MULTIMEDIA APPLICATION IN HOSPITALITY INDUSTRIES
MULTIMEDIA APPLICATION IN HOSPITALITY INDUSTRIES
This seminar paper examines Multimedia application in Hospitality Industries. The tourism and hospitality industries have widely adopted information technology (IT) to reduce costs, enhance operational efficiency, and most importantly to improve service quality and customer experience. E-Tourism reflects the digitization of all processes and value chains in the tourism, travel, hospitality and catering industries. It emerges as a term describing the entire range of applications of ICTs on tourism and the implications for the tourism value chain. Major opportunities and challenges have emerged and need to be addressed by all industry players. The tourism sector is experiencing an acceptance of ecommerce to the extent that the whole industry structure is changing .The web is used not only for information gathering but also for ordering services. However, to attract tourists to the hospitality industry, there is need for the utilization and integration of multimedia elements such as videos, animations, pictures, text and Virtual Reality to communicate effectively to the viewers/users of the website seeking more information about the hospitality of the region they intend to visit.
The hospitality/tourism industry requires a diverse range of information and lends itself well to the support offered by developing multimedia, communication technologies and information systems .The internet provides an extra ordinary connectivity and the ability to communicate efficiently and effectively with customers at a reasonable cost .Its potential to generate more revenue is not questionable but is acknowledged as something the tourism industry in developing countries need . The implications of the Internet and other growing interactive multimedia platforms for tourism promotion are far reaching and alter the structure of the industry. This research aimed to explore the impact of ICTs and the Internet in particular for the future competitiveness of the tourism and hospitality industry. The rapid development and commercialization of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for the travel and tourism industry has prompted hotels and other enterprises in this sector to increasingly adopt these technologies. This is based on the expectation that the new ICT based technologies and processes would lead to an improvement in their operating efficiencies and customer service levels. The ICT based products and processes help the hotels to enhance the operating efficiency, improve the service experience as well as provide a means to access markets on a global basis. While ICTs were used in the hotel industry from the late seventies in the form of Computerized Reservation systems and Global distribution systems, it was only in the 90s that the ICTs began to make a difference in the hospitality sector Nowadays the internet has turned into an informative channel providing both individuals and organizations with different types of information making them aware of new tourism and travel opportunities and offers enabling them to compare the offers ,have online purchases and provide feedback .It has also turned into a source for travel agencies and organizations to promote their services and products to their potential customers  .
E-Tourism is a new research area created by the adoption of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the Hospitality Industry. ICT that may be adopted are: Electronic and Mobile Commerce, Web Services and Web Semantics, Expert Systems and Intelligent Agents, Data Mining and Data Warehousing, Wireless and Multimedia Communications, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). The Web technology is very quickly adopted and used for travel information delivery and travel planning. The Web service enables the packaging of a wide range of diverse tourism products and services. Moreover, it provides the infrastructure for inexpensive delivery of multimedia information, promotion and distribution for tourism products and services. Using the Web, travelers can get information on timetables, routes, seat availabilities, accommodations, rental cars, and restaurants to help them plan their travels. Remarkable progress has been made in the automation of travel planning with the help of the easily accessible information . There are semi-automated commercial service sites like travelocity.com, expedia.com and orbitz.com. There are also research prototypes of intelligent travel support systems based on software agent technology. Ideal intelligent travel systems have software agents that find travel alternatives and choose the best satisfiable one with the minimum interference of traveler .
The term multimedia has diverse meaning, depending on their use. It can mean the deployment of computers to deliver information as text, image, audio or video, but it could be also the capacity to manipulate and distribute content that includes image, audio or video via a communication device. By definition, multimedia includes the design, implementation, manipulation, storing, and delivering of various types of media to interested users. Many of the business decisions require in-formation displayed in a various presentation formats. Initially studies focused only on visual formats, such as text, tables, and graphics. Little attention was paid to non-traditional presentation formats, such as multimedia. On the other hand computer feedback messages are usual texts. Such messages are impersonal and do not capture the user’s attention. Multimedia technology represent then an opportunity to enrich the feedback. On the other hand, the rich information transmitted using multimedia and the smart aspect of the presentation might distract user’s attention from the main message, thus decreasing the efficiency of the feedback . Multimedia is divided into three major types:
- Interactive multimedia – users control the delivery of the integrated elements;
- Hypermedia – users can navigate through linked elements;
- Liner multimedia such as TV where users haven’t control over the flow of information.
