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Tourism information systems integration and utilization within the semantic web

Publication Date
  • School Of Management And Information Systems
  • 280000 Information
  • Computing And Communication Sciences
  • Computer Science
  • Design


The objective of this research was to generate grounded theory about the extent to which the Semantic Web and related technologies can assist with the creation, capture, integration, and utilization of accurate, consistent, timely, and up-to-date Web based tourism information. Tourism is vital to the economies of most countries worldwide (developed and lessdeveloped). Advanced Destination Marketing Systems (DMS) are essential if a country’s tourism infrastructure, facilities and attractions are to receive maximum exposure. A necessary prerequisite here is that relevant data must be captured, ‘cleansed’, organized, integrated and made available to key industry parties (e.g. travel agents and inbound tour operators). While more and more tourists are using the Internet for travel planning, the usability of the Internet as a travel information source remains a problem, with travellers often having trouble finding the information they seek as the amount of online travel related information increases. The problem is largely caused by the current Web’s lack of structure, which makes the integration of heterogeneous data a difficult time consuming task. Traditional approaches to overcoming heterogeneity have to a large extent been unsuccessful. In the past organizations attempted to rectify the problem by investing heavily in top-down strategic information systems planning projects (SISP), with the ultimate aim of establishing a new generation of systems built around a single common set of enterprise databases. An example of this approach to integration is that undertaken by the Bell companies (Nolan, Puryear & Elron 1989), whose massive investment in computer systems turned out to be more of a liability than an asset. The Semantic Web offers a new approach to integration. Broadly speaking, the Semantic Web (Berners-Lee, Hendler & Lassila 2001) refers to a range of standards, languages, development frameworks and tool development initiatives aimed at annotating Web pages with welldefined metadata so that intelligent agents can reason more effectively about services offered at particular sites. The technology is being developed by a number of scientists and industry organizations in a collaborative effort led by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) with the goal of providing machine readable Web intelligence that would come from hyperlinked vocabularies, enabling Web authors to explicitly define their words and concepts. It is based on new markup languages such as such as Resource Description Framework (RDF) (Manola & Miller 2004), Ontology Web Language (OWL) (McGuinness & Harmelen 2004), and ontologies which provide a shared and formal description of key concepts in a given domain. The ontology driven approach to integration advocated here might be considered ‘bottom-up’, since individual enterprises (and parts of the one enterprise) can apply the technology (largely) independently – thereby mirroring the processes by which the Web itself evolved. The idea is that organizations could be provided with a common model (the Semantic Web ontology), and associated (easy-to-use) software could then be employed to guide them in the development of their Websites. As such, because Website production is driven by the common ontology, consistency and convenient integration is almost an automatic by-product (for all companies that take advantage of the technology and approach). In many cases, organizations would not have to change their present data structures or naming conventions, which could potentially overcome many of the change management issues that have led to the failure of previous integration initiatives. Many researchers (e.g. (El Sawy 2001)) have stressed the necessity to take a holistic view of technology, people, structure and processes in IT projects and, more specifically, Sharma et al. (2000, p. 151) have noted that as significant as DMS technological problems are, they may well pale into insignificance when compared with the managerial issues that need to be resolved. With this in mind, a systems development research approach supported by a survey of tourism operators and secondary interviews was used to generate grounded theory. The systems development and evaluation were designed to uncover technical benefits of using the Semantic Web for the integration and utilization of online tourism information. The survey of tourism operators and secondary data interviews were aimed at providing an understanding of attitudes towards adoption of a radical new online technology among industry stakeholders. A distinguishing feature of this research was its applied and pragmatic focus: in particular, one aim was to determine just what of practical use can be accomplished today, with current (albeit, extended) technology, in a real industry setting.

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