Revista: Turydes Revista Turismo y Desarrollo


Autores e infomación del artículo

Raquel Villalba Trujillo (CV)

Laura Martínez Caro

Soledad María Martínez María-Dolores

Polytechnic University of Cartagena, Spain


La tecnología de la información y la comunicación (TIC) ha provocado un cambio importante en el turismo. Este estudio informa cómo esas tecnologías se aplican en diferentes sitios web españoles. El estudio está basado de un análisis de contenido de 243 webs, cuyas características fueron identificadas y  definen su presencia en sitios web españoles. Los resultados muestran que la mayoría de las webs que promueven y comercializan el turismo on-line aún no utilizan  la mayoría de las herramientas asociadas por las TIC (códigos QR, redes sociales, aplicaciones para teléfonos móviles, etc) pese a que la  demanda de los mismos está creciendo en España.


The information and communication technology (ICT) caused an important change in tourism. This study informs about the amount in which those technologies are implemented in different Spanish web-sites. Based on a content analysis of 243 webs characteristics were identified which define the presence in Spanish websites. Results show that most of the webs which promote and commercialize tourism on-line still do not use most of the tools permitted by the ICTs (QR codes, social networks, applications for Mobile phones, etc.) and the demand for them is growing in Spain.

Keywords. Tourism. Ecommerce-  New technologies - Tourist portal.
JEL classification: L81 and L83

Para citar este artículo puede uitlizar el siguiente formato:

Raquel Villalba Trujillo, Laura Martínez Caro y Soledad María Martínez María-Dolores (2014): “Effectiveness in the spanish tourism portals design”, Revista Turydes: Turismo y Desarrollo, n. 17 (diciembre 2014). En línea:


The development of information society is today recognized as an indispensable condition for economic and social development. This information society is the motor in the incorporation of Information Technology and Communication (ICT) in all areas of human activity and especially in the economic and business, where no one doubts the contribution of ICT to economic growth and improving competitiveness (Ontiveros et al., 2004).

The mobility paradigm (Hall, 2005) has contributed, definitively, that the travel and tourism industries are among the most important in the world. According to figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organization 1 in 2012 were more than 1 billion international arrivals worldwide. In these times of economic uncertainty, tourism is one of the few economic sectors of the world that maintains a steady growth, providing vital force to the economic progress in both, developing and developed countries and, more importantly, generating some much-needed jobs (Rifai, 2012)2 .

Spain remains a privileged second place in the ranking of recipient countries, behind France. However, the Spanish tourism sector is currently facing the challenge of maintaining its position of leadership and quality in a market increasingly diversified, with very attractive destinations with growing competitiveness. Therefore, the tourist industry has to base its leadership position in quality and this implies a continuous renewal of infrastructure and value-added services tourist-oriented (Lamsfus et al., 2009). The development and dissemination of information and communication technologies has influenced the way to compete in the companies (Porter, 2001). Internet is a communication technology of rapid growth. Since the extended its commercial use in the mid-90s, its growth has been spectacular. According to ITU (International Telecommunication Union), in 2013 were 2.749 million internet users, this means that 38.8 % of the world's population. Europe is the region where most penetrated internet (75%) followed by America (61%).

The evolution of the Internet must be conceived as a network in continuous movement capable of moving the physical relationships to the virtual environment, and once in this, modify the static pattern of consumption to a mobile and wireless. Therefore, the Network is moving to an online environment the relations established by individuals, both physical and virtual, the world is formed by groups of networks (Wellman, 1999).

The development of the Internet as universal and interactive form of communication, as well as changes in attitudes and behavior of consumers, have altered the traditional form of distribution of the tourism products (O´Connor and Frew, 2000). At present, consumers are looking for increasingly found themselves on the Internet, information about hotels, flights, travel packages, and so on, in the same way that is also increasing the proportion of accommodations and travel hired through the network (Peréz et al., 2002).

The ICT act in most sectors as tools to support innovation. It is for this reason that the challenge in the provision of services in the tourism sector is in the applications in mobility (Bernardos et al, 2007). Spanish tourists, and those who visit Spain, increasingly used all kinds of mobile devices. The 90% of the people who travel carry a mobile device and that the 99% has the mobile phone to less than a meter away during the 24 hours of the day (Lamsfus et al., 2009).

The inclusion of ICT in the tourism sector is a fact that consolidated. Before it arose the virtual travel agencies, tourist-related businesses, was already using the GDS (Global Distribution System) to access the availability of places in the transport, and the CRS (Central Reservation System) to find hotel availability (Figueroa and Talón, 2007). Therefore the connectivity and uses of new technologies in this sector is not a recent development.

