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Building of networking, clusters and regions for tourism in the Carpathian Basin via Information and Communication Technologies

Lóránt Dávid et Csaba Szűcs
p. 63-74

Résumés

Cette étude analyse la formation et le développement des réseaux et des associations touristiques qui répondent aux défis du marché global. Les TIC occupent dans le Bassin-Carpathique, comme dans beaucoup d’endroits du monde, une place importante dans l’évolution du secteur touristique.

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Texte intégral

Introduction

1The tourism industry has been transformed by information and communication technologies (ICT). The Internet has dramatically changed the way in which consumers plan and buy their holidays. It has also affected how tourism providers promote and sell their products and services. The market for tourism relies on information. The Internet enables the providers of all types of tourism products and services to interact directly with consumers around the world at a relatively low cost.  Using ICT to exchange information about products and services enables all actors involved in tourism to be aware of what services are on offer. For example, an entrepreneur can make sure her hotel will be visible to tour operators who are involved in arranging package holidays (Török, 2002).

The spatiality of tourism in the Carpathian Basin

2Regionalism, undoubtedly, has been one of the most significant ideological-political-economic phenomena in Europe in the past few decades (Isard, 1975; Faragó, 1994; Boyce, 2004). As a result of this phenomenon the characteristic institutional forms of euroregions have been created, which are of utmost importance in the Carpathian Basin (Figure 1) since they are capable of integrating and bridging the gap for the underdeveloped, usually peripheral, and disadvantageous border regions. In European politics, the euroregion is a form of transnational co-operation structure between two (or more) territories located in different European countries. Euroregions represent a specific type of cross-border region. Tourism, as a spectacular social and economic process of the second half of the 20th century, soon got involved in the euroregions, because they created opportunity for multinational tourism developments. No wonder that the deeds of foundation almost of each and every one of them lay great emphasis on the development of this sector.

Figure 1: Hungary and the neighbouring countries in the Carpathian Basin

Figure 1: Hungary and the neighbouring countries in the Carpathian Basin

3The regionalisation of tourism, or considering tourism regions within national borders soon led to the creation of tourism development plans and programmes at the euroregion level. We believe that there is an outstanding opportunity for Hungary and its neighbours to create an internationally competitive tourism macro region in the Carpathian Basin. According to the authors’ judgement the creation of tourism regions can only be successful in a larger scale than the planning-statistical regions. While the main question concerning the latter system is to what extent they will be able to successfully apply for European Union grants, in the case of the tourism regions the main concern is saleability and marketability, which can be achieved and improved by creating larger places than the current ones.

4This is also the main question in the Carpathian Basin, since it is the basic prerequisite for creating a “geo-tourism space in the Carpathian Basin”. Some of the problems can be solved now that Hungary, Slovakia, and Rumania have joined to the European Union, and consequently, after the accession the proffers of the mountain areas of the former Northern Hungary and Transylvania can be combined with that of the Great Plain. The Carpathian Basin is a well known geographical area in Europe, and it seems absolutely logical that its promotion as a connected and complex tourism area has great potentials so much the more because the latent “the Carpathian Basin identity” can soon turn into reality.

5In our opinion the tourism marketing should focus on a united Carpathian Basin area. Nevertheless, it cannot come true from one day to the other so first of all transnational thematic routes have to be created, and the already existing euro-regions have to be further developed in cooperation with the Slovakian, Ukrainian, and Rumanian partners. This way the Carpathian Basin (including areas from Hungary, the former Northern Hungary, Sub-Carpathia, the Partium, and Transylvania) could be developed into an easily marketable tourism area. We have to develop a strategic alliance with the countries that are currently thought of as our primary competitors so that we could compete with the Balkan countries, which are at the moment considered to be our secondary competitors. The countries of the Carpathian Basin should not compete with one another for tourists, rather we should cooperate and the best opportunity for this cooperation is provided by tourism.

