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Myung morrisontaylor2005trr

  1. 1. TOURISM RECREATION RESEARCH VOL. 30(3), 2005: 49-59 The Effectiveness of Convention and Exhibition Websites A Transatlantic Comparison and Future Scenario SEJUNG MYUNG, ALASTAIR M. MORRISON and J. STEPHEN TAYLOR Meeting planners are now frequently using the Web as a resource for finding site information, while the Internet has also become increasingly important on the supply side of the convention and exhibition business as a marketing tool. Meeting planners are increasing their productivity by utilizing the Internet. However, the fast growth in the popularity of the Web has resulted in a fragmented approach to digital destination marketing, particularly in the convention and exhibition sector. The purpose of this study was to investigate the existing situation in digital destination marketing and identify the overall performance and effectiveness of convention and visitors bureau (CVB)/tourist board and convention/exhibition (CE) centre Websites based on the modified Balanced Scorecard (BSC) approach. Even though leading destinations, such as the US and the UK strategize through internet marketing applications, findings showed that the websites of CVB and CE of both these countries had relative strengths and weaknesses. The CE centre and CVB/tourist board websites tend to be loosely integrated. Additionally, the websites provided by CVB/tourist board contains more information for visitors and may often contribute more to confusing rather than informing and educating meeting planners. Marketing implications for destination and convention/exhibition management is presented and a future scenario for convention/exhibition marketing is discussed. Keywords: convention and exhibition centre, balanced scorecard approach, convention and visitors bureau, tourist board, website evaluation. Introduction important reason for this increased use of the Internet. The Internet is a veritable resource for consumers to Yuan et al. (1999: 365) suggested that Internet and search and purchase specific types of products such as Intranet technology had the following potential advantages accommodation in hotels and motels, convention centres, for convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) and tourist airlines, restaurants, and the service of travel agents boards: (CyberAltas 2002). The Internet also offers numerous opportunities for highly competitive e-businesses to market l Offers a new distribution channel for products and their product and services. For example, The PlanSoft services. Corporation reported more than three million searches for l Reaches more people by overcoming geographical facilities at their sites in 2002 (The International Congress boundaries and thereby attracting new visitors from and Convention Association 2003). A study commissioned several market segments. jointly by Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and the PlanSoft Corporation found that the usage of Internet among l Facilitates the implementation of new strategies in a meeting planners has reached a very high level (MPI 2000). timely manner and provides wider, deeper, and richer It was determined that hundred per cent of meeting planner information than traditional marketing channels. respondents had access to the Internet and ninety per cent of l Provides a faster and less expensive means of them were using it. The results showed that eighty five per communication. cent of meeting planners used the Internet to research cities, l Offers the basis for effective direct marketing while eighty four per cent searched the Internet for event locations. In future, forty six per cent of meeting planners programmes. expected to be spending more time on the Internet, with sixty l Develops new relationships with members and other eight per cent stating that research would be the most cooperative partners. SEJUNG MYUNG is a Postgraduate student in the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Purdue University. Contact address: 603-53 Eungam-Dong, Eunpyung-Gu, Seoul 122-924, Republic of Korea. e-mail: ALASTAIR M. MORRISON is Distinguished Professor at Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Purdue University, 111A Stone Hall, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2059, USA. e-mail: J. STEPHEN TAYLOR is Director of International Programmes, The Scottish Hotel School, Strathclyde Business School, University of Strathclyde, Curran Building, 94 Cathedral Street, Glassgow G4 0LG, Scotland UK. e-mail: ©2005 Tourism Recreation Research
  2. 2. The Effectiveness of Convention & Exhibition Websites: S. Myung, A.M. Morrison & J.S. Taylor l Overcomes barriers of time and distance to perform exhibitions. This scenario is built upon our observations of activities and provide services. current technologies and the associated discernable trends. l Compresses the pre-digital world into a ‘Global Village.’ As such we suggest that this scenario is best regarded as informed speculation. The convergence of Internet popularity on both the demand and supply ends of the convention and exhibition The Growth of Convention and Exhibition Industry business appears to be a ‘win-win’ proposition for all The convention and exhibition industry has developed involved. Suppliers at the destination are offered a larger into one of the fastest growing segments of tourism, both in a potential market, together with the opportunity to provide global and country-specific context (Weber 2001). The 2004 faster and better client services. As the Successful Meetings Meetings Market report, published by Meetings and Survey (2003) indicated, convention and exhibition planners Conventions, estimated that the US corporate, convention, are increasing their productivity by utilizing the Internet. and association meeting market segments spent US $44.7 As the research cited above confirms, meeting planners billion in 2003. This was an all-time high figure for are increasingly looking to the Web as a source of information expenditures and 7 per cent