The OECD and the Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism jointly organised this conference, which was hosted by the Korean authorities.

Developments in information technology are changing the way the tourism industry does business and will continue to do so. Technological changes in electronic channels, such as real time on-line access and kiosks, will have a far-reaching impact on tourism, including marketing, consumer protection and information, education and employment.

What are the implications of such changes for tourists, the tourism industry work force and the industry itself, particularly in terms of travel distribution channels? Demand for travel information is increasingly sophisticated and tourism industry employees need to learn how to use the technology in order to respond appropriately to a wide range of needs. What is the best way to make the technology easily accessible to unsophisticated tourists? Will travel agents go out of business with the advent of direct communication between tourists and suppliers? Will independent electronic information agents that match the customer to the tourism product emerge?

Governments should pay particular attention to regulatory policy issues, especially with respect to consumer protection, for electronic transactions via the Internet. In the borderless world of cyberspace, information, security issues such as insecure payment methods, loss of personal data, and unreliable products are serious consumer concerns. This conference explored what action should be taken by governments to secure consumer protection in the field of tourism.

Information technology creates a demand for more skilled, but fewer, employees in the tourism industry. What are the responsibilities of government when responding to the tourism industry's demand for skilled workers in information technology? The issue of changes in the structure of employment induced by information technology were also discussed. In addition, speakers discussed means of enabling small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to cope with emerging information technology. Can it be argued that SMEs will no longer be disadvantaged compared to big companies in terms of information technology?

The conference looked at how governments and specific sectors of the tourism industry (i.e. hotels, travel agents) are preparing for the information highway and may offer examples of successful application to various tourism policy areas. How can destination information systems use computer technology developed by national tourism organisations (NTOs) or local tourism offices be connected to other tourism-related computer systems? This interface would link the suppliers to nearly all travel agents worldwide and make information more accessible to tourists everywhere.

The proceedings of the Conference are available free of charge upon request from the Secretariat.


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