Disintermediation in the Tourism Industry: Theory vs. Practice

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Abstract

It has been several decades since disintermediation was first known (although under other terms), and it seems that disintermediation has become increasingly intense, particularly in the tourism industry where many large hotels and airlines have successfully utilized the Internet and website as a direct channel to sell to their customers. This paper examines disintermediation issues and situation and argues that in practice disintermediation, despite becoming increasingly intense, it will just require travel agents to acclimatize rather than to be removed from the tourism value chain. The review of both academic literature and practical survey research shows that effect of disintermediation on Thai tourism SMEs might not be as extreme as it has been on European tourism SMEs in the near future. Three in-depth case studies of Thai tourism SMEs are summarized and presented to show how travel agents act to respond to the disintermediation. The cases highlight the need for more study on customer behaviors which are likely to vary depending upon region and many other factors. Ultimately, this paper calls for future research on customer behaviors and strategic alignment for tourism SMEs.