The tourism sector is characterized by be heterogeneous, highly fragmented and consists of different activities between them, although complementary and interrelated. Over the past few years, the tourism industry has experienced many changes in all their activities, caused by changes in the scope of supply and demand, thereby constituting a very dynamic competitive environment for all companies in the sector (Esteban et al, 2000).

The distribution channels are integrated tourist mainly by intermediation whose basic function is to obtain, transform and offer to the potential consumer sufficient information about the features, availability, quality and convenience of tourism products, At the time and in the right way, so that it can decide on the purchase of tourism products in the most efficient way possible and at the same time they act as a mechanism through which to make payments and reservations associated with the buying and selling operation (Mill and Morrison, 1985). The client is the scarcest resource and valuable to the company, and thanks to new technologies, it is possible to care for a more personalized style (Alonso and Furió, 2006). 
There is a wide-ranging debate on the implications of the changes on-line at the set of activities in the tourism sector. In fact and prior to the economic crisis, in the year 2005, 24% of tourism enterprises launched to the market new products or services, of which 44% were related to ICTS (Alzua et al., 2007).

In the tourist industry (hotels, tour operators, travel agencies, airlines, and so on), these technologies have also influenced in various ways but particularly in the way that tourism enterprises distribute their products on the market (Buhalis, 2000) through the so-called e-commerce.

According to Sellers et al. (2001), e-commerce is any form of commercial transaction or direct support, which is based in telemetric means, takes place throughout the entire supply chain from the company until the final consumer, using as support telecommunications networks.

In recent years, within the ICT we have witnessed the revolution of mobile technology, which has now entered in the society and of that today, cannot be dispensed with. In fact, there are authors as Savia (2011), who considers that in its development and implementation is the future of the tourism industry.

In this period have also been popularized the use of so-called QR code (Quick Response Codes) thanks to the use of mobile devices (tables, smartphone, etc.). The QR code or code of rapid response is a method of quick and easy access to a URL, a Web page, text information, phone numbers, SMS messages, or images via the mobile device. The QR code (also known in Spain as bidi code) is a table of dimensional bar. Using a mobile phone with a digital camera and a program of appropriate software to decode the code, consumers take a photo or scan the QR code to access the information instantly, without the need of typing long Web addresses (Dou y Li, 2008). We can find especially as marketing strategy and access to additional information in the world of business and general information in the field of leisure and tourism (Fonseca, et al, 2011).

Recent studies such as Marketwire (2011) have shown that access to high-end mobile is increasing at a rate greater than 30% each year, with a cast of the 48% market for Android users, 39% for iPhone, and 14% for BlackBerry 3.

E-commerce is receiving a major attention in the scientific literature (Ngai and Wat, 2002). The majority of research is seeking above all to analyze its impact on the tourism sector (Castells and Díaz, 2001; Pérez et al., 2002; Heung, 2003; Stamboulis and Skayannis, 2003; Díaz, 2005), to analyze changes in the distribution system of tourism as a result of the incorporation of ICTS (Berné et al., 2012; Pooms, 1993; Barnett and Standing, 2001; Christian, 2001; Buhalis and Licata, 2002) or measure the perception of the quality of services on-line (Barrera, 2010; Chung and Law, 2003, Kaynama and Black, 2000, Jung and Butler, 2000, Law and Hsu, 2005).

However, and despite having done an exhaustive search we have not found evidence of previous studies that examine and compare specifically the characteristics of these tourism portals. However, we have found similar studies conducted in other sectors, such as the supermarkets on-line, where aspects are analyzed as potential differences in prices in the same article, transport costs applied, the security granted in the transactions, the means of payment available, if the navigation is friendly or not, etc (Pérez et al., 2002). Similarly, and according to casuistry itself in its sector, we find studies related to digital journalism (Redondo, 2007) or the airlines on-line (Díaz et al., 2008).

For this reason, and with the purpose to contribute scientifically to the study of electronic commerce in the tourism sector, we believe that it is necessary to develop an exploratory study to identify which are the ideal characteristics that the tourist portals websites should possess in order to fully exploit the possibilities offered by ICT.

With the purpose of identifying the presence in the electronic network of the various Spanish tourism destinations we use the Google search engine. This search engine has 62% of the market of searches at the global level, 90% in Spain and has become the best tool to find a travel and ease the configuration of the same with the development of applications like Google Maps, Google Earth, the most recent Google Flights (flights comparison engine). Therefore, all tourism enterprises try to be well positioned in this search engine.

