Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Focusing on SMTEs: Using Audience Response Technology to Refine a Research Project

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Focusing on SMTEs: Using Audience Response Technology to Refine a Research Project

Article excerpt

Introduction

This paper reports on one aspect of a broader research scheme that involved exploring the way that small and medium-sized tourism industries (SMTEs) in Australia were dealing with the growing impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs). The long-term aim of the research was to develop a 'toolkit' that would help support SMTEs to explore the risks, benefits and adoption strategies for ICTs. The overall outcomes of the research have been reported in detail elsewhere (Burgess, Sellitto, Banks, & Monday, 2009; Monday, Burgess, Sellitto, & Banks 2009; Sellitto, Banks, Monday, & Burgess, 2009) and are therefore not included here. This paper specifically reports upon the use of audience response technology to support the focus group aspect of the data gathering phase of the research.

Tourism is an industry dominated by information, with decision-making increasingly influenced by a number of commonly accessible sources such as television, brochures, word-of-mouth and the Internet. It has been suggested that the tourism industry and the Internet are particularly suited to each other, given that tourism is an information-based and information-intensive sector (Werthner & Ricci 2004). Where an industry has a strong information component, ICTs can be used as one possible means of gaining competitive advantage. The number of people that use the Internet to research, plan and transact their trips is increasing. In fact, the Internet "has become one of the most successful channels used by consumers to research travel options, compare prices and make reservations" (Collins, Buhalis, & Peters 2003, p. 484). Arguably, the history of the tourism industry is one of adopting and using technologies, such as computerised reservation systems (CRS) and global distribution systems (GDS), that are integral to travel agency and airline functionality (Liu, 2000). The tourism industry is also beginning to embrace mobile technologies with the use of devices such as handheld computers, mobile phones and personal digital assistants (PDA). Mobile devices can provide advantages such as portability, immediacy and even 'location aware' contextualised information. In fact, whilst 'mobile commerce' (m-commerce) may be viewed as an add-on in other sectors, it may become a vital component of the tourism industry (Lee & Mills, 2007).

The specific aspect of the research considered in this paper relates to rural and metropolitan SMTEs in the Australian States of South Australia and Victoria in 2007/8. The purpose of this part of the overall study was to explore the level of awareness that SMTEs had of the range of ICTs currently available and to identify practical issues relating to adoption and use. This information was to be used to help inform the design of the eventual web-based 'toolkit' to be developed as a way of helping SMTEs gain access to appropriate information that would support their day-to-day use of ICTs, to share experiences and practice and also to suggest possible new ICT opportunities in the tourism sector. The initial phase of the research set out to identify problems, benefits and practices with the use of ICTs in SMTEs in the two States. Semi-structured interviews were used for the latter part of the research following, and informed by, initial work with focus groups. Semi-structured interviews utilise an interview guide containing a list of questions and prompts that help to manage the interview in a flexible and conversational manner around the key themes of interest (Minichiello, Aroni, Timewell, & Alexander, 1990).

As preparation for the focus groups and subsequent interviews an initial survey of the literature was undertaken by team members supported by research assistants in both States and this identified a number of ICT and business-related areas that were felt to be important for exploration in the context of Australian SMTEs. Based upon the literature and discussion between team members the initial broad areas were refined into topics that were felt to be important for exploration. …

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