Introduction: Information Communication Technologies, Tourism, Culture, and Art
Culture and tourism are two closely interrelated concepts. One propels the other and a combination of both covers a wide range of activities taking place daily in most places around the globe. Cultural tourism is one of the fast growing sectors of the world tourism industry. Culture is a complex and difficult to define concept. There is no universal definition of culture, heritage, or art, as they include different manifestations, meanings, and products, ranging from archaeology, to architecture, painting, music, traditions, cuisine, and folklore, etc. Consequently, cultural tourism is extremely hard to define, because of the wide range of cultural attractions available and the various motivations of cultural tourists. According to Richards (1996), cultural tourism has been traditionally associated with “high culture.” However, it is widely recognized that old distinctions between high and popular culture are disappearing rapidly. Cultural tourists are increasingly engaged in a search for new knowledge and experiences, as part of a general process of self-development, and understanding, appreciating, or participating in culture is often either a core or supplementary element of the holiday experience. Increasingly experienced and sophisticated consumers are interested not just in traditional cultural attractions, such as museums and monuments, but also in the living culture of a destination, such as language, customs, and gastronomy. On the other hand, the supply of cultural tourism is evolving rapidly. A great number of tour operators are packing several products together to offer a cultural experience around a theme that can relate to music, architecture, history, or even cooking and artifacts creation. Several suppliers aim at fulfilling the desire “edu-tainment”: education and entertainment at the same time. Also, several destinations begin to appreciate that it is pointless to compete on price and mass tourism and therefore promote their culture as a major factor of product differentiation.
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Information Technology & Tourism is the first scientific journal dealing with the exciting relationship between information technology and tourism. Information and communication systems embedded in a global net have profound influence on the tourism and travel industry. Reservation systems, distributed multimedia systems, highly mobile working places, electronic markets, and the dominant position of tourism applications in the Internet are noticeable results of this development. And the tourism industry poses several challenges to the IT field and its methodologies.