The marketing of tourism products to customers currently precedes through sales assistants of travel agencies. The tools are brochures, flyers, or publicity media. Tourism products are very numerous. Customers have a large variety of wishes and needs. The adequacy between the desires of the customer and the products proposed strongly depends on the extent of the sales assistant experience. In addition not all sales assistants are able to take the psychology of the customer into account. The aim of the Hi-Touch project is to develop software tools to be used by travel agency sales assistants for providing a tourist prospect with the best-adapted offer. As a matter of fact, large tourist operators have already set up homepages or market places. But they are mostly aimed at selling tickets. Complex, standard or customised packages are hardly to be found on the net. The new tools to be developed will not only be of direct use in travel agencies but will also be accessible on-line for staff. They will namely benefit to customised and regional tourism.
The general objective of the Hi-Touch project is to deliver a range of assistance tools, based on ITC new tools (XML, Java, Flash, ontological data bases and semantic descriptors, multi-lingual thesaurus) allowing a potential client to select efficiently and rapidly a set of products matching his concrete wishes and expectations. In the meantime, to provide incoming tourism organisations and travel agencies tools able to develop appropriate responses -even complex- based on regional resources, selling more efficiently their own products and assessing the general trends of the tourism demand.
Main industrial and economic objectives are to propose prototypes of:
1. An interactive game process allowing a prospect to express his real desires and expectations with behavioural descriptors;
2. A software engine able to create the relation between the profile of a prospect and a small set of regional products proposed by different actors;
3. An electronic and multimedia book showing a list of selected products adapted to the profile of a prospect;
4. A tool allowing receptive organisations to collect on the regional information bases characterised by the above items and to feed a structured hierarchical database;
5. A database of prospects profiles for travel agencies aimed to the design of new local tourism offers precisely adapted to different types of requirements;
6. A collaborative tourism platform based on semantic web technologies.
Hi-Touch is based on a tourist problem solving approach and must lead to operational and qualified services; it will not address all interesting services: the platform will be open, allowing implementation of further modules which will be implemented in a next step (ex: Geographic Information system, fully electronic sales).
Hi-Touch includes 7 end-user SMEs from the tourism sector in Spain, Italy, France, the UK, and Norwegian that will specify, test and exploit the results provided by 3 RTD performers in France and the UK. The project comprises the following work-packages:
1. Refinement of specifications as to the goals and functionalities required in the tools and in the integrated platform;
2. Develop an interactive profiling tool for the characterisation and qualification of desires and expectations of tourists. It will allow an Internet surfer to specify and refine his questions according to the answers he already received;
3. Semantic database: multi-lingual thesaurus, inventory of tourism resources. Implementation of authoring tools on the semantic database;
4. Conception of the query process and distributed data bases, will result in query tools using metrics content structure as well as the selection of a tool for managing the parallel processing of queries on semantic data bases;
5. Development of a multi-lingual thesaurus to be used for queries and for delivering answers to prospects;
6. Development of a tool for basic products profiling and of a tool for matching prospect desires with product profile;
7. Design of an interface for the presentation of answers and proposals to the prospect. The data will be automatically fed into a Kee Boo and sent on-line, in real time to the prospect;
8. Integration of all the components into a collaborative tourism platform for direct use by tourism actors and Internet surfers;
9. The full system will be first implemented at two partners for checking that the Hi-Touch prototype meets its objectives. Other partners will then test the system on regions they are working with. An assessment and evaluation of the project results will be made. Preparation of validated e-learning material as well as of manuals for executives and trainers;
10. Management of the project, preparation of a consortium agreement with exploitation and IPR clauses.
The project with a total eligible cost at 572 000 Euros will last 24 months. It is expected that its results will progressively be disseminated to other EU member States than those of the consortium, in particular those which are large providers of Trans-European tourists such as Germany or the Netherlands, and those which are significant incoming countries such as Portugal and Greece.
Functional and technical specifications at month 3;
Mini thesaurus at month 4;
Tested profiling tool at month 8;
Semantic database at month 8;
Designed interface at month 10;
Answer generation at month 11;
Query tools at month 14.
Collaborative tourism platform at month 20;
Validated system at month 24.
Funding SchemeCRS - Cooperative research contracts
TN14 6EH Sundridge, Seven Oaks, Kent