The notion of consumers increasingly striving for experiences constitutes an important concept for the tourism industry. The strategic staging of experiences in the experience economy has become crucial for companies as products have become commodified and competitive advantage can only obtained by providing customers with unique and memorable experiences. Recently, there has been evidence that the company-centric idea of staging is being advanced by the principles of co-creation, which recognise active, involved and empowered consumers in co-creating their experiences conjointly with the company in quest for personal growth.
More recently, there has been evidence that a second major shift is impacting upon the nature of tourism experiences. Experiences are not only transforming as consumers are empowered to co-create their own experiences but because information and communication technologies (ICTs) are implemented as a catalyst of change enhancing the tourism experience. The proliferation of ICTs in tourism has thus had fundamental impacts by changing the nature of the tourism experience distinctively. These latest evolutions show that the developments in the field of experience are on-going. With the dynamics of empowered consumers and proliferating technologies, conventional roles, structures and processes of creating experiences have changed. Despite the high relevance and cutting-edge nature of experience research, we currently lack in a full understanding of the use of technology for the creation of tourism experiences.
This makes research in this area critical. Studies are needed to shed light on this very subject and to reveal how to use emerging ICTs in order to facilitate the successful creation of technology enhanced tourism experiences in the future. The research carried out by Barbara Neuhofer, Professor Dimitrios Buhalis and Adele Ladkin at the eTourismLab at Bournemouth University tackles this issue and aims to generate a valuable knowledge by exploring the nature of Technology Enhanced Tourism Experiences.
Preliminary findings of the study indicate that through ICTs experiences are taken to a complete new level. By integrating the range of technologies available, such as mobile technologies and the plethora of social media platforms, businesses are enabled to not only co-create experiences in the physical destination space on-site but to extend experience co-creation with tourist consumers into a virtual space. This leads tourism businesses to operate in a new multi-phase experience co-creation space of a physical and virtual nature in the pre-/during-/post- stages of travel. Experiences can thus be created in multiple experience spaces, on multiple levels of engagement and social circles of interaction, leading to more meaningful experiences and added value for the tourist.
For the tourism industry, research on Technology Enhanced Tourism Experiences will be critical to understand technology as an instrument for increasing competitiveness, minimising the interchangeability and replicability of tourism products and services and maximising the creation of rich experiences and value. This research demonstrates that technology needs to be understood as a key tool, a source of innovation, strategic differentiation and competitive advantage to empower customer co-creation, one-to-one engagement and personalisation in order to create high-touch technology-enhanced tourism experiences in the future.