Thursday, 29 October 2009

Forty Years of Internet – Some Thoughts on today's World-wide Internet Day

Forty years ago from today, on the 29th October 1969 the Internet was launched. The term “Internet” was already coined in 1962, but on the 29th October 1969 four computer systems located in the USA were connected via a telephone line which was considered as the start of the Internet. Since then millions of computer systems around the world have been connected and this global network has seen extraordinary growth rates since the mid 1990s and has revolutionised the business models and processes as well as the marketing strategies of companies.

In fact, the Internet has influenced and changed the communication and interaction among human beings on all levels. The World Wide Web (WWW) is the biggest information and knowledge source which mankind has ever managed to create in a collaborative effort. Today about 1.7 billion people worldwide are online (source:, which accounts for one quarter of the entire human population on earth (see chart below, click on graphic to enlarge).

An unbelievable number of 230 million websites are online to date and the publication of new websites is still climbing exponentially. Just imagine, it would take 7.3 years if you looked at each of these websites after the other only for one second!

Further milestones for the growing impact and influence of the Internet on the masses were the search engine Google (founded 1998), the reformation of the “old” web into Web 2.0 (in 2004) and applications such as YouTube (in 2005), Facebook (in 2006), Twitter (in 2006), just to name a few. Web 3.0 (i.e. the semantic web) and Web 4.0 (i.e. the intelligent Metaweb or “global brain”) are considered as emerging trends.

The Internet and especially the WWW have made many tasks in our lives much simpler and quicker (e.g. data exchange, access to information, tele-banking, online booking) but on the other hand the complexity of the tools, applications, organisation structures and business processes has increased simultaneously. The Internet and the WWW have changed the world dramatically and the changes will continue.
There are still many challenges and unsolved issues which can have far-reaching social and economic consequences as for instance the digital divide which can increase the knowledge gap between technologically less developed countries and the modern world. Human beings will have to adapt new strategies for dealing efficiently with the increasing information flood and communication overkill.
Companies need to identify and exploit the strategic and competitive advantages of information and communication technologies without overwhelming their customers. The quantity of information and communication keeps growing exponentially and an end of this trend is not yet in sight. But what about the quality? Further examples of superlatives are summarized in the interesting video "Did you know?"

So, what does this all mean?

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Social Media Marketing – Now or Never?

In today’s post I want to give you a summary of thought-provoking presentations from the annual Tourism Conference of the Vienna Tourist Board, which I attended last Thursday. The event took place in the very atmospheric Semper Depot in Vienna and more than 400 representatives of the tourism industry and governmental bodies followed the invitation.

Norbert Kettner (see photo below), director of the Vienna Tourist Board, presented the new marketing campaign with the catchy new slogan “Vienna – Now or Never”.

This year’s programme included several presentations of international speakers. Keith Edmonds, from Oxford Economics presented market research data and gave an outlook for the economy and the travel industry with respect to the global recession following the economic crisis. His uplifting message was that although 2009 is going to present a universal downturn Austria will do better than many other European countries.
Aren’t we lucky? Well, the statistics for arrivals and overnight stays in Austria confirm that he has a point.
The current developments give evidence that the worst is over and that we will see a weak recovery in 2010 in terms of the GDP growth (see chart below, the thick line is the Oxford Economics' forecast).

I also listened to the interesting presentation “What is Open Source Marketing?” by James Cherkoff, CEO of Collaborate Marketing. He stated that social media marketing is already well-established in many industries and especially in the tourism industry. He illustrated the mechanisms, strategies and tools of social media marketing by referring to the “Best-Job-in-the-World”-campaign.

Tourism businesses and organisations can increase their online visibility if they let their customers do the communication work, was Cherkoff’s credo. The four key elements for customer participation are the environment, the concept, the tools and the content for the me-too marketing campaign (see photo below).

You need to determine and understand the environment in which participation should happen, i.e. the target market, target audience and the communication platforms your customers use. The campaign concept describes the advertising message which can be disseminated through adequate tools such as blogs, wikis, online communities, Google applications and so forth. Last but not least, the content for the conversational campaign has to be relevant and interesting for the target audience.

Spreading the virtual word-of-mouth has become an effective and efficient form of marketing communication and companies should rather start with social media marketing now than later. What are the barriers then that have prevented many businesses yet to turn their efforts to collaborative marketing? Apart from a lack of social marketing knowledge and concerns about an increased work load, it is often the fear of losing control over the content and in turn over the advertising message. Social media marketing certainly requires a deeper understanding of the hedonistic motives of your customers. Cherkoff claimed, that “you have to make your customers look good” because for them the deal was “you can get my attention if you give me a platform.

