Betwixt and between

A rock and a hard place

When I look back at the first lines of code I published 16 years ago, building blocks for basic websites cobbled together using books about CSS, DHTML, and Javascript, every new website at the time was pushing boundaries and every web designer wanted to change the world. The tools which drive media-rich web content today were dreamland in 1998 and the global reach of modern social media beyond realistic probability, so why is it that cutting edge websites in 2014 are so few and far between, and why has e-commerce, tourism biz in particular, become so homogeneous?

The woes of the wider e-commerce world go far beyond the scope of this article, so I would like to close ranks and elaborate on reasons for the creative downturn in tourism online.

Family-owned tourism websites with a fireplace feel and fiercely loyal customer base, independent websites managed by entrepreneurs, and similarly ambitious local tour providers held net sway up until 2010. In that year, the tourism sector decided to go global and feed the needy masses with re-branded McDonalds tours, on what has since become corporate reseller platforms.

This was a game changer, forcing small business owners at the forefront of tourism on the ground to collaborate with corporates. The result? Undemocratic tourism. Price-based competition has forced local providers to absorb high commissions, it has diminished line marketing, accelerated brand depreciation, and direct website sales are in freefall. The resellers profit hugely by way of sheer client volume, while the heart and soul of each and every tour is left on the brink. They feed their suppliers enough money to survive, only. It's a demoralizing scenario, the nuts and bolts of which affect every business sector.

Are we heading for a high-tech depression? To what extent has corporate tourism-to-consume hurt democratic tourism in Rome, and is there a magic pill for small business owners?

It's become play ball for every Rome tour operator, reselling tours through the big boys is the new norm. They rename and rebrand the experiences we crafted back in the day, and now we must pay them for the privilege of micro-profits. But wait, where there's a will (and a dedicated webmaster to die for), there's a way.

Every independently-owned tourism website has a fighting chance to compete with corporate resellers. Let it be said that corporate reseller websites generally look the same and most certainly function in the same way give or take a few bells, whistles, and trendy landing pages which fade out of fashion faster than it takes to translate "Depeche Mode" from French into English, or something. In every case, high quality products on a well managed, well coded, independent website can break through corporate monopoly. Step by step, city by city, democratic tourism will prevail!

Published on November 3rd, 2014
© When In Rome Tours, article provided by Cajes.

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