New Master-Thesis Topics

During October the first Master-Thesis workshop with the students writing their theses in the division of eTourism took place. The students work on exciting topics such as the incorporation of bots in a hotel communication software, voice assisted search in destinations, a guide for virtual reality in tourism, fairness of online pricing as well as the development of a gamification app for an Austrian mountain destination. The students will surely come up with very interesting findings – we’ll keep you posted! :)

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European Commission Crowdfunding Workshop 2016

The European Commission Crowdfunding Workshop 2016 took place in Graz this September. Leading experts from all EU Member States and selected further experts were invited by the European Commission to a workshop in order to exchange views on the current state of crowdfunding across Europe. Amongst them our former student Igor Gula who presented his idea “How would you promote European tourism? The ETC ideas competition” as well as the book Open Tourisum that was published by him, Roman Egger and Dominik Walcher. Igor Gula ranked third in the European Commission Crowdfunding Workshop.

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VR-Summit Salzburg

Salzburg University of Applied Sciences hosts the first VR Summit Salzburg 2016 which takes place on 5th of October. The event starts at 2 pm and offers besides different speeches and panels also various exhibitions. The summit is characterized by its’ interdisciplinary program – the main topics being VR and entertainment, VR and health care and of course, VR and tourism. Our VR research group will also be present and give an overview about the different projects we are working on. Step by and check it out.

Register now! We will be there – and we are looking forward to see you there as well!

VR Summit Salzburg 2016

VR Summit Salzburg 2016

NEW: Virtual Reality Research Group

After initially kicking off the VR research project with just one bachelor and one master thesis, we have now expanded our team and formed a proper VR Research Division. Philipp has finished his bachelor thesis and will continue to contribute to the team and administrate the website. Julia is writing her master thesis about the perceived emotions of consumers when experiencing VR and the physiological effects. Alina will write her master thesis about what the perfect VR production looks like and will work on establishing a standard for the industry. Two groups from the master program have joined as part of the eTourism class. They are researching 1. the importance of presence and immersion, and 2. the possibilities of VR for destinations.  Furthermore, Tobias, a master student from the MMT program (Multi-Media Technology), is also part of our VR Research Division. He will research 3D models and visualizations and help us with the production of our own content and hardware maintenance. The entire division is led by Prof. Dr. Roman Egger.

The VR research division of the FH Salzburg
The VR Research Division of the FH Salzburg

ISCONTOUR 2016

The ISCONTOUR is a conference for students and with students.  It was founded by Christian Maurer (IMC University of Applied Sciences in Krems) and Roman Egger (University of Applied Sciences Salzburg) to encourage students for touristic research topics and to publish their work to a more general public.

A success story

This year, 140 students, graduates, practitioners and lecturers from more than 40 countries took part at the event, that was organized in Krems for this year. Again, the aim to promote the knowledge transfer between students as well as universities and practitioners, was achieved successfully. Learning and having fun went together hand in hand – and presented a whole bunch of great talents again!

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Coming together for two days

The program of the two conference days contained workshops showing innovative research methods and helt by Stephanie Tischler and Inga Carboni (IMC FH Krems) as well as Claus Ebster (University Vienna) and Barbara Neuhofer (Bournemouth University). After that, the prestigious researcher Melanie Kay Smith of the Budapest Metropolitan University of Applied Sciences held a speach about the differentiation between health tourism and common wellness trends. The heart of the event, of course, was the presentation of the contributing authors from over 20 countries.

The Awards

Two kinds of awards were gain able for the authors of the 27 research articles: The Best Paper Award and the Best ICT-related Paper Award. In the first category, the first price went to Yuan Pan from the Institute for Tourism Studies in Macao, the second to Miriam Broseghini and Serena Volo from the University of Bolzano, Italy and the third to Raul Monteiro, also from the Institute for Tourism Studies Macao. The best ICT-related contributions came from Rebecca Wahler and Aleksander Groth from the Management Center Innsbruck (first place), Larissa Neuburger (second) as well as Sofiya Iliycheva and Melanie Fraiss, both from the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences.

