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A Look the Fundamentals and Impact of Information Technology

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Introduction

Tourism is an action of worldwide imperativeness and importance as it is a major force in the economy (Cooper et al. 2008). Tourism has undeniably developed as one of the most significant economic and social phenomena of the last century (Mihelj 2010). Tourism is a multidimensional and multifaceted activity that touches many lives and many different economic events. Thus it is not surprising that tourism is considered difficult to define. The word `tourist’ first appeared in the English language during the early 1800s, but even after two centuries, agreeing on a single definition is difficult (Cooper et al. 2008). However, The Tourism Society (1976 cited Beaver 2005 p. 313) defined tourism as “the temporary short-term movement of people to destinations outside the places where they normally live and work and their activities during their stay at these destinations; it includes movement for all purposes as well as day visits or excursions”. In simple words travel and tourism is regarded as a break which is taken from the daily routine life and from the tiring obligation of family and work which results in an experience that contrasts with the everyday experience (Judd 2006).

In the last few decades, the world has gone through a series of problems that have affected its overall economy. For example, the shocks of 9/11, dual bombings of a major Asian tourism destination; Bali, threat of bird flu, SARS, the second Iraq war, Boxing Day Tsunami, the bombings on London and Madrid stations and the economic recession in 2008-2009. Such events led to a change in consumer behavior that had an impact on the travel patterns and operations around the world (Cooper et al. 2008). But in spite of such challenges, tourist did not stop travelling. In fact, international tourism recovered faster than it was expected from such crisis. International tourist arrivals rose by 6.7% in 2010 compared to 2009 having a positive growth reported in all world regions also including a +8% in the United States of America (Canadian Travel Press 2011). According to WTO (1996 in Gee 1997), worldwide tourism would grow to around 702 million arrival in the year 2000, and over 1 billion by 2010.

The motives of people who desire to travel are complex and varied (Gee et al. 1997). Some travel for holiday, leisure and recreation, cultural events, education, business, whereas some travel for religious activities, sports, adventure and for health treatment (Cooper et al. 2008). Tourists’ desires are changing constantly. The experience that was satisfactory yesterday no longer satisfies the tourists today and this is all happening due to Globalisation, as it has intensified the competition between places (Judd 2006). Moreover, tourism is in a scenario that some specialists could name it as “paradigm shift” situation not far from the investment and social norms of globalization in general (Kuhn 1982 in Iordache et al. 2010). This is because traditional tourism resources, comparative advantages such as climate and culture become less important when compared to other tourism factors of competitiveness like strategic management of information, the intelligence ability of the teams for innovation in an enterprise, the know-how and knowledge which are now the key factors in touristic enterprise competitiveness (ibid). Since there is competition among countries to attract tourists, we shall now have a look at some other factors that motivate people to travel to other countries in spite of the economic crisis.

Internet and Information Communication Technologies

According to Buhalis (1998), information is the lifeblood of tourism and so technology is considered fundamental for the industry to operate. Information technology introduced e-commerce through the development of the Internet and World Wide Web and these developments impacted the consumer and industry behaviors in the travel and tourism area (Mamaghani 2009). The internet has speedily democratized image creation and dissemination by making it possible for would-be tourists to construct their own composite images of the experience or experiences they seek (Judd 2006). Also the internet marketing of tourism has become a trend in recent times as there are many internet travel sites such as tripadvisor.com, virtualtourist.com, makemytrip.com, expedia, travelocity etc. where consumers can find out all kinds of information they need to plan their trips. This can be done at their own convenience at any time of the day and night 24/7 (Mihelj 2010). This has led to consumers having more options and knowledge regarding their vacation and budget planning. 95% of the web users have searched the Internet to gather travel related information whereas 93% visited the destination websites and nearly one and half used e-mail to gather travel-related information (Xinran et al. 2006). In addition to the internet, technological gadgets such as GPSs, smart phones, mobile phones and hand-held devices improved the consumer’s tourism and travel experiences (Mamaghani 2009). Also consumers had an opportunity to find lower-priced travel online, so many began to use the same method for their additional travel needs such as car rental, hotel and airline ticket, which led to a cut out of the proverbial middleman. Thus from this it is clear that the internet and the information technology played a central role in the growth and improvement of the travel and tourism industry (ibid).