The connection between tourism and regional competitiveness

6Although tourism has existed for thousands of years, it has been treated as a science only for a few decades amongst other by the experts of sociology, psychology, economics, anthropology, geography, management science, history, and politics. At the dawn of tourism research – similarly to other fields of study – special attention was paid to the easily representable facts and phenomena. Apart from the well known logics of scientific development it can also be explained by the fact that – since tourism is an overwhelmingly practical activity – creating theories in this field seemed rather absurd or never even occurred to anyone. The diverse fields of science started to show interests in connection with tourism research to different extent and at altered times.

7What is certain is that the amounts of money spent on the development of the tourism sector – taking the multiplier effect into consideration – regarding GDP are utilized much more effectively than the average national economy. Comparing all the multiplicators of the tourism sector and that of the other sectors of the national economy it can be established that there is only one sector, namely finance, which has a higher total multiplicator than the multiplicators of accommodation services and hospitality. Demand for tourism – through technological and induced earnings connections – generates strong multiplicator effects, thus the tourism sector has an outstanding vitalizing and stimulating effect on the economy, which is an important component of regional competitiveness (Rechnitzer 1998; Lengyel 2001, 2003; Lengyel-Deák, 2002; Lengyel-Rechnitzer, 2004).

8Important changes have occurred in the direction and basic approaches of research in the past few decades. The realization of the complexity of tourism and the appearance of holistic attitude have led to the development of the so called knowledge-based research trend, whose representatives primarily come from the academic sector and aim to simultaneously find out about and apply the deep structure, the external connections, and active components of tourism. By all means, one field of it has to be the wide application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

The role of networks and clusters in the economy

9Nowadays, many authors talk about the beginning of the era of “network economy”. Networks and clusters can be thought of as the successful answers to the challenges of global competition (Porter, 1998, 2000, 2001; Dinya, 2003; Angyal, 2003; Marselek, 2006). This could mean on the one hand the alleviation of the negative effects caused by economic processes (unemployment, income differences), and on the other hand the elimination of hindrances that might prevent the spread of innovative economic practices (service industry, technology renewal, accession to European production and market networks).

10The clear scale of values which ranks on the basis of well executed work enhances trust and cooperation which are basic factors of improved competitiveness. The network economy that characterises economically developed regions is built on trust, and it can be ascertained that the networks and clusters to be developed in the regions can only be based on trust as well. The loose alliance of enterprises – amongst which there is intense exchange of information, and they learn, develop, and change collectively – cannot come to existence unless there is a will to cooperate and trust in society.

11Nowadays the key participants of global scale competition are the networks rather than individual enterprises. These networks can be successful because they can build on their global competitive advantage. Local actors have a greater chance for global success if they have local competitive advantages in many fields and at a higher level; moreover, networks are created in order to optimise potential local competitive advantages. At the same time the economic powers that generate competition influence the extent of competitive advantages according to the integrated model: the more intensive the competition is, the more significant and more special competitive advantage is needed for success. Networks and clusters are used interchangeably in the literature; nevertheless, they are not the same and table 1 points out the differences between the two.

Table 1: The different characteristics of entrepreneurial networks and clusters

Networks

Clusters

Advantage

Already existing inexpensive special services

The attraction of special services in demand

Membership

Determined (closed) membership

Open organisation

Basis for cooperation

Contractual cooperation

Social values

Position

Relatively stable

Changes flexibly

Characteristics of the relationship

Based on cooperation

Based on cooperation and competition

Cohesion

Common economic objectives

Collective vision

Participants

Companies

Companies, institutions, professional organisations

Source: Imreh-Lengyel, 2003

12Cooperation is of utmost importance in networks, while competition and rivalry can also be witnessed in clusters. Entrepreneurial networks can only be formed by companies, while clusters can have other institutions (universities, research institutions) and professional organisations (chambers, enterprise development agencies, technology-transfer- organisations, etc.) beside companies.

