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La promoción turística oficial en Internet y su relación con el desarrollo turístico de los destinos: Una aplicación a las Ciudades medias de Andalucía

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  • Pablo Díaz Luque
  • Blanca López Catalán
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    Abstract

    Resumen: Este trabajo analiza las webs de promoción oficial de destinos turísticos de interior de Andalucía. En el mismo se confirma la existencia de una relación entre el desarrollo turístico y el nivel de desarrollo de las webs. El estudio aporta una metodología basada en la contabilización de elemento (“counting methods”), obteniendo como resultado un estudio descriptivo de las webs en cuanto a tipología de la misma, información turística, distribución o comercialización, idiomas y características de comunicación interactiva. El estudio descriptivo permite, mediante un análisis por cluster, la clasificación de las webs en tres grupos, con tres niveles crecientes de servicio al potencial turista. Posteriormente, se relacionan estadísticamente estos grupos con indicadores turísticos (oferta turística en forma de alojamiento, restauración y museos, y número de asociaciones del sector), para confirmar que existe una relación entre el nivel de las webs y el desarrollo turístico del destino. Abstract: Internet has a great impact on the tourism industry. Destination Management Organizations (DMO) are realising about the possibilities of the Internet to promote their geographical areas, products and services. The most relevant tourist destinations develop successful tourist websites where they offer useful information and complete interaction. Websites can help tourist destinations to achieve their main objectives in order to attract visitors and create a necessary good image abroad. Although there are previous studies on tourism website analysis, most of them are focused on relevant destinations such as important cities or emerging countries. Little research has focused on less popular destinations that often include other singular characteristics. In order to fill this gap, the current research examines the official DMO websites within Andalusia to study the online promotion of these smaller tourist destinations. The objective of this research is to analyse the online marketing that these smaller Andalusian DMO perform in order to find out if there is a relationship between the websites levels of service and the tourist development in those tourism locations. To that aim, fifty five called Andalusian “medium cities” where selected according to three specific characteristics defined by Merinero & Navarro (2010); 1) cities with a size between 7.000 to 50.000 inhabitants; 2) inland cities (non-coastal) and; 3) located out of the influence area of the main cities. The empirical analysis was carried out by collecting information from these fifty-five DMO official websites. As a result, this study provides a description of a methodology based on accounting items ("counting methods") following Law, Qi and Buhalis (2010) suggestions, who indicated that the counting method can be used to evaluate a website performance. In this publication, these authors mentioned five previous studies that used this methodology to evaluate destination websites. Following these literature, five dimensions have been identified in this study to describe websites: website typology, information contents, distribution levels, interactive communication and foreign languages. In the first dimension we identified the type of website used to promote the tourist destination considering three possibilities (an official website specifically design for tourist promotion; an official website of the municipality with a specific section dedicated to tourist information and an official website of the municipality with no specific section but with tourist information included in other parts of the website). In the second dimension, different elements of information were checked in each website referred to four areas: location, transportation, other basic tourist information (such as museums, history, cultural life, sights or gastronomy), and business activities related to tourism (accommodation, restaurants and travel agencies). The third dimension determined the possibility of getting an online reservation of accommodation in the destination. The fourth dimension presented the level of interactivity on a website, considering the presence of Web 2.0 elements and how easy it is for a user to find relevant information. The last dimension analysed if the websites offer information in different language versions than Spanish. The relevance of each language is measured taking into consideration official statistics about the nationality of the tourists that arrive to Spain each year. Based on the dimensions explained before, a thorough description of those along the websites was performed. Results confirmed poor performance on most dimensions. For instance, there were no website with reservation system for accommodation, and resources of interaction were barely found. Only 21,8% of the websites was specifically for tourism purposes; 67,3% were official website of the municipality with a specific section dedicated to tourist information. Information about accommodation and history were found in most of the websites. On the other hand, information about travel agencies was found just in 20% of the cases. Twelve Websites had information in English, seven in French, and four in German. The best cases were destinations that offer tourist websites translated to other languages (usually English), with complete basic tourist information and data of most common tourist suppliers. A second step was done in order to classify websites using hierarchical clustering. Only four elements were used to create this classification: the web typology, the basic tourist information, the information about business related to tourism, and the indicator of performance in foreign languages. As a result, the study revealed a classification of websites into three groups with three increasing levels of service. First cluster, called “non tourist websites”, included the 25% of the websites, which did not reflect any concern about the tourism promotion. They did not develop specific websites for tourism promotion, and hardly included basic tourist information on their institutional websites. The possibility of choosing foreign language was virtually non-existent. In our opinion, those DMO should start creating a specific website including three main features: basic information about the destination, interesting information about attractions and business activities, and foreign languages to start its way of dynamism and international projection. Second cluster was called “web directories”. In this group the websites were not exclusively tourism sites and foreign languages were not usual, the tourist information offered was not complete but it included data of major tourist companies (accommodation and restaurants) located in the municipality. It was the largest group and incorporated more than half of the cases (52.7%). These DMO should complete relevant information for users and should also organize it in order to improve website performance. In our opinion, a website is not only a repository of destination information. It is a matter of product design and it could open an opportunity of implementing marketing strategies through the Internet. The third cluster, “Tourist Websites”, reached the highest level of tourist websites development. Municipalities in this group had all developed exclusively tourist websites. Besides, the information content was much more complete than the other two groups; especially the basic tourist information, reaching significant levels. This is also the group with better presence of different foreign languages. This group represents the 21.8% of the cases. At this point, DMO that belong to the third cluster, have an opportunity to include interactive communication features and distribution facilities in the website. Moreover, the classification was statistically analysed together with tourist indicators from official statistic resources (hotels and restaurants capabilities, museum and number of tourist associations). The analysis confirmed that the level of tourism development in such locations was related to the level of online tourist service via the official website. This relationship would be in line with other studies that found that Internet use, and the Web in particular, is related to firm size, among other factors (Burke, 2005). The results should be analysed considering the specific characteristics of our study population. Also, the different levels of development of the websites may be explained by the different stages of technology adoption. Also, this situation can be found in relevant destinations (Yuan et al., 2003). The continued emergence of improvements in technology and applications suggests that differences will remain between tourist destinations depending on the capabilities to adapt those technological improvements. In this sense, Buhalis and Law (2008) affirm that the constant innovation in hardware appliances, software and network development, points out that only the most dynamic organizations that address the needs of its stakeholders, will get competitive advantage in the long run. However, it is important to stress that the inherent characteristics of DMO, and connections between these associations, interest groups or stakeholders will determined DMO effective and productive relationship between the parties (Dredge, 2006), including online activities. Therefore, it is important to find out which other factors affect a better online promotion of destinations. To sum up, the contributions of this study are as follows. First we propose a precise methodology to examine DMO websites, which is applicable to different locations (in terms of geographic characteristics or size). Second, we confirm there is a relationship between tourism development and the websites levels of service. Finally, we study website destinations rarely present in the literature, often focused on relevant destinations.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Universidades Públicas de Andalucía in its journal Revista de Estudios Regionales.

    Volume (Year): 01 (2012)
    Issue (Month): ()
    Pages: 93-115

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    Handle: RePEc:rer:articu:v:01:y:2012:p:93-115

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    Keywords: Ciudades medias de Andalucía; Webs oficiales de turismo; Desarrollo turístico; Contabilización de elementos; Andalucia inland cities; Official tourist websites; Tourist development; Counting methods;

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