In the late summer of 2020, around 87 students from 27 countries around the world came together to join the European IFITT Masterclass on e-Tourism (EIFMeT) to discuss and learn about the impact of digitalisation on the travel journey, sustainable marketing, tourism systems and marketing. We met online using the Virbela Virtual World platform for an immersive online experience, which allows attendees to have spontaneous coffee get together at the beach, before coming back together in the classroom setting for interactive workshops and presentations.
It has been an extraordinary week, in which students, industry professionals and visiting lecturers from around the world exchanged their experiences and views on contemporary tourism topics.
The articles in this special issue result from the student assignments of the Masterclass week, which some of the students submitted. Students wrote a critical reflection on the topics presented during the Masterclass. Subjects varied from digital touchpoints in the customer journey to sustainable marketing and ICT supported practices to network analysis and the DMO in the smart tourism era. Students chose to connect the subjects to their preferred research context. Research critically reflect on the role technology plays to build sustainable tourism practices. A current discussion we had during the Masterclass week, which was picked upon in the research was the power and the limitations of technology.
On the one hand, it expands tourism touchpoints along the customer journey implementing immersive technologies to enhance or even replace the tourist experience with immersive reality or tools that improve service process such as airport check-ins.
On the other hand, technology alone will not solve all the problems we face with overtourism, poverty, pandemics, access to education or green hushing, but it can contribute to a more effective way of understanding and addressing pressing challenges. Digitalisation and digital tools provide opportunities for collaboration and exchange of ideas on virtual platforms, which is necessary for creative problem solving and innovations.
With the special issue, we would like to give the next generation tourism professionals some ideas to reflect upon and wonder what role digitalisation can play to form the type of tourism we would like to see in the future towards more inclusion, equality, diversity and sustainable societies.
Enjoy the read!
Jessika Weber Sabil, PhD – Senior Researcher and Lecturer Games & Tourism
Organiser IFITT Masterclass 2020