Rural tourism and the development of Internet-based accommodation booking platforms: a study in the advantages, dangers and implications of innovation

Journal of Sustainble Tourism

Over the past decade, the use of global Internet-based reservation systems for accommodation has grown massively. This development appears particularly relevant for rural properties, empowering even very small enterprises to reach a large global customer base cheaply and easily. However, a limited number of reservation platforms now dominate the market, with consequences for existing, often locally owned non-profit, national and regional reservation systems. Price comparability listings, ratings and customer reviews (key features of online booking platforms) could impact inter-business competition, quality management, marketing strategies and revenue flows.

This paper reviews these issues and researches their impacts on rural accommodation providers in Western Norway, using a series of semi-structured interviews to determine when and why they became involved with, the world's largest reservation platform, and how this affected their operations. Results indicate that now has a significant role in reservations in rural Norway, with a range of implications for destinations and businesses. While individual businesses seem to benefit overall, Internet-based booking platforms abstract revenues from national and regional booking organisations which also provide advice, training, lobbying and image-enhancing destination marketing. Ideas are presented for new roles for national and regional organisations.