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Advanced Web Technologies and E-Tourism Web Applications

  • Robert GoeckeEmail author
Living reference work entry
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Abstract

Since its invention in 1989, the World Wide Web was extended with many advanced web technologies like XML, Web services, AJAX, JSON, HTML5, etc. They are enablers for innovations like mash-ups, responsive web design, web-enabled mobile apps, or augmented reality apps, which are building blocks for complex E-Tourism applications with many special use cases: Dynamic packaging engines are platforms for virtual/online tour operators. Content management systems evolved as core technology for travel communities, blogs, online advertising, and social media. Travel portals with Internet booking engines serve direct sales of travel suppliers and online travel agents. Online booking engines introduced self-service even for corporate/business travel management. Travel search engines offer direct price and product comparisons and search engine marketing. Destination management systems support service bundling, while mobile web apps innovated tourist guidance.

Keywords

Dynamic packaging engine Content management system Travel search engine HTML5 XML Semantic web Destination management systems 

Introduction

Online booking systems (Goecke 2020 in this Handbook of E-Tourism) evolved from mainframe-based computer reservation systems (CRS) to web-based Internet booking engines (IBEs/WBEs), whose architecture is based on SQL databases, the Internet, and basic Web-technologies like URLs, HTTP(S), HTML/CSS, JavaScript, and web-server-side scripts (Berners-Lee 1989/2019). Many E-Tourism websites started as a brochure-like collection of HTML pages globally accessible via an HTML browser under a single domain name, which sometimes offered simple online booking functions via one or more IBEs. In this chapter the extension of such classic IBEs and their combination with complementary CRS to dynamic packaging engines is analyzed as a driver for mass customization in tourism. Then we introduce advanced web technologies for websites like web content management systems, XML interface technologies, asynchronous web interaction (AJAX), and the semantic web. They enabled advanced web applications like social media communities, web portals of touristic suppliers and online travel agents, as well as corporate travel management systems, travel search engines, and mobile travel apps. Finally, we investigate the evolution of web-based destination portals to smart destination ecosystems empowered by the web of things and discuss the roles of cloud services and block chains for future web applications.

Dynamic Packaging Engines as Enablers of Mass Customization in Tourism

The production of package tours was reinvented completely with the introduction of dynamic packaging (Weithöner 2007; Schulz et al. 2010, 2014; Goecke and Weithöner 2014; Benckendorff et al. 2019): Classic prepackaged tours are known since Thomas Cook as bundled accommodation and transport services based on fixed allotment contracts between a tour operator and its suppliers. They are offered for fixed inclusive prices, are described in catalogues, and can be booked in travel agencies. The introduction of computer reservation systems and national CRS networks in the 1970s and 1980s gave travel agents direct access to the tour operator’s production systems and led to the invention of flexible packaging: Tour operators define menus of combinable tour segments in special “flexible packaging” catalogues. Expedients use them to assemble individualized package tour variants for their customers in menu dialogues with the tour operator’s CRS. The tour operator system manages the inventory of all available fixed and optional allotments bought from suppliers at the beginning of the season. Flexible packaging is controlled by a rule-based business logic describing the choice menus, combination restrictions, and calculation rules, which are defined by product managers.

With the development of the first web booking engines and travel websites, dynamic packaging was invented as a new production process for package tours in the USA, UK, and Germany (Goecke and Weithöner 2014). Figure 1 shows a web server-based dynamic packaging engine realized with HTML forms, media files, and server-side scripts. Although classic and flexible tour packages have never been very popular in the USA, web booking engines made it necessary that end users bundle flight, hotel, and rental car offerings for their journeys as a self-service. The combination of tour segments booked separately in IBEs for flights, hotels, and rental cars might become a nightmare for end customers: If only one journey segment with low availability is detected to be sold out in the midst of a journey booking sequence, previous bookings have to be cancelled!
Fig. 1

Simplified architecture and nine business process steps of a dynamic packaging engine

The invention of web shopping baskets for material products or services led to dynamic bundling: All journey segments are collected in a web shopping basket and booked together not as a single-priced package tour of a tour operator, but as a bundle of individually priced segments from different suppliers. Dynamic bundling simplified booking transaction control and is still very popular for expedients, because it is very similar to the classic GDS booking process, where all journey segments are collected in a travel itinerary and segment reservations can be made before the final booking.

For inexperienced consumers dynamic bundling implies a risk to buy incompatible or inconvenient itineraries because sound package combination rules of a responsible tour operator are missing.

Dynamic packaging automates the packaging process further: Whenever a customer requests a tour in a web-based dynamic packaging engine, it collects preference matching and vacant segments for the specified journey directly from connected supplier databases and CRS. The returned segment offers are packaged “just in time” according to packaging rules specifying compatible combinations and price calculation schemes of the responsible tour operator in a fully automatized way. A result list of packaged tours with fixed price tags is presented to the user, who selects the preferred journey variant in the browser for booking. After successful payment, the dynamic packaging engine books all journey segments from the involved suppliers in a distributed booking transaction that may roll back all segment bookings automatically, if only one segment booking fails. All nine steps of the distributed dynamic packaging process are shown in Fig. 1. Dynamic packaging introduced “just in time” travel productions by virtual online tour operators (VTOs) which offer highly customized fixed price package tours even without the need to make risky allotment contracts with suppliers in advance.

Web Content Management Systems, Content Syndication, and Web 2.0

Within the mid-1990s, the number of websites and their web pages grew exponentially. More and more website providers got into trouble to keep the content of hundreds or thousands of web pages up to date and consistent, especially when many authors with often insufficient knowledge of HTML and CSS tried to alter web pages simultaneously in an uncoordinated way. Because web browsers were invented only for the viewing and browsing of web pages or their source code, no browser provided any web editing functions. Soon, commercial web editor PC software was developed to design web pages with a Word-like user interface. Only little knowledge of HTML/CSS was necessary because the page design was machine translated into HTML/CSS as well as JavaScript code and uploaded automatically to the web server. The problem with this approach was to keep pages and files from different authors of the same website separated from one another and to distinguish simple content changes from more sophisticated layout changes.