Multimedia influences many aspects of our lives, so, we have :
Multimedia in business – presentations, training, marketing, advertising, product demos, simulations, catalogues, messages, network communications, video-conferencing. All these elements allow businesses to run smoothly and efficiency.
Multimedia in schools – it switches the teaching process. The teacher will be-come a facilitator of learning, rather than the traditional role of provider of information and understanding.
Multimedia at home – increasing convergence or melding of computer-based multimedia with entertainment and games.
Multimedia in public places – in hotels, trains, malls, museums, multimedia is available as kiosk providing information and help to the consumers.
Virtual reality – it is placed between technology and creative invention in multi-media.
On the other hand, Lim and Benbasat in  emphasize three characteristics of multimedia:
- There must be two or more representation modes or formats (text, graphics, video and sound) integrated into a single presentation;
- The user interacts with the multimedia presentation for some purpose (to solve a task or problem) and is not a passive viewer;
- The different representation formats must be used as sources of cognitive information.
Text includes letters, words, sentences, and paragraphs to tell a story, state a fact, report an event, or convey an idea. It contains also numbers, punctuation, symbols, and special characters. It is the most used form of communication and is considered a basic element of visual multimedia . The text appears in any form of multimedia presentation. Any page or picture label includes text that gives details to users on the information of such content. Text is still the dominant form for explaining what the application is or how to use it. Also, text use is more evident in the design of the GUI. So, the designers of multimedia projects have to choose carefully the few words that convey the idea, and they can also use other properties such as size, colour, and effects .
Image, from a multimedia point of view, is made up of picture elements called pixels with brightness and colour. It is a collection of dots (black-white or coloured), each with a value, and when they are placed next to each other, they form the entire image. Images are stored and exchanged in many standard for-mats such as the JPEG, GIF, BMP, PNG, TIFF, etc. . Images are represented as a two-dimensional matrix of pixels where each pixel has a different representation (pixel depth), depending on the image type.
- Monochrome images or 1-Bit images – each pixel is represented by a single bit and a value (0 or 1), displayed with the colours white or black.
- Grey-level images or 8-Bit images – each pixel is stored as a single byte and has a value between 0 (black) and 255 (white) of grey colours.
- Colour images or 8-Bit colour images – each pixel is represented by 8-bit value with colours ranging from 0 to 255. These colours are a combination of the three basic colours: red, green, and blue (RGB). The main difference with the grey level image is that the pixel value is not a colour, but it is an address to the in-dex of colours called LUT (look-up table) that is stored in the machine displaying the image.
- Colour image or 24-Bit colour images – each pixel is stored as three bytes of col-our yielding large combinations of col-ours (16,777,216). Each image is repre-sented as three two-dimensional arrays, one array for each of the three colour components (red, green, and blue).
Sound is used in multimedia product: presentations, videoconferences, com-puter games, home theatre, etc. It consists of differences in pressure that produce waves that travel in all directions. De-pending on its pressure and frequency level, if it reaches the ears, it is experienced as sound. An important step for-ward was made when the sound was digitalized. Digitizing is the process of converting a sound from the continuous form (analogue) into digital (discrete form) by taking a sample of the sound at a given time interval and storing it as an 8-bit or 16-bit data. The frequency of taking samples (sampling rate) affects the quality of the digitized. The most three common frequencies are: 11.025 kHz, 22.05 kHz, and 44.1 kHz. Sound files exist in many formats such as MIDI, MP3, WAV, WMA, MPEG audio. These formats re-quire a media player that is capable of recognizing such formats. Another main advantage of digital sound is the ability to edit such files using digital audio editors.