I say, you better start now, because never might be just a touch too late!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

eTourism: Horizons – ENTER 2010 Conference in Lugano, 10-12 February 2010

Lugano in Switzerland will host the 17th ENTER conference from 10-12 February 2010. ENTER, organised by the International Federation for IT in Travel & Tourism (IFITT), is a unique forum for academic, industry and destination managers to explore and discuss both cutting-edge applications as well as the future of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for the tourism industry.
ENTER has a long-lasting tradition and was founded in Austria, where the first ENTER took place in Innsbruck back in 1994.

I will also participate actively at ENTER with at least two presentations. My blog post on The Next Generation of NTO Tourist Information Portals had the positive side-effect that Dimitrios Buhalis, Programme Chair of ENTER 2010, invited me to organise a session and talk about just that topic.
Moreover, I will contribute to a workshop on the Google Online Marketing Challenge and report on my personal experience with this excellent project for Universities. I have implemented the Google Online Marketing Challenge in my Master degree module on E-Marketing in the last summer semester and it was truly a great success for both the students as well as for the clients for which the students carried out search engine marketing campaigns using Google AdWords.

The three ENTER tracks, namely Research, Destinations and Industry are designed in a way that enables maximum exchange of information and interaction. State-of-the-art research and industry case studies on the application of ICT to travel and tourism will be explored in about 150 presentations and panel discussions. The programme includes topics such as Web 2.0, Travel 2.0 and social networking, eBranding and brand integrity, ICT for regional development, Web 3.0 and Travel 3.0, online marketing, mobile solutions, location based services, usability and web design, and many more.
A range of innovations will be introduced alongside ENTER 2010 including a Bloggers Summit, live tweets #ENTER 2010, a YouTube channel and many more.

Besides the great variety of the presentations, I have to admit that ENTER conferences are also famous for their social (late night) programme and the excellent opportunity for connecting and networking with people from all over the world. Rumour has it that for some these are the only reasons for attending.

Very well then! See you at ENTER 2010!

For more information on the ENTER 2010 conference as well as the latest programme and registration details visit

Monday, 19 October 2009

Two Third of Internet Users Worldwide Socialise Online, with Women Dominating

Online socialising has become a well-established pastime and amusement among all age groups. About 65% of the 1.1 billion worldwide internet users older than 15 years visited at least one social networking site during May 2009, according to a survey conducted by comScore. An average user spent 3.7 hours per month on community platforms visiting 525 pages.

Interestingly, Russian web users showed the highest involvement in social networking with an average of 6.6 hours per month. The survey did not suggest any reasons for that high engagement, but it may be attributed to political or sociological reasons or simply to the novelty of those platforms for a large user population. The United Kingdom (4.6 hours) and Germany (4.5 hours) followed on the ranks 7 and 8, whereas Swiss Internet users only spent 3.2 hours on average on community websites. In the UK nine out of ten internet users aged between 25 to 34 years old visited a social networking platform each month (source: comScore May 2009).

Contrary to the common misbelieve that men dominate the internet world, it seems that women call the shots as far as social media is concerned (various sources, e.g. Pew Internet & American Life Project, Inside Facebook). However, marketers will be disappointed to hear that a woman’s buying decision seems to be resistant to product recommendations given on social networking platforms. According to the “Women’s Survey”, carried out by QInteractive, 75% of the women using social media claimed not being influenced (i.e. the sum of not really and not at all) by social networks in their purchase decisions (see illustration below, click on chart to enlarge).

The online buying decision was much more influenced by factors such as coupons and discounts (~ 42%), product ratings and review websites (~ 22%) than by advice from friends (~ 8%) or blog posts and online communities (4%). The survey further found out that women rather use social networking platforms for sending private messages to friends and sharing photos with their friends instead of talking about their latest shopping experiences and sharing product information. The survey does not provide data to what extent men’s buying decisions are influenced by social networks.
But isn’t a man's shopping behavior a mystery anyway which has its roots somewhere in the age of hunters and gatherers? ;-)

Also on Facebook, one of the world's most popular community platforms with more than 300 million active users, the female users outnumber the men. However, new male users apparently join Facebook at a faster rate than their female counterparts and therewith closing the gender gap gradually.