Climate Change

Favourable climatic conditions at destinations are key magnets for tourists (Becken et al. 2007). Weather can either make a trip great or it can ruin a holiday. Climate is especially vital for the success of beach destinations and conventional sun-and-sea tourism which is the dominant form of tourism. Tourists get attracted to coastal areas and islands where there is ample sunshine, warm temperatures, and little precipitation that escapes the harsh weather conditions and seasons from their home countries (ibid). For example, many tourists from colder countries come to Goa on the west coast of India to soak up the sun on its sandy beach as it is a major tourist centre for beaches while tourists from hot countries like Dubai may arrive at colder countries like Switzerland just to enjoy the cold weather and snow. Climate change will not only have a direct impact on tourism by changes in temperature, extreme weather events and other climatic factors, but it will also affect indirectly as it will transform the natural environment that mainly attracts tourists (ibid). There is a link between climate change and tourism that implies multifaceted interactions and can be described as a two-way relationship (Hernandez et al. 2011). According to Nicholas (2006), on one side tourism activity contributes to climate change, conversly climate change affects the tourism industry, importantly due to its effect on the attractiveness of tourism destinations and tourist flows (Lise et al. 2002 in Amelung et al. 2007). Hence from this we can say that climate is an important factor to be considered by tourists for making decisions in selecting a holiday destination. Climate variables and climate change can also act as motivators for the tourists to select a destination and enjoy a rejuvenating holiday (Hernandez et al. 2011).

Culture

The use of cultural magnetisms and pictures to attract visitors is not a unique sensation as its roots could be traced back to the 17[th] century European Fabulous Tour (Williams 2010). Greg Richards (in Williams 2010) says that cultural tourism is the original form of tourism and also `one of the forms of tourism that most policymakers seem to be betting on for the future’. Culture has developed as an increasingly prominent and vital part of the multidimensional tourism product in UK tourism destinations and is also considered as one of the factors that can improve competitiveness (ibid). The quick development of `cultural tourism’ over the last 30 years is greatly the consequence of climbing investment in abstraction, legacy, society and history, and not just contemporary lifestyles which would be demonstrated by demographic, social and customary updates. In addition, the growing synergy of tourism and culture has been a key theme of tourism development and marketing as destination increasingly view culture as a means of differentiation and distinction (William 2010). According to MacCannell (1973 cited Craik 1995), tourists would more and more like to escape the `fronts’ of tourism and investigate the `backs’. For example, tourists will want to know about the history, cultural heritage of the particular destination they are visiting. Urban destinations and cities use their historical-strong cultural infrastructures for image creation, to attract high spending visitors and to support economic, physical and social regeneration (Paddison et al. 2009). For example, Barnsley, Birmingham, Carlisle, Chichester, Cornwall, Derry, Durham, Hull and Yorkshire, Norwich, Portsmouth and Southampton, Sheffield and Swansea have a wonderful opportunity to bring culture into heart and forefront of their country that can pull in investment and boost tourism (William 2010).

Marketing and Advertising

Marketing is the most traditional activity of a destination for encouraging its tourism resources such as characteristic assets, cultural/heritage assets and alternate inclinations (Hong 2008). Kotler and Keller (2006 in Cooper et al. 2008 p.514), define marketing as `a societal process by which individuals and groups obtain what they need and want through creating, offering and freely exchanging products and services of value with others’. The marketing concept has been communicated in a significant number of brief routes from `Have it your way’ from Burger King to `You’re the boss’ of United Airlines. This is the base of the present day promoting thought whereby the central method of success is built not just with respect to recognizing different consumer needs but also on delivering a tourist product whose experience provides fulfilment that is preferable to those of the competitors (ibid). Consumers today, have far more information with which to make comparisons between alternate offers. No one company projects a single image to attract customers. Marketing for a total tourist experience should include everything from pre-planning, the purchase, the journey, the visit/stay, the return journey and the overall reflection of the activity (ibid). Advertising needs to regard all these viewpoints to guarantee that worth and fulfilment is judged to be above the tourist’s anticipation. A good overall experience will enthuse the tourists to advocate for the destination and will lead to sharing his/her experience in a positive way (ibid). Every company in one way or the other way markets and advertises in a manner that would attract tourists and consumers. For example, according to Mr Rohit Nanda, Chairman and Managing Director of Air India (2012), the company via its marketing and advertising is offering a 20% discount to their travellers who fly Mumbai-Delhi with their new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft along with a comfort stay in Gateway Hotels and Resorts of the Taj Group.