Video is defined as a series of images (frames) put together and displayed one after the other to create the illusion of motion. The illusion of motion is created by displaying a number of frames per second where each frame contains a slight difference from the previous one, utilizing the vision persistence of the human eye, thus creating the feeling that the object is actually moving. Video is the most demanding multimedia elements in terms of storage and transmission, because of the large size of files.
With advancements in video use in computers, mobile phones, and the Internet, digital video become more and more popular. It has many advantages over analogue video, including:
- Direct access;
- Storage on reusable digital memory, which makes it easier to be edited and integrated into multimedia applications.
High Definition is the new standard in digital video, in which wider screens would give viewers an enhanced sense of vision and a better viewing pleasure. A final aspect of multimedia components is how they can be delivered to the potentially users. Multimedia products can be delivered using several types of portable devices such as CD (max. 900 MB), DVD (max. 8GB), or BD (max. 50 GB), or online, using communication networks and the Internet. A major problem of multimedia is then, the delivery of large amounts of data within the limitations of networks and storage capabilities. A solution to this problem is compression, which is a process of obtaining a significant reduction in data size in order to reduce storage requirements and bandwidth limitations .
Compression algorithms are based on reducing redundancies that exist in all multimedia data and on exploiting the limitations of the human visual and hearing system. Compression techniques can be lossless compression (reconstructed data after de-compression is the same as the data before compression) and lossy (reconstructed data is not equal to the original data) . Redundancy reduction types are:
- Symbol-level redundancy and block-level redundancy – used for text loss-less compression;
- Inter-pixel spatial redundancy and inter-pixel temporal redundancy – used in image and video lossy compression.
The Hospitality (Tourism) Industry and the Need for Multi-media Applications for Effective
The Tourism Industry is comprised of many sectors, groups and organizations, and to date there is no internationally accepted definition. However, the United Nations Conference on International Travel and Tourism defined Tourism as:
“The consumption, production and distribution of services for travellers who dwell in some place other than their domiciles or workplace for at least twenty four hours. Shorter sojourns are regarded as mere excursions”
The Tourism Industry is gaining increasing attention as a major growth sector with great potential. As the largest contributor to the global economy, Tourism employs 255 million people world-wide which accounts for 11% of the global workforce. It is estimated that Tourism will sustain a 5% growth rate over the next decade resulting in an estimated 385 million jobs by the year 20063. The Tourism Industry
produces 10.7% of the world’s gross national product (GNP) which is estimated to increase to 11.5% by the year 20064. In 1995, international Tourism receipts rose by 7.2% to almost US$372 billion5. This increase follows a relatively constant trend established since 1985. Despite the recession in other industries the Tourism Industry is still growing at a faster rate than international economic growth. Between 1970 and 1990 Tourism grew by nearly 300% and it is expected to grow by half as much again by the end of the century. With such economic growth predicted, Tourism is set to enjoy a further increase and the future long-term growth of the Tourism Industry, from a demand point of view, looks promising. Despite the importance of the Tourism Industry to the global economy it is still very dispersed in its structure, comprising of many dispersed groups and services. In fact, Tourism is probably the ultimately dispersed industry, Tourism’s relatively low degree of integration, further reinforcing the fragmented nature of the Tourism Industry. Furthermore, there are several changes in the Tourism demand which are causing the Tourism product to become increasingly difficult to control and manage. Firstly, potential customers are becoming more discerning when choosing their Tourism destination. They require better value for money from Tourism providers. Secondly, customers are travelling more frequently and to far greater distances throughout the world, largely due to the advances in airline and communication technologies. Thirdly, Tourists are becoming more knowledgeable and adventurous in their choice of Tourism destination9. As such, customers are becoming more global, which means they travel on a worldwide basis beyond normal travel patterns10. And finally, customers are demanding a more individualized service and not those packaged by travel agents or tour operators .
To improve service delivery in the hospitality industry, there is need for the application of multi-media technologies such as website development and virtual reality that combine different formats of information such as text, pictures and videos to give tourists a good description and easy understanding of the services provided by the hospitality industry.