Web Content Management Systems (CMS)

solved that problem with the proven technology of database-driven newspaper content management systems (Goecke 2014a; Weithöner 2014a; Barker 2016). Access to the HTML/CSS layout and JavaScript programming of a website is strictly restricted to a small number of web or screen designers with professional HTML/CSS and JavaScript programming skills. They are responsible to program DHTML/CSS layout templates with named or numbered variables for text, image, photo, or video content. Web content authors may create or edit web pages in their web browser for the website without any HTML/CSS knowledge by simply filling out the input fields of the predefined DHTML/CSS template forms with text, URLs, and file descriptors of images, audio files, and videos to be uploaded as web page content to the web server (Fig. 2). For every website user, the Web CMS checks the user’s access rights for every page call, and only pages with fitting read or write access rights are shown to the user. By website registration procedures, a CMS can distinguish anonymous website visitors from differentiated groups of registered users. With a fine-grained user rights management, a Web CMS can even be used to show personalized and individually editable content for every single user, which enabled personalized marketing and customer relationship management. For users, who log in as web authors, web pages are presented embedded in templates to change their content. Users with programming rights may even create and change HTML/CSS and JavaScript files directly. High-end content management systems may also have a workflow system, where content or template changes are sent to a reviewer who is authorized to publish the changes. With the separation of content from layout by CMS, it became possible to use templates tailored for the browser type of a user encoded in the browser’s http-request.
Fig. 2

Architecture of web content management system and six steps of web page assembly process

New business opportunities arose for websites with valuable content like travel news, travel guides, restaurant tips, etc. The same text, image, or photo content can be customized or rebranded with different templates to deliver it in different layouts to many websites. The commercial selling of the same valuable content to many websites is a business model called content syndication. It opened new revenue streams and e-commerce opportunities for established travel guide book publishers or innovative e-catalogue content aggregators, e.g., MairDumont or Giata, etc., and lowered content acquisition costs for websites without own research staff. With content filtering and layout customization, foreign content may be presented on a website in a seamless way unnoticed by the website’s users, which lead to new forms of content virtualization.

Another special form of content to be managed by Web CMS is advertising banners. Websites with large audiences may program their web templates to include changing advertising banners for own offerings or even to promote products of paying third-party advertisers named affiliate partners. As more and more revenues on a website are generated with its content or advertising, the website business model becomes a so-called new media business model. Web content management systems became the base technology for Web 2.0 and social media: Because every user without HTML/CSS knowledge can easily insert texts, images, photos, or videos into a web content management system, not only professional web journalists but everybody is enabled to publish own content in the WWW. This movement from one to many (1:n) broadcasting websites of the Web 1.0 phase to more participatory many to many (m:n) conversational websites was named Web 2.0 (O’Reilly 2005).

Travel community websites, e.g., Lonely Planet and recommender sites like TripAdvisor or HolidayCheck use specialized content management systems to enable all tourists to share their travel experiences. Content creation by masses of volunteers was later named crowdsourcing.

Blog systems (from web-log) including Word Press or Twitter are also nothing else than multiuser content management systems, where bloggers can choose a template and go life with their personal diary, which was the beginning of influencer marketing. From a technology standpoint, even Facebook is a highly sophisticated self-service multimedia content management system with a special user rights management based on “friendships” forming the famous social graph as enabler for friends-oriented message propagation. Because Facebook collects a lot of sociodemographic, geographic, and interest data from its users, it is able to show closely targeted banners or to influence its users with the mass propagation of “likes” and “comments.” Facebook banners may be paid per view (page impression), per click, or per induced business transaction, for example, a booking. Facebook’s data collection and especially the evaluation of social graphs enables all kinds of innovative social, political, and marketing research. However, it bears also new risks for privacy, data protection, and political misuse. CMS transformed the WWW into the basic platform for social media in tourism (Amersdorffer et al. 2010; Hinterholzer and Jooss 2013).

XML as a Base Technology for Standardized Data Exchange Interfaces

As we have seen, many web applications have the necessity to exchange data with other applications across organizational boundaries: Web booking engines and dynamic packaging engines need supplier data about their offerings and return PNR booking data with guest names, addresses, etc. Content management systems offer pure (unformatted) content data including both text and multimedia files to websites, where the HTML-free content is reformatted into HTML code using website-specific HTML templates. With the tremendous success of HTML as a universal standardized markup language to describe multimedia documents for a global exchange of information between humans, the idea arose to use standardized markup languages even for the interorganizational exchange of machine-interpretable data between applications.

In 1998 the EXtensible Markup Language (XML) was defined by the W3C as a meta-language to specify the document structure and semantics of markup tags to enable industry-specific automated exchange of machine-interpretable content data between applications (Werthner and Klein 1999; Goecke 2014a; Deitel et al. 2016; Comer 2018). A big advantage of XML documents as data interchange format is their structural similarity to HTML documents. All tools and programming paradigms developed for HTML can easily be modified to process XML documents and vice versa. Additionally the transformation of XML content into HTML is easy, and XML tags may be formatted with CSS for a browser-individual presentation. As a technology, XML is accompanied with machine-readable specification languages like XML Document Type Definitions (DTD) or XML Schema. They specify the syntax and structure of XML markup together with the data types allowed for an industry-specific document, for example, an airline flight information response (Fig. 3). Every program receiving a standardized XML document can retrieve the published schemas via links and check whether the document complies with the referenced schemas (i.e., it is “well formed”). Human programmers can read the referenced documentation to understand the exact meaning of an XML document according to the surrounding XML markup (http://www.w3schools.com/xml 2019).
Fig. 3

Open Travel XML flight description (extract like Open Travel 2003)

XML as Inter-Application Interface Technology: Web Services and Mash-Ups

While all services from http-servers may be called web services, a Web service is a special application offering self-describing XML content via http(s) to other applications as an automated service (Fensel et al. 2011), while web services are any services via HTTP. In addition to SQL database interfaces for highly structured record data complying with proprietary database schemes, Web services give web programmers the opportunity to exchange complex nested self-describing XML documents via Web service interfaces described by machine-readable XML DTDs and schemas. XML documents may therefore include both highly structured tagged record data and semi-structured tagged text. With standardized Web Service interfaces, it is much easier for web programmers to directly combine services and content from different applications. Web applications using Web services of other web applications like websites integrating map services from Google or Bing are called mash-ups. Although Web services are easy to combine, complex copyright law compliance checks are required in advance. Web services make interface development cheaper and in theory may even reduce the demand for centralized data exchange hubs like GDS in favor of direct data exchange between the applications of, e.g., suppliers, tour operators, and travel agencies.

The Open Travel Alliance (Open Travel) specified Open Travel XML in 2004 as a global standard for the automated exchange of travel-related content and business documents between all kinds of travel applications within the travel industry (OTA 2003, see Fig. 3). Standardized protocols for the exchange of Open Travel XMLmessages for e-business processes and e-commerce transactions like bookings or payments exist.

Additional sector-specific XML-based data exchange standards are IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) standard for data exchange between airlines, travel agencies, and third parties, as well as the Hospitality Technology Next Generation (HTNG) XML standards for data exchange between hotel property management systems, distribution systems, and other systems (Nyheim 2019). The DRV Data Standard of the German Travel Association (DRV) specifies more than 300,000 global types defining the semantics of travel offer attributes accessible as XML Schema definitions with a Web service XML interface. Precise offer attributes like room size, beach distance, etc. are most important to describe and compare the quality of competing package tours in travel search engines and Internet booking engines.