About half of the Facebook population of both sexes is aged between 18 and 34 years. With an increase of 14% Austria and Germany have seen the biggest growth of Facebook users in Europe from September to October 2009. About 12% of all Austrians use the Facebook platform regularly (source: Inside Facebook) for communicating with their friends and sharing photos, videos and other events worth telling.

Considering these figures and the still growing popularity of social networking platforms among the internet users it is hardly surprising that many tourism businesses and organisations are getting eager to shift their marketing activities to online social media.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Eight Ingredients to Brew Your eCommerce Business Model

I published a post about a new tourism webportal for Austrian holidaymakers several days ago in which I also claimed that I did not regard their business model as very innovative. At any rate, a management representative of this portal called me the same day and explained to me that they had a large sales team in the background which ensures the successful implementation of the business model. An ambitious and experienced sales team is certainly one key to success, but is that enough?

What constitutes a business model for eCommerce and eTourism?

eBusiness models are a frequently discussed and at the same time hardly understood aspect of the web. We always emphasise how much the web has changed the traditional business models. But what are actually the ingredients for an effective and sustainable eBusiness model?

There are many different definitions but most authors understand an eBusiness model as a set of planned activities designed to result in a monetary or non-monetary revenue in a marketplace by using and exploiting the qualities and advantages of the Internet and the WWW.

You can cook a special eBusiness model for your firm or organisation by answering the following 8 key questions:
  1. Unique selling proposition (USP): why should customers by from you and not from your competitors and what is the added value for your customers?
  2. Revenue model: how will you earn money? Basically, there are five major ways how you can generate money on the WWW, through advertising, subscription fees, transaction fees, sales of goods and services, and through affiliate programs. Very often a combination of revenue models is applied in practice.
  3. Market Opportunity: what marketspace do you serve and what is its size and realistic revenue potential? The marketspace is a conglomerate of various industry segments, e.g. the European online travel market broken down by travel products (see illustration below).

  1. Competitive environment: who are the competitors in the marketspace and how can you distinguish yourself from them?
  2. Competitive advantage: what is your special advantage to the marketspace (e.g. first mover advantage, cost or technology leadership)?
  3. Market strategy: how do you promote products to attract your target audience? The best business concept or idea will fail if not properly marketed to potential customers.
  4. Organisational development: what organisational and functional structure is needed to implement your business model?
  5. Management team: what experiences and skills deos the management team need? A strong and competent team gives credibility to customers and business partners likewise.

There is no golden rule for developing a viable eCommerce business model, but for being successful the business model should focus on the business objectives rather than on the technology. A very good introduction to eCommerce business models is provided by Kenneth Laudon & Carol Traver (2008): e-ecommerce. business. technology. society.

What is your experience with eCommerce business models? Share your thoughts with us!

Related article: A New Tourism Webportal for Holidays in Austria

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

What travelers are actually looking for when searching online

The information needs of travelers are different before, during and after the trip. That’s nothing new, right? Thus, travel websites should support the users in all three phases with the content they are looking for.

But do you actually know what tourists are looking for and, likewise important, when they are searching for specific content?

Frommer’s, together with eDigitalResearch, conducted an online survey in March/April 2009 among 1,324 online travel consumers. The researchers found out that customers’ requirements of information are changing during the process of picking their holiday destination and consequently just before and after booking.

84% of the respondents stated that they were searching for information online before deciding on a destination (see chart below, source: Frommer’s Unlimited).

When booking a holiday, airport and transportation information are the most important information for 71% of the respondents. Pictures remain important and a guide to the city or resort is required by 70% of the travelers. After booking, customers consider a map of the destination the most important content (70%).

In the planning stage, most people’s decisions of their vacation is influenced by the price. A vast majority of respondents (85%) claimed price is the most influential factor (i.e. sum of influential and very influential) for their decision, followed by activities geared to their interest (68%). The weather (63%) and length of trip (65%) were rated as the next most influential or very influential factors (see chart below, source: Frommer’s Unlimited).

The majority of the respondents claimed that images (76%), a written description of the destination (71%) and maps (69%) were the most important information they were looking for when planning a holiday. Information about weather, exchange rates and visa regulations were also regarded as useful. Videos on the other hand had an important influence only on about 25% of the respondents (see chart below, source: Frommer’s Unlimited).

What annoys online customers most are a confusing website (52%), the lack of pictures (51%) and a poor navigation that makes it hard to find what they wanted (46%).

