Elide Garbani Nerini, Nadzeya Kalbaska, Lorenzo Cantoni, and Urs Eberhard. Developing an e-learning course about tourism destinations: the case of the Switzerland Travel Academy.
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In the last decades, the tourism industry has been deeply affected in all its main activities and experiences by the rapid development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). “eTourism” is the name given to such new environment. This new term refers to all ICT tools used in the tourism industry, which help processes such as planning, development, marketing and management; at the same time, eTourism refers also to the very experience of tourists, who extensively use ICTs along all phases of their travel experiences: pre-, during-, and post-visit.
In this new environment, both the role of the travel agent and that of destination management/marketing organisations (DMOs) have changed, and with opportunities, also new challenges have emerged.
Travel agents have mainly found themselves struggling with increasing competition caused by online booking sites and the risk of disintermediation. However, despite this apparent tendency, there are still many travellers who rely on travel agents to book their holidays. In this scenario, travel agents have been changing their role, becoming valuable advisors to increasingly demanding clients rather than being dispensers of information and processers of transactions. In their new role, travel agents must keep their knowledge updated to maintain their competitive advantage not only over other travel agents, but also over online travel agencies (OTAs) and online booking systems in general.
In the eTourism era, also DMOs have changed their role, strengthening their position of destination marketers and using ICTs for organising, managing, and supporting the partners and industries involved in the production and delivery of the tourism experiences connected with the destination. Among the new challenges for DMOs, increasing competition and information overload are to be mentioned, and this makes providing quality online information both to direct customers and trade partners such as travel agents crucial. To do so, DMOs, have, on the one hand, increased their presence online, and on the other hand, have started to offer online learning experiences (eLearning) in the form of online training courses to better prepare travel professionals worldwide, so that they could increase their knowledge on the destination and improve their performance in sales. Creating courses that are effective in satisfying travel agents’ needs by ensuring high usability becomes then essential for DMOs.
This report aims at providing a practical framework for the creation of eLearning courses about destinations, mainly addressing DMOs at national, regional, and local level. To do so, the authors mainly draw from the experience gained during the development of the Switzerland Travel Academy, the new version of Switzerland Tourism’s eLearning course, whose creation was commissioned in March 2016 to webatelier.net and the eLab, two research and development labs at USI – Università della Svizzera italiana in Lugano (Switzerland). The course is accessible at www.myswitzerland.com/academy.
The first part of this document is dedicated to the reasons why a DMO should consider creating a destination eLearning course. The second chapter brings the Switzerland Travel Academy as an example of a success story. The third and last chapter presents five guidelines for good practice.