This article offers a European Union-supported case study of research testing the use of IT to promote and expand a novel kind of cultural tourism destination, the book town, targeted at book lovers. Book towns have been proven in several countries, particularly in Europe, to have significant benefits as sustainable regeneration in areas of rural decline, as well as increasing the diversity of a country's cultural tourism resources. BookTownNet (BTN) is a five-nation, 75-strong SME consortium of second-hand and antiquarian book dealers located in rural areas of Europe who combined to form an IT network to improve and disseminate IT skills through the SME network, to test the utility of Internet and intranet networks to improve their business functioning and the attraction of visitors to book towns. This article presents the frameworks that were used: to analyze the IT-related needs of the SMEs; to manage the overall project and evaluate the functionality and usability of the BTN Web site and to assess the overall success of the project in its impact on SME book dealers in book towns. The results indicate that overall the SMEs regard the project as a success, a judgment supported by two external outcomes: the formation of an International Book Town Association to maintain BookTownNet as a system with an expanded number of European book towns as members; the taking over of the running of the site by JustBooks, a large European book-finding site. Within this overall perspective it is clear from the dealers' perceptions that the intranet phase of the project has been a relative failure, but that the Internet system is seen as a vital tool for both selling books and attracting visitors to the book towns. An iterative developmental process proved to be a key requisite in this project.
International Tourism Research Institute, University of Luton, UK
Publication date: January 1, 2001
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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.