The respondents were from the UK (52 per cent) and from North America (27 per cent). The remaining 21 per cent of respondents were from other parts of the world.

Download the survey for a more detailed information about the results.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

A new travel buddy called iPhone

For several years m-commerce has been proclaimed as the next big boost for the travel industry, but unfortunately the forecasts never seemed to materialise due to both technological as well as economical reasons. Maybe the increasing usage of the so-called smartphones, especially the iPhone, can now bring fresh winds into the sails.

Mobile ad spending worldwide is predicted to grow by 74% in 2009 to $913.5 million, according to a Gartner report. After 2011, this trend will continue as smartphones and flat-rate data contracts become more affordable to mainstream users. (source:

Since its introduction in 2007 more than 20 million iPhones have been sold in over 80 countries. The iPhone is not merely a telephone or a mini-computer but also a platform for developers of third-party applications which can be sold through the AppleStore and thus the iPhone platform represents a high potential for an eMarket place. The iPhone has already outperformed the competitors on the smartphone market (see illustration below, click on chart to enlarge).

The impact of the iPhone on the travel industry will grow as it adds value to the user experience through mobile web access, GPS map applications for navigation and camera functionality combined with a very user-friendly touch-screen interface (just to name a few).

Hence the iPhone supports the tourist in all 3 phases of travel: before – during – after the trip:
  1. Searching the web for information about the destination before the journey
  2. Using location-based services and navigation to points of interests or posting of comments about the quality of hotels on review platforms during the stay at the destination
  3. Sharing photos, videos, stories and experiences on social networking platforms such as Facebook, Flickr or Twitter.

Apple’s iStore lists several thousand travel applications, which makes the travel category to the fifth largest category behind games, entertainment, books and education. Of course there are also many totally useless applications, but a great number of DMOs, suppliers and intermediaries have already developed valuable iPhone applications of high quality which are mostly for free (see screenshots below).

Travellers in the future will book their accommodation mainly on arrival because of the growing use of mobile phones, says Jeffrey Boyd, CEO of Priceline. (Source: Travelmole, Sep 2009). The consumer behaviour will change in a way that many people are travelling to the destination without having booked a hotel in advance, knowing they can book one on their mobile device at arrival and that they can get a good deal.

As you might have guessed by now, yes I do have an iPhone myself and it is certainly more than a well-designed toy for nerds. I have installed and frequently use the following travel applications on my iPhone: Tripwolf Travel Guide, weather report, AroundMe, Google maps, public transport time schedule, language translator (see screenshots).

Unfortunately, the high costs for data roaming remain for me the biggest obstacle for using the iPhone as a fully-fledged travel buddy abroad.

For more information on the market size, the future of the iPhone and various travel applications you can download the interesting PhoCus Wright article ‘The iPhone and Travel’ (July 2009)

If you have tried out cool travel-related applications on your iPhone then please share your experience with us!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

eDestination Marketing Secrets

What is a viable online strategy for destinations in the era of the social web? What channels and platforms are relevant to reach the target customers? And which are best practice examples that can be easily adopted by other destinations?

Martin Schobert, Head of R&D at the Austrian National Tourist Office (ANTO) in Vienna, shared his vast experience in eDestination marketing with Master students in my course eTourism today. These central questions are not only important for a National Tourism Organisation but for any Destination Management Organisation (DMO) likewise.

The way how web users utilise the WWW nowadays has also triggered a shift from a web of pages to an aggregated web of connected data and services in which content distribution and syndication will become more and more effective for creating brand awareness and brand affinity online (see also my post on Internet and TV Equally Effective for Video-Spots).

Martin suggests that the DMO's role should shift to content aggregators and content brokers, the latter meaning that online branding happens "off-site" on other websites which are used as communication and information channels by the target customers (see illustration below, click on picture to enlarge).

Martin identifies 3 tasks as most important for DMOs in the era of the social web:
  1. "Listening" to what people publish online (text, videos, photos etc.), i.e. monitoring and opinion mining.
  2. "Talking" to and with the Internet community, i.e. initiating a discussion and exhaust network effects for viral marketing.
  3. "Supporting" the visitors online by means of personalised information and quality online services.
Furthermore, destination managers need to be aware of that users in different markets also use different platforms and channels. Facebook for example is very popular in European countries and in the USA, whereas in Japan Mixi is the most popular social networking platform (10 million users and an 80% share of the social networking market). Thus market research and market monitoring are vital in order to find out what platforms and channels are the most efficient ones for reaching the target audience online.