In the realization of the search we employ two keywords: "Tourism Province" and "Tourist Promotion Province". In addition, and to make more of an operational exploration, this was organized by Autonomous Communities and provinces. The poll was conducted in April 2012, identifying 243 portals of distribution and marketing of tourism products.

To analyze the characteristics of the identified portals used content analysis. This analysis assumes the objective description, systematic and quantitative of the manifest content of communication, or any other manifestation of the conduct (Belerson, 1952). This technique of research, involves both the systematic analysis as the observation to identify the specific content of the information and other characteristics of the message, in order to describe quantitatively the phenomenon to observe (Martínez-Martínez et al., 2008).  Therefore, the content analysis involves choosing a series of concepts to examine, analyze and quantify its presence in the unit of analysis chosen (Diaz et al., 2008), in this case, the web sites of the various tourism portals.

The literature identifies three categories of the conceptual design of an effective web: interactivity and communication, ease of navigation and content of the web site (Diaz et al., 2008). The process followed for the analysis of the tourism portals was to show the existence or not of different aspects that contained the two categories used.

In the absence of any previous studies specific to the tourism portals on which rely to measure each category, we draw on the identified in studies of other sectors on-line (Ghose and Dou, 1998; Palmer, 2002; Zhum and Kramer, 2002; Díaz et al., 2008), and to check the appropriateness and validity of the same in the tourism sector we pre-test to a small sample of portals (50). Finally, the category interactivity and communication included the following items:

  • Company identification
  • Type of company
  • E-mail and telephone contact.
  • Social Networks
  • Communities-web elements

For its part, the content category included aspects such as:

  • Publicity
  • Languajes
  • Commercialization
    • Through external companies. CRS outside, associations, reservation forms or direct links to the web of the establishment.
    • Through CRS own.

And finally, the category navigation was formed:

  • Charging
  • Time Web
  • Search Mechanism web
  • applications for mobile devices
  • QR Code

Below are the most relevant results that have been obtained for each category in the empirical study.

With regard to the interactivity and communication category, 81% of the analyzed tourism portals give information about your organization. Most are open to the public (51.78%) and belong to the municipalities, Tourist Boards, Provincial Council of the corresponding Autonomous Community, or they are S. A. OR belonging to the public sphere. The portals of a private nature (28.93%) are in the majority of the legal form the Company Limited (S. L). The rest are non-profit sectors (19.29%) that are held in place with the advertisers of the web itself or through aid. In figure 1 can be seen more in detail the type of companies analyzed.

Of the total sample, 59.67% of the companies also provide an email contact, while 17.7% leave the option of filling out a form in the own web page to establish communication. The rest of pages do not provide any type of tool to establish contact with the company. By communities, the portals of Andalusia are the ones that are more easily e-mail, followed by Castilla y Leon, Castilla La Mancha, and Catalonia (figure 2).

As another alternative to contacting the company, the 59.76% of the companies provide the phone number. If we compare the companies that facilitate in addition to e-mail, the telephone, we feel that we are only 45.26% which facilitate both of these tools. Chart 3 shows this comparison by autonomous community.

A 49.38 per cent of enterprises in tourism promotion in Internet use social networks as a means of dissemination. The most widely used of these networks is Facebook (44.44 %), followed in order of importance by Twitter (37.04 %) Youtube (22.22%) and Flirck (13.58 %); the rest have a scarce presence: Google + (5.35%), Tuenti (4.94%), Addthis (4.12 %), Minube (2.88%), Issuu, Pinterest, delicious and be seen at VIMEO website (1.23 % ), Menéame and MySpace (0.82%) and foursquare home features hardwood and Blinklist (0.41%).

In addition, 56.8% of the companies that use elements of communities-webs through which the customer can interact. Among them are blogs, bulletins/newsletters, comments in the accommodations, forums, etc. , as seen in figure 4, the newsletter is the element that is used more (32.85%) to maintain contact with the client and provide information of the new tourist services and products. The blog (18.25%) is used to translate the ideas or events of the company itself and so the client can share an opinion and comments with the rest of the Community. It should be noted that a 16.79 % of the analyzed companies allow the user to leave a comment in the housings. A 12.71% of the webs allows the downloading of brochures, and a 10.95% has a direct link for downloads of guides, GPS maps, directories of leisure, etc. The 5.84% of the tourism portals have travelogue, i.e., the user has the possibility to go saving comments