Application of ICT Technologies such as Internet and Multi-Media in the Hospitality Industry
The internet has become a key application in the tourism industry. Tourism providers have been using the internet to communicate, distribute and market their products to potential customers worldwide in a cost- and time-efficient way. In fact, the individual company website had become the most important platform for e-commerce, followed by electronic markets. The main focus of e-business processes in the tourism industry has been on customer facing activities and services, i.e. primarily e-marketing and e-sales. Online booking and reservation services were widely accepted among consumers and business travellers already in 2005. Similarly, online purchasing had become a relatively well-used application in the tourism sector. Tourism has closely been connected to progress of ICTs for over 30 years. The establishments of the Computer Reservation Systems (CRSs) in the 1970s, Global Distribution Systems (GDSs) in the late 1980s and the Internet in the late 1990s have transformed operational and strategic practices dramatically in tourism .The tourism industry at first focused on utilizing computerized systems (e.g., CRS, GDS) to increase efficiency in processing of internal information and managing distribution. Nowadays, the Internet and ICTs are relevant on all operative, structural, strategic and marketing levels to facilitate global interaction among suppliers, intermediaries and consumers around the world. In this section, we will provide the concepts and definitions of the key terms related to the Internet and ICTs .
Electronic Tourism (e-tourism): It is the application of ICTs on the tourism industry. E-tourism reflects the digitization of all processes and value chains in the tourism, travel, hospitality and catering industries. At the tactical level, it includes e-commerce and applies ICTs for maximizing the efficiency and effectiveness of the tourism organization. At the strategic level, e-tourism revolutionizes all business processes, the entire value chain as well as the strategic relationships of tourism organizations with all their stakeholders. E-tourism determines the competitiveness of the organization by taking advantage of intranets for reorganizing internal processes, extranets for developing transactions with trusted partners and the Internet for interacting with all its stakeholders and customers. The e-tourism concept includes all business functions (i.e., e-commerce, e-marketing, e-finance and e-accounting, eHRM, e-procurement, e-production) as well as e-strategy, e-planning and e-management for all sectors of the tourism industry, including tourism, travel, transport, leisure, hospitality, principals, intermediaries and public sector organizations. Hence, e-tourism bundles together three distinctive disciplines: business management, information systems and management, and tourism .
Computer Reservation System (CRS): It is a database which enables a tourism organization to manage its inventory and make it accessible to its partners. Principals utilize CRSs to manage their inventory and distribute their capacity as well as to manage the drastic expansion of global tourism. CRSs often charge competitive commission rates while enabling flexible pricing and capacity alterations, to adjust supply to demand fluctuations. Airlines pioneered this technology, although hotel chains and tour operators followed by developing centralized reservation systems. CRSs can be characterized as the “circulation system” of the tourism product.
Global Distribution Systems (GDSs) Since the mid 1980s, airline CRSs developed into GDSs by gradually expanding their geographical coverage as well as by integrating both horizontally, with other airline systems, and vertically by incorporating the entire range of principals, such as accommodation, car rentals, train and ferry ticketing, entertainment and other provisions. In the early 1990s, GDSs emerged as the major driver of ICTs, as well as the backbone of the tourism industry and the single most important facilitator of ICTs globalization (Sheldon, 1993). In essence, GDSs matured from their original development as airline CRSs to travel supermarkets. Since the late 1990s GDSs have emerged as business in their own right, specializing in travel distribution.
