E-Tourism Modules Teach Students to Log In and Go
HTM teams up with travel booking firm to enhance textbook learning about e-tourism and e-marketing
BY REBECCA KENDALL
If you go online and search for the words “online travel,” within seconds you'll have information from more than 79 million travel websites, including Expedia, Yahoo! and Hotwire. Each year, an estimated five million Canadian travellers go online and book everything from flights and accommodations to entertainment and ground transpor- tation.
It's the new face of the hospitality and tourism industry, and starting this fall students in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) will enhance their textbook learning about e-tourism and e-marketing with a series of new hands-on modules designed to set them apart from the competition once they hit the workforce.
“We haven't seen this kind of hands-on application at the university level,” says Prof. Statia Elliot, who notes that these modules will fill a gap identified by the school's industry partners. “We've been told that it would be incredibly beneficial if our graduates had this knowledge and could help their employers with e-management.”
Recognizing the importance of these skills, HTM has partnered with Meridian Reservation Systems to create a series of four e-tourism modules that will be ready for September. The modules, which will bolster the school's new e-tourism curriculum, will initially be used in marketing, destination management, operations and strategic management courses and will feature video- and web-based training, says Elliot.
An introductory module will cover consumer-focused information by showing students how customers book online and how they navigate the system to find the information they need. Other modules will allow students to view the back end of the system and work from the perspective of the hotel or airline. They'll also learn how booking information is passed from the consumer to the central reservation system or the destination management system, depending on whether they're booking individual travel products or entire packages.
“It's critical for students to gain experience with putting attractive travel packages together and marketing them to target audiences if they want to set their organization apart among highly competitive destinations,” says HTM professor Chris Choi, who teaches destination management.
Technology has revolutionized and vastly expanded the possibilities for the distribution, management and marketing of tourism and hospitality products, says Prof. Marion Joppe, HTM research chair. “We want our graduates to have the knowledge and skills required to effectively work in today's e-tourism environment.”
In addition to providing actual booking data (company and customer names won't be shared with students), Meridian, whose site receives more than four million hits and 100,000 bookings annually, is offering students access to some of its customer data. This includes geographic location, length of travel, booking rates, frequency, how far in advance consumers are booking their trips, and the types of products they're buying as part of their travel packages.
“Right away we can look at high-yield and low-yield markets and target marketing efforts to areas that are higher-yield,” says Elliot. “These are rich data that can support marketing decisions and give us a good sense of our key markets.”
All this additional information will allow students to develop a greater understanding of how hotel and tourism operators market to the consumer, she says.
“It's a growing way of doing business, and it'll give our students, who are already highly employable, more marketability and allow them to bring more to the industry.”