Almost all industries have developed their own XML data interchange languages, and even MS Office documents now exist in Microsoft docx, pptx, or xlsx XML formats. Today every database and CMS is able to deliver all of their content in different XML formats. Special XML databases optimized for the retrieval and manipulation of thousands of XML documents are available, and every element of an XML document can be queried with standardized XPath, XQuery, and XUpdate expressions. To handle XML documents in JavaScript or with server-side script languages, XML DOM was developed as an object-oriented Document Object Model for XML. The automated exchange of business documents in industry-standardized XML formats between applications triggered the automation of many intra- and interorganizational business processes not only in E-Tourism. With e-business XML (ebXML), even a language to describe such e-business processes is available. UDDI offers a Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration service for the automated just-in-time discovery and integration of Web services: A dynamic packaging process, for example, may use UDDI to search for alternative last minute rental car booking Web services for a destination not covered by the pre-connected rental car IBE as a last step of a dynamic packaging process.

AJAX as Enabler for Asynchronous Data Interchange Between Browser and Web Server

Another benefit of XML is the realization of asynchronous communication between browser and web server via Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX). Classic browser/web server dialogues exchange no information between a web browser and a web server unless the user clicks on a page link or a form’s send button, which is called synchronous user dialogues over http (Comer 2018).

The key idea of AJAX is that JavaScript code is sent embedded within an HTML page to a browser and then may report information about certain user events in an application-specific XML format via http(s)-calls to the web server asynchronously without any explicit command or notice of the browser’s user (Fig. 4). Further speed improvements of this asynchronous communication were gained by the exchange of web page content between web server and browser directly in HTML/CSS, which had been redefined to XHTML to make HTML fully XML compliant. Latest implementations of asynchronous browser-server communication exchange objects in JavaScript-interpretable JSON (JavaScript Object Notation, https://www.w3schools.com/js/js_ajax_intro.asp 2019) format instead of XML to save parsing time. Web programming frameworks (i.e., ready-to-use software libraries) like JQuery (https://www.w3schools.com/jquery 2019) helped web designers to use AJAX without too much extra coding efforts, but are replaced more and more by new JavaScript 5.0 expressions.
Fig. 4

Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX) communication between browser and web server

For the end user, AJAX brought convenient interface interaction services like auto-fills (Fig. 4) of best fitting words or phrases whenever a form is filled out, dynamically changing web page sections or the emulation of complex graphical user interfaces known from locally installed multimedia PC clients only. The benefits of AJAX for the website provider may also cause problems for the users:

AJAX can monitor all user interactions on the website. Together with cookies (i.e., small files with a unique user code left in the browser cache), a website owner gets lots of information on a user’s behavior without the user’s notice. It can be used to improve the user interface and the customer journey on a website as well as to detect hidden interests which may be used to redesign product offerings in a customer-oriented way. But the systematic evaluation of user behaviors (Schneider et al. 2014) may also intimidate the privacy especially of frequent website users who may be profiled, scored, and even discriminated according to their behavior or because their behavior is similar to other users whose profile is used for recommendations, purchasing power predictions, or customer-centered pricing.

The Semantic Web for Distributed Knowledge Representation

With the availability of industry-specific XML tags, which describe the structure and meaning of all elements within electronic documents in a machine-interpretable way, the idea was born to use web technologies like XML even for the distributed representation of more complex knowledge. HTML websites all over the world and especially web encyclopedias like Wikipedia contain a lot of valuable knowledge, which is interpretable only for humans. A special problem for the machine interpretation of text even in XML documents is that many words are ambiguous like “Paris” meaning a specific city either in Europe or in Texas or the name of a female person. Similar to airport codes identifying airports or URLs identifying the location of a web resource, it is necessary to identify every physical or abstract thing or entity in the world of interest with its unique Uniform Resource Name (URN) (Fensel et al. 2011). URNs have the same path structure like URLs beginning with a domain name referring to the organization responsible for a unique name id and its definition, which may be accessed via http at a website with the same domain name. It serves as knowledge repository for one or more names of that name space. Because URLs and URNs share the same concepts to uniquely identify web resources or knowledge entities, W3C subsumes them as Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs).

The semantic web initiative of the W3C invented the Resource Description Framework (RDF) to express knowledge with URI triples arranged as (subject . predicate . object). An example is (http://cities.org/Paris01. http://geo.org/spatial_reference/in. http://eu-rep.org/members/France) It indicates what a human means with the sentence “Paris is in France”. The knowledge is distributed across three repositories keeping the definitions that “Paris 01” means “the French capital,” “in” means “located geographically within a region,” and “France” means “the country France as EU member.” Every repository may also deliver further attributes of the specific referred entity whose structure and data types again may be self-described by machine-readable XML Schema definitions. RDF triples may be either used as part of repositories or embedded into the text of HTML web pages to make their content machine readable (Fensel et al. 2011; Sikos 2015), which is one of the key ideas of Web 3.0. Contrary to a specialized XML business document compliant with an XML schema like an invoice, HTML web pages mix a lot of information about many interrelated topics from different knowledge domains, e.g., about persons, places, hotels, restaurants, seasons, etc. Introducing standardized XML meta-tags and RDF triples into HTML body tags like < div>  or < span>  has no effect on the rendering of the web page in the browser, but provides machine-readable meta-data (HTML Microdata) about the meaning of parts of a web page in a much more detailed way than general meta-tags in the HTML header of a web page. A web application called semantic web agent could read the web page and interpret the meaning of the meta-tags by following the XML Schema links and the RDF links.

A hotel address on a web page could be annotated by meta-data of a published industry XML schema describing the elements of a postal address (Hotel Name, Street, House#, City Code, City, Country). The semantic web agent of a geo map service could read the hotel website via http and introduce the hotel as point of interest (POI) into its map without the help of a human interpreter. If the hotelier also augments the website text about past visits from celebrities with RDF triples of the form (celebrity_URI . visitor_URI . Hotel_URI), a local recommender website’s bot could inspect those URIs to learn valuable associations between those celebrities and the hotel. More details about the celebrities might be found following the celebrity URI to the celebrity repository. Every RDF triple can be visualized by the two nodes for subject and object connected by an edge for the predicate. Entity triples together form a graph of distributed knowledge named “linked open data,” “web of data,” or “knowledge graph.” RDF was enhanced with the SPARQL Protocol and RDF Query Language to offer graph-based investigation of the web of data and with the Web Ontology Language (OWL) to support logical inference machines of artificial intelligence Web 3.0 applications (Szeredi et al. 2014).