Intermediaries: Intermediaries (brokers) play an important role in commerce by providing value-added activities and services to buyers and sellers. The most well-known intermediaries in the physical world are wholesalers and retailers. Traditionally, intermediaries of the travel industry have been outbound and inbound travel agencies and tour operators. However, the Internet restructured the entire touristic value chain, forcing the existing intermediaries to take up the new medium and to develop corresponding business models.
eTravel agencies: ICTs are irreplaceable tools for travel agencies as they provide information and reservation facilities and support the intermediation between consumers and principals. Travel agencies operate various reservation systems, which mainly enable them to check availability and make reservations for tourism products. Until recently GDSs have been critical for business travel agencies to access information and make reservations on scheduled airlines, hotel chains, car rentals and a variety of ancillary services. GDSs help construct complicated itineraries, while they provide up-to-date schedules, prices and availability information, as well as an effective reservation method. In addition, they offered internal management modules integrating the “back office” (accounting, commission monitor, personnel) and “front office” (customers‟ history, itinerary construction, ticketing and communication with suppliers). Multiple travel agencies in particular experience more benefits by achieving better coordination and control between their remote branches and headquarters. Transactions can provide invaluable data for financial and operational control as well as for marketing research, which can analyze the market fluctuations and improve tactical decisions Hotels use ICTs in order to improve their operations, manage their inventory and maximize their profitability. Although Central Reservation Offices (CROs) introduced central reservations in the 1970s, it was not until the expansion of airline CRSs and the recent ICT developments that forced hotels to develop hotel CRSs in order to expand their distribution, improve efficiency, facilitate control, empower yield management, reduce labour costs and enable rapid response time to both customers and management requests. Following the development of hotel CRSs by most chains, the issue of interconnectivity with other CRSs and the Internet emerged. This reduces both set-up and reservation costs, whilst facilitates reservations through several distribution channels .
Applications of Virtual Reality Multi-Media in the Hospitality/Tourism Industry
The Tourism Industry has benefited tremendously from the implementation of IT. IT systems govern many aspects of the Tourism product from airline and hotel reservations to multimedia packages designed to market Tourism destinations. It would not be surprising to add virtual reality (VR) to the ways that IT affects the Tourism product. This may be due to the fact that the features of the Tourism Industry lend themselves readily to VR23 or because VR employs a vastly different approach to the representation of information. With VR the participants find themselves in the same dimension as, and are immersed within, the information. The Virtual Environment is augmented by various sensory simulations such as sight, sound, and even touch, together with their respective feedback. Therefore, becoming a excellent way to access, conceptualize, and manipulate Tourism information. The relationship between Tourism and technology has been rapidly evolving. The use of computers within the Tourism Industry has evolved, in a very short period of time, from a simple back-office system to playing an indispensable role in management, marketing and financial analysis. But through VR this relationship has moved one step further to being a tool capable of helping both management and customers to make well-informed decisions. In the field of Tourism, images have been used to promote destinations for a considerable time, either in the form of video films or more recently electronic brochures. Several researchers imagines travel agents taking their customers on VR tours to any part of the world, exploring in depth the experience before the real trip and reviewing it afterwards. VR has been identified as one of the most exciting technological developments of the future, where different experiences can be created through the use of computer-mediated imaging and graphical environments. Potentially, there is an infinite number of Tourism experiences which VR can simulate . The benefits engendered by VR applications at present manifest itself in the following way:
Information Provision and Marketing of the Tourism/Hospitality Industry Product: Traditional methods of Tourist information could be enhanced by VR. VR can serve as an invaluable method of providing necessary information to potential Tourists and, therefore, act as a marketing tool for the Tourism Industry. VR systems have the ability to provide potential Tourists with the opportunity to experience destinations and their respective attractions and facilities. Traditional sources of Tourism information only provide potential Tourists with short and often rather limited glimpses of Tourism destinations which may be inadequate to enable them to make informed decisions. The underlying significance of VR is its ability to ‘bring the experience to the customer’ and this virtual experience of the destination will further increase the customer’s desire to actually visit the location. The traditional methods of Tourism information possess no involvement on the part of the potential Tourist. This, to an extent, limits their effectiveness as a means of encouraging a potential Tourist to a particular destination. Most of the exciting developments in destination and product presentation, such as multimedia and VR, are mostly relevant at the information stage, within the search process for a suitable holiday destination. It is in the area of the provision of information and the marketing of the Tourism destination that VR is most useful at present. Therefore, the proposed application of VR in this dissertation is as a Tourism Information System (TIS) which will include the traditional types of Tourism Information, images, text, sound, animation and video, but will also incorporate a Virtual Environment which will allow the potential Tourist the opportunity to walkthrough the Tourism destination at their own leisure as well as interact with their surroundings. This Virtual Environment will help the Tourist generate realistic impressions and expectations of what to expect at such a destination and, thus, provide them with extra information to make an informed decision on their Tourism destination .
