by Emanuele Mele, IFITT General Secretary
Tourism is widely recognized as an important sector for the economic growth of a country. According to UNWTO (http://www2.unwto.org/content/why-tourism; “Current developments and forecasts”; UNWTO), in 2015 growing international tourism arrivals produced US$ 1.5 trillion in export earnings, contributing to 7% of world’s exports. Favoring this phenomenon, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), have played a major role supporting travelers throughout their journey. Looking at this area, what is the role of conferences in eTourism and why do we need them?
Here there will be three good reasons based on the experience at ENTER eTourism Conference, an annual event organized by the leading independent global community in eTourism: the International Federation for IT, Travel and Tourism (IFITT) (www.ifitt.org).
First reason. eTourism conferences aim at providing an international forum for the discussion of research on present and future trends in the sector. To be relevant and successful, both experts from academia and industry should have a closer look at major issues generated by tourism and ICT (not only the positive aspects) and propose new daring solutions for the next generations.
Second reason. eTourism conferences represent an opportunity for industry and academia to (finally) come together and collaborate on how to improve current tourism offers at destinations. From one perspective, researchers can provide practitioners with valuable frameworks for the interpretation of tourism-related data and the improvement of existing and/or future services. From another perspective, industry players can look for consultancy over thorny and challenging issues related to ICT, travel, and tourism.
Third reason. eTourism conferences represent a great opportunity to support issues related to sustainability and poverty reduction. As you may already know, United Nations (UN) has designated 2017 as the Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development (http://www2.unwto.org/tourism4development2017), an important reminder for investing resources (from both academia and industry) to find and present smart solutions regarding problems related, for instance, to cultural and environmental sustainability.
All three reasons above leverage on the relation between industry and academia. Two worlds that, instead of just looking at each other, should exchange relevant ideas and implement meaningful collaborations supported and enhanced by the presence of eTourism conferences.
The opinions expressed in this text are the author’s opinion and do not necessarily reflect the position of WTM Latin America.