Morag I. Stewart
The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management
This paper presents a competitive benchmarking study comparing the website of Dubai to websites of its five direct-competitor destinations. After the introduction, the importance of tourism destination websites is discussed followed by a review of website evaluation approaches. A modified Balanced Scorecard (BSC) was selected for evaluation of site content and usability while automated tools were used for evaluating technical features. The BSC Questionnaires were completed by ten evaluators using a pair-wise comparison method. Singapore’s website was rated highest overall suggesting its suitability for best practice benchmarking. Based on the BSC category ratings, suggestions were offered for improving Dubai’s website.
Key Words: Competitive benchmarking; website evaluation; tourism destination website; Dubai
Dubai is an ambitious competitor for tourism business. The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) is charged with “… the international promotion of Dubai’s commerce and tourism interests …” and “… the planning, supervision and development of the tourism sector in the emirate …” (About DTCM, 2006). DTCM is chaired by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Ruler of Dubai; strong evidence of the importance of tourism to the economy of the emirate of Dubai. Over the last several years, Dubai has experienced double digit growth in tourism with growth statistics of 14% to 30% recorded during the four quarters from October 2005 to September 2006 (DTCM, 2006). The annual number of arrivals in Dubai is rapidly approaching seven million visitors. By comparison the number of “virtual” arrivals or visitors to Dubai’s official website greatly surpasses the number of visitors to Dubai. According to Mr. Suhail Buhelaiba, IT Manager for DTCM, the DTCM website (www.dubaitourism.ae) averages 1.5 million visitors a day and plays a “… crucial role in broadening the international profile of Dubai …” (Press release 1218, 2006). Given the ubiquitous reach of the Internet, modern tourism destinations face global competition in cyberspace, competition more intense than experienced by the destination. This competitive phenomenon seems certain to continue. With Virtual Holidays cited as a future social trend (TUI, 2006) the need for destinations to compete electronically will increase. Online competition will drive destinations to continuously evaluate their virtual presence, their website.
Benchmarking is one of the management strategies that an organization can use to measure its performance against “… the products, practices, and services of some of its most efficient global competitors …” (Hill & Jones, 1998, p. 135). While benchmarking is making measured comparisons, competitive benchmarking is making comparisons against self-identified direct competitors. In the DTCM Strategic Plan: 2005-2010, DTCM identified five destinations as direct competitors of Dubai. These five destinations and their corresponding websites are: Egypt (www.touregypt.net), Singapore (www.visitsingapore.com), Mauritius (www.mauritius-info.com), Qatar (www.experienceqatar.com) and Bahrain (www.bahraintourism.com). Given these five destinations were identified by DTCM as Dubai’s competitors, their websites formed the competitive set for benchmarking Dubai’s website.
ONLINE MARKETING of TOURISM DESTINATIONS
Being one of the largest industries in the world (Oorni & Klein, 2003), travel and tourism quickly staked a place among the most important application domains on the Internet (Werthner & Klein, 1999). Over time the Internet has proved to be an “ideal medium” for the travel and tourism industry (WTO, 2001)...