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More information about the ISCONTOUR: www.tourism-student-conference.com

Online Travel Distribution Summit

The Online Travel Distribution Summit took place on the 11th of April 2016. It was an awesome event: 230 Students from all over, 6 Speakers (Expedia, Booking, Goolge, Amadeus, Escapio, ÖHV) discussed the whole afternoon about online travel distribution. Thank you to my 2nd Semester Master Class, who organized the event together with me! Great Job! We will provide the full video of the conference shortly

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Connecting Big Data and Service Quality Evaluation

Development of a Service Quality Map of the Austrian Hospitality Industry through the Application of Big Data

by Julia Beck, Margarita Danilenko, Laura Sperber and Brenda Wiersma

The travel industry is characterized by a big volume of differently structured data. Every reservation, hotel stay, flight or train ticket can be seen as a data trail that in the end form a body of big data. The concept of big data is then defined as a large volume of complex, unstructured digital data generated through a variety of sources and requiring special database software to process volumes of data in a timely manner.

Within this research big data consists of user-generated content (UGC), namely online user reviews. Thus, online user reviews are used in order to fully explore travellers` judgement of service quality within the Austrian hospitality sector. Indeed, topic of service quality nowadays significantly gains in importance. With the current development of the hospitality industry and often overwhelming variety of options to choose from, it is a key decisive factor when it comes to planning a trip and choosing one accommodation over another. Thus, service quality is of high relevance for both – customers and entrepreneurs. However, authors of the research would like to introduce other potential beneficiaries of the project, such as destination management organisations (DMOs) and governmental organisations. The research should then emphasize the importance of big data in regard to the service quality from another perspective – focusing on the potential benefits for the aforementioned institutions.

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Consequently, the key purpose of the study is to generate an interactive service quality map of the Austrian hospitality industry by applying the concepts of big data and service quality. Thus, big data – comprising vast volume of online user reviews that in turn depict service quality – lies in the foundation of the service quality map. This map could then represent a powerful tool for governmental institutions and DMOs to assist them in the decision making process for future planning. The developed prototype can also be of interest for other stakeholders, such as banks, potential investors, and other parties willing to engage with the Austrian hospitality sector. This tool accumulates intelligent data and generates profound overview of the service quality of the Austrian hospitality industry. The user has the possibility to conduct specific queries and get the result visualized as a density map. This allows the user to evaluate how a specific type of tourist perceives a certain dimension of service quality in Austria or in a particular part of Austria. Furthermore, the prototype also allows extraction of the structured data to be further interpreted and analysed through other software like SPSS, MS Excel and others.

Digital Divide in Tourism

Differences among Generation X and Y towards Online travel reviews writing
By Alice Bekk, Chiara Dalponte and Anna Zsófia Höfler

1        Introduction
With the diffusion of the Web 2.0 in the last decade, user-generated contents (UGCs) such as online travel reviews have become a key tool for both tourists and tourism managers. On one hand, researchers proved in a study that more than a third (36%) of respondents between 25 and 39 engaged in providing reviews and evaluations (Fotis, et al., 2012), characterizing electronic Word-Of-Mouth (eWOM) as a constantly growing trend (Xiang, et al., 2015). On the other hand, such UGC, when properly analysed, can provide tourism enterprises with valuable market intelligence and on-going research opportunities. In addition, travel blogs can be used by tourism managers for customer profiling, customer acquisition, customer engagement, brand awareness, brand reinforcement, reputation management and customer service, bearing a great potential for the industry (Akehurst, 2009). As a direct effect of this phenomenon for the single tourism providers, positive online reviews can significantly increase the number of bookings in a hotel (Ye, et al., 2009), which should push managers to deepen their knowledge about their customers’ behaviour towards the writing of online travel reviews. As a matter of fact, according to a previous study concerning the impact of online travel reviews, generational differences occurred across a variety of perceptions and usage behaviours. The results of the study confirm the importance for tourism enterprises of considering demographic variables when modelling information search behaviour (Gretzel and Yoo, 2008).

The scope of this research is to find relevant differences between Generations X and Y in the writing of online travel reviews. These two generations were specifically chosen because they are defined by Li et al. (2013) as being characterized by more active travellers. As a result, this study explores the tourism consumer behaviour of these two generations towards online travel reviews writing on a deeper level, while accepting that there are some similarities, but at the same time aiming at discovering some possible differences in their approaches. The research was not limited to the pure action of writing online travel reviews, but aspired also at the investigation of some relevant insights related to this fact

Therefore, the purpose of this research is to provide tourism managers with a deeper insight into the online behaviour of their customers. As it has been stated previously, the significance of travel reviews goes beyond the mere writing action and has a high potential for the industry, with the consequence of developing, for example, market approaches aiming at improving online reputation (Milano, et al., 2011).

