Sunday, 14 February 2010

ENTER 2010 in Lugano

ENTER, the international conference on Information Technology and Travel & Tourism took place from the 10th to the 13th February in Lugano. Over 300 academics, industry representatives, destination managers, marketers and government representatives participated and discussed current issues and future trends in tourism.

The programme consisted of more than 100 presentations from international researchers and tourism practitioners and covered a great variety of topics from content management, e-marketing, semantic web, augmented reality, mobile services, travel distribution to sustainability through ICTs.

Evert van Loenen (Philips Research), for example, presented how ambient intelligence applications in tourism can revolutionise the user experience. Ambient intelligence (AI) refers to electronic environments that are sensitive and responsive to the presence of people. Van Loenen pointed out that ambient intelligence applications might be especially interesting for the so-called bleisure lifestyle segement. Bleisure, a term coined by the Future Laboratory describes the blurring of business and leisure.
In the 80s, business was about competitive advantage and using left-brain characteristics. In the 90s, it was about knowledge economics and using the right-side of our brain. But now it is about firing up both sides of the brain and mixing and merging left (work) with play and creativity (right). Bleisure people are tech savvy, with every gadget imaginable almost becoming an extension of their body. They multitask, talk, listen and type and text. And their priorities are simple: they come first. Often work was considered as something you do to get money to buy leisure. But that is a false way to look at it now. If you are doing something that you enjoy doing and you are getting paid for it, it becomes a profitable hobby rather than drudgery.

Philips Research has developed the Guest Inspiration System, a photo inspiration centre for hotels. The hotel guests can swipe their keycard over a networked table to receive suggestions about things to do and to collect points of interests (POIs). The hotel guest can then present the keycard to either the concierge or an info terminal in order to obtain more detailed information about the POIs. Ambient intelligence is context aware and personalised by applying algorithms which match metadata (e.g. time, location) with local conditions (e.g. time, day, weather, hotel location).
Van Loenen concluded that the challenges for the future will be to keep the user-system-interaction as simple and intuitive as possible and to understand the needs and especially the latent needs of future travelers and other stakeholders.

Andrew Pozniak from Google explained that Google’s solutions for the tourism industry link the virtual and the physical world with a focus on search, video and mobile. Google plans to invest hugely in mobile and anticipates a new era of computing since phones are getting more powerful and less expensive. People get connected to the internet more often from more places via their phones. Another objective of Google is to create Place Pages for every place in the world and organising all the relevant information about it. There are Place Pages for businesses, points of interest, transit stations, neighborhoods, landmarks and cities all over the world.

Another innovative Google solution is Search by Voice which makes searching faster and offers new possibilities for the users. I tried out Search by Voice myself on my iPhone and I have to say it is amazing! You simply hold your mobile phone to your ear and speak the search query after the beep. For example you can search for hotels in Lugano by saying “hotels lugano Switzerland” or you can use the phone as a currency converter by saying simply “125 Swiss Francs in Euros” and you will get the exact calculation (see screenshots below taken from my iPhone, click on graphic to enlarge).


Google is further working on a software for bridging the language barrier by speech-translating foreign languages almost instantly via the mobile phone. By building on existing technologies in voice recognition and automatic translation, Google hopes to have a basic system ready within a couple of years (Source: The Sunday Times online, 7th February 2010).
Just like in Star Trek! Well, a mobile language translator would certainly be a great help for travelers and would make communication among human beings a lot easier.

I contributed to ENTER myself with two presentations. I was honoured support Professor Jamie Murphy in his workshop on the Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC). In 2009, over 10,000 students from 57 countries around the world taking part in the GOMC. The GOMC was developed by professors in collaboration with Google and it gives students and instructors likewise the opportunity to gain a practical, real world online marketing experience. Student teams receive US$200 of free online advertising with Google AdWords and then work with local businesses to devise effective online marketing campaigns. The teams outline a strategy, run a campaign, assess their results and provide the clients with recommendations to further develop their online marketing.

I participated in the GOMC last year with my Master students at the IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems and we carried out very successful Google AdWords campaigns for 11 clients. One of the teams was even among the semi-finalists (i.e. the top 50!) in the Eastern and Middle European Area. For more information on the GOMC 2009 read the article IMC Krems: Tourism students support Companies with e-Marketing. Needless to say that we will participate in the competion again this year!

Furthermore, I chaired the Friday morning session titled “New Generation of NTO Tourist Information Portals”. The presentations of Jonah Sigel (PlanetEye), Andrew McIntyre (Australian Tourism Data Warehouse) and Alexander Trieb (Tripwolf.com) tried to give answers to the questions: do current NTO b2c websites meet customer needs and how will developments in social media and user behavior influence NTO websites and the role of NTOs in general?

This year ENTER was hosted by the Università della Svizzera italiana and I would like to express my thanks to the local team including Professor Lorenzo Cantoni, Nadia Kalbaska, Elena Marchiori and Alessandro Inversini who made this ENTER conference a truly memorable event. Besides the many interesting presentations and discussions, like every year ENTER offered many opportunities for networking and socialising. For more information on ENTER 2010 visit www.enter2010.org/info/.