Developments in internet and digital media (including social media and mobile applications) are revolutionising the various sectors of the tourism industry and indeed what today's tourist expects and demands.
With technology and tourism now two of the fastest growing sectors in the global economy we need to ensure that the tourism managers of the future are fully equipped with the knowledge and skills to embrace and harness these two areas seamlessly together.
In Northern Ireland our tourism profile was raised greatly by the NI2012 campaign and associated media related coverage, as well as the highly successful hosting of major events such as the Irish Open 2012, the World Police and Fire Games and The Giro d'Italia.
How we are promoted online as a destination has also come on in leaps and bounds in recent years and our tourism bodies have to be commended for that. However, that doesn't mean we are getting everything right and it is more important than ever that we harness the digital world to achieve tourism success.
This includes not just how we digitally market tourism and related businesses and facilities but encapsulates areas such developing effective electronic customer relationship management (eCRM) – through using social media platforms as well as older, more traditional online methods – and utilising the latest mobile technology to enhance and provide immersive experiences at tourist destinations and visitor attractions through cutting edge mobile app development. It must also include improving the availability and quality of WiFi connectivity and coverage in our tourism resorts and event venues and even moving towards having free WiFi resorts.
Moving into 2015 and beyond there is tremendous scope and potential for tourism to continue to grow but we must ensure that digitally we are capturing every opportunity and every advantage to enable us to compete effectively. We need to ensure this is happening in the industry right now. Tourism in Northern Ireland is a vital component for economic growth and job creation and the digital arena is one core way in which we improve and develop this crucial area for the future.
Peter Bolan is director of international travel and tourism management at the Ulster Business School, University of Ulster