In the literature review the authors focused on three main domains, which characterize the topic of the research, that is to say digital divide, generations X and Y and online travel reviews. From the theoretical background the following 5 hypotheses were derived:

H1: Generation Y writes more online travel reviews than Generation X.

H2: Generation Y reads more online travel reviews than Generation X.

H3: Generation X writes online travel reviews mainly in order to express feelings, whereas Generation Y writes online travel reviews mainly for the greater good (e.g. helping the company, concern for other consumers).

H4: Generation Y’s reason not to write online travel reviews is laziness.

H5: If tourists were asked to write an online travel review, the majority would answer with “yes”.

2        Methodology
2.1 Research Design

In order to test the hypotheses, a survey research design was adopted. The authors chose to employ structured interviews, as the goal of this style of interviewing is to ensure that interviewees’ replies can be aggregated (Bryman, 2012). As a result, a questionnaire was developed, including questions about demographics and the behaviour towards online travel reviews writing, but also questions indirectly related to this. The questionnaire was composed of 20 questions in total, whereby some of them were only for the respondents who ever wrote at least one online travel review, while others had to be answered only by those respondents who never wrote one. Furthermore, as the authors expected a high amount of German speakers among the participants, the questionnaire was firstly created in English and subsequently translated into German. Finally, before the beginning of the data collection, a pre-test of the questionnaire was done to ensure the right comprehension of the questions by the interviewees and according to this some final adjustments were done.

2.2 Data Collection, Sampling and Data Analysis

The data collection, thus the administration of the survey, took place in November 2015, when face-to-face structured interviews were carried out in the city centre of Salzburg using the web application LimeSurvey. As the beneficiaries of the study are tourism providers operating in Salzburg, the authors approached exclusively tourists during the data collection. The interviewees were free to choose the language in which the questionnaire was completed, either German or English. Moreover, as a prerequisite for taking part to the survey, they had to be born either between 1965 and 1980, thus Generation X, or between 1981 and 1990, thus Generation Y (Li, et al., 2013). The sampling method was in the form of a quota sample. This was done in order to avoid the gender of the respondents to influence the findings. At the end, the collected valid questionnaires were in total 228. Among them, 57 respondents (25%) were Generation X male, 57 (25%) were Generation X female, 57 (25%) were Generation Y male and 57 (25%) were Generation Y female. In total, the majority of the respondents, about 30%, came from Germany, followed by Austria (about 8%), USA (7%) and Italy (about 5%). In total, 52 nationalities from all over the world were encountered. The analysis of the data was done using the software SPSS, and out of it a statistical summary was created, reporting data about each question of the survey. The variable defining the generations was cross-tabulated with all the other variables in order to visualize the resulting differences concerning online travel reviews writing. Finally, the hypotheses derived from the literature were tested and the respective significance values were interpreted.

3        Results and Discussion
The results of this study can be of utmost importance for tourism providers operating in the city of Salzburg. In fact, the growing phenomenon of online travel reviews can be considered as a form of interactive marketing for the hospitality industry, and its economic potential lies essentially in the use of information from the customer rather than about the customer (Gretzel, et al., 2000). As a result, getting a deeper insight of who one hotel’s customers are and what is their approach towards online travel reviews writing can be crucial for the development of the right marketing strategy.

The first hypothesis, being confirmed, can be interpreted with the fact that Generation Y grew up in a time with further technological development than Generation X, meaning Generation Y is overall more technologically involved and present. Therefore operators in the tourism industry could implement their already existing marketing strategy, with further elements on how to increase the involvement of Generation X, as well as the engagement for Generation Y.

To continue, the result of the second hypothesis, which has been neglected, shows that Generation X is more involved with reading and observing online travel reviews, though they were the ones who wrote less online travel reviews. It is interesting for tourism providers to see that this generation is more silently taking part to online travel platforms, which could be a reason for tourism providers to motivate Generation X more and trying to reach out to them. Furthermore the reading of online travel reviews does not necessarily mean that tourists are going to write one afterwards. Visitors should be persuaded to write a review, no matter if positive or negative, due to the strong influence of these platforms. By encouraging more tourists to write, both consumers and suppliers can gain a competitive advantage out of it.