Figure 5 gives an example of a web page describing the famous Hotel Sacher in Vienna with a short text, its geo-position, and its star rating. The web page contains semantic web tags with RDF references to existing schema and knowledge repositories of schema.org (maintained by Google, Microsoft, and others) and wikidata.org (55 million entries describing useful pieces of Wikipedia.org knowledge) which both support SPARQL queries (Wikidata.org 2019).
Fig. 5

HTML extract with embedded semantic web meta-data about Hotel Sacher in Vienna

Figure 6 shows the resulting piece of the corresponding “web of data” graph with Hotel Sacher as central item, entity, or thing (Wikidata.org 2019; Schema.org 2019, and Hepp 2019, Fensel et al. 2011). The knowledge graph shows all machine-readable attributes of the Hotel Sacher item as well as its URI references including the unique IDs representing the items (things) Hotel Sacher (Q279260) and Vienna (Q1741) in the open Wikidata.org knowledge repository. Via RDF-URI references, it is possible for a semantic web agent program to collect further information with SPARQL queries from all referenced items and even their references, etc. Instead of RDF/XML representations, simpler RDF/JSON-LD (JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data) have just been introduced (W3C 2019).
Fig. 6

Semantic web graph of the machine-interpretable content of the Hotel Sacher HTML extract

The semantic web is very complex, and many visions especially about its usefulness for complex logical resolution by artificial intelligence applications have only been realized partially by academic research projects. The annotation of websites with semantic Microdata spread faster and can be supported by content management systems which insert many semantic meta-tags automatically with information derived from their templates or database schemes or requested by its users through mandatory fields of their content entry forms. Semantic web information is also generated by open data projects like Wikipedia, by industry consortia, or by commercial content aggregators. Its main users are search engines, web shops, and IBEs enriching their results lists with links to query-related information or with recommendations for similar products or cross-selling proposals.

Web Portals as User-Centered Integration of Web Applications for Hybrid Business Models

Many early websites especially from travel agencies were mere collections of information about the travel agency, special travel tips, and links to web booking engines of suppliers. The referred suppliers granted “non traditional outlet” commissions for every booking to the referring travel agency whose code was embedded in the referring link’s URL. Content management systems and XML technologies led to the development of white label web applications like web booking engines (WBE/IBE) or dynamic packaging engines. White label web engines can be branded individually with templates or by using their XML Web service interfaces for self-designed web dialogues (Goecke and Landvogt 2017–2019).

A web portal is a website integrating different (white label) applications with a content management system in a way that end users get all applications and dialogues presented in the same (branded) layout with a seamless look and feel and with only one user log-in (i.e., SSO for single sign-on) required for e-commerce transactions (Goecke 2014a; Weithöner 2014b). Web portals (see Fig. 7) offer users a single entry point and easy usage of interwoven heterogeneous web applications homogeneously integrated under the control, domain, and trusted brand of one website provider. Web portals enable website providers to add value for their customers by combining complementary information and e-commerce services without the need to develop all the web applications by themselves.
Fig. 7

Structure and components of a web portal of an online travel agent (OTA)

Web portals therefore are the technology of choice for Online Travel Agents (OTA) to seamlessly combine own IBEs/WBEs with those of third-party providers of flight, hotel, rental car, and touristic booking engines or dynamic packaging engines to aggregate bookable offers of many market suppliers (Weithöner 2007). In our example (Fig. 7), a typical OTA focused on hotel sales operates a self-developed hotel WBE, where contracted hotel partners maintain their vacancies directly via browser. The OTA’s web portal integrates its own hotel WBE with an inspiring hotel and travel guide; three WBE/IBEs for flights, rental cars, and prepackaged tours; and a dynamic packaging engine from third-party providers. Portal users may either book individual hotels, flights, and cars even in combination with one another, or they may use the dynamic packaging engine to get the combination of choice as a packaged tour for a fixed price under a tour operator’s responsibility. Moreover the touristic IBE/WBE gives users the possibility to book classic prepackaged holiday tours.

Some touristic IBE/WBEs even offer integrated white label dynamic packaging services. Portal providers and virtual/online tour operators may deliver hotel vacancies which are dynamically packaged with flight and car vacancies available in connected GDS and consolidator databases, whenever a user searches for tour package offerings in the touristic IBE. The dynamic packaging tours are enlisted for the user together with the matching classic tour package offerings for direct product or price comparison.

Suppliers of a web portal’s booking engines may define complex pricing schemes with seasonal prices, discount rates for early or last minute bookings, and special offerings (e.g., “buy now and get an extra night for free”) in their browser interfaces. With special Web services, it might even be possible to enable the supplier’s revenue management systems to change their prices in a WBE dynamically (Goecke et al. 2008). The US company priceline.com invented a special booking service called “name your own price” on their travel portals. Since then reverse pricing services enable customers to specify a travel trip by source, destination, time window, and quality level in a specified flight, hotel, or package tour web form together with a binding personal price bid. Those customer price bids are compared with matching opaque offerings, which have been posted by suppliers into the portal IBE’s databases with nondisclosed minimum prices. Depending on the reverse pricing model, the customer must buy one of the fitting offers for the named price bid or a price between the bid and a lower minimum price for the offer, which is neither refundable nor for resale. If no matching offer is available, the customer’s bid may be forwarded to suppliers with matching offers but higher prices who may decide if they are willing to give a rebate within the period specified by the customer.

This type of opaque pricing is attractive for travel suppliers who do not want their high rebates for distressed inventory to be published. Other reverse pricing methods supported in the WWW by specialized web portals are eBay’s voucher auctions or Groupon’s platform for group coupon-rebate offerings.

For user assistance, travel portals offer telephone call center support. To help effectively call center agents need access to many of the web portal’s functionality and a view of the actual dialogue status of a calling portal user via call center web user interfaces. At least, when a user wants to book travel components, a log-in or registration is necessary. With every booking an after-sales (e)fulfillment process starts where the progress of the booking, its ticket processing, supplier notifications, payment and commission flows, or user questions and complaints have to be monitored and supported with web interfaces to specialized mid- and back-office systems. All data about a user, her transactions, and her subsequent interactions with the portal or other channels are stored in a special application called electronic Customer Relationship Management (eCRM) system (Berchtenbreiter 2014). Modern eCRM systems provide also functions to collect customer feedback and valuable guest reviews to be displayed anonymously on the web portal. Reputation management systems support service help desks by a systematic analysis of written user feedback messages on own and 3rd party websites and help to measure and improve a brand’s customer appreciation. eCRM systems are also core systems to manage personalized e-mail marketing campaigns as well as to control the customization of user dialogues in the web portal by the portal’s CMS. The CMS may also be used to display relevant banner ads on all web pages of the web portal. Many eCRM systems added partner relationship management functionality to support also the cooperation with suppliers and affiliates. This is especially important for the two-/multi-sided market business logic of online travel agents, tour operators, and other intermediate platform businesses. Today, most websites of airlines, hotel chains and consortia tour operators, rental car suppliers, rail operators, cruise operators, and tourism destinations use web portal technologies not only to integrate many applications under a single log-in but also for the recommendation and cross-selling of complementary touristic services.