13Clusters are often specialised, e.g. in the Netherlands it is cut flowers, in Switzerland the pharmaceutical companies, and in Finland the mobile phone manufacturers are the prevailing ones. The Californian grape and wine cluster can be mentioned as examples of regional clusters. This cluster consists of 680 wineries and thousands of grape producers, as well as the suppliers and institutions that are necessary for their operation. Economically viable clusters can be set up in tourism as well. The basic cluster types are shown in table 2.

Table 2: Basic cluster types according to development policy

Industrial sector cluster

Institutional based

Network based

Knowledge oriented

Synapse

(linking points)

Cluster-specific system of conditions ("rhombus")

Cluster based service centre or partnership (often set up by members)

Business networks (closed cooperations)

Networks enhancing information exchange (open learning environment)

Background (theoretical, practical)

Regional specialisation;

Innovation system

Institutional economics; tailor made business assistance

Cooperation attitude; long term connections with partners

Continuous learning; enhancement of exchange of experiences between enterprises

Cluster-as-objective

The enhancement of cauterisation between industrial sectors; the support of value chains and cluster based "innovation systems"

"integral" focus: cluster based support to boost economic efficiency

The reinforcement of business clusters: capacities complementing each other

"Stimulated cluster" focal groups (spontaneous organisations); initiations around the "mentor" firms (e.g. along the supply chain)

Cluster-as-method

For business support

Integrated policies; cluster based technology policies

"Tailor made" services and "economic intelligence"; the service centre helps the integration of policies

The use of cluster specific knowledge; the diverse levels of "tailor made" services

Mediation between the groups of connected firms and the supply sector

Dominant tendency

National/regional

Regional/company

Company

Company

Examples

Porter-style clusters

Italian RSC (Italian School)

SME clusters (Californian School)

Groups of SMEs (Scandinavian School)

Source: Lagendijk, 1999

Networks and clusters in tourism

14Clusters can be formed exclusively in sectors where production is for export (to satisfy extraregional demand) cooperation is advantageous for all participants. Economically speaking clusters utilize the advantages of localisation. It enables:

  • the reduction of transactional and shipping expenses,

  • the faster and more accurate flow of information,

  • the spread of technological and organisational experiences,

  • the constant exchange of knowledge,

  • the support of local societies (educational institutions, infrastructural development, etc.),

  • faster market adaptation.

15The current global processes of the world economy indicate raise in the regions’ value. The raise in the regions’ role is fastened by the practice that companies increasingly focus on their primary operation and the ancillary, secondary functions – organised in a regional network system – are outsourced. The internal organisation of the regions can be thought of as a new source of energy. Since the regions are considered to be the cells of the institutional system of tourism, they are particularly able to form the basis of network and cluster organization. The cooperation of these organisations in multiple regions could create cooperation at a macro-regional level. One instrument in regional networking is the cluster. The tourism cluster is a geographically concentrated cooperation between enterprises which includes all the companies and institutions that are capable of raising the added value created in the value chain. Considering its actual form the tourism cluster is a voluntary cooperation of enterprises and organisations belonging to a certain production verticum, created in order to achieve common goals, and the network is based on civil law contracts. According to its operation the tourism cluster organises services for its members mainly in quality development, which is the key to competitiveness.

16Another important activity of a cluster is to create a framework – e.g. through common projects – for cooperation in the fields of providing information, communication, training, event organisation, marketing and PR. It also helps its members to enter international markets, stimulates e-commerce, and the development of the cluster into a virtual enterprise. Clusters increase competitiveness by improving the quality of the services in the region’s connecting and ancillary industries. The clusters – because of the lower expenses in finding partners, the quick realisation of existing market demands, the fast knowledge transfer, and the trust between the members – significantly reduce transactional expenses (within a given area). The role of regional tourism clusters in improving regional competitiveness in the future is undeniable. Their creation is a bottom-up process for which decentralisation is indispensable.