Thanks a lot Martin for sharing the ANTOs eDestination strategy with us! Maybe other NTOs will follow your positive example and consider sharing their "secrets" and best practice examples with us, too!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

A New Tourism Webportal for Holidays in Austria

A new Austrian tourism information portal with the somewhat unusual name launched less than a week ago. I assume the reason for the iterative usage of the domain name urlaub (i.e. holiday) in the URL is that is already owned by a German based online travel company.

The objective of is to provide all the information needed for a holiday in Austria. The portal was initiated by the Austrian company Herold Business Data, in cooperation with Feratel, one of the leading developers and providers of information systems for the tourism industry. Herold is the publisher of the Austrian telephone directory and the yellow pages and the first impression of is also that of an inventory listing of tourism businesses and establishments (see screenshot below, click on picture to enlarge).

According to a press release by Herold (source:, 5 Oct 09), lists more than 128,000 Austrian tourism suppliers such as accommodation establishments, restaurants, bars and spas. Moreover, information about summer and winter outdoor activities, including descriptions of cycling and hiking tours, is also available to some extent.

The website providers claim that the "learning" website navigation adjusts to the individual visitor’s interests based on a substantial analysis of the search and navigation behavior, which will be used to “calculate” (sic!) recommendations for the website users. This type of recommendation system reminds me very much at the Amazon principle of “users who have bought book abc have also bought book xyz” (see screenshot of the recommendations below).

However, how the “personalisation” really works has remained a mystery to me so far, but maybe more visits to the website are required in order to find that out. The navigation of the website is mainly structured according to geographic areas (regions, destinations, cities and towns), and the points of interest further can be displayed interactively and geo-referenced on Google maps. The website also integrates the obligatory Web 2.0 applications and services (e.g. Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Qype) which is rather state-of-the art than a new approach. The business model of charging a fee for a higher ranking of otherwise free entries is also not as innovative and new as stated in the press release but rather favors less budget-restrained hotels and suppliers. And whether this principle is end-consumer oriented remains yet another question.

I have navigated through the website and have tried to accomplish the following 2 tasks:

  1. To book a single room for 2 nights in a a 3star hotel in Vienna near the Palace of Schönbrunn.
  2. To search for a 1 week skiing holiday (accommodation + ski pass) in Carinthia in December for 2 adults + 1 kid.

My résumé of is that finding a hotel or any other supplier is easy by means of the geographic navigation (i.e. text based and map, filters). Checking availability and online booking is not (yet) included, you can only send an enquiry to the hotel or to the tourist board. Finding and putting together more complex tourism packages is not realised in a user-friendly way due to the lack of set arrangements or a shopping basket collecting components of the travel experience. The website is (consciously) very functional and does not convey emotions about the destinations. The usability could be improved by adjustable font sizes and a better scanability of the text paragraphs.
The biggest strength of the portal is certainly that two very experienced and successful companies have teamed up: Herold, which possesses up-to-date data of tourism suppliers and businesses, and Feratel, which provides back and front office technology and DMS for a great number of destinations and further operates hundreds of panorama cameras.

What do you think about the economic viability and sustainability of yet another tourism portal? Does differ from existing portals and does it meet the claim to be “the most complete tourism platform for holiday makers to Austria”? Share your opinions with us!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Poor Usability Drives Down Bookings on Hospitality Websites

Over 40% of would-be bookers on hospitality websites failed to complete the booking process because of a usability problem with the booking engine or because of a technical or navigation issue, revealed the “Hospitality Industry Report Q2 2009” by iPerceptions.

The report analyses user-generated content from more than 123,000 visitors to websites of leading hospitality brands. Out of the 33% of the visitors who navigated to a hotel website with the intention to make a reservation (see chart below), 4 in 10 abandoned the transaction.

Whereas some visitors might have not proceeded with the booking because they simply wanted to compare the room rates or were only interested in further hotel information, the data suggests that the reasons for not making a reservation were more related to usability and technical obstacles.

The major barriers were problems with the booking flow and the site navigation (see chart below, click on chart to enlarge).

The report further gives evidence that 47% of the website visitors were onsite for the first time and thus not accustomed to the website navigation, information architecture and functionality.

The message is clear: hotel website designers and content managers should put more emphasis on usability issues. The term “usability” refers to both the ease-of-use as well as the usefulness of a website from the user’s (!) point of view, or in other words the visitor’s perception of the effectiveness (fit for purpose) and efficiency (effort and time required to use) of the website.

