Friday, July 13, 2007

Community tourism, technology and sustainable travel

An unlikely combination?
We don't think so.

New technology can bring massive opportunities for small investments (or even better free!)
Small rural operators and their communities can use technology to better facilitate coordinated marketing and sales promotions.
Small operators can gain big company tools like online sales, international distribution, merchant accounts and administration system.

What about sustainability?
One of the components of sustainable tourism is support and protection of the communities visited. One of the best ways of doing this is utilizing local companies, local resources when you travel. The question becomes how the heck do you find small, quality tour operators in the regions you are visiting?
Definitely visit the local tourism association websites, government tourism sites displaying members.
If you want to be really diligent about a sustainable tour choice also visit sites like http://www.sustainabletourism.org/

Form our experience at Adventure engine we have the pleasure of working with small to large companies world wide.
Small local tour operators often provide an incredibly authentic and often world class product.
They are worth finding.

As for how communities can work to better bundle and promote their tourism products we have ideas there too.
Certainly there are free tools like Googleearth, YouTube, Blogger and more that should be taken advantage of and there are companies like Adventureengine that also subsidize rural tourism programs to ensure accessibility for rural tour operators.

Making a community plan is also critical.

What are some of the components we see here that helps small communities and operators and what common barriers do we see?


1. Background
It is no surprise that many of the adventure travel operators we work with at Adventure Engine operate from rural locations. We have found these locations to present many benefits and challenges in developing, maintaining and growing a community product.The term 'community' can be used to describe a township, province, state or even at the national level.

2. Common Community Goals
Attract more tourists to the region while maintaining the authenticity and lifestyle of that community. Improve online presence and functionality to meet the increasing trends in visitors researching and buying travel online.

3. Benefits of Community based tourism
Economic development
Alternative to non renewable industry
Higher wages and improved standard of living amongst local population
The creation of new jobs
Increased retail and commodity purchases
Stabilization of the local economy

4. Associated Risks
Loss of authenticity in local product
Changes to local lifestyle and culture
Over-development
Threat to local habitat and wildlife
Economic drain by large corporate providers without contribution to local resources

5. Common Methodologies
Community planning and tourism strategy
Community partnerships
Cooperative marketing and packaging
Website marketing

6. Common Barriers
Technology and Training
Building and maintaining a website and database is not within the resources of the community
The community lacks up to date knowledge of industry trends and buying behaviour
Local operators lack the budget and/or technical skills to cope with large upgrades
Concern of perceived bias

Budget
Often rural communities lack the budget to optimize online marketing or to compete with large urban or international locations
Budget is also a common barrier to building and maintaining visitor infrastructure including communication networks, staffing, office equipment and more

Partnerships
Many communities find the local population views partnerships as competitive rather than collaborative
Communities often identify partnerships as being important in their tourism strategy, but may not be able to identify current and potential partnerships consistently

7. Benefits to using a system like Adventure Engine
Main AE features that Community/Chambers appreciate
helps meet mandates for members
easy to use and install
adds no extra workload for your staff, Adventure Engine manages the campaign and member training.
provides a more proactive presence and role for the association to promote and sell member seats.
meets exposure for both local and international visitors
presents a low barrier to entry and is accessible to all operators

Technology and Training
Give your community members opportunities to access a reservation and inventory management system that is incredibly powerful and customizable yet affordable and easy to use. The can gain the technology to bring their companies to the cutting edge of the industry.The Adventure Engine system is a web based application that does not require expensive software and can be used by anyone with a computer and internet connection. The staff at Adventure Engine is focused on creating technology that matches industry trends and requirements. We will train all operators individually and provide ongoing free technical and customer support. AE is also available to work with communities to develop action plans and strategies which ensure optimal implementation for that group.We ensure the system is easy to use and support all of our subscribers.

Overcome Bias
Adventure Engine also allows you to implement such a system without perceived bias. Overcoming perceived bias for many communities means offering equal opportunities to members regardless of size, budget and technical knowledge. Adventure Engine staff can work with each community member individually to ensure they are able to participate in the program. This ensures all members have an OPTION, which prevents bias from entering the discussion.Once loaded, your storefront or portal will display community products based on consumer search constraints and departure dates, also preventing any perceived bias or favouritism.

Budget
Registration with Adventure Engine involves no upfront free for all suppliers to load unlimited trips onto. They pay only a 1% transaction fee for transactions. Standard credit card fees apply.This helps ensure the program is accessible to community members and encourages participation in the network and results in market penetration for local product.For smaller local operators it is a constant struggle to gain exposure. By providing technology to have local products shown easily on existing partner sites and new Adventure Engine distributor sites we can help the local operator compete. This is important to draw visitors to your community and to keep the revenue with your local operators rather than larger external operators who may not leave revenue with your community. There is also a option to not fully adopt the reservation system rather use the system to gain the benefit of marketing,distribution and online sales network for $375.For communities creating a portal area for their region (over 3 operators) registration with Adventure Engine costs only $600 CAN for local communities (half of our regular price). With this registration you receive free and unlimited technical and customer support.

Partnerships
Partnerships are important to communities to combine the traffic of multiple websites, and to package local products. Managing these partnerships (inventory management between partner companies) is administratively effective using one centralized database. Traditional partnerships using the phone and fax machine are no longer viable as human resource hours greatly outweigh the profits realized by partners. Adventure Engine can allow networks to grow without the administrative weight within communities and internationally.

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