The toolkit of cluster organisation: ICT in tourism

17Information and communication technologies (ICT) have transformed the tourism industry. The Internet has sparked dramatic changes not only in consumer behaviour concerning the planning and the purchase of holidays but also in how service providers promote and sell their products and services. The Internet has reduced the cost of interaction between the sellers and buyers and has also extended the scope of their relations turning it into a global experience. Available products and services are more easily accessible and marketable since the use of ICT has augmented the exchange of information about the existing and ever changing supply and demand. For instance, entrepreneurs can now make their hotels visible to tour operators who are involved in arranging package holidays. Recently developing countries are becoming key tourism destinations. Nevertheless, a significant percentage of the profits made in those countries leak out and make the large travel firms, hotel chains, booking agencies and transportation providers based in developed countries more prosperous. The Internet may provide and alternative to this practice since consumers can now be reached directly by tourism providers. The websites of tourism providers in developing countries can offer specialized local knowledge and exclusive insights, which is simply out of the question for large international firms. The main task for developing countries is to reorganize tourism services so that they can benefit from ICT. Local companies should be able to offer full packages including reservations, flights and currency exchange. This way profits would remain in the host country and could contribute to better employment rates and economic prosperity through the multiplicator effect. Each year 35 per cent of all international travellers are attracted by developing countries where e-tourism strategies are being developed. As a matter of fact the 24 least developed countries (LDCs) have tourism websites, which at present predominantly serve as “information windows". Quite regrettably booking and payment is not possible on these web sites neither do they reflect the wealth of local tourism potentials. As shopping on Internet is on the increase, Internet access and linked websites covering the entire „value chain” behind international travel should be promoted by governments and national and regional tourism organizations in poorer countries. One of the main problems is how to overcome restricted access to technology, payments, telecommunications, and computer adoption and use. Solution to these problems requires intense dialogue amongst all the different organizations and people involved in tourism.

ICT for tourism in the carpathian basin (ICTTCB)

18ICT for Tourism in the Carpathian Basin (ICTTCB) is a new Internet based method for building tourism clusters in this international macro-region.

19The connection between the Internet and tourism has always been very powerful, since in the decision making process and during the organisation of a tour tourists have to assemble a large amount of information about a product (package) about which they very rarely have first hand experience. Taking advantage of the Internet service providers can introduce accommodation possibilities, the sights of the destination, etc. thus narrowing down the gap in the information asymmetry between them and the prospective tourists. Another invaluable advantage of the Internet stems from its global accessibility. By using the Internet service providers are not only able to spread information about their services effectively and inexpensively but also they can sell them directly. Because the Internet is relatively inexpensive it can provide opportunities for small and medium enterprises to reduce their disadvantages against large companies. Due to its global accessibility the Internet provides opportunities for wider cooperation since companies located far away from each other can create and maintain connections in a relatively easy and economical way. The connection between the Internet or information technology and tourism is a dynamically developing area, which, according to some experts, can be a determinant element within the tourism sector. During its short history the World Wide Web has generated the most significant changes in the tourism sector and as a result it has become the most important source of information. In addition, travel services are sold in the greatest volume on the Internet, thus outpacing other sectors.

Case study: <www.fapadosszallasok.hu> (Low Cost Website)

Objective

20The objective of the www.fapadosszallasok.hu tourism portal has been to reduce seasonal fluctuation. Tight cooperation between regional tourism organisations and enterprises are of utmost importance and this portal will hopefully serve this purpose properly. The planned system will facilitate the classification of accommodation possibilities and the programmes that can be spatially and time-wise connected to them on the basis of regional, destination, settlement, accommodation type, and price and discount preferences. The prospective tourist can this way find the personally most suitable offers.

