As a result of the internet and social media consumers, hotel guests and travellers are increasingly able to take control, offer criticism and shape developments. In the age of digitalization, companies and governments cannot afford to ignore the latest trends. Rapid developments, such as that of the sharing economy, often make it difficult for legislators to set out the legal framework in time. These were the results of a ministerial meeting at the ITB Future Day at the ITB Berlin Convention which examined new business models in the digital age.
The tourism industry is an important force driving digitalization, was the unanimous view of high-ranking representatives from Mexico, Bulgaria, Bahrain, India, Israel, Jordan and South Africa. Moderating the event, Taleb Rifai, secretary general of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), said that in many big cities the sharing economy had taken on an increasingly important role with regard to accommodation and posed a challenge for the hotel industry.
Argentina’s tourism minister Gustavo Santos and Amir Halevi, director general in Israel’s tourism ministry, said that travellers’ newly found consumer power should be interpreted as an important opportunity. Halevi said: “digitalization allows us to evaluate tourists’ opinions, moods, criticism and travel demand better and to react as rapidly as possible." Israel was also keen to finance startups, he added.
In India, IT and digitalization play an important role too. “We were able to respond quickly to the new challenges, including in the tourism sector", explained Secretary of Tourism Vinod Zutshi. It was particularly important to train specialists for new business models. “This is an area where we have also been successful.” With a population of almost 1.4 billion this was a huge task, said Taleb Rifai in recognition of the situation. Vinod Zutshi said that India had overcome a huge task with the changeover to electronic visas involving more than 150 countries.