New Zealand travel agents in the internet era: impacts, responses, and relationships
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The impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs) is a significant issue in today's tourism industry. The development of the internet has made information easily accessible to consumers, and has therefore established a direct link between consumers and suppliers. As a result, traditional travel distribution channels are changing rapidly. A major feature of this change is "disintermediation", with principals such as airlines, hotels and rental car chains bypassing intermediaries and sell directly to consumers. Travel agents (TAs) are considered to be particularly vulnerable to this process. ICTs have the potential to replace their core competencies, which include transaction processing (ticketing and settlement) and information provision (raw product information provided by suppliers).This thesis focuses on the impact of ICTs on the TA sector, and specifically on the New Zealand TA case. A theoretical approach based on regulation theory combined with a mixed method approach was used to investigate the main issues in New Zealand. The research included a case study to identify the principal issues and trends in the TA sector, in-depth interviews with TAs and industry specialists to refine the main issues and allow the formulation of some theoretical assumptions, in-depth interviews with consumers regarding the role of TAs in the internet era and the quality of service they provide, and a fully-structured, national on-line survey of TAs to verify the assumptions made in the earlier interviews and test the applicability of the post-Fordism model for the New Zealand TA sector.Based on the findings, it is argued that disintermediation is particularly pronounced in the relationship between airlines and travel agents. To minimise the risk of disintermediation and improve business performance, TAs need to reposition themselves and review their core strategies to compete efficiently in the changing business environment. The thesis reveals that consumers perceive TAs as mainly "transaction facilitators". Nevertheless the thesis show that process of "reintermediation" is a reality for some New Zealand TAs.An application of regulation theory to the New Zealand TA case reveals that in its traditional form, the regulation theory cannot explain the complexities found in the modern TA environment. The thesis reveals several distinct modes in TA perceptions of their business environment and their survival strategies, which indicates a heterogeneous, clustered population. A "formula for success" is developed for TAs in New Zealand. In this respect, TAs that perceive ICT as a strategic tool and are orientated towards consumers appear to have a business advantage.