Designing for reintermediation in the brick-and-mortar world: Towards the travel agency of the future


The Internet and electronic marketplaces have profoundly transformed the travel services industry and challenged the traditional value proposition of travel agencies: What is the reason for their existence if information is abundantly available and transactions can be flexibly conducted in direct buyer-seller interactions on the Internet? Traditional travel agencies are struggling to develop new value propositions which differentiate them against the Internet competition, largely based on expanding their reach through online subsidiaries. We present a reintermediation approach based on a novel way of IT-enabled travel advisory which integrates the advantages of interactive technologies and Internet channels with the advantages of direct customer interaction in the physical agency setting. In particular, we propose a reintermediation framework based on the integration of kernel theories from information seeking behavior, interactive value creation, relationship marketing and the design of hedonic information systems. We argue that physically collocated travel advisory services can create a significant added value, if they succeed in uncovering customers’ hidden needs, heightening trust and relationship building in the advisory process and creating a better user experience. Following the design science methodology we validate the proposed framework through the design, implementation and evaluation of a proof-of-concept prototype in a field experiment in a real-world travel agency.

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    In 2007 the tipping point of the travel market has been reached: the percentage of online travel bookings in the U.S. has surpassed the percentage of offline bookings with forecasts expecting further continuation of this trend (PhoCusWright, 2007).

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    An important issue beyond the scope of this paper.

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We thank STA Travel Switzerland and especially Jean-Philippe Spinas for their cooperation and support in the SmartTravel evaluation. We also kindly thank Mattias Aggeler for his contribution in the prototype system development and the first evaluation as part of his Master’s Thesis supervised by the authors.

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Correspondence to Jasminko Novak.

Additional information

This is a fundamentally revised and significantly extended version of our paper presented at the 21st Bled eConference on eCollaboration (Schwabe, Novak and Aggeler, 2008).

The authors appear in alphabetical order. Both have equally contributed to this paper.

Responsible editor: Rolf T. Wigand

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Novak, J., Schwabe, G. Designing for reintermediation in the brick-and-mortar world: Towards the travel agency of the future. Electron Markets 19, 15–29 (2009).

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  • Reintermediation
  • Design-science
  • Travel advisory
  • e-Tourism
  • CSCW
  • Large display
  • Advisory support
  • User experience
  • Value co-creation

JEL Classification

  • L83