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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Critique One Distinctive Challenge or Issue influencing the Global Tourism Industry

In this modern day and age new technologies are changing society and shaping the tourism sector. Businesses across the whole world are now relying on the use of technology in several different ways spanning from marketing to stay in touch with customers. From reading the report presented by the ITB 2015 opening address by UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai, I have discovered some incredible points that he has made and will be referring to them throughout the essay. A point that I found very interesting within the report was that the evolution and increased usage of technology has given the consumer a lot more power over the corporations and businesses. Throughout this essay I will discuss these arguments, the evolution of technology in the tourism sector, the power of social media and how tourism and hospitality businesses apply it to the current market, the effect of the changes of technology trends on the worlds demographics and the overall positive and negative effects of the increase amount of technology practice within the sector. (Rifai, 2015). The points that I discuss in this essay will be referred back to the Marriott Hotel Group to represent how it applies to the Tourism and Hospitality Industries.

Technology has expanded beyond limitations to a point where by the year  2020 space technology will be applied to intercontinental travel.  (Chris C, 2005, p. 781) This is just a possibility of something that can completely change the tourism industry. However, in this essay I will focus on things closer to the ground.

In recent years, technology has become much more common within the tourism sector. This gives a huge advantage to both the consumer and the supplier of the services. For consumers the internet has given them a much easier way of interacting with tourism services. To a consumer finding out about a business or service is as simple as to go on their phone and putting in the name of it to get all the information possible from the internet. Booking anything from flights, hotel rooms and other tourism services is also just as easy to find. Websites like Bookings.com and Trivago.com have revolutionised the booking services within the industry. It is as easy as clicking on a website and putting in where you want to go to find the best suited location for the consumer.  Digitalisation has given us choice in a big way  - (Bearne, 2016)

 As for the business or service it is just as easy to advertise to the consumer. There are several advertisement bases for reaching the wanted consumer set or market segment. In the technology sense, the advertisement has become much easier. Companies can now pay websites like Google to have their website be at the top of the search page every time their name is searched. Google can also target a market on the search preference. If someone searches something like Marriott, then when they visit social media throughout the day they will receive advertisements for the company like Marriott.

A criticism of this is that it violates the privacy of people and obstructs the integrity that we associate with the Hospitality sector. This puts people in uncomfortable situations where they feel as if they were being watched or monitored and due to this reason, a lot of the industry has backed out of using these tools. However, this has not stopped other companies like Bookings.com from using these services. Due to these third-party companies using these services it still puts the names of these hotels out there and might infect their reputation. So, when it comes to the subject media there are positive and negative implications as with technology.

To put into perspective how important the internet is in the world, in 2009, worldwide Internet users reached 1.8 billion (27% of the population worldwide).

 The top five most popular online purchases were books (66%), clothes (57%), travel arrangements (57%), gifts (51%) and CDs (45%) in the US in 2007 (Center for the Digital Future, 2008). A study conducted in Britain also found that respondents  most search activity conducted online was making travel plans (84%), followed by getting information about local events (77%), looking for news (69%) and finding information about health or medical care (68%) in 2007. (Dutton & Helsper, 2007)

 To break this information down and look at it individually it is very clear that the usage of the internet has become extremely popular in the last decade. According to the  World Internet Users Stats  the number as of 30th of June 2017 has now increased to 3.8 Billion which is 51.7%. Ireland has a population of 4.7 million and has 4.3 million internet users which is 93%. 2.7 million of those users are also on Facebook as of June 2017. (www.internetworldstats.com/stats4.htm, n.d.)

This is a huge percentage of the population on one social media network. A vast percentage of these people are probably on other social media outlets like Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Instagram. In relation to this to think that such a huge percentage of people go on the internet every single day to check information relating to holidays is astonishing. The internet has given a giant boost to the growth of the industry and I believe that the positive effects of the technological revolution outweigh the negative effect of it. The evolution of technology will only continue to happen, and it is getting exponentially faster and those in the industry who refuse to use it will in a way get left behind. However, there is a danger of abusing the technology that is available. This can take away from the industry as it is such a people influential industry. If you take the person out of the industry it can hugely affect the people   s perspective of how they perceive the business and the growing industry.

