Middlewares of the Tourism Infrastructure

In today’s data-intensive, information-ubiquitous society, it is hard to imagine infrastructure void of information technology.  Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have gradually become embedded into surviving and growing industries, thus ensuring their proliferation and existence.  However, the incorporation of ICT into modern infrastructures does not change the underlying layers that create a framework geared towards a specific purpose of an infrastructure.  Here, I will further pull apart the tourism infrastructure and seek to develop some understanding of the middlewares which are essential in connecting application programs to an infrastructural network.

When breaking down the tourism infrastructure into pieces, we find many valuable parts in relation to the whole tourism process/experience.  Below, I have identified some key parts/layers of the tourism infrastructure, some of which may include characteristics of host countries.

Bottom Elements:

  • Roads- roads enhance the accessibility of tourists to different parts of the destination country.  Accessibility and ease of travel is important for tourists and may be a participating factor in determining a tourist destination.
  • Airports- airports ensure that tourists experience a comfortable transition from the plane into the borders of the destination country and vice versa.  If the airports of the host country carry an unsafe reputation, this could hinder the tourism infrastructure of the host country.
  • Waste/water & energy management- elements and services involving host country cleanliness can even have a direct impact on host’s tourism infrastructure as it is believed to result in more reliable services and thus enhance the attractiveness of a tourist destination.

Middle Elements (Middlewares):

  • Communication- communication allows quick and cheap communication between the origin and destination country as well as provides maximum information about the destination thereby reducing tourist uncertainty and fear.
  • Man-made/Natural Attractions and Services- services and attractions are essential in connecting tourists to a host destination.  They are one of the most influential factors in driving people’s destination choices, depending on what they want to see or what type of activities they are hoping to encounter while visiting.
  • Hotels, Lodging, and Accommodations- hotels ensure that all visitors can be accounted for in that they are responsible for housing all tourists.  It’s important that a host country has hotels available in an appropriate price range of their targeted visitor audience.
  • Restaurants- restaurants ensure that tourists will have access to food while visiting given that they can afford and are prepared to pay restaurant prices.
  • Transportation systems within the country- tourists often like to explore a whole country, especially if they are traveling a long way just to get there.  Therefore, transportation and ways to navigate within and between bordering countries are crucial to the survival of a tourism infrastructure.

Top Elements:

I will look at the top elements of the tourism infrastructure with a higher level of abstraction.  At the top layer lies the overall tourism experience and the resulting factors that correlate to such.

  • Information– information is necessary in that a tourist needs to know the conditions of a host country before traveling there.  Information in the tourism industry encompasses many things such as weather conditions, geography, country demographics, cultural traditions and taboos, etc.
  • Relative prices- relative prices drive the tourism industry because a tourist must be able to know that they can afford all travel expenses and additional costs presented to them upon destination arrival.
  • Economic and political conditions- economic and political conditions regarding the tourism infrastructure involve multiple entities such that it is necessary that tourists have permission to leave their own countries, and in result, enter other countries.  Economic and political conditions may either deter or promote travel and tourism.  It is arguably one of the most influential factors in travel for people regard and value their safety and security at a very high level.

Now the question is where do the middleware elements fit into this infrastructure?  How do they connect the bottom and top layers?  In essence, the tourism infrastructure would collapse without the identified middle layers.  Structurally, they are the glue that holds everything together, and makes a tourism experience possible (and enjoyable).  Elements at the bottom may be crucial in access to the tourism infrastructure in that it would be structurally impossible to support tourism without roads and airports, and elements the top may be elemental motivators for the tourism infrastructure in that they are the deciphering factors that drive people to take traveling actions, however, without communication, accommodations, and attractions, tourism could never exist.  How would people find out about places to visit without communication and the tools that allow transitions of information?  Where would people stay without the buildings built to host them?  What would people do or discover if no attractions existed?  Furthermore, why would people even want to visit such a foreign place?  Essentially, the middlewares are the middle layer because they make the tourism infrastructure accessible.  They connect the practical pieces to help establish an overall experience.

These are all questions to consider when analyzing the middle parts of the tourism infrastructure.  There are set standards in place regarding the support of tourism, however there is room for disparities to exist as well.  For example, in communication, there are set ways to go about doing this via people-to-people interactions, or advertisements and promotions available through the Internet, televisions, or travel brochures, etc.  Although communication has standard procedures to follow, accommodations and types of attractions allow for much more variability.  For example, a country can have a variety of lodging options available whether it’s in the form of hotels, community houses, or independently run inns.  Additionally, differing host countries offer different attractions, which can vary across a wide spectrum encompassing beaches and resort settings to mountains, hiking, or museum attraction settings.  In the tourism infrastructure, the middleware layer is usually catered towards a niche market of tourists, so it becomes rather well-established.  If a tourist’s aim is to travel somewhere specifically to ski, then they may look into countries that host this type of activity, in which case mountains are required.  Another country though, (let’s say one without mountains for sake of this example) may cater its own tourism industry and put forth money and effort into creating very nice resorts and spas to capitalize on the nice beaches in the country’s landscape.  It is the duty of the host country to utilize its geographical features to the best of its ability in order to attract as many tourists as possible.  In general, the services that tourism provides are fairly static, and the industry does not change much with time.  Attractions, accommodations, restaurants, information, and economical conditions may be updated or change, but this is usually a very gradual process. 

Without these steady middlewares, tourism would fail.  No one would travel if there was no desire to get to an attraction [via lack of communication], if there were no ways to travel within a country [lack of transportation within a country], if there were no place to stay [lack of hotels or accommodations], or if it was hard to find food [lack of restaurants].  Other factors may exist when people reason their destinations [those elements defined to be in the top layer of tourism infrastructure], however the middlewares make the industry possible and thus are pivotal to the whole infrastructure development, survival, and persistence. 

Sources: 

Seetanah B. (2011). Does Infrastructure Matter in Tourism Development. University of Mauritius Research Journal, Volume 17, pp. 89-108.

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About cbaughma

Senior at University of Michigan studying Informatics: Data Mining & Information Analysis
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