As intermediaries OTAs had to integrate internal and external web applications across organizational boundaries of suppliers and customers. Therefore the technological separation of the public Internet from specially protected Intranet and Extranet segments (Benckendorff et al. 2014) became necessary: Access to the Intranet is granted only for members of the own corporation by corporate Internet routers, which block all Internet packages from unauthorized IP addresses or with wrong encryption (Fig. 7). Extranet access is granted to authorized business partners and their applications usually via encrypted Internet package exchange in so-called virtual private networks or via https-secured links to authenticated CMS-registered users only. Services for self-registered customers or unregistered users are provided under control of the CMS rights management via https-secured or unsecured http links over the public Internet.

Online Booking Engines and Corporate Travel Management Systems

For business travelers the business processes are different from those for leisure travel. Employers pay for the business trips of their employees who have to apply for a trip approval by their supervisors and get their travel expenses refunded according to organization-specific travel regulations.

All processes have to be auditable and compliant with taxation laws, because travel expenses reduce a company’s profits. Large companies or public employers with high purchasing volumes request confidential corporate discount rates from their travel suppliers. They even prefer to pay negotiated service fees with incentives to reduce travel costs to their travel agents to prevent them from taking supplier provisions or commissions behind their backs. Because of these specific requirements, specialized business travel agency chains or travel management companies (TMCs) evolved, which offer companies the handling of business trips in company collocated travel offices (firm implants) and/or in business travel portals, i.e., web portals similar to OTA web portals but focused entirely on corporate travel management, booking, and fulfillment (Mahnicke 2013; Fischer 2014; Unger 2016).

Business travel portals or corporate travel portals (see Fig. 8) whose development started at the turn of this century may only be used by employees of registered corporate customers to book their business trips according to the corporate rules and rates defined by the companies’ corporate travel, mobility, purchasing, or controlling departments. Corporate travel WBEs/IBEs have to enforce complex rule-based corporate travel policies including the application of negotiated corporate rates with preferred suppliers. For this they need interfaces to workflow management systems and to corporate credit card processing. They even exchange data with the purchasing and controlling modules of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. To distinguish corporate booking engines from leisure IBEs/WBEs, they are called Online Booking Engines (OBEs) in corporate travel management (Kwoka 2010). OBEs are sold as part of integrated software suites called business travel management (BTM) or corporate travel management (CTM) systems (Weithöner 2007; Fischer 2014; Benckendorff et al. 2014). Their development started earlier in the 1980s as ERP software modules supporting business hotel and GDS online booking. Today’s web-based BTMs and their OBEs are integrated into the Intranets and Extranets of client corporations to restrict the access to their employees only. BTM systems and portals are offered by ERP vendors, GDS providers, specialized BTM software vendors, leading business travel agency chains, or OTAs with a corporate travel focus.
Fig. 8

Corporate Travel Management Portal with portal, travel agency support, and MICE platform

Organizing trade fairs, corporate meetings, incentive tours, and events (MICE) poses extra requirements on corporate business travel management. Web-based event planning and eProcurement platform connect corporate event management departments with travel suppliers via the platforms web user interfaces or Web services (Nyheim 2019). Competing travel suppliers are invited for bids, and those with the best offerings are selected in an interactive process which is supported by the event platform. It may even include project management and workflow functions for fulfillment processes.

Web Search Engines and Travel Meta-Search Engines

The exponential growth of WWW’s websites and web pages required web-based services allowing end users to find websites and web pages which contain certain content the user is looking for. Web search engines are the most important platforms for end users to search for websites and web pages in the public Internet. To understand their huge impact on website promotion especially in E-Tourism, an overview of the main functional components of general search engines with enhanced semantic search capabilities is given in Fig. 9 (Lewandowski 2008, 2011, 2013; Goecke 2014a).
Fig. 9

Architecture and components of a web search engine with semantic search (simplified)

URLs of all kinds of websites can be registered at a general search engine. Its server-side search engine component called web crawler, spideror bot systematically visits the registered web pages, enlists them, and then follows all links to find new web pages, which are not registered or not enlisted yet, and stores their newly discovered URLs for further visits. With this endless iterative process, the web of all web pages interlinked with the registered websites can be enlisted systematically. The navigation links of a website provide all web pages belonging to the website, while external links lead to the discovery and enlisting of previously unknown websites. With the visit of a web page, its HTML meta-tags with keywords, author, description, etc. are extracted together with its text and multimedia content, which might be stored in the search engine archive.

An indexer and semantic interpreter module tries to find out the relevant keywords which describe the content of a web page best. Because the keywords in the meta-tags (Goecke 2020 Handbook of E-Tourism) often do not describe the real content of a website correctly, statistical and linguistic text analysis as well as semantic HTML Microdata interpretation is done to find out the real topics of the web page. This analysis is necessary to build a semantic knowledge graph and the search index, which is an inverted index: For every keyword/topic entry, those web pages with the most relevant content are enlisted in descending order of their relevance, and links to characteristic web page text snippets and multimedia content from the archive may be added. The searcher of a search engine offers search engine users a web search form to type in the keywords, topics, or even phrases that characterize web pages they are looking for. A query of the search engine index by the searcher returns a list of best matching entries together with the URLs of the most relevant web pages in order of descending relevance. This result list may be augmented with text snippets or image thumbnails from the search archive, from georeferenced map services, or from semantic queries of the knowledge graph or, e.g., Wikidata. Even specialized product or service comparison search engines (see TSEs in the next section) may be queried and deliver so-called “vertical” search results. Reformatted with HTML tags in the layout of the search engine, the final search result list is presented in the user browser. In 2000 Google became famous with its page rank algorithm (Brin and Page 1998). For every enlisted web page, a ranking engine (Fig. 9) counts the number of topic-related referral links from other pages enlisted. Those web pages with most referrals for a topic are candidates for the best rank. To prevent great numbers of irrelevant websites from promoting one another via link partnerships, page referrals to a web page are additionally weighted with the rank of the referring page. This delivers a weight-adjusted ranking. Other factors affecting the final results’ ranking are the frequency a web page is actually visited by users whenever it occurs in a result list as well as further information from linguistic and semantic analysis of meta-tags and text content of the web page. With search engine optimization (SEO), website owners like tourism portals try to design the structure and content of their web pages in a way to achieve highest ranks for the topics they want to address. Google also introduced a highly targeted advertising model which is very important for the promotion of all kinds of websites including tourism websites via search engine marketing (SEM) (Lewandowski 2018): Instead of pay-per-view banners, which advertisers bought on popular websites and search engines for a specified number of banner views, Google invented small pay-per-click text ads called adWords. Having enlisted a particular website at the advertising and web analytics services (Fig. 9), it is possible to define adWord advertising campaigns for that website. An adWord text is defined with a (deep) link to one of the website’s web pages (i.e., the landing page) together with a keyword bid specifying the maximum amount of money the advertiser wants to spend for every user visit and an advertising budget limit. An advertising server collects for every keyword all bids with remaining click budget and uses them to calculate the position where the adWords are displayed as sponsored links above or aside the research result list, whenever a user searches for the specified keyword. Only if a user clicks on an adWord and is directed to the promoted web page (e.g., with an adWord-fitting tourism offer), the sponsor/advertiser has to pay the adWord and the budget is reduced by an amount typically less than the maximum bid because Google follows a Vickrey auction scheme to stay attractive for advertisers (Varian 2007). To ensure both end user relevance of advertising and advertising revenues, those adWords which are clicked more frequently by the end users may earn a better position in the sponsored link list than those adWords with less clicks but higher bids per click. With extra web analytics services, website owners may embed Google’s server- and browser-side scripting code snippets into the HTML code of their web pages to monitor the visitor activities on their website. Those scripts call the web analytics server whenever specified server-side or browser-side JavaScript events occur. The web analytics services collect all monitoring events, evaluate them statistically, and provide many scores and statistic diagrams for the website owners. With those search engine and website statistics, leading search engines are able to collect sensible information about both the website owner’s business and its users which may be a risk for business data protection and personal privacy. Besides Google, also Microsoft’s Bing, Yahoo/Oath, Baidu in China, and Yandex in Russia are well-known general web search engines.

