The Strategic Use of Information and Communication Technology in Marketing and Distribution-A Preliminary Investigation of Sydney Hotels
Mistilis, Nina, Agnes, Pierre, Presbury, Rayka, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management
Although previous research has demonstrated the paramount importance of information and communication technology (ICT) for marketing and distribution in tourism, hotels still lag in their strategic implementation and management of ICT. While researchers in Europe and the United States have explored this theme, there is little such research in the Australian context. This article contributes to the literature by exploring in a preliminary study the strategic use of ICT among a small sample of hotels in Sydney, Australia. It aims to identify factors in these hotels which are associated with the adoption of ICT as well as the degree of strategic management and implementation of ICT for marketing and distribution. The preliminary findings indicate that the pattern of ICT adoption and use appears distinct, compared to that reported in the literature, which is mainly located outside Australia. Reasons explaining some differences in the Sydney hotels' adoption and strategic use of ICT ere suggested.
Tourism is recognised as one of the largest and most important industry sectors in the world. At the same time, the use of technology is increasingly viewed as playing a critical role in management, marketing and distribution of the tourism product. The technologies, however, also pose challenges for tourism businesses seeking to adopt them. For tourism destinations, such usage is recognised to be an important factor in developing the competitiveness of its tourism products (Werthner & Klein, 1999). Within tourism, the accommodation sector is a very important component of any destination's tourism products. Although in the last few years many authors have discussed the paramount importance of information and communication technology (ICT) for marketing and distribution in tourism, hotels have lagged in their effective implementation of it (Buhalis & Main, 1998; Morrison, Morrison, Taylor, & Morrison, 1999; Nysveen & Lexhagen, 2001; Wan, 2002; Murphy, Olaru, Schegg, & Frey, 2003).
Two think tanks of experts within and without the hospitality industry have reported that technology has become a major factor in the operation of hospitality business. Their view was that success of firms in the future will be in part associated with, how they provide and distribute information about their product (Olsen & Connolly, 2000, p. 31). Other authors such as Poon (1993), Connolly, Olsen, and Moore (1998) and O'Connor (1999) had earlier demonstrated that the use of electronic distribution channels was critical to the survival of hotels--without them, bed nights will remain unsold.
Indeed it appears that ICT and knowledge of technical issues have become paramount in the effective and successful operation of hotels (Withiam 2000). Still currently it appears that the situation is not yet adequately resolved for hotels in their strategic use of ICT. For as Buhalis (2003, p. 221) states:
In general the hospitality industry has been reluctant to use ICTs, And the great benefits of the web can offer to the hospitality industry are yet to he implemented at property level. The lodging industry is the most under-automated segment of the international travel industry.
Literature analysing the use of ICT by hotels for marketing and distribution of their products points to the need for management to resolve two main challenges. The first relates to hotels adopting the strategic management of ICT (Sheldon, 1997); the second involves an often bewildering choice of electronic channels to be used, including management's assessment of the implications of that choice for the hotel (Frew & O'Connor, 2000). Sigala, Lockwood, and Jones (2001) have suggested that hotels need to use ICT to re-engineer business processes and policies, which now tend to evolve from a technical decision support tool. Instead, hotels must use seek to use them as a critical application for supporting and complementing their competitive strategies. …