The American usability guru, Jacob Nielsen (Usability Engineering, 1994), has developed a usability framework which is composed of:

  • Learnability: how easy is it for first time visitors to accomplish tasks, e.g. making a booking?
  • Efficiency: once users have learned the navigation, how quickly can they perform tasks?
  • Memorability: when users return to the website after some time, how easily can they re-establish proficiency?
  • Errors: how many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
  • Satisfaction: how pleasant and entertaining is it to use the website?
The findings of the iPerceptions report are corroborated by a survey carried out by Forrester Consulting, according to which a poorly performing website has an effect beyond any online transaction. Almost half (46%) of the survey respondents said they would develop a negative perception of a company following a dissatisfying online-shopping experience (source:

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Here, there … Tweets and Twitter Everywhere

What are you doing?” is the only question Twitter asks you when you log on. The answer to that question is limited to 140 characters, and to be honest I have always disliked restrictions in general and for text messages in particular as it can happen that I have a lot to say.

It might sound a bit strange, when Twitter states on their own website that “the answers to this question are for the most part rhetorical”, because users actually do not expect a response. So, whereas on Facebook you expect that your friends comment on or at least like your status updates, on Twitter it is mostly about following the tweets of opinion-leaders or other POIs (i.e. people of interests). In other words: I tweet - you read!

Whatever you might think about this micro-blogging service, it does make a lot of noise in the Internet world and also gets more and more attention in the tourism industry.

A Twitter-based hotel booking engine was launched only a couple of days ago. Inoqo ( describes itself a last-moment social media hotel booking engine which only publishes hotel packages available within the next 48 hours. Twitter users can follow the stream for a certain city and receive real-time hotel offers (see illustration below, click on graphic to enlarge).

The service is free for the travelers. Inoqo’s business model is to charge hotels with a commission fee for each booking. Inoqo claims to react with their service to the recession hit hospitality industry and offers an added value to business travelers in particular who often need to book a hotel room on a very short notice.

Further, Twitter has recently added geo-location features which allow location-based services, certainly an added value for travelers on the move.

Twitter is a typical example of social web start-ups. Founded in 2006, Twitter has no profitable business model but was able to raise more than 100 million US$ of funding and apparently the company value is up to 1 billion US$. Twitter with its 60 odd employees attracts now 54 million visitors per month, according to an article published in the New York Times.

Well, let’s only hope we will not drown in the information flow. But Twitter assures that users are very much in control of whose updates they receive, when they receive them, and on what device. For instance, you can schedule Twitter to automatically turn off at dinnertime.
And isn’t that great to have control over not being distracted from eating?

Friday, 2 October 2009

A new generation of NTO Tourist Information Portals?

A number of National Tourist Organisations (e.g., have recently published relaunched versions of their B2C websites and others are currently working on a relaunch project (e.g.

It seems that the fast growing development and penetration of Web 2.0 applications and services have induced Web managers to realize that a “generation change” is dawning for the web portals of NTOs.

In fact, the objectives and the characteristics of websites had to be adapted over the past 15 years influenced by new developments in terms of technology, business processes and consumer behavior.

Eric van Heck (in 2005) already reflected on the website developments up to the year 2009. Van Heck identified the phase of the “smart business networks” as subsequent to b2b/b2c-platforms for buyers and sellers likewise. It is interesting that this pattern of change seems to follow a period of 3 to 4 years.

Analysing the relaunched tourism portals (e.g. also in more detail makes it obvious that we have entered a new stage which has the content presence across various channels as the main objective.

Hence, I have extended van Hecks “website development phase model” with the “distributed web” stage which is determined by content aggregation from and distribution to other platforms and communication channels (click on illustration above to enlarge).

The interactive map on is a good example for content aggregation from various sources (click on graphic to enlarge). offers visitors various interesting possibilities to create content and share it with others and therewith foster the community building amongst Finland fans and tourists (click on graphic to enlarge).

Nevertheless, I wonder whether b2c tourism information portals of NTOs will remain important for future users when the content is available on other platforms and in other channels anyway? A Danish gentleman, attending the TourMIS workshop at the Modul University a few weeks ago, even raised the question whether NTOs are still needed at all?

And if Google (or similar search engines) is used by the vast majority of users and obviously represents the state of the art of information search why do NTOs not consider applying a similar principle?

What do you think? Is the structure of National Tourist Organsations' websites and the content offered still relevant for the search and browsing behaviour of internet users?