Cross-Organization Virtual CoPs in E-Tourism--Assembling Information-Based Products

The facility by which the Internet has enabled customer self-service has been a boon to many industries, but has had a significant impact on the travel and tourism industries. Chiefly, the role of travel agent has largely been eliminated as individuals can book their own flights, hotels, and other services - and while this has saved expense, some degree of quality has been lost: the expertise of the agent in informing travelers of the various other amenities and services available at their destination.

To this end, the EKONES project has been launched as an attempt to develop an "electronic village" to enable small vendors in a Greek village to collaborate in offering "packages" to tourists - filling the void that was left by the disappearance (or disuse) of travel agencies.

At the time the article was written, the project was in its deployment phase. (EN: presently, the site is no longer operational at the link provided, and an internet search was unable to locate it - so it's likely it is no longer in existence.)


A "tour" is a package of independent but interrelated businesses: transportation, accommodation, food, places of recreation, excursions, etc. that each have a different business model. While the target market has similar interests in visiting a location, they are likewise disparate: individuals from a wide array of locations come to visit a given destination. There is likewise a variety of information systems that keep services and data in various formats - and while there are a number of integration models, none have been universally adopted.

As a result, there is a valid need for a platform that can be shared among vendors within a destination to promote their services and enable customers to book reservations, both for the vendors and the customers, who are presently unaware of opportunities and may find it inconvenient to assemble "packages" for themselves. The platform that facilitates this activity is called a "dynamic packaging system."

Some notes are provided about the progress toward developing a common model for information related to tourism services is a challenge, though various efforts have been made to identify a data format that is common and flexible enough to suit a variety of products. It's also noted that a number of "tourism players" have recently experimented with relationship management, providing sponsored online communities for travelers. The author methods the "Lonely Planet" site as a successful online travel community.


The EKONES project set out to create ties among vendors in a local markets, particularly those that were not widely supported by existing "destination management systems" (EN: by which I think the author means to indicate small operators who do not have associations with exiting travel sites), to enable these providers to reach (or be found by) customers, who would purchase "packages" that include the offerings of multiple vendors (a bus, a ticket to a museum, lunch, a walking tour, etc as a single itinerary, with some options). Customers, meanwhile, would be able to find these services, customize their itineraries, and share them with fellow travelers.

Some notes are provided on the research methods, which included qualitative and quantitative studies, gathering information from vendors. Based on this information, a development team created cognitive walkthroughs and prototypes for testing.

(EN: there's a lot of detail about the specific implementation and user roles and tasks defined, which I don't see as being widely applicable, just specific to this project, so I'm skipping the details. If ever I'm called upon to build a tourism site, granular information such as this might be of interest, but as general guidance for community development, it's too specific to this experiment.)