more than in 2001 (Meetings on potential venues. It offers the planner instant access to and Conventions 2004). the particulars of individual destinations, as well as the The US and the UK are the leading countries in the ability to peruse this information on their office computers. world for hosting conventions, conferences, and exhibitions. However, the main hypothesis of this study is that the fast A number of large conferences are held by both domestic growth in the popularity of the Web has resulted in a and international organizations in the US every year (UIA fragmented approach to digital destination marketing, 2000). The UK also occupies a primary position in the particularly in the convention and exhibition sector. Each international convention/meeting industry (UIA 2000). Both destination tends to have an array of websites that provide countries have been a leader for hosting international and information on the various components of the convention domestic events, and have been influenced by the general and exhibition offering. There is seldom, if ever, one trends in tourism, such as increased affluence and centralized site providing the planner with a ‘one-stop’ propensity to travel and advances in transportation (Weber shopping/buying opportunity. The convention and and Ladkin 2003). The growth of CE industry has seen it exhibition centre and CVB/tourist board sites tend to be come to occupy an increasingly important role as a significant loosely integrated, at best. In addition, other sites provided contributor to many local economies. by local governments, chambers of commerce, newspapers, private individuals, and various companies contain more Using the Internet in Meeting Planning information for visitors and can often contribute more to confusing rather than informing planners. Meeting planners are increasingly using the Web as a resource for researching information about meeting facilities According to Prideaux (2002: 324), cyber-tourism is ‘an (MPI 2000). Web resources for site selection are far more electronically stimulated travel experience that is a substitute complete than paper guides due to the extensive databases for a physical tourism experience.’ For convention and and tools in informatics. The scale of growth in the use of the meeting planners, the websites of the future have the potential Web by meeting planners is evidenced by reports by to virtually transport them to the destination where they can organizations such as PlanSoft Corporation that more than experience meeting facilities, hotels, and major attractions. three million searches for facilities were performed on their Everything could be experienced in advance, except for the site in 2002 (ICCA 2003). The majority of research on meals to be served at events, making site selection more convention tourism has focussed on association meeting convenient and effective. planners and these planners have a great influence on the selection of both the destination and the specific facility to The purpose of this study was to investigate the existing be used for an association’s conventions and meetings (Clark situation in digital destination marketing and identify the et al. 1997; Weber 2001). As reported by Successful Meetings overall performance and effectiveness of convention and (2003), ninety one per cent of planners used the Internet to visitors bureau/tourist board and convention and exhibition research meeting sites and the per centage of planners using (CE) centre websites by focusing on a small group of selected the Web for online registration increased by nearly a quarter, destinations in the US and the UK, based on the modified to fifty two per cent, and for purchasing airline tickets, it has Balanced Scorecard (BSC) approach. The paper concludes increased by a third, to thirty seven per cent since 2000. with the discussion of one possible future scenario for the use of technology in the marketing of conventions and The Internet also has become increasingly important 50 Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 30, No. 3, 2005
  3. 3. The Effectiveness of Convention & Exhibition Websites: S. Myung, A.M. Morrison & J.S. Taylor on the supply side of the convention and exhibition business The final destination experience of visitors and meeting and now plays a major role in the global distribution of planners is composed of interactions with many attractions, tourism information and sales. The Internet provides both a regions, resources, groups of facilities and services (Bennett distribution channel from tourism destinations to meeting 1999; Buhalis 2000; Feng et al. 2003; McNeill 1997; Mill and planners and also a prime business-to-business Morrison 2002; Williams and Palmer 1999). As the communication tool. In short, the Internet is revolutionizing organizations with the lead role in marketing destinations, the distribution of information and sales (WTO Business CVBs are increasingly struggling with an abundance and Council 1999). complexity of issues in trying to establish an effective online presence (Fesenmaier and O’Leary 1998; Gretzel et al. 2000). Bonn et al. (1998) suggested that organizations cannot The importance of achieving such a presence was overlook the Internet in their marketing mixes due to its highlighted by Ismail et al. (2002), who suggested that the inherent advantages. These include, for example, economical Internet might prove to be the ideal solution for many DMOs global accessibility, convenience in updating, real-time since tourists require real-time information and websites can information service, interactive communications, and unique provide a higher degree of one-to-one marketing. The Internet customization capabilities. Williams and Palmer (1999) enables both CVBs and convention and exhibition centres to added that the Internet is a cheap, flexible method of blend publishing, narrowcast, broadcast, and real-time promoting tourism products overseas, and through its communications, to attract attention, to create a sense of integration with newly developed destination