Tourism & Hospitality in the Digital Era: Technology and its (im)Possibilities

Closes:

Introduction 


Tourism and Hospitality (T&H) services can no longer be studied, designed, managed or marketed separate to technology and digital mediation. Technological infrastructures strengthen, facilitate, and in some cases are the very foundation of multiple aspects of T&H firms’ operations, both  within and outside the organisation’s physical boundaries. Some technologies serve as managerial tools, others operate externally, beyond managerial control, and others enable the reorganisation of existing business models (Christou et al., 2020), while others have a revolutionary nature that radically disrupts the industry (Filimonau and Naumova, 2020). In this context and in response to the profound need for new and incessant study of the developments, interrelationships, synergies and potentialities of the topic, this Special Issue invites scientific works exploring the opportunities, challenges, complexities and (im)possibilities of technology in Tourism and Hospitality. 

Gradually, the industry is smartened (Buhalis and Leung, 2018), and the cases are ample and diverse: advanced AI robots, equipped with machine learning applications, have been introduced in hotels, airports and restaurants; a new type of hotel (‘Robotics hotels’) has emerged, where AI-based robots work along with existing service staff (Galati et al., 2021); voice activated systems are installed in guest rooms, to enhance customers’ experience (Nicolau et al., 2020); and AI-based chatbots enable tourism companies to deliver 24/7 customer support, thereby improving engagement, automatic lead capturing, reduced overhead cost, revenue opportunities, competitive advantage and time saving (Pillai and Sivathanu, 2020). The need for faster communication (Serravalle et al., 2019) has precipitated technology as an intrinsic element of contemporary tourism and hospitality, while numerous advancements, such as big data, cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), speech and facial recognition (Li et al., 2021), social media, intelligent service desks, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have fundamentally altered the industry’s ecosystem. 

However, technological diffusion is not always a straightforward and unproblematic process. The benefits, costs, opportunities and challenges of service digitalization vary (Vo-Thanh, Zaman, Hasan, Akter and Dang-Van, 2022). One of the debates has to do with digitisation and competition as part of an ongoing transformation cycle, where opportunities and challenges coexist (Galati et al., 2021). Digitisation is like a coin with two sides. On the one hand, it helps firms overcome competition. Recent studies on key market trends suggest that technology (Filimonau and Naumova, 2020) facilitates new ways of engaging and interacting with customers (Li et al., 2021). Businesses are able to reach new customers in new ways (Christofi et al., 2022), and can reinvent customer engagement around service and convenience (Thrassou eta al., 2021). On the other hand, continuous technological inventions offer new capabilities, thus reproducing competition through digitisation (Christofi et al., 2022). As a result, the industry goes through cycles of ongoing transformation (Li et al., 2021), often with some of the changes being disruptive (Pillai and Sivathanu, 2020).

These findings inexorably give rise to another field of study, namely the impact of technology diffusion on customers. Social media and rating platforms have an impact on the broader society, influencing customer service and consumer behavior, and decreasing personalized interaction (Kaushal and Srivastava, 2021). AI and related systems, such as Voice Assistants (VAs), create technology-based service encounters (Li et al., 2021), reshaping service interactions (Shin and Perue, 2022), and consequently affecting customers' experiences (Thrassou et al.,2021;  Buhalis and Moldavska, 2022). 

From a managerial point of view, interest in using complex data analytics in T&H has also been growing (Efthymiou, 2018). Technology assists managers in utilising prior customers’ data to perform more efficiently (Li et al., 2021). Networked systems assist managers by providing data about customers’ preferences, likes, dislikes, trends, moods and perceptions. Internet networking (Thrassou et al., 2021) has facilitated monitoring methods and data collection through mobile applications (Kaushal and Srivastava, 2021). Such technologies, enable better service provision to existing customers, while facilitating future tourism development (Önder and Gunter, 2020). Moreover, big data is linked to automated management systems through system interoperability (Efthymiou et al, 2022), which enable predictions of future business conditions (Shin and Perue, 2022). Big data analytics is a new research paradigm that could be used to investigate novel patterns or predict future trends (Christofi et al., 2022). As it includes data derived from internet traffic (e.g., clickstreams), social media, mobile transactions, and business transactions, big data is an innovative method for tackling real-life problems (Gonzalez et al., 2020). As a result, management decision-making has greatly improved, both in scope and accuracy. 

Blockchain Technology (BCT) is yet another technology with application in the tourism sector. Önder and Gunter (2020) propose that blockchain can improve online evaluations and review technologies, which lead to trustworthy rating systems. Also, BCT is used in smart contracts, blockchain-based travel portals, processing of online payments for hotel bookings, online customer reviews and supply chain management (Sharma et al., 2021). 

Another contemporary field of study, is located at the intersection of complexity and performance. The diffusion, acceptance and use of technology (Pillai and Sivathanu, 2020), is far more complex than many would expect. For example, advanced robots have a high interactivity with consumers (Christou et al., 2020). However, because of their unsatisfactory performance, there are ongoing debates regarding the efficiency of AI robots as an alternative to workforce (Filimonau and Naumova, 2020). Invariably, such findings lead to debates concerning the future of employment. Due to their advantages in labour cost reduction (Gonzalez et al., 2020) and service efficiency improvement (Nicolau et al., 2020), the past few years have witnessed a growth of automation and technology adoption in hospitality and tourism businesses. Even the work-leisure relationship is re-orientated in the light of increasing digital work (Rainoldi, Buhalis and Ladkin, 2022). 

