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Role of new technologies in tourism
Over the years, the advancement of technology has significantly improved the quality of service delivery in the tourism sector. Not surprisingly, because technology itself has become part of the fabric of social communication and day-to-day functioning in many aspects of our lives. The world has become connected because of technology, and global cultures have emerged as a result of such free access to communication, information and networking that technological development has facilitated.
What does this imply for the tourism sector?
According to the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), information communication technology (ICT) is one of the major factors in building tourism management capacity. Across the globe, baby boomers and millennials are finding themselves using technology, more than ever before as part of life.
The main vehicles of such technology are presented through applications such as the World Wide Web, computer systems, mobile communication and the potentials for use with these platforms are phenomenal.
Newscasts about one country for example, an upcoming festival can reach an online user in a matter of seconds, interactive maps and GPS systems can offer new travellers the confidence and freedom to explore more than ever, information on new countries to explore and visitor experiences can be accessed and shared via platforms like Facebook and blogger websites where hotels and taxis services can be compared and reserved with just the click of a button.
As a result of the use of such technology, more bargaining power has been handed over to travellers who visit the various territories of the Greater Caribbean. According to Internet World Stats (2017), there are currently 7.5 billion internet users globally. As compared to 2010, internet users have increased by 8.2 per cent. With trends like these, tourism-oriented countries will find themselves within a more competitive environment than years gone by, as tourists freely weigh their vacation options.
The Greater Caribbean faces many challenges in relation to the incorporation of technology within the tourism sector.
Currently, hoteliers and other tourism industry players have not yet implemented robust online marketing strategies, subsequently creating a lack of accessibility to services and tourist information about Caribbean destinations, which places our region at a disadvantage when competing against regions like the UAE and Europe.
Effective online marketing strategies increase competitiveness and promote economic development. For tourist attractions that are visited by people from a huge range of backgrounds and nationalities, social media applications like FB, twitter, YouTube and blogging sites represent great potential for providing direct and immediate interaction and information sourcing for potential visitors (UNWTO, 2011). For a country to ignore the power of social media, is for that country to deny itself opportunity to present its cultural heritage, products and tourist attractions on the stage that its target audience is gathered. Therefore, tourism operators in the Greater Caribbean must begin to engage in social media marketing and maximize this technological advancement for the good of attracting visitors.
Culture and diversity gaps can be bridged through the use of effective communication. Development within the tourism sector requires the Greater Caribbean to consider the strategies that are being used by other international destinations in their tourism industries in order to obtain competitive advantage and strengthen marketing strategies.
One ideal example illustrating this strategy is in Australia, where websites and social media pages are continuously updated in different languages in order to attract the maximum number of visitors from different countries, cultural and educational backgrounds.
Additionally, technology facilitates operations to run at a pace to offer the best service delivery to tourists. Through information access, air, land and sea transportation coordination, activity planning and services indicates a reduction in administrative costs, thereby contributing to great growth within the tourism sector.
The increasing use of technology in the tourism sector could provide many diverse employment opportunities and the development of new skills in the aforementioned areas (ILO, 2014). In this regard, the ACS has provided training courses in 2014 and 2015, related to the use of communication technologies, focusing on areas of promotion and marketing for small and medium enterprises, specifically with the artisans of the Greater Caribbean sector.
More initiatives like these will definitely ensure tourism competitiveness and quality service. Moreover, in June 2017 the ACS participated in the 61st Meeting of the UNWTO Regional Commission for the Americas. The framework of this meeting included the International Seminar on New Technologies Applied to Tourism which once again highlights the importance of technology within the tourism industry.
In the end, it is our responsibility to understand and manage change. For the tourism sector to thrive in this day and age it is imperative to understand the importance of new technologies within marketing and communication. Therefore, the Greater Caribbean should embrace the new technological developments within tourism to empower the sector to continue on the road to success.
Contributed by: Victoria Ramdeen, the research assistant of the directorate of sustainable tourism of the Association of Caribbean States. Any feedback or correspondence should be sent to [email protected]