databases will community, and to act as personal, interactive, a niche, and initially compete with – but ultimately replace – existing a mass-market medium at same time (Gretzel et al. 2000). distribution channels. It would appear that the demand and the supply of convention and exhibition business converge, The Importance of Website Evaluations in that the suppliers have a larger potential market, together with the opportunity to provide faster and better client Determining the effectiveness of websites from the services. For the meeting planners at the demand side, there customer perspective is an essential task in this new age is the promise of increased productivity through utilizing marketing regime. The formal evaluation of website the superior information carrying characteristics of the effectiveness is needed because there are significant setup Internet. and maintenance costs of websites (Tierney 2000). Morrison et al. (2004) have suggested that website evaluations are Website Effectiveness Among CVB and Convention/ necessary to facilitate and support continuous Exhibition Centres improvements in addition to enabling the comparison of site performance against competitors and industry peers. CVBs The ultimate focus of any promotional campaign – be are able to increase the sales achieved through conventional it through traditional channels or the newer ones as offered means of ‘order taking’ by providing information to by the Web – is brand differentiation (Perdue 2001). Kotler et prospective customers over the Internet (Weeks and Crouch al. (2002) suggested that the emerging globalization and 1999). concentration of supply are increasing the level of competition and leading to the use of new Internet marketing There are six basic justification strategies and resulting strategies for destinations. To pursue effective destination advantages for having a Web presence: cost reduction, marketing, it is necessary that specific and differentiated revenue growth, niche marketing, improved customer strategies should be achieved by convention and visitors satisfaction, quality improvement, and addressing other bureaus (CVBs) in order to reach different market segments critical business or customer needs (Morrison et al. 1999). with the most appropriate promotional devices (Formica and However, a Web presence also has a number of Littlefield 2000). Tourism marketing organizations are disadvantages. Bruner (1998) indicated a bad website is the increasingly using a central brand image for the promotion same as bad marketing. Perdue (2001) stated that a well- and distribution of a destination’s multiple products and designed website must allow users to effectively focus on services under many different cooperative arrangements and the information that they specifically want. alliances between suppliers (Palmer and Bejou 1995; Williams and Palmer 1999). The Internet is seen as being Methodology particularly well suited for experience. Goods with a high potential for quality differentiation, especially goods that Objectives of the Study involve a relatively high financial outlay, are infrequently The overall purpose of this study was to investigate purchased, and are intangible (Perdue 2001; Peterson et al. the current situation in digital destination marketing through 1997). focusing on a small group of selected destinations in the US Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 30, No. 3, 2005 51
  4. 4. The Effectiveness of Convention & Exhibition Websites: S. Myung, A.M. Morrison & J.S. Taylor and the UK. The specific study objectives were to: 1) Determine BSC approach (Kaplan and Norton 1996), comprised of four the overall effectiveness of CVB/tourist board and different perspectives for hotel website evaluation: technical, convention/exhibition centre websites; 2) compare the marketing, internal, and customer. As Morrison et al. (1999) performance from the technical, customer, marketing stated, the advantage of the BSC approach to Website effectiveness, and destination/convention centre performance management is that it recognizes that information perspectives between the two types of websites; performance is a multi-dimensional construct rather than 3) assess the performance of the websites within each type the one-dimensional construct as suggested by other from the four perspectives; 4) invest the integration or approaches to performance measurement. Since then, further fragmentation of website information for meeting planners studies have examined and compared the websites of DMOs between the two types of websites; and 5) based upon the such as national tourism organizations (NTOs), state tourism analysis of the existing situation, suggest a future scenario organizations (STOs), and CVBs using the modified BSC of digital strategic alliances that would provide a higher approach. level of site integration resulting in greater convenience for the meeting planner. The Research Instrument For this study, website evaluation instruments were Website Evaluation Based upon the BSC Approach developed specifically for CVBs/tourist boards and CE Kaplan and Norton (1992) introduced the concept of centres by applying the modified BSC approach (Morrison the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) in a series of articles in the et al. 1999). Both instruments consisted of the four perspectives Harvard Business Review. They argued that traditional of technical, customer, marketing effectiveness, and financial accounting measurements such as the Return On destination/CE centre information (Fig. 1). Each of the four Investment (ROI) and payback period needed to be perspectives had a unique set of evaluation criteria. supplemented with additional ones reflecting other important Technical Customer performance outcomes such as customer satisfaction, internal Perspective Perspective business process, and the ability to learn and grow. The BSC approach can be applied to measure, evaluate and guide activities that take place in specific functional areas of a business. Martinsons et al. (1999) developed a