In E-Tourism, web search engines found even a more specialized usage as travel search engines (TSE) (Goecke 2014a; Benckendorff et al. 2019). While GDS had aggregated most globally distributed flight, hotel, and rental car offerings, many flight offers especially from low-cost carriers, from smaller hotels or rental car providers, and discount offers from suppliers, tour operators, and consolidators are not bookable via GDS. Instead, those non-global offers are presented and can be booked only on the suppliers’ websites, on web portals from online travel agents, or on websites and portals from tourism offices of destinations. Travel search pioneers used travel search technology to collect those non-GDS offers from supplier’s and online travel agent’s websites to aggregate them in a database. A search engine database with its structured tables makes all those offers from many IBEs/WBEs searchable and comparable with one another like a meta-search result. The only difference between an IBE/WBE and a travel meta-search engine is that for reservation and booking, the user is offered a link to the source website, where the specific offer was found and where it might be bookable. Similar to IBEs/WBEs, travel search engines are technically specialized for flights, hotels, rental cars, etc. They often are jointly integrated into travel search portals and even combined with reviews and travel tips from a travel community, as it is the case with, e.g., TripAdvisor. Figure 10 shows the simplified architecture and components of a flight search engine, which acquires flight offers either by scanning airline websites and online travel agents’ portals for sales offers or by querying GDS or IBE databases of affiliated advertising partners directly via Web service APIs. Its crawler regularly visits the web pages of unaffiliated suppliers and online travel agents, requests offerings like an unregistered normal user, and extracts the details of every enlisted offer from the result list’s HTML code in a process called web scraping. All scraped offers are stored in the search engines index database as searchable records together with a deep link URL of the web page, where the offer was found. The end user now may query the flight searcher with a web search mask similar to a WBE/IBE for all matching flight offers which are enlisted in the same way as a WBE/IBE output. Instead of booking buttons, the deep links into those websites are presented where the offer may be bookable.
Fig. 10

Architecture of a flight search engine (simplified)

The pioneering travel search engines got revenues only from banner advertising and sponsored links. Before a website’s offers can be scraped, a detailed analysis of the website’s dialogue steps and page layouts by the crawler’s programmers is necessary. Another problem of scraping results is that they quickly become outdated and may harm the legal copyrights and business rules of the scraped websites, especially when images and other valuable content are archived. While many website owners are happy when their offerings are visible to many visitors of today’s established travel search engines like Kayak, Skyscanner, Trivago, etc., other suppliers shy the direct comparison of their offerings or fear customer complaints if scraped prices or offer descriptions on search engines are misleading. Therefore travel search engines developed a new business model where affiliated travel suppliers and OTAs can directly either deliver their correct offerings via XML Web service interfaces to the search engines database or respond just in time to a user’s search engine query. Further offers are also deliverable by Web services of cooperating WBE/IBEs or even GDS who offer their supplier and tour operator clients an extra promotion in leading travel search engines. While the pure link-less listing of an offer as a search result normally is free of charge, leading search engines introduced pay-per-click pricing for offers listed with a deep link for booking. An even higher pay-per-booking fee is chargeable, if a customer really books an offer, which is detectable by a TSE’s monitoring script on the referenced booking engines.

The advertising and sponsored link server (Fig. 10) of a TSE controls the business logic of those models. This TSE business model is so attractive that leading OTAs like Expedia, Priceline.com, or Ctrip acquired TSEs and even the general search engine giants started their own travel search services, e.g., Google Flights. They embed matching travel offers within a “vertical search results” box into their generic results lists together with deep links to their own white label booking engine services. Those offer the customer a booking page branded by the supplier with all content and process steps under the supplier’s responsibility and liability. This is an opportunity for suppliers without own booking infrastructures, but they risk a growing dependency and more advertising costs from TSE listings.

Even GDS and destination portals benefit from travel search engines because of their meta-search capabilities. Travel expedients in travel agencies’ offices use GDSsearch engines which aggregate the results of a search within the GDS with non-GDS content from numerous TSE searches of connected web booking engines and web portals. As a result the travel expedient gets a better view of all offers in the market and either may book the best offer directly in the GDS or follow a deep link to the best supplier’s web booking engine, where the expedient books for the customer in agency mode. Even big tourism destinations with many tourism regions, cities, villages, and attractions use meta-search engines to integrate the diverse web booking facilities of their members: Customers who search for offerings across a specific destination use the search mask of the destination portal’s travel search engine. It starts a meta-search across all websites and WBEs of a destination’s member organizations and deliver deep links to fitting offers.

Mobile Web, Apps, and Augmented Reality

When mobile smartphones with touch screens spread in 2007, they could use existing mobile Internet connections via WLAN or 3G cellular mobile networks that had already been used by mobile PCs, web pads, or outdoor and in-car navigation systems. Smartphone web browsers implemented new device-specific gesture recognition interfaces and additional JavaScript functions to read the actual device position and orientation from embedded GPS (Global Positioning System), gyro, and compass modules (Egger and Jooss 2010; Lester 2011). Operators of cellular mobile networks and WLAN base stations may provide cell position information to allocate web users for location-based services. A mobility barrier of classic HTML 4.0 browsers was that their temporary browser caches offered no persistent storage for application-specific content. This is a problem for applications like mobile travel guides, if a user has no permanent access to the mobile Internet and needs to find a route in a map that was not preinstalled or downloaded completely. Another issue was that some browser plug-ins for highly comfortable animated screen interfaces were not optimized for low-energy and low-processor/storage environments of mobile devices.