Web Design and Analysis for Hospitality Industry
Websites are incredibly important, mission critical, and cost effective marketing tools for businesses. Having a good website not only generates more business opportunities, but also enhances a company’s image and supports the interactivity with both institutional and individual customers. Good web design goes beyond technology, design, and layout. It includes a wide range of content, usability, navigation and interactivity issues. To increase web effectiveness, web designers should also consider network limitations, demographics, and the culture and soul of the site. Aesthetics, informativeness, and interactive features can also affect website effectiveness, whilst usability and content play a critical role in user satisfaction. For example, interface metaphors significantly affect user perceptions of system usability and their overall experience of a website. Website performance can be measured in various ways, such as evaluating a website’s effectiveness by using the modified Balanced Scorecard Approach or flow experience. Other measurements include determining the adoption level of a website as an e-business tool through content analysis and identifying the factors that affect user satisfaction by using protocol analysis. In addition, qualitative analysis can assess the influence of website content on trip planning by using a Technology Acceptance Model [TAM]. Problematic integration theory has also been adopted to better understand online marketing activities. In examining how best to project a destination’s image, researchers have analyzed both photographic and textual content from websites. In the context of website usability evaluation, four studies have found that ease of use is one of the most important determinants of perceived website quality. Rather than subjectively distinguishing the value of each attribute, automated software can provide a more convenient and objective way to evaluate websites. A good website should be inclusive and should cater for the needs of different types of online users, including visually impaired and disabled. Web designers should also consider culture and language as a factor affecting the success of a website. Websites should therefore be customized in accordance with tourist perceptions of the site in relation to their own heritage .
Application of multi-media in hospitality industry implies the process of combining the different multimedia elements such as text, graphics, animation, audio, etc. to communicate tourism information to tourists. Web analysis and design of web-sites of the hospitality industry should integrate these multimedia elements to give a vivid picture to tourists. This will enable them appreciate their destination and also create the zeal in them to patronize the services of the hospitality industry. Virtual Reality technology is also a multimedia technology application that will facilitate the communication of vital information pertaining the hospitality industry to users by giving them a close to real view of the environment.
The following recommendations are offered based on the review:
- Hospitality industry stakeholders should invest in the development of multimedia applications.
- Virtual reality systems that provides sound, animation clips, videos and all other multimedia elements should be implemented.
- Hospitality managers should recruit computer scientists and other IT specialists to develop systems based on multimedia that will improve their services and attract more tourists.
This paper reviews multimedia usage in the tourism and hospitality industries. It enables readers in general, tourism and hospitality managers in particular, to better understand the latest research findings and some of the best managerial applications of multimedia and Information technology (IT) in the field. IT has played a secondary role, especially in the hospitality industry. Despite the increasing emphasis on multimedia utilization, many managers are still reluctant, if not resistant, to incorporating IT in their high-level decision-making processes. After careful analysis, the right Multimedia application can then be incorporated into the business and be part of a business process reengineering exercise that can support the business to maximize its full potential. A rich multimedia website that is interactive can attract tourists to patronize the hospitality industry even more. Tourists are dependent on accurate, relevant and timely information in order to aid them in their travel decisions. In addition, the Tourism product is largely intangible, perishable, heterogeneous and volatile, and it is, therefore, the information provided to the potential Tourist which is recognized as being the product. The provision of some tangible elements, such as video clips, animation and virtual walkthroughs of Tourism destinations, hotels attractions and local environment can reduce some of the intangibility of the Tourism product, especially for destination-naïve Tourists. For this reason, multimedia technology is likely to have a major impact on the future of the Tourism Industry.
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