E-tourism in Austria: an analysis of the status quo
IMC Krems Mag. Christian Maurer, Professor for e-tourism, issues important e-tourism study. Accommodation providers and tourist organisations are increasingly using information and communication technologies to optimise their internal and external processes, with the aim of achieving strategic competitive advantages in product development, sales and marketing, and customer communications. But how do domestic hospitality companies measure up when it comes to e-tourism applications, and where is there still room for improvement?
In an attempt to answer this question, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Economy, Family and Youth commissioned a study of e-tourism practices in the country. The research was carried out by Christian Maurer, professor of e-tourism at the IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems. The first stage of the project involved an online survey of Austrian accommodation providers. This was followed by expert interviews with Austrian hoteliers, regional tourist board managers and booking platform operators.
The online survey showed that 94% of accommodation providers had their own website, as did virtually all of the country’s four- and five-star hotels. Websites were seen as an essential tool for providing guests with information and generating bookings. Some 86% of websites included a form where prospective guests can submit non-binding booking enquiries. However, only 58% of the companies surveyed offered real-time online booking functionality.
Online booking platforms
Online sales usually take place through a combination of channels, namely accommodation providers’ and regional tourist board websites, and online booking platforms.
Booking.com is currently the leading online booking platform in Austria, and domestic rivals (such as Tiscover and Feratel) have experienced significant falls in market share. 44% of the companies surveyed said that the majority of their online reservations were generated via Booking.com, compared with just 16% for Tiscover.
In the four- and five-star category, 57% of hotels stated that Booking.com accounted for the lion’s share of bookings, while a mere 5% said that Tiscover was their main source of reservations. This high degree of market concentration, with mainly international platforms (such as Booking.com and HRS) dominating, has resulted in monopoly-like structures.
Untapped potential for direct selling
Of the companies surveyed, there was a fairly even split between those which generated less than 10%, between 11% and 30%, and more than 30% of bookings via their own website.
In other words, there is still plenty of potential for growth in direct sales. However, the number of accommodation providers offering online booking facilities is still too small, and the focus should shift to gaining a better understanding of customer needs and search behaviour. Many potential guests collect information online before booking by telephone or e-mail. Although telephone bookings still have a significant part to play, reservations by fax and letter are now extremely rare.
The study confirmed the strategic importance of e-tourism for Austria. It is recommended that leading domestic bodies (such as the Federal Ministry of Economy, Family and Youth, Austrian National Tourist Office, Austrian Hotel Association, Österreichische Hotel- und Tourismusbank , regional tourist boards, and academic institutions) join forces to draw up recommendations and guidelines for e-tourism applications in Austria. These could then feed into tourism policy initiatives designed to loosen the grip of the major online booking platforms.