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Digital portals key to future of tourism

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Feb 17, 2008

SCOTLAND'S TOP tourist destinations should adapt to the culture of social networking websites to maintain and enhance visitor numbers, one of the industry's leading strategists has proposed.

Sue Crossman, project director of the VisitScotland-supported industry working party the Tourism Innovation Group (TIG), told the Sunday Herald that tourism businesses of all sizes must raise their game in exploiting emerging technology.

Speaking ahead of Tourism Innovation Day, an annual event this year being held at Hampden Park on February 28, Crossman said "effective digital portals" should be set up for all of Scotland's main tourist destinations.

The portals would use technology similar to popular social networking sites such as Bebo and Facebook, and allow visitors to post comments, pictures or videos about their personal experience of any location or service. Crossman hopes such sites would boost online bookings and help visitors enjoy their visits more.

Crossman believes digital portals will encourage smaller business, such as individual bed and breakfasts, that are still not confident about what the new technology can do for them, to work together to promote themselves and their location.

Crossman said: "Some companies are missing out on the available technology and that is not helping our global competitiveness.

"New technology, including the kind that allows you to post user-generated content on the web, is very exciting and should be helping destinations get their messages out there effectively.

"We would like to see effective digital portals that would allow people to get a real flavour of what a place is like."

Robin Worsnop, director of tour operators Rabbie's Trail Burners and a member of the TIG, said web 2.0 technology - the term for websites that allow users to create their own content - was an exciting area for future development.

He said: "It is quite a new thing, but some companies are starting to take advantage of it and it certainly will be an area of expansion for the whole industry. This is being seen as way of getting visitors to come back after they've visited a location once."

However, Ben Vinod, a US-based technology specialist with Sabre Holdings, the parent company of holiday planners Travelocity, said Scottish tourism operators might already be falling behind the international competition. He said other websites such as wikitravel.org and IgoUgo.com were already using web 2.0 technology to good effect.

Vinod, who will give the keynote address at Hampden on Tourism Innovation Day, said: "This is a main area of focus for us. Sites like these are already shaping the way people dream of and plan travel. We want to capture customers at an early stage of planning a trip, and sites with user-generated content allow us to do that."

sundayherald.com

Digital portals key to future of tourism
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