Face of consumerism through e-commerce has radically changed in the last few years. Buying or selling through Internet and online shops depending on websites, has become an ordinary part of consumer life today. Higher expectations, less tolerance, more demanding and choosy customers are becoming more common. Economic, social and technological factors have created a highly competitive business environment in which customers are becoming more powerful, Turban and King (2003, p.25). The highly professional search machines make this possible for them. E-Commerce is becoming a steadily bigger part of life without our realising it. To make e-commerce work well, constant development and improvement of adjoining functions is necessary. E-commerce solutions are varied, and seller, buyer compatibility with it is necessary to work with a chosen one. Also it should be affordable for the provider. Online selling is the main growth area for the Internet. Elegant sites, easy requirements, less cumbersome process, more information sharing, animation, attractive information presented in the most fascinating ways are bases of a sound e-commerce. E-commerce website should offer a stimulating experience with reliable information that could motivate the customer. Easy Channelling and navigating the customers to full portfolio of all necessary and essentially correct information is very important. Websites should be searchable, price should be competitive and eShop information should be easily available.
E-Commerce has brought revolutionary changes in tourism and hospitality industry. Tourism as one of the biggest industries is a natural partner of Internet. It is a major component of most economies and community-based tourism is steadily increasing popularity. Tourism also has potential to induce local development and increase the income. It is essential to keep in mind the local environmental sensibilities. Applying the concept of e-commerce for tourism and hospitality has become the most natural outcome in recent years.
Advantages are many. It facilitates local community access to tourism market and minimises the financial information leakage. It links local communities and hospitality industry directly with the tourists. It could help building up local finance along with the national foreign exchange. It increases small enterprises by directly marketing the local products and industries anywhere in the world. Local communities get a direct share in the income while traditional cultures, social structures of the hosts get appreciated and extraordinary skills make a come back. Tourism and hospitality mainly depend on the natural scenes and wildlife, for which locals or governments need not spend much other than maintaining them, along with effective hospitality facilities.
Tourism and hospitality industry are interlinked. The hospitality industry and leisure industries are widely regarded as being extremely competitive and fast moving. Given this situation, it is hardly surprising that there are so many examples of established organizations acting entrepreneurially, according to Morison et al (2001, p. 68). Hospitality is a booming industry all over the world today and through Internet, selling their hotels, facilities offered, picturesque backgrounds, food, comforts, cultural attractions, social functions, religious peculiarities are showcased without much expense or difficulty. Tourists have all information through search machines with the current data and rates. They could directly talk, write, book and pay for their stay much in advance, with all information about reaching, being welcomed, how and where, meeting points, weather, forecasts, dangers, attractions and day-today itineraries intact with them months in advance. Availability of souvenirs, food requirements, comforts, access to religious places, historical sites, internal travelling, places of attraction, are all managed by people at hospitality points. Trade opportunities, reservations, tickets, transport, instantaneous information about any place nearby are provided through hotels.
Travellers pay up front for travel services and in exchange for cash they receive all the facilities. Tourists and business travellers come from all over the world on visits and holidays. Once they have arrived they have to be able to pay for the goods and services which they require… This is done by creating a market in foreign currencies operated by the worldsââ‚¬â„¢ banks who are prepared to buy and sell currencies on behalf of their customers, Messenger and Shaw, (1993, p.232). Internet can offer buyer-seller information, eliminate expenses, improve business, and can give clear location details, with other much needed competitive and quality information. Through Hospitality industry, it develops economies, improves trade competitiveness, expands scope and arena, and facilitates people to have direct access to the marketing destinations. The marketing process, as indicated earlier, begins with customers. Specifically, process starts with a particular group of customers, often called the target market, Hsu and Powers (2002, p. 4).
It monitors, evaluates, creates faster transactions, empowers the participating communities, makes information interchangeable through organised and flexible web services. It builds up visions, motivates people to venture into far off destinations, popularises hotels, inns, and serviced apartments. It romanticizes castles and palaces changed into hotels, privately owned villas, sells properties or lets them out for the season, familiarizes the tourists with other alternatives like accommodative farms for real and actual local life. Thinking clearly, using and analysing the best information available, synthesizing and evaluating it, explicating and articulating are what the real world is all about, says Lewis, 1999, p. xxviii).
Does that mean that there are no disadvantages at all in applying E-Commerce into Hospitality Industry? Yes, there are many. It gives unnecessary and complete personal information of the tourist, which might not be appreciated in an underdeveloped part of the world. A gay man going into a rural area with his partner could create unfortunate situations in that society where gays and lesbians could be a rarity. It gives information like home addresses, telephone numbers to all people, who might venture into misusing them in future in some way or other. It could give easy access to all information to terrorists. It could spread terrorism and violence by providing information about the possible targets and their travelling. Information gone into Internet becomes public property. Confidentiality is never maintained in such cases and this could result in potential danger for tourists. It can create suitable atmosphere for killing, vengeance, robbery, stealing, waylaying, kidnapping and other criminal activities. It is foolish to expect that the information given would be kept confidential. With a vast number of people working on the internet, having access to the same data, and data being transferred all the time, tourists become sitting ducks to violence. Hospitality industry itself could be a target like in Bali.
Hospitality industry has to be thoroughly aware of its own labour market and its problems. It should not happen that there would be an eruption of unhappiness when tourists arrive, because the data could be used against the industry itself. Labour markets run on information, but they are invariably less than perfect mechanisms. What both buyers and sellers are left with is their perceptions and assumptions of supply and demand, Riley, (1991, p.7).
More information leads to more influx of tourists that might result in environmental imbalance and deprivation of local livelihood, creating a long-term crisis for locals. Over usage of facilities and nature, historical and heritage spots could result in their perpetual degradation. The eco-sensitivity of the region is of paramount importance. It can also result in a false and temporary market for goods, which might plummet down as the tourism season vanishes. Over popularising the area could result in local difficulties, if it is unprepared for welcoming hoards of tourists. If the culture is a hostile one, it could neither be comfortable for the hosts nor the guests. Glorification of facts could result in disillusionment of tourists. Their content bears little relevance to either the realities of work experience in the industry or actual labour management practices, Wood (1992, p. 2).