Attractions, Events and Festivals

Attractions give the single most and the foremost purpose behind leisure tourism to a destination (Cooper et al. 2008). For residential guests and global tourists alike, the wish to visit `attractions’ is normally the fundamental spark for their trip (Swarbrooke 2001). Every region and every town boasts of at least one tourist attraction, adding to its appeal as a destination. Attractions also have a variety of purposes; it may have an explicit educational purpose, is often central to the protection or creation of cultural identities and it can also contribute to the conservation and protection of many historic sites (Cooper et al. 2008). Attractions are of three types; Natural attraction, Man-made attractions and Events and festivals. Natural attractions include the Himalayas in Nepal, the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and the Ring of Kerry in South Ireland and the Niagara falls. Man-made attractions include Stonehenge in UK, Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Chicago’s Museum of Science, the Taj Mahal in India, Disney land in Florida, Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong. Events and festivals include mega events like Olympics, World Trade Fairs, Parades, the Rio Carnival, and the Pamplona Bull Run in Spain and the Calgary Stampede in Alberta while festivals include Pilgrimage visits to Mecca and Jerusalem, the Tomatina festival in Spain, North California Cherry Blossom festival and the Takayama festival in Japan (ibid). Since destination can rarely survive long-term on the basis of one attraction, it can be the key pump-primer in more sustainable development of a destination (ibid).

Conclusion

From the points discussed above, we can say that Tourism is a sector that will keep on gaining significant importance in the future. This is because travel and tourism is such a broad sector and is always connected with people.

In fact, the numbers of global tourists are continuously increasing every year. It is a fact that whatever be the situation may be, people will not stop travelling and exploring the world. People need time out of their daily monotonous life and for this purpose they plan holidays, adventure trips, trekking, etc. Despite various economic downturns, terrorist attacks, recession, SARS, etc. there still has been a continuous steam of global tourists arrivals. In fact, there are some adventurous travellers who prefer visiting places hit by natural or man-made calamities just to explore the nature of devastation or the resultant effects of such calamities, etc. Also, many employers have well understood the benefits of employees taking time off their stressed work schedules at regular intervals. To this end, such employers extend facilities of Company owned / leased Holiday Homes to employees encouraging them to have a rejuvenating holiday and resuming work with renewed vigour. Even as far as business trips are concerned, travel in recent times has become so convenient that working executives can travel within their country for business meets or for work and get back the same day.

Thus, we can observe that various factors such as, availability of information through internet and the worldwide web, climatic, cultural and religious differences in various countries, promotional efforts through marketing and advertising, tourist attraction venues and places of interest, etc., are major determinants influencing and motivating people to travel and explore.

To conclude, tourism is and will continue to be an evergreen industry.

The field of Computer Science involves a variety of specialized skills which enables students of the study to find jobs as developers of computer software, as programmers of algorithms and applications to be used internally and externally by their company, and as designers of computer and video games. As technology and computers have come into the forefront in today’s society, the world has prospered economically and also socially in the form of e-mail and online classes. However, computer scientists, as well as the rest of the human race, are still not satisfied by their progress. They still want more.

One aspect of computer science that needs development is the concept of Artificial Intelligence, or AI. AI defined, is the ability for computers to behave like humans. More specifically, human-level AI gives the computer or system the capacity to actually think like humans and, in time, act like humans to the point where people can interact with computers as if they are people themselves. Once this concept develops into a real life commercial product, the world as a whole will benefit from a more efficient and economically productive workforce. Although technology has increased exponentially in the twentieth century, the world has yet to see human-level AI become a reality. There is only the potential for it.

In the article, “Human-Level AI’s Killer Application; Interactive Computer Games,” by John E. Laird and Michael van Lent, the authors argue that there has been a delay in the progress of achieving human-level AI, and the methods of researching it need to be evaluated. However, there is evidence that human-level AI does exist. In the military, certain training programs use simulation, or what AI researchers call “computer generated forces,” in tank training, ground training, and especially pilot training. The computer generates simulated scenarios of real-life events to help train officers without the risk of personal injury or more severely, death. Researchers could use these simulation programs for help in their research to develop human-level AI in their projects, but the problems of on-site research arise as it would be too difficult to obtain access into military sites. Moreover, “there are extremely high costs for AI researchers to participate in this work” (16). Therefore, the article suggests the next best alternative in computer games.

The computer world was revolutionized when computer and video games became a major industry in the latter quarter of the 20th century. People were beginning to see there favorite arcades come home and go straight into their televisions. Video game consoles were introduced by such makers as Atari, Sega, Nintendo, and SNK. As the years have passed, the big dots that represented graphics seen on the screen have now become virtual worlds to the point where it is almost life-like. Current systems include Nintendo GameCube, Microsoft Xbox, and Sony Playstation 2, where the graphics are so sharp a person could almost mistake a video game for a TV program. There are many genres in the computer game world: sports, adventure, role-playing, and what are called god games (the player is in charge of all the happenings in his city or theme park, such as SimCity 3000). In the article, the authors investigate a variety of games such as Doom, Quake, Tomb Raider, Starcraft, Myth, Madden Football, Diablo, Everquest, and Asheron’s Call. They explain that researchers will detect and discover different levels of AI involved in all of the games, thus, using the information obtained they will be able to fully accomplish their goal in discovering human-level AI.