On the other hand, the demographics are affected differently by technology. Different age groups and nationalities will have a variety of reason for the difference in percentage in ownership of smart devices. In the study that I found done by  Pew Research Centre  in 2016 according to the United States population 77% of the population owned a smartphone. 100% of the 18-29 age group had a phone with a 92% ownership of smartphones. Whereas the over 65 group ages only had a phone ownership percentage of 80% with only 42% owning smartphones. Understandably this only relates to the United States which is a hugely technology based country, so these stats won   t apply to a country like South Africa which is not yet developed enough for such a huge technology boom but might apply to Germany which is advanced enough. Taking these stats and applying them towards the Tourism and Hospitality sector can become quite clear why different communication structures must be implicated to appeal to all the different age groups. It is not suitable to send emails or try to appeal to the older audience through social media as the odds are they will not see it. Therefore, the industry still must use newspapers or letters to communicate with this audience. Companies need to keep contact with the older generation as their increasing numbers are  creating an active and mobile group in the population of many countries who will demand both domestic and international travel  (Chris Cooper, 2005, p. 119). Older people demand a completely different type of service compared to younger people. They are not looking to book online and plan out their days depending on what  TripAdvisor  says is good or on the reviews written on  Yelp   . They much prefer the human contact of going to the travel agent and having their holiday planned out for them. This is the reason why cruise liners have such a higher volume of older people as they have the time to go through all the trouble of going to a travel agent and having them to organise everything and then actually taking so much time off to spend on a cruise. From looking at the Cruise Lines International Association Report from January 2015, the demographics of the 50+ makes a huge percentage of 52% which is a vast number. This is one of the ways where technology does not have a huge impact on the industry and in ways this will happen for the foreseeable future. Until our current technological based generation moves on to be the older generation technology will have very little impact in that age demographic.

To put into perspective how a corporation might use technology to connect to the whole world I do not think there is a better hospitality company than Marriott. Marriott has grown to become one of the biggest hospitality providers in the world, with over 30 brands and over 6,200 properties worldwide. This conglomerate has managed to create a chain of over 100+ million members across the world. This keeps all the members connected with the newest update of the brand and constant promotions. The idea of points for every time you travel and eventually being able to get a free hotel stay encourages more people to use the same chain and constantly stay with Marriott.  Marriott was the first to offer Apple Pay, and launch mobile check-in across our full portfolio. Starwood introduced the iconic Heavenly Bed, and keyless entry.  This just shows how technology concentrated Marriott is and this could inspire other hotel chains to do the same. Innovation is a huge reason, so much technology gets constantly introduced into the market.

If it was not for the evolution of technology and social media Marriott would not have been able to expand so much. I do not think they would be the worldwide brand that they currently are because of the ease of access that internet and technology supply. The internet has allowed them to communicate with customers and potential business clients across the whole world. If this was not available, they would not have been able to create a chain of interconnected hotels and brands. This has also allowed Marriott to keep a set standard across the world. With easy ways of travelling across the world it is also now much easier for different company representatives to meet and discuss the future of the company. However, you no longer need to travel across the world for meeting as they can be conducted through intermedium   s like  Skype   .

Nevertheless, airline companies have enhanced their technological services to improve the ease and comfort of passengers. The advances have allowed brands such as  Ryanair  and  British Airways  to supply their customers with access to mobile check-ins, management to itineraries and even car rental and hotel bookings. This can all be accessed through any smart phone device or even tablet giving a quick, easy and practical way of organising trips and purchases. The quick online check-in reduces queue time and sizes in the airport which is relieving on staff but also gives the passengers more time to relax before flights and increases business in the airport shops. Although, as mentioned above this does not reach the older age demographic. To this market segment, online check-in can still cause trouble, frustration and confusion as they are not as educated in this somewhat advanced technology. This could also apply to other age demographics as they might either not know of the existence of mobile check-in or in simple terms might not acknowledge their trust in it. In my opinion, the development of technology in the airline industry has made travel a lot easier and if it advances any further flying across the world will be as easy as riding a bike. This will be highly influenced by the airplane technology that is currently in the works which is the airplanes that travel at the speed of sound. It will cut down travel time for a distance like Dublin to New York from 8   hours to a measly 3   hours which would be ground-breaking in the tourism industry.

In conclusion, after looking at how technology has evolved in the tourism and hospitality industry over the last decade it is obvious that it has completely changed how people travel. Not only has it developed how individuals discover the world but it has also altered how the industries represented in the new modern era. Technology has affected the younger generations but has only so much managed to appeal to the older market and that might be one of the only disadvantages: it does not plea to everyone. Overall, technology, especially the social media aspect, caters mainly to ease the lives of millennials as they will be the customers for the future of the industry.

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