BSC approach Marketing Effectiveness Destination/CE Centre for information systems (IS) that can be adapted to IT Perspective Information Perspective application projects as well as the IS department or functional area. They measured and evaluated IS activities Fig. 1. The Modified Balanced Scorecard Approach Used from the following perspectives: business value, user in This Study orientation, internal process, and future readiness. The technical perspective was evaluated by six Grembergen and Amelinckx (2002) suggested that the BSC specific criteria: (i) link check; (ii) HTML code errors; can be used to measure and manage e-business projects and (iii) browser compatibility; (iv) load time; (v) spelling; and proposed a generic e-business scorecard consisting of four (vi) link popularity. NetMechanic (2003) (http:// perspectives: customer orientation, business contribution, was employed to operational excellence, and future orientation. Here, the develop an accurate evaluation of each site. NetMechanic customer orientation perspective represents the evaluation uses a five-star rating approach per page. of the consumer and business clients of the website. The (2003) ( was business contribution perspective captures the business employed to check the criterion of link popularity, which is value created from the e-business investments. The the total number of websites that link to a certain site. operational excellence perspective represents the e-business allowed the site to query Google, processes employed to deliver the demanded services and Altavista and Hotbot. The customer perspective was the e-business applications. The future orientation evaluated with five criteria: (i) site accessibility; (ii) site perspective represents the human and technology resources navigation; (iii) visual attractiveness of the site; (iv) currency needed by the e-business project. of information; and (v) ease of contact. Twenty-one specific criteria were evaluated with dichotomous yes/no responses. Morrison et al. (2004) have recommended the modified Perdue (2001) indicated a user’s perception of the quality of BSC for evaluating tourism and hospitality websites as it is a website might be determined by the ease of navigation, based on one of the most influential performance technological creativity, and site accessibility. A positive measurement management tools. Morrison et al. (1999) first experience on a website can increase the time spent at the suggested a website evaluation approach based upon the site (Hoffman and Novak 1996). 52 Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 30, No. 3, 2005
  5. 5. The Effectiveness of Convention & Exhibition Websites: S. Myung, A.M. Morrison & J.S. Taylor The marketing effectiveness perspective was evaluated performance from the technical, customer, marketing with eight criteria: (i) globalization; (ii) marketing effectiveness, and destination information perspectives segmentation and targeting; (iii) positioning and branding; between the US CVB and the UK tourist board, and between (iv) tangibilizing the product; (v) market research; (vi) the US CE centre and the UK CE centres, Mann-Whitney U- relationship marketing and database marketing; (vii) tests was performed. The two-tailed probability test was used partnership; and (viii) value adding. Each of these specific to detect statistically significant differences between US and marketing effectiveness criteria were evaluated with UK websites. An analysis was also completed to assess the dichotomous yes/no responses. Since Internet users have performance of the websites within each type from the four unique needs and wants, Web technology can customize perspectives. Fisher’s exact tests were conducted to information for them that is differentiated by regions, determine the degree of integration or fragmentation of backgrounds, lifestyles, or behaviours. For effective website information for meeting planners within the two marketing, specific and differentiated strategies should be types of websites. pursued by CVBs/CE centres in order to appeal to different market segments most effectively (Formica and Littlefield Results and Discussion 2000). The destination/CE centre information perspective The overall CVB/tourist board mean evaluation scores was evaluated with five criteria: (i) attractions, events and including technical, customer, marketing effectiveness, and festivals; (ii) facilities and transportation; (iii) general travel destination/convention information perspectives were information; (iv) CE centre information; and (v) legal 64.33% and 63.47% for the US and the UK, respectively. The compliance. These criteria were measured with dichotomous overall CE centre mean evaluation scores were 58.67% and yes/no responses. To be successful a DMO must provide a better information experience than its competitors. 56.24% for the US and the UK, respectively. These overall Benckendorff and Black (2000) indicated that the Internet mean scores suggested that the websites for CVB and CE was most useful with tasks such as building visitor centres were not particularly effective and further awareness, providing customer service, public relations and improvements are needed from all four perspectives. education. The Mann-Whitney U-test results identifying performance differences between CVBs/tourist boards and Research Procedures CE centres in the US and the UK are shown in Table 1. The To evaluate and analyze website performance or effectiveness, this study selected twelve cities for the case Table 1. Comparison of Overall Performance of Two studies in the US and UK. These cities were selected since Types between the US and UK. each had its own CVB/tourist board and one main U.S. CVB UK TB Mann- Sig. (2 identifiable CE centre. These included six CVB and six CE Mean (%) Mean (%) Whitney U tailed) centre websites in the US and six tourist board and six CE centre websites in the UK. All the website evaluations were Technical 19.83 (66.11) 23.20 (77.33) 72.000 0.000** conducted in November 2003 using the same computer Customer 16.56 (78.84) 16.28 (77.52) 640.000 0.927 laboratory in order to avoid a potential bias of speed and site Marketing 17.94 (56.08) 14.92 (46.62) 382.500 0.003** accessibility. Thirteen trained evaluators assessed the Effectiveness websites using the modified BSC instruments specifically DCE 21.39 (56.29) 19.92 (52.41) 531.000 0.186 developed for this study. The evaluators were experienced Information in this area having evaluated a variety of tourism and Total 75.72 (64.33) 74.31 (63.47) 586.000 0.485 hospitality Websites using the modified BSC approach for a U.S. CE UK CE Mann- Sig. (2 project in a graduate level tourism marketing class. Twelve Mean (%) Mean (%) Whitney U tailed) pairs of the Websites of CVB/tourist board and CE centre in Technical 21.97 (73.23) 20.85 (69.51) 576.000 0.415 the same city were randomly assigned in thirteen groups of eight pairs of websites. Six different evaluators evaluated Customer 15.97 (76.07) 15.75 (75.01) 625.500 0.798 each of CVB/tourist board and CE centre website. The order Marketing 12.33 (38.54) 11.83 (36.99) 616.500 0.722 of CVB/tourist board and CE centre websites was randomly Effectiveness DCE varied among the thirteen evaluators to counter any bias 15.00 (46.88) 13.92 (43.49) 568.000 0.366 Information created through sequencing. Total 65.27 (58.67) 62.35 (56.24) 544.000 0.241 Data Analysis DCE = destination/convention and exhibition, ** Significantly different To understand whether there were differences in overall at p £ 0.01 Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 30, No. 3, 2005 53
  6. 6. The Effectiveness of Convention & Exhibition Websites: S. Myung, A.M. Morrison & J.S. Taylor performance results for CVBs and tourist boards showed Common technical problems were found in the areas of link statistically significant differences in overall performance check, HTML check, and spell check. Link popularity was for the technical (p < 0.000) and marketing effectiveness (p < also relatively low for CE centres. Link popularity reflects 0.003) perspectives. The results indicated that US CVB the number of sites that are hyperlinked to the subject site. websites had superior performance from the technical and As this is a key factor in effective Web marketing and in the marketing effectiveness perspectives than the websites of UK integration of complementary information, it is imperative tourist boards. However, there were no statistically significant that CE centre sites achieve high levels of link popularity. differences in the technical, customer, marketing effectiveness, and destination information scores between The analysis of the customer perspective indicated a the CE centre websites in the two countries. consistent pattern in CVB/tourist board and CE centre websites with a high performance in site accessibility. Table 2 shows the performance differences from the Clearly, it is important that a site has an easy-to-remember technical, customer, marketing effectiveness, and domain name/URL. However, even though both types of destination/CE centre information perspectives for the two websites had relatively good domain names/URLs, the types of websites. The results indicated that, for both overall domain naming strategies were not parallel; one being countries, there were statistically significant differences identified as an ‘international conference centre’ with the between CVB/tourist board and CE centre websites for the city’s name, the other being named after the country and technical, marketing effectiveness, and destination/CEC being called a ‘conference and exhibition centre.’ information perspectives, but not for the customer Additionally, there are differences in the US and UK English perspective. For most perspectives, the CVB/tourist board spellings (center and centre), as well as the interchangeability websites had higher performance scores than their CE centre in use of the terms ‘conference’ and ‘convention.’ This lack counterparts in both the UK and US. of consistency does not seem to be ideal for meeting planners, especially for those who are unfamiliar with these particular Table 2. Comparison of the Performance between Each destinations. This would seem an obvious area where the Type within Country technology inherent in the Internet can be harnessed to create U.S. CVB U.S. CE Mann- Sig. (2 greater uniformity across the websites regardless of the Mean (%) Mean (%) Whitney U tailed) search term or spelling used by meeting planners. Technical 19.83 (66.11) 21.97 (73.23) 234.000 0.000** The weakest performance of the CVB/tourist board and Customer 16.56 (78.84) 15.97 (76.07) 482.500 0.058 CE centre websites was from the marketing effectiveness Marketing perspective, with around fifty one per cent of CVB/tourist 17.94 (56.08) 12.33 (38.54) 234.500 0.000** Effectiveness board and thirty eight per cent of CE centre websites being DCE deficient. As in every other marketing medium, websites 21.39 (56.29) 15.00 (46.88) 199.500 0.000** Information should apply the well-recognized and key marketing Total 75.72 (64.33) 65.27 (58.67) 273.500 0.000** principles of globalization, market segmentation, UK TB UK CE Mann- Sig. (2 positioning, partnerships, and relationship marketing Mean (%) Mean (%) Whitney U tailed) (Kotler et al. 2002). However, both types of websites in each country need improvement in the areas of globalization, Technical 23.20 (77.33) 20.85 (69.51) 468.000 0.042* market segmentation and targeting, positioning and Customer 16.28 (77.52) 15.75 (75.01) 542.500 0.231 branding, tangibilizing the product, relationship marketing, Marketing and value adding. For example, providing foreign language 14.92 (46.62) 11.83 (36.99) 406.000 0.006** Effectiveness versions of website information is a unique advantage of the DCE 19.92 (52.41) 13.92 (43.49) 301.500 0.000** Internet supporting globalization by delivering this Information Total 74.31 (63.47) 62.35 (56.24) 302.000 0.000** information worldwide (Bender 1997), the results showed that only eleven per cent of US CVB and thirty three per cent DCE = destination/convention and exhibition, ** Significantly different of the UK tourist board websites offered foreign language at p = 0.01, * Significantly different at p = 0.05 versions. In both countries, the CE centres did not offer any foreign language versions of their websites. With regard to the technical perspective, the results indicated that the UK tourist board sites received Williams and Palmer (1999) indicated that brand image significantly higher evaluations than their US counterparts. is pivotal in formulating differentiated marketing strategies However, the convention and exhibition (CE) centre website of destinations and one of the key components in the performance was relatively even across the two countries. formation of a clear and recognizable brand identity in the 54 Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 30, No. 3, 2005