In the third hypothesis it is interesting to see that both Generations X and Y mainly write online travel reviews to express their positive feelings towards the experience or service provided. Therefore tourism operators could take advantage of this to enforce positive experience with further services or products.

Seeing that laziness is in fact the main reason for Generation Y not to write online travel reviews, tourism operators can now focus on this problem. One possibility could be to motivate them with further give-aways, discounts on the next trip, or other advantages. It should not be forgotten that Generation Y is still the one, which writes more online travel reviews in comparison with Generation X. Therefore, the motivation of both generations is in fact a barrier for tourism providers. Not only tourism operators, but also travel review platforms can benefit from this finding, since they rely on visitors exchanging actively, in order to be successful on a long period.

To conclude, being the wide majority of the respondents ready to write a review if they would be asked to by tourism suppliers, these latter should feel encouraged to maintain an authentic and lasting relationship with the customer, even after the departure, which would also lead to an increase in the customer loyalty.

3.1 Limitations of the results

The first and biggest limitation of the study is that it cannot be generalised, meaning that the results cannot be extended onto the wider population. This occurred because of the small sample size selected for the survey, which was influenced also by time-constrains and lack of resources. A further limitation, influencing the results, relies in the nationality of the participants, since the wide majority is clearly from Germany, then from Austria and the USA. What is more, during the data collection it was noticeably difficult to gather information from Asian tourists, due to following reasons: Asian tourists in Salzburg were mainly moving in groups and could not be talked to individually, since they were on a guided tour. Furthermore, the lack of English knowledge was also a barrier that held Asian tourists back to participate in the questionnaire, since the communication was not easy to hold upon effortless. Moreover, an additional weakness needs to be pointed out concerning the method of triangulation used by the authors: the online reviews platform HolidayCheck.de. This website is mostly used by German speaking travellers, so it cannot be considered representative for the whole tourism population.

4        CONCLUSION
The aim of this research was to find out differences between Generation X and Generation Y towards online travel reviews (OTRs) writing. Related to this, the findings demonstrated that the behaviour of these two generations actually differs, not only in the writing of OTRs, but more generally in the overall attitude towards this trend. Even if the results are not significant, there is a visible trend. Further investigations of the differences between Generation X and Generation Y towards travel behaviour in general are a possibility to use this research effectively, by building up on it. In addition, the reasons for users to write online travel reviews can be further researched, in order to optimize the usability of these online platforms. Another suggested piece of research based on this one is if there is an optimal reaction of tourism accommodators to online travel platforms of any kind in order to leave a positive impression on the customer.

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REFERENCES

Akehurst, G., (2009), “User generated content: The use of blogs for tourism organisations and tourism consumers”, Service Business, Vol. 3 No 1, pp.51–61.

Bryman, A., (2012), “Social research methods”, Oxford University Press, New York.

Fotis, J., Buhalis, D. and Rossides, N., (2012), “Social media use and impact during the holiday travel planning process”, Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism, Springer, Wien, pp. 13–24.

Gretzel, U. and Yoo, K., (2008), “Use and impact of online travel reviews”, Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2008, Springer, Wien, pp. 35-46.

Gretzel, U., Yuan, Y. and Fesenmaier, R., (2000), “Preparing for the New Economy: Advertising Strategies and Change in Destination Marketing Organizations”, Journal of Travel Research, Vol. 39, pp.146-156.

Li, X., Li, X. and Hudson, S., (2013), “The application of generational theory to tourism consumer behavior: An American perspective”, Tourism Management, Vol. 37, pp.147–164.

Milano, R., Baggio, R. and Piattelli, R., (2011), “The effects of online social media on tourism websites”, Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2011, Springer, Wien, pp.471-483.

Xiang, Z., Magnini, V.P. and Fesenmaier, D.R., (2015), “Information technology and consumer behavior in travel and tourism : Insights from travel planning using the internet”, Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Vol. 22, pp.244–249.

Ye, Q., Law, R. and Gu, B., (2009), “The impact of online user reviews on hotel room sales”, International Journal of Hospitality Management, Vol. 28 No 1, pp.180–182.

Yoo, K., and Gretzel, U., (2008), “What motivates consumers to write online travel reviews?”, Information Technology & Tourism, Vol. 10 No 4, pp.283-295.