As the article continues, the authors include a list of six or seven reasons why using computer games is the right solution for developing human-level AI.

“First, computer game developers are starting to recognize the need for human-level AI. Synthetic human-level characters are playing an increasingly important role in many genres of computer games and have the potential to lead to completely new genres.

Second, the computer game industry is highly competitive, and a strong component of this competition is technology. AI is often mentioned as the next technology that will improve games and determine which games are hits. Thousands of new computer games are written every year with overall development time averaging nine months to two years, so technological advances sweep through the industry quickly. Already, many computer games are marketed based on the quality of their AI. This field is one in which AI will have a significant impact.

Third, game developers are technologically savvy, and they work hard to stay current with technology. AI programmer is already a common job title on game development teams.

Fourth, the game industry is big. In terms of gross revenue, the computer game industry is bigger than the movie industry.

Fifth, computer game hardware is going to provide cheap, high-end computation power for AI in computer games in the next five years. The newest PC 3D video boards and the next-generation consoles, such as Sony’s Playstation 2 and Microsoft’s X-box, move the entire graphics pipeline off the increasingly powerful central processing unit, freeing it for AI. It is not at all unthinkable that in five years, there will be dedicated AI processors in game consoles–we just have to tell them what we need.

Sixth, computer games need help from academic AI. The current emphasis in computer game AI is on the illusion of humanlike behavior for limited situations. Thus, most, if not all, of the current techniques that are used for controlling game AI’s will not scale up. However, just as computer game graphics and physics have moved to more and more realistic modeling of the physical world, we expect that game developers will be forced into more and more realistic modeling of human characters. Moreover, as researchers, we can get a step ahead of the game designers by using their environments for research on human-level AI.” (15-16)

With these reasons, it would only seem perfectly sound and efficient to use the computer game industry as the major research tool for trying to reach human-level AI. However, as the article explains, the computer game industry does not have a significant amount of research funding. Luckily, the military has been giving away there extra research money in computer generated forces to the computer game industry. Also, the larger computer game makers, such as Electronic Arts and Sony, have already begun computer game AI research funding. In any event, there are still stronger reasons to maintain the computer game industry as the focal point in human-level AI.

I believe that human level AI is definitely necessary in computer games because it would offer a challenge to individuals who master each game they play. To clarify that statement, I, as an example, can’t recall the last time I haven’t completed and mastered every level of a video game. The computer doesn’t offer me any challenge because it logically tries to maneuver its way through the game. Computer game AI is too slow to react to human actions. All it is made to do is use a system of numbers that are encoded by the central processing unit, the part of the system that does all the computations, and analyzes everything around it by going through a list of options that the programmer provides for the computer. Whatever the programmer determines is the correct action for the computer (in simple terms – Is an apple red? Yes or no. The answer is yes, so the programmer would tell the computer yes at that point in the game), the computer would run an action appropriate to the answer (yes – do this, no – do that; the answer was yes, so do this). The entire game is made of millions of those functions. With human-level AI, programmers can omit all that tedious typing, and basically have the computer learn its own solutions, as a human would learn a game and eventually try to master it. Human level AI in video games would present more challenging scenarios and better game play. Overall, it would be a lot more fun.

Computer game AI is nowhere near where computer scientists want to be with human-level AI, but it’s a good start and an easier and more accessible area to study. It can be seen that AI is used as the computer players or opponents act and react to the buttons the human player is hitting. As graphic presentation is becoming more and more human-like, or human-level, it is necessary to have the same human-looking characters behave just as human. The game industry began with such games as chess and checkers using mathematical algorithms and logic as the major factors of the computer’s AI. Now, the industry must move forward through using AI to determine character movement and even speech.

Many may wonder if achieving human-level AI is risky because they have the mentality that computers will surpass human intelligence and eventually take over the world. As a computer scientist, my response would obviously be, “no way! Computers can’t destroy us, we are their makers and they are our pets. Yes, they probably will be more intelligent than us, but we make them and anything we make, we can destroy.” I have come to the conclusion that everyone needs to be aware that technology has still not yet broken through its glass ceiling of potential. When watching such programs as Star Trek think about how possible it really is to have such weapons, teleporters, and spacecrafts. Finally, if and when we, the computer scientists, break through with attaining human-level AI, we will be able to create new and interesting things and make things that nobody could have possibly dreamed. Human-level AI in computer games is just the beginning.

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