  7. 7. The Effectiveness of Convention & Exhibition Websites: S. Myung, A.M. Morrison & J.S. Taylor market. The e-marketing cycle starts through animation The CVB/tourist board websites had extensive (multimedia and context); information (context), and information on destination attractions, events, and festivals specialized added value (Buhalis 2001). Understanding the as well as for facilities and transportation. However, they information search behaviour of Internet users is crucial for were lacking in sufficient information of convention and the success of websites. Kotler et al. (2002) argued that the exhibition centre for meeting and exhibition planners (Table capability of transmitting colour photographs to millions of 3). By contrast, convention and exhibition centre websites people around the globe makes the Internet a new and had in-depth information about conventions, conferences, exciting distribution channel. CVBs/tourist boards and CE and exhibition facilities, sales, and services. These findings centres can make destination images and products more suggest that there is a fragmentation of information for tangible through the use of colour photos and videos. The meeting and exhibition planners, particularly in the results indicated that the websites of the US CVBs had convention and exhibition sector. Website visitors not only significantly better performance than the UK tourist boards, search for information, but also seek a different kind of but both types of websites need significant improvements in experience and expect interaction. The experience can be marketing effectiveness. greatly enhanced through sites that offer interactivity, allow Table 3. Information Differences for Meeting Planners attention to be focused, and lead to perceived congruence of in Two Types of Websites skills and challenges (Gretzel et al. 2000). It is likely that meeting and exhibition planners will use a variety of search CVB/TB CE Fisher’s N (%) N (%) Exact Test strategies and Web resources to find information on specific Sig. (2 destinations and facilities/venues. Those on the supply side sided) must anticipate these strategies and make it as easy as Convention and Exhibition (CE) Centre Information possible for planners to find the information they want. Sales and services for meeting 54 (75.00) 62 (86.11) 0.140 Planners should have easy access to destination information planners provided by CVB/tourist board websites and be able to Online form for Request for 27 (37.50) 19 (26.39) 0.211 compare the services of competitive destinations in order to Proposal (RFP) CE centre facilities 50 (69.44) 69 (95.83) 0.000** make site selection decisions conveniently and effectively. Room capacities/configurations 25 (34.72) 67 (93.06) 0.000** This study suggests that a better integration of CVB/tourist of the facilities board and CE websites is needed in the future. Technical facilities in the CE 17 (23.61) 50 (69.44) 0.000** centre The Future Scenario: Digital Strategic Alliances Adjacent car parking facilities 13 (18.06) 31 (43.06) 0.002** Food and beverage (catering) 15 (20.83) 50 (69.44) 0.000** Having appraised the existing situation, what might services be the future form of convention and exhibition digital Disabled visitors to the CE 3 (4.17) 17 (23.61) 0.001** marketing? Attempting to predict the future is an centre undertaking that is always challenging, as it deals not with CE’s calendar or schedule of 27 (37.50) 62 (86.11) 0.000** what is uncertain but what is intrinsically unknowable. upcoming events However, based on the above review of the current situation CE contacts for sales/marketing 26 (36.11) 44 (61.11) 0.004** Facility documents be 7 (9.72) 30 (41.67) 0.000** and harnessing the promise of current technological trends, downloaded from the site one possible future scenario for convention and exhibition General Mix Information marketing is described in what follows. Lodging/accommodation 70 (97.22) 32 (44.44) 0.000** facilities Mass Customization through Destination Websites Restaurant/foodservice 68 (94.44) 30 (41.67) 0.000** facilities A critical future opportunity resides in the potential to Shopping facilities 70 (97.22) 18 (25.00) 0.000** provide customers, especially meeting planners or delegates Entertainment/nightlife 67 (93.06) 17 (23.61) 0.000** with access to convention and exhibition websites that facilities support individualized information needs. The achievement Transportation facilities 61 (84.72) 41 (56.94) 0.000** of this requires the application of the principles enshrined Maps/directions 59 (81.94) 52 (72.22) 0.234 Destination’s attractions 71 (98.61) 36 (50.00) 0.000** in what has become known as ‘mass customization’ (Pine Festivals or events in the 71 (98.61) 34 (47.22) 0.000** 1993). Originally developed in the context of manufacturing, destination many leading service companies, particularly in the financial Suggested tour itineraries 24 (33.33) 1 (1.39) 0.000** services sector, are now applying this approach in an effort Travel tips 28 (38.89) 1 (1.39) 0.000** to support a more individualized treatment of customer ** Significantly different at p = 0.01 needs. The generic principles of mass customization are Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 30, No. 3, 2005 55
