Tourism BC turns to Web-based management system

Tourism British Columbia has tapped the services of T4G Ltd. to update its tourism management information technology platform and provide better links among the province’s 18,000 tourism operators.

Toronto-based T4G, an IT consulting firm awarded the four-year contract valued at $7 million, was asked for a technology solution to run Tourism BC’s marketing aspects for travellers and suppliers like owners of bed and breakfasts or kayaking operations, said Dave Hyndman, director of tourism solutions at T4G. Its answer was a Web services enabled-product called MyTravelHost.

The reason behind implementing this new technology is to give the responsibility of providing and maintaining content to the people who are closest to the information, Hyndman said. So regional destination marketing organizations or suppliers will have access to an industry extranet that they can use to alert Tourism BC about changes to their community or business, he said. Tourism BC staff, however, will likely review the information before it is put online.

It’s a timely announcement as the province gears up to host the 2010 Olympics, an event that is considered “”a fantasic opportunity for tourism before, during and after the actual games,”” said Ray LeBlond, director of corporate communications for Tourism BC. LeBlond said he couldn’t estimate the increased traffic that will occur on the organization’s Web site as a result of the Olympics.

Tourism BC spent two years trying to finetune its site by travelling the world and learning from the winning practices of other tourism authorities, said LeBlond.

“”One thing that’s very important to note is that content and people’s access to meaningful information is really critical. In the British Columbia tourism industry, we really believe in the idea that the tourism experience or the travel experience actually starts at the research stage.””

He said Tourism BC then weighed these competitive models against the need for a solution unique to B.C., which is marked by an extensive, geographically diverse geography. Moreover, “”There are easily 50, 60, 70 different sub-sectors of the tourism industry in British Columbia. Everything from spa to outdoor adventure to urban resorts”” like Whistler. “”So we needed something that could capture different kinds of content information,”” he said.

Changes to B.C.’s official travel Web site underscore a trend that T4G, which also has a contract with Tourism New Brunswick, is observing throughout the tourism sector. He said in large part, the whole exercise of gathering content for most of these tourism operations has been driven by the production of the annual printed visitors’ guide.

But this method has flaws, he explained, since a B&B that decides to add a swimming pool following the deadline for visitors guide materials cannot tell travellers about the new amenity via one of the most popular tourism communications tools.

Now the industry is searching for what Hyndman calls “”second-generation tourism solutions,”” or a comprehensive system of information, compared to a first version which includes a site, an online reservations system, a call centre and a fulfillment application to deliver visitors guides and other information.

First-generation tools put suppliers’ information about product sales and travellers’ transaction history into “”siloed, single-purpose”” applications, meaning hotels and other tourism operators have no broad view of their dealings with prospective visitors, he explained.

Hyndman said centralizing travel information has two big advantages. For instance, after a few years, tourism organizations should know when repeat travellers first inquired about the destination, when they made a reservation and when they visited. From a reporting and analytical perspective, the system gives “”an enterprise-wide view of activity”” including interactions with suppliers and consumers.



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