Adopting a comprehensive approach to T&H technological innovation, this special issue focuses on identifying, nurturing and scientifically founding new topics, including trends, challenges, opportunities and strategic shifts that will contribute to emerging research streams. The result will be a better understanding of how disruptive technologies and digitalization are presently utilized, how they currently and potentially influence the various T&H stakeholder groups, and what are their present and - more importantly - future possibilities, but also impossibilities. 

 

List of topic areas

 

The special issue seeks to stimulate and promote an understanding of present and future technology use trends in tourism and hospitality. Consistent with the mandate of EMJB, we invite original papers, which explore technology in its different forms, along with its impact on different functions, purposes and stakeholders of T&H. We particularly welcome research that generates theoretical insights, empirical findings, and evidence-based recommendations, by focusing on emerging and forecasted T&H-utilised technologies, such as blockchain, robots, AI, VR, big data, analytics and more. This technology diffusion can be investigated from various perspectives, including topics that include, but are not restricted to the following:

  • Big Data, Analytics and Ethical Considerations: Ethical considerations and social responsibility as they relate to the 'technological gaze'; The risks posed by rapid advances in technology in terms of ethical data governance in the context of tourism and hospitality; Social and ethical issues of technology, such as ubiquitous surveillance, privacy, and equality.
  • Value and Financial considerations: Identification of organisational non-monetary value derived from T&H technologies; Cost-Benefit economic analysis for technology adoption in hospitality and tourism operations; Cost-Benefit economic analysis for technology adoption by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs); Financial and non-monetary costs and benefits of innovation and creativity.
  • Organizational Considerations and Reactions of operation/management to new technologies: Factors affecting the adoption of advanced systems in the hospitality industry; Impact of advanced systems on organizational performance and guest satisfaction; Challenges associated with the implementation of the automation technologies (e.g., robotics), as well as measures that have been used to address these challenges; Issues faced by service providers of chatbots while designing chatbots.
  • Emerging Technologies and Global Issues: Incorporation of global issues such as sustainability and social responsibility into tourism innovation; Links between technology application and UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), responsible consumption and waste management.
  • Customer Experiences:  Customers responses to new technologies in the tourism and hospitality context; Findings on the impact of technology in different contexts (e.g., hotel, restaurant, resort and casino) and travel types (e.g., leisure travel, business travel, family travel and meetings); Service innovation, customer value co-creation and customer (di)satisfaction.
  • Automation Technologies and Employee-related Factors: Implications of technology on employment and human resource management; Employee's perspective to robotics, ML and/ or AI; Influence of employee-related factors on AI-infused service encounters; Managers'/employees' attitude and usage intention, barriers to the adoption of robots in tourism and hospitality firms; The distinct advantages of robot-delivered services in the tourism and hospitality industry over people-delivered services with respect to the service delivery's consistency and training.
  • Blockchain Technology: Drivers and barriers for BCT adoption; Organizational issues related to the implementation of BCT in everyday real-world business applications; Financial considerations of BCT application; Strategic and Technical issues accompanying the implementation of BCT; Strategic impact of BCT on the positioning of SMEs of the sector and the potential it has for marketing
  • Cryptocurrencies and tokens as means of transactions by tourists and firms.
  • Forecasting of new technologies and/or new potential applications of existing technologies that might influence T&H management, operations or customers 

 
Guest Editors

Prof. Alkis Thrassou,

Supervising Guest Editor (University of Nicosia, Cyprus, EU),

[email protected] 


Prof. Dimitrios Buhalis,

Guest Editor (Bournemouth University, UK),

[email protected]  

 

Dr. Shahriar Akter,

Guest Editor (University of Wollongong, Australia),

[email protected]  


Dr. Leonidas Efthymiou,

Handling Guest Editor (University of Nicosia, Cyprus, EU),

[email protected]  

 

References


Buhalis, D. and Leung, R. (2018), “Smart hospitality – interconnectivity and interoperability towards an ecosystem”, International Journal of Hospitality Management, Vol. 71, pp. 41-50.

Buhalis, D. and Moldavska, I. (2022), “Voice assistants in hospitality: using artificial intelligence for customer service”, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Technology, Vol. 13(3): 386-403. https://doi.org/10.1108/JHTT-03-2021-0104 

Christofi, M. Vrontis, D., Shams, R., Belyaeva, Z. and Czinkota, M.R. (2022), “Sustained Competitive Advantage for Sustainable Hospitality and Tourism Development: A Stakeholder Causal Scope Analysis”, Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, Vol. 46, No. 5, pp. 823-825.

Christou, P., Simillidou, A. and Stylianou, M.C. (2020), "Tourists’ perceptions regarding the use of anthropomorphic robots in tourism and hospitality", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 32 No. 11, pp. 3665-3683. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCHM-05-2020-0423

Efthymiou, L. (2018), ‘Worker body-art in upper-market hotels: Neither accepted, nor prohibited’, International Journal of Hospitality Management, 74, pp. 99–108.

Efthymiou, L., Dekoulou, E., Orphanidou, Y., Sdoukopoulos, E., Perra, V.M., Boile, M. and Bras, I.  (2022) ‘Crisis, adaptation and sustainability: digital system interoperability in the Cruise Industry’ in Thrassou, A., Vrontis, D., Weber, Y., Shams, R., Tsoukatos, E., Efthymiou, L. (Eds) Business Under Crisis: Avenues for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Sustainability. Book series: Palgrave Studies in Cross-Disciplinary Business Research, In Association with EuroMed Academy of Business, Palgrave Macmillan (Springer), Cham, Switzerland. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-76583-5_5 

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Opening date for manuscripts submissions: 10 January 2023
Closing date for manuscripts submission: 10 May 2023   
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