  8. 8. The Effectiveness of Convention & Exhibition Websites: S. Myung, A.M. Morrison & J.S. Taylor relevant in both manufacturing and service environments. that the customer is then provided with a website that has In essence, this requires producers to reorient their operations been specifically compiled from a real-time database and is away from outputs such as products and services and configured to meet their individual needs. This is referred to towards means such as the processes or inputs by which as an Electronically Linked Convention Information these are produced. Database (EL CID). Traditionally, organizations started with the desired Thus, whether it is a meeting planner or a delegate outputs and then developed the means to produce these in a who visits the website, they would initially be accessing the consistent and standardized fashion. Inherent in this user interface of the EL CID (the filter). This would be their approach is rigidity, as it results in producing standardized first point of contact and would, through a series of key products or services with features considered to be commonly prompts, ascertain the customer’s exact information needs. desired across an organization’s identified market segments. These are then passed to the Complier that then interacts Historically, given available technology, this was the only with the Destination Database to gather and deliver the economically viable basis upon which organizations could information relevant to that specific customer. In effect this complete and it is encapsulated in the system we know as means that the website has the type of functionality normally mass production. Here the producer’s emphasis was upon found in an expert system type of application. The technology achieving economies of scale and, for as long as expanding embodied in the filter would be capable of quickly segregating mass markets existed, this was a successful formula. customer enquires and apply a series of increasingly specific filtering mechanisms while remaining sufficiently flexible In the late 20th century, spiralling levels of competition, to respond to the idiosyncratic information requirements of coupled with increasing market fragmentation, forced individual customers. producers to tear up the old rulebook. First in manufacturing, then in more and more service sectors, mass production Taken to its extreme, it is envisaged that this technology thinking has been abandoned in favour of a new paradigm would be capable of handling in real time Requests for that is more in keeping with the new market conditions. Mass Proposals (RFPs). If the EL CID is to be capable of handling customization demands that producers standardize the RFPs, its database will have to hold the real-time availability elemental (processes and inputs) aspects and then combine of all the component elements. This would enable meeting these to produce the output that meets the specific needs of planners to quickly identify and qualify suitable potential an individual customer. Here it is not economies of scale, venues in relation to their specific needs. It would mean that but rather economies of scope, that provide the key to success. when meeting planners actually begin to discuss their Through the application of new technologies and requirements with a particular destination, they have already management techniques it has been possible to achieve the established basic suitability and availability. This would hitherto impossible – the combining of low costs with include everything from available meeting/exhibition space customized outputs. to accommodation provision, transportation, and general destination tourism facilities. For both planners and Electronically Linked Convention Information Database (EL destinations, this has obvious efficiencies and benefits as it CID) dramatically reduces the transaction costs traditionally In the context of convention and exhibition websites, incurred in the traditional paper-based RFP system. the key inputs are the blocks of information held on a centralized database. This would include all the relevant Once a conference or exhibition has committed to a and available information on the destination including, for destination, the EL CID would be capable of handling the example: the convention and exhibition facility/venue; requirements of delegates or exhibitors wishing to attend destination attractions, events, and festivals; the event. For example, by accessing the EL CID, a delegate accommodation, restaurant facilities; transportation and would be able to reserve and pay for everything from airfares, infrastructure; general travel information, and so on. These car rental, and accommodation through to sightseeing tours. represent the components that are subsequently combined This would be a true ‘one-stop shop’ in both name and to deliver the information exactly as is required by the function. Where specific packages and rates have been customer. This would be achieved by the use of a assembled for a particular event, EL CID’s filter would sophisticated front-end complier that, through a filtering identify these and ensure that these were immediately process consisting of key question prompts, identifies, selects available to a delegate. Once again, the key features are and assembles from the database the appropriate reduced transaction costs and improved efficiency. True to information package for that specific customer. The result is principles of mass customization, the EL CID would retain 56 Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 30, No. 3, 2005
