Examining the Tourism Distribution Channel: Evolution and Transformation
Purpose– The purpose of this paper is to examine the evolution and transformation of tourism distribution channels, focusing on the role the internet has played in such a process. It attempts to graphically illustrate, in a temporal manner, the evolving complexity of the tourism distribution systems.
Design/methodology/approach– This paper provides insights into the change of the structure of tourism distribution that has not been extensively explored. Indeed, the complexity of the tourism distribution structure has been diagrammatically depicted multiple times by previous researchers and each depiction has contributed to a fuller understanding of the body of knowledge by focusing on different aspects of that structure. This paper builds upon those valuable knowledge contributions by focusing on the evolution of the structure over time, systematically and diagrammatically revealing the progressively larger number of intermediation layers, in spite of concurrent disintermediation and reintermediation activity. This paper does not focus on every action of every participant in detail, but rather focuses on categories of intermediaries, looking at pioneering examples of each. Likewise, the comparative rates of technology adoption in different regions of the world are not investigated.
Findings– The complex network proposed in this paper indicates that the advance of information and communication technology has not reduced the number of intermediaries in the distribution channel, but rather resulted in an increasingly complex array of intermediaries. The structure of the tourism industry has taken the form of a complex global network. In the struggle to prosper in this environment, participants at various levels will continue to compete, cooperate, merge, form partnerships, and change relationships on a regular basis.
Originality/value– The extant literature has covered many aspects of intermediation, disintermediation, and reintermediation, albeit with differing terminologies. Most of these studies have adopted a static and cross‐sectional approach in examining the structure and use of tourism distribution channels. This paper examines the historical evolution and progression of tourism distribution channels which is not only important in understanding where we are now as an industry, but also where we came from and where we are heading to.