Therefore Apple used mobile apps as mobility-optimized applications which can be installed with their runtime binaries and app-specific content on its mobile device operating systems (Fig. 11).
Fig. 11

Architecture of mobile web applications and mobile apps (simplified)

To prevent the problems of the PC era with installation conflicts between PC applications from different vendors and malware, mobile apps can be loaded only via Apple’s app store download service. All vendors may distribute their apps via Apple’s app store only after an app inspection by Apple. For apps and content that are not free of charge for the end users, Apple charges commissions from commercial app and content providers, which led to new sustainable revenue streams for Apple and a more secure but completely closed mobile app world for Apple users and vendors. Microsoft, Google, etc. offer competing mobile operating systems for mobile devices from other smartphone manufacturers which led to a segmented and incompatible landscape of mobile app systems. Therefore, mobile apps need to be programmed in different programming languages with device-specific optimizations for Apple’s, Google’s, or Microsoft’s operating system ecosystems (Van Drongelen et al. 2017). Mobile app technology enabled comfortable apps, e.g., for mobile payments or location-based apps for car sharing, public transport ticketing, and tourist guidance on personal GPS smartphones with mobile Internet access (Goecke 2014c, d; Egger and Jooss 2010).

Like classic web applications, also mobile apps may call app-specific Web services (App 1 … n; Fig. 11). They respond with XML content to be rendered and presented in device-optimized highly interactive designs, which create new user experiences especially for gaming and augmented reality (Nyheim 2019; Egger and Jooss 2010; Pease et al. 2007). A clever way to present existing web content in new ways to tourists are mobile apps called augmented reality browsers (Lester 2011). They retrieve the position and orientation of their mobile device and call a mobile mash-up Web service. They collect location-related information from web servers or Web services offering geospatial queries to retrieve georeferenced data (e.g., Wikipedia, Google/Bing web maps, or travel and hotel guides) and mix them for a uniform app presentation. Augmented reality apps use the embedded video camera of a mobile device to superpose data about nearby points of interest (POIs) with the life view of the camera display. In real time they blend only POI data of positions matching the actual camera orientation (calculated with GPS, gyro, and compass data) as a simulated 3D presentation into the camera view. Users get a mixed reality experience on their mobile device: They see the real-life video scenery augmented with POI symbols, text, and either links to browse to more detailed POI information or deep links to those source websites where the POI data originated. It is even possible to include life video streams from web cams to view a ski resort’s weather conditions or visitor queue lengths, etc. Mixed reality gaming apps like Ingress pioneered tourism gamification (Horster and Kreilkamp 2017).

While standard web applications developed with HTML 4, device-specific CSS, and HTML templates had been universally accessible for free on every web browser and every device, they suffered from a mediocre user experience in comparison with device-optimized “native” mobile apps. To regain the advantages of universally accessible web applications without their problems for mobile devices, a completely redesigned HTML 5.0 standard came up in 2014. It enables all web browsers to download persistent content and offers new ways to integrate animated graphics and multimedia streams. A new CSS version adapts web content more easily to different device displays. The new art of programming HTML 5 web pages and templates which adapt themselves in an optimal way to any display type or output medium (incl. print) is called responsive web design. Although the expensive programming of operating system- and device-specific native mobile apps still offers some advantages in user interface design, HTML 5 offers many features to mark the content of HTML 5 web pages with semantic tags. Those semantic annotations like HTML-Microdata support the indexing of a website in a more detailed way and promote both an open, barrier-free access and a better ranking by web search engines. Another new feature is the JavaScript Web Speech API as enabler for natural speech recognition and processing services used by interactive voice browsers. Smart watches are the smallest wearable devices used as platforms for mobile apps, e.g., for touristic outdoor activities, while virtual reality glasses are still proprietary niche products to realize innovative indoor attractions.

From Destination Management Systems and Portals to Smart Destination Service Platforms

Destination Management Systems (DMS) are IT systems supporting both sales and administration processes of tourism destinations and their tourist info offices (Werthner and Klein 1999; Buhalis 2003; Egger and Buhalis 2007; Weithöner and Raab 2014; Landvogt et al. 2017; Benckendorff et al. 2019).

First DMS came up shortly after the success of CRS/GDS as part of municipal host-based CRS, which later were migrated to client/server PC systems. As mentioned before the first destination websites spread early in the 1990s. Tiscover, Gulliver, and others pioneered web portals for shared browser-based self-service usage by suppliers and guests as most important stakeholder groups of their destinations (i.e., Tyrol and Ireland). Those destination portals were powered by the first touristic web content management systems and integrated WBE/IBEs to sell regional hotels, accommodation tickets, and package tours (Fig. 12).
Fig. 12

Architecture and components of a smart destination management system (simplified)

A destination portal focuses content aggregation and syndication, SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing) activities, and banner campaigns with affiliates for a tourism region. SEO means optimizing the structure and content of web pages for a better listing in search engines, while SEM means organizing search engine advertising campaigns. A centralized coordination of these activities by a destination management organization (DMO) often has more impact than uncoordinated individual web marketing efforts of single destination member organizations. Even the individual websites of regional tourism suppliers are supported if they reuse the destination portal’s CMS and its white label web booking engine on their own websites and get them enlisted for referral by the higher ranked destination portal.

Some destination web booking engines provide even interfaces to the booking engines of affiliated OTAs which are connected via channel management systems. Hotel channel managers are browser-based web applications, where a hotel supplier can configure which and how many of its vacancies may be distributed under which conditions via which connected OTA, tour operator, or GDS channel. Channel management services are offered not only by destination management systems but also by specialized application service providers. They even provide seamless interfaces to hotel property management systems (PMS) for automated inventory and booking synchronization (Goecke 2014b). Other destination portals use a meta-search engine to collect offerings of different local booking engines or cooperating OTAs on request by portal visitors and direct the portal visitors via deep link to the source booking engine (see Fig. 12). Some destination management organizations chose to outsource or sell their web booking engines or web sales to leading OTAs, who often may have a more global reach especially to customers preferring different destinations for each holiday. Sometimes a whole destination portal is licensed to third-party providers under the specific usage conditions of a public-private partnership for some years before new providers may apply or an insourcing is reconsidered. Providers of legacy destination management systems had the advantage to integrate even fulfillment processes like brochure management or municipal tourism registration forms as well as tourism tax collection. They developed web front ends to integrate destination management mid- and back-office systems with destination portals. Other software providers introduced web-based clients for outdoor tourist info screens and kiosk systems as well as ticket vending machines.