  9. 9. The Effectiveness of Convention & Exhibition Websites: S. Myung, A.M. Morrison & J.S. Taylor sufficient flexibility to ensure that the individual preferences Conclusion and Implications of customers were met in terms of facilities and price levels. Watson et al. (2004) have argued that, ‘the currently highly fragmented multitude of information systems Managing the EL CID supporting tourism greatly increases the tourist’s search The development of an EL CID does not just entail the costs, and while touring there is almost no information application of new technology, but also radical systems support.’ The current study, in addition to organizational change in destination management. From the highlighting performance shortcomings in DMO and CE description above, it should be obvious that the development websites, has identified a significant level of information and maintenance of an EL CID entails extensive fragmentation within the digital resources of convention and consolidation of all the supply-side elements involved in exhibition destinations. Greater integration of DMO and CE the delivery of a successful conference or exhibition. This websites is needed in providing the mass customization represents a major opportunity to resolve some of the present required by increasingly tech-savvy meeting planners. The information and organizational difficulties previously futurist, Cetron (2004) feels that opportunities and trials will identified. One obvious solution would be that the be manifold in the meetings and expositions sector of the management and maintenance of the EL CID be undertaken tourism and hospitality market. He also noted the increasing by an organization based upon the functional consolidation demand for wireless Internet access to Web-based of the marketing activities of CVB/tourist board and the information and via e-mail. In the exciting new era of cyber- convention/exhibition centre. The remit of this new tourism, those destinations that evolve their digital organization – the Electronic Convention and Visitor Bureau information resources to match these emerging travellers and (ECVB) – would be to establish and maintain the database meeting planning needs will be the winners. Achieving and website interface of the EL CID. This would involve success requires further investment in creating a ‘one-stop recruitment of suppliers and establishing the necessary shopping’ venue online coupled with more partnerships organizational and technical protocols to support the within convention and exhibition destinations. efficient and effective functioning of the EL CID. Greater integration of digital convention and exhibition This implies a significant level of cooperation between information resources is not the only challenge facing the public and private sectors at destinations. From an destinations in the connected world of the future. This study economic development perspective, the success of such an has demonstrated that DMO and CE websites are also not initiative has well understood benefits for a given destination. performing at an adequately high level of performance. In Accordingly, it would seem reasonable that the initial particular, these websites are poorly applying key marketing development of an EL CID might be publicly financed on principles in the design and presentation of information. much the same basis that many convention and exhibition This situation tends to exacerbate the problems caused by centres have been. Thereafter, however, it would seem equally the fragmentation of convention and exhibition information. reasonable that the private sector contribute to the running Weber and Ladkin (2003: 130), using a Delphi panel of costs of the EL CID. A number of practical models of how convention and meeting experts in Australia and the UK, this might be achieved already exist in the recruitment and confirmed that superior websites and online booking operating practices of many marketing consortia in tourism resources were key marketing issues and requirements for and hospitality. the future of this sector. More effective websites in the future should be cooperatively planned by Web designers and The EL CID Website should provide the meeting marketers from both the DMOs and convention/exhibition planner with a very realistic cybertourism experience of the centres, rather than being separately developed as has been destination. For example, they should be able to ‘walk the rule in the past. through’ the main convention and meeting rooms, see typical hotel rooms, look at the dishes to be served at meal times, While the transatlantic comparison in this research and experience the destination’s major attractions. These identified many similarities between the UK and US websites, virtual tours of all the destination’s facilities and attractions there were important performance differences. The US will be more convenient and efficient for meeting planners, websites outperformed the British websites as marketing while building more realistic expectations of what tools, while the British DMO Websites were technically destinations have to offer. Similarly, once the meeting site is superior. While it may not be a common practice today to selected, delegates should be able to have these virtual assess and benchmark websites of similar organizations in experiences before visiting the meeting destination. other countries, this comparison should be highly Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 30, No. 3, 2005 57
  10. 10. The Effectiveness of Convention & Exhibition Websites: S. Myung, A.M. Morrison & J.S. Taylor educational and beneficial for these two types of The future scenario painted in this study – the organizations on both sides of the Atlantic. Future research Electronically Linked Convention Information Database is needed to extend this study to a broader range of similar (ELCID) – appears to be a good solution to proactively organizations for a full understanding of the performance of anticipate the information needs of meeting planners. As DMOs and convention/exhibition centre websites. A the first real Web generation of 18-24-year-olds eventually standardized website evaluation instrument validated by enters the professional ranks, they will be even quicker to destination marketing and meeting experts could be used click away from destination websites that do not offer this for setting the website evaluation benchmarks. one-stop shopping and cyber-tourism experience. 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