Homogenous supply

21On the www.fapadosszallasok.hu portal visitors can find detailed and up to date information on destinations, which help them choose a region for their recreation. In order to be able to provide a homogenous offer the right to upload information has been given to the cooperating organisations (sights, events, programmes, tours, wineries, information centres, etc.). The obtained results can be further reduced by means of a map menu to a regional, destination, and settlement level.

Reduction of seasonality

22The www.fapadosszallasok.hu search engine will be created on the basis of the detailed analysis and evaluation of the decision making process preceding the booking of the accommodation. It is continuously being improved by employing the experiences of the accommodation facilities that participate in the testing (from private accommodations to 5 star hotels). The architecture of www.fapadosszallasok.hu enables the participating accommodation facilities to offer discounts in low occupational periods.

23Both the time sequence and the discounts are determined by the service provider thus positioning the accommodation in the order of results. The main page will automatically contain the accommodation facilities providing the largest discounts. This way the accommodation will receive special attention and the tourists will be offered the lowest prices even on the main page. The www.fapadosszallasok.hu is based on the information that the accommodation searchers have and provides answers to their questions:

  • When can I visit the chosen accommodation at the lowest possible price?

  • What are the prices like in the area?

  • What is the best possible discount during my vacation?

  • Is it possible to have a higher level accommodation at the same price?

  • Where can I pay the lowest price for a better or similar service?

24The technical background of the wide ranging services on www.fapadosszallasok.hu and the high rate of findings are ensured by an IT partner. As the importance of the high finding rate is well known it is obvious that the planned services will be accessible from different domain addresses.

Information exchange

25Information and communication technologies are crucial drivers for tourism providers to conduct business transactions, distribute their products and services, network with trading partners and provide information to consumers worldwide. An increasing number of consumers are using the Internet to obtain information, plan and buy their travel. Internet will provide an introduction on the role of tourism for development and will highlight the role of technology innovation in the tourism sector, in particular in the context of digital divide and the urgency of actions to address its economic, social and cultural dimensions.

The present situation

26The www.fapadosszállások.hu home page has been created in Hungarian and it is in operation in the Hungarian tourist regions. At present the English version is being developed and in the future the site will also be available in the languages of the neighbouring countries (in German, Slovakian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Serbian, and Croatian). The future is unimaginable without developments based on ICT systems.

Conclusion

27The importance of ICTs for enhancing the competitiveness of tourism enterprises in developing countries is tremendous. ICTs can help them organize their tourism offer, and the Internet provides new opportunities for tourism providers to actually target markets worldwide. We discussed the key elements of national and regional e-tourism strategies in the Carpathian Basin that have to be analyzed in the broader framework of ICT strategies for development. It will focus on the challenges and solutions developed to overcome the barriers to ICT adoption in the tourism sector at the business-to-business and business-to-consumer levels, including the role of destination management organisations in support of e-tourism initiatives.

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INTERNET: <http:// www.fapadosszallasok.hu> (by permission of László ZSIRAI)

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Titre Figure 1: Hungary and the neighbouring countries in the Carpathian Basin
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Lóránt Dávid et Csaba Szűcs, « Building of networking, clusters and regions for tourism in the Carpathian Basin via Information and Communication Technologies », Netcom, 23-1/2 | 2009, 63-74.

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Lóránt Dávid et Csaba Szűcs, « Building of networking, clusters and regions for tourism in the Carpathian Basin via Information and Communication Technologies », Netcom [En ligne], 23-1/2 | 2009, mis en ligne le 06 février 2014, consulté le 17 décembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/netcom/849 ; DOI : 10.4000/netcom.849

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Auteurs

Lóránt Dávid

Károly Róbert College, Department of Tourism and Regional Development, Gyöngyös, Hungary T: Tel: +36 37 518180, davidlo@karolyrobert.hu

Csaba Szűcs

Károly Róbert College, Department of Tourism and Regional Development, Gyöngyös, Hungary T: Tel: +36 37 518180, szucscsaba@karolyrobert.hu

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