A very important business process involving cooperative marketing, sales, billing, transaction clearing, and settlement is the management of a destination’s guest card system (Pechlaner and Zehrer 2005). Guest, tourist, or destination cards provide a platform for product bundling, mobile payment, tax collection, rebating, and revenue sharing of all businesses, tourism attractions, and public transport providers in a destination. A web-based guest card server is connected to all card readers and writers of both authorized guest card issuers and card acceptance points including many automated door or barrier openers, etc. (Goecke 2014d). Touchless communication between card readers/writers and tourist cards is possible by radio frequency identification (RFID)). Even biometric data may be exchanged between smart passport cards and cameras or scanners. or by the exchange of biometric information between smart passport cards and cameras or scanners. Those applications may use classic wired or wireless Internet connections as well as new low-energy-consuming wireless Internet of Things (IoT) protocols for sensors embedded into all kinds of things used or only passed by the guest. The IoT enables sensor and actor applications in touristic facilities (smart hotel rooms) and outdoor environments (visitor monitoring and guidance in parks, caves, trade fairs, etc.), while the web of things (Guinard and Trifa 2016; W3C 2017) allows users to control smart things via browsers or apps.

The collection of all tourist card transactions is necessary for transparent revenue sharing, tax collection, and tourist statistics. Anonymized booking and card transaction data accumulated in a data warehouse is the basis for future destination-oriented data mining (Höpken et al. 2015). Big data analytics requires masses of data for the analysis of visitor streams, preferences, and behavior with advanced statistical methods and innovative artificial intelligence (AI) tools like artificial neural networks (Werthner and Klein 1999; Fuchs and Höpken 2014). DMOs as well as GDS, WBEs, TSEs, etc. may be able to accumulate the critical mass and expertise for such projects as a service for their members and partners.

Because many destinations and hotels cannot afford the development and maintenance of native tourist apps for different mobile operating systems, providers of destination management portals developed standardized white label tourism apps and hotel apps. A white label destination app is programmed and maintained like a native app only once (Van Drongelen et al. 2017; Goecke 2014a). Then, different destinations or hotels can reuse the same skeleton app with different logos, layouts, menus, and functions customized individually for each destination or hotel. The content for every destination’s individualized app is delivered by a Web service of the destination’s app server, which is directly connected to the destination portal’s single content management system and GIS database with maps, routes, attractions, regional POIs, or even hotel-specific content. More and more those GIS-enabled CMS evolve to single data sources about georeferenced destination-oriented public attractions, route and public transport guides for both tourists and local residents.

Another innovative use of mobile apps is the simulation of tourist, guest, or destination cards with virtual smart cards. Smartphones with trusted embedded security modules and RFID or Bluetooth antennas may emulate the signals of a tourist RFID card or an eTicket whenever they are held against a wireless card reader (Egger and Jooss 2010; Goecke 2014d). For human or optic readers, the smartphone display presents a tourist card picture with a 2D bar code. Because smartphone apps may track users also between their tourist card transactions, they are useful for real-time monitoring and for the smart control of visitor flows by sending flow-dependent guidance tips. Radio beacons attached at known points, e.g., in trade fairs, museums, airports, railway stations, or hotels, are a new way to locate the position of visitor smartphones very precisely in buildings and rooms. They may be used for both in-house visitor-guiding apps and the monitoring and control of in-house visitor streams. Innovative voice processing services will be helpful extensions for destination portals to support voice interaction and even language translation with mobile tourism apps and web browsers.

Destination management systems and destination portals will be important components of future smart destinations for smart cities and smart regions to serve guests, citizens, and innovative e-Government processes (Buhalis and Amaranggana 2013; Höpken et al. 2015).

Further Impacts and the Future of Advanced E-Tourism Web Applications

Web applications enabled new business models like pay-per-use, on-demand services, sharing, and crowdfunding with substantial impacts for open tourism innovation processes (Egger et al. 2016). Open source projects started to collaborate via WWW and to create content and software for free. This eroded established business models of many copyright-driven media (e.g., travel guide books) but introduced new opportunities for CMS-driven content aggregation and syndication, which led to discussions on the special role of tourism organizations as open data and mobile travel guide providers (Sommer 2018).

Because highly frequented web applications like web booking engines or search engines get into performance problems, when too many users search in parallel, Google, IBM, Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle, and the global content delivery network Akamai developed special distribution methods for global content management. They replicate the function of a web server, spread content copies globally, or distribute a search index and databases to thousands of physical multiprocessor servers located in one or more server farms of the Internet cloud (Marinescu 2018). NoSQL or NOSQL databases (meaning “No” at first and “Not Only” later) support semantic knowledge graph queries and execute massively distributed parallel queries more efficiently than SQL databases (Sikos 2015). Distributed web application clouds Baun et al. (2009) removed entry barriers for innovators to implement innovative E-Tourism services by clever mash-ups of existing Web services using highly scalable network and global server infrastructures “on demand” without prior investments.

Extreme economies of scale and scope caused by e-commerce network effects led to oligopolistic dominance of GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon) over essential parts of the WWW and its Web services, content, knowledge, and online marketing (The Economist 2018). Even some GDS, OTAs, and TSEs achieved leadership in selected travel distribution and E-Tourism marketing sectors. The new capabilities of mass personalization, mass customization, and mass data collection by search engines, social media, shopping sites, or e-Government services have critical implications: Like most web users, also tourists receive content and offers filtered by their own preferences, which creates filter bubbles and may amplify misinformation. Artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms deciding about the eligibility of citizens and guests for services and prices based on statistic predictions about their creditworthiness, customer lifetime value, or social score bear serious discrimination risks, which should be avoided by proper data protection and privacy standards. The possibility to encrypt Internet and WWW communication to dynamically change routes of data packages and the idea to share Web services as intermediaries for the repackaging and forwarding of encrypted messages (onion routing) is an enabler for anonymous distributed peer-to-peer networks. While they promise their users anonymous web use and confidential private information exchange, they are also misused as global platforms for illegal and criminal activities which are subsumed as “the dark web net” (Snow 2017). Decentralized and unregulated anonymous blockchain currencies like bitcoin or ether may support legal and illegal payments. At the same time, blockchain platforms like Ethereum deliver distributed ledgers as trustworthy frameworks for secured distributed business transactions (Werbach 2018). Blockchain-enabled bookings, payments, insurance contracts, tax declarations, and financial accounting may be fulfilled by embedded smart contract programs, which might be a next disruptive innovation for E-Tourism and for web of things transactions. Some authors name them Web 3.0 or 4.0 depending on their classification of the semantic web in their web technology road maps (Ragnedda and Destefanis 2020; Kollmann 2018). Another open question is how sustainable Tourism can be achieved with energy-sensitive tourist guidance and supply chain management apps (Ali and Frew 2013) as well as with more energy-efficient web devices and cloud services of the future.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Munich University of Applied SciencesMunichGermany

Section editors and affiliations

  • Wolfram Höpken
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Digital TransformationUniversity of Applied Sciences Ravensburg-WeingartenWeingartenGermany

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