pages, although they are perhaps a more permanent record. Approximately 10% of accesses result in completing the Visitors Book and/or requesting a brochure.

The Wanaka Promotion Association is pleased with the results. They were surprised at my initial estimate of 1,500 accesses per week, so have not been disappointed with the much lower numbers. One unexpected benefit has been the comments in the Visitors Book providing them with additional information on previous visitors impressions of the area and its facilities. The Wanaka Promotion Association intends to continue to use the WWW, although they are concerned that the benefit may reduce when other New Zealand tourism organisations start to use the WWW. However, I believe the likely effect will be a benefit as the WWW becomes known as the place to find out about New Zealand. In any case, the growth of WWW use would mask any adverse effect.

It is hoped that the success of the Wanaka pages will result in more New Zealand tourism organisations using the WWW. The ideal would be a coordinated approach directed by the New Zealand Tourism Board.

7 Conclusion

Although there is no available detailed assessment of the benefit of using the WWW for tourism promotion, it is obvious that the large number of accesses to such pages on the WWW must be of benefit. The cost of using the WWW is much lower than printing and distributing brochures, and the WWW seems to be an ideal vehicle for tourism promotion. The Wanaka experience has been very positive.

It is likely that use of the WWW for tourism promotion will become more widespread and increasingly sophisticated. There are many organisations and individuals in New Zealand who will ensure New Zealand does not miss out.


References

http://www.visit.hawaii.org/.

http://www.outrigger.com/infoweb/welcome.html.

http://www.hawaii.net/.

http://www.infolink.net/hongkong/hongkong.html.

http://www.tbc.gov.bc.ca/.

http://www.explore.com/ncl/ncl.html.

http://www.adfa.oz.au/aais/.

http://meteora.ucsd.edu:80/~norman/paris/.

http://www.city.net/.

http://wings.buffalo.edu/world/vt2/.

http://galaxy.einet.net/galaxy/Leisure-and-Recreation/Travel.html.

http://gnn.com/gnn/GNNhome.html.

http://tourism.gov.au/welcome.html.

http://www.fsz.bme.hu/hungary/homepage.html.

[16]
The URL for Internet host statistics is http://www.nw.com/zone/WWW/isoc-pr-9501.txt. This information is supplied by Network Wizards.

http://www.cc.gatech.edu/gvu/user_surveys/survey-09-1994/Second_Home.html.

http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs.cmu.edu/misc/mosaic/common/omega/Web/People/mjw/NZ/.

http://gnn.com/gnn/wic/best.toc.html.

http://cuiwww.unige.ch/w3catalog/.

http://www.akiko.lm.com/NZ/NZTour/Rotorua/.

http://www.boprc.govt.nz/.

http://www.ramhb.co.nz/artdeco/ and mirrored at http://www.akiko.lm.com/NZ/NZTour/Napier/.

http://www.nelpoly.ac.nz/nelson/nelson2.htm.

http://www.waikato.ac.nz/nz/rail/timetable.html.

http://www.ait.ac.nz/events/ecofire/waitak.html.

http://www.waikato.ac.nz/nz/.

http://www.uniforum.org.nz/uniforum/.

http://www.tekotago.ac.nz/NZHome/NZHome.html.

http://www.vuw.ac.nz/nz/.

http://home.mcom.com/home/whats-cool.html.

http://archpropplan.auckland.ac.nz/.

http://www3.waikato.ac.nz/wanaka/.

http://www.crop.cri.nz/.

Author Information

Martin Lennon is a lecturer at the Auckland Institute of Technology (AIT), specialising in the Internet and data communications. He has developed an Internet course for AIT that is part of the National Diploma in Business Computing. He is also a regular writer for the New Zealand computer press. He was President of UniForum NZ for two years and is still active in the group.

Martin, originally from the UK, has lived in New Zealand for seven years and has a great love for the country. He is passionate about the need for New Zealand to promote itself on the WWW. In the little spare time he has left after his Internet activities, he travels around the country in his Mazda MX5, and goes sailing and skiing. He is an avid watcher of Coronation Street on TV to remind himself how lucky he is to be in New Zealand.


Martin Lennon

Address:
18 Tinopai Road
Titirangi
Waitakere City
New Zealand

URL:
http://www.ait.ac.nz/people/mlennon/.

email:
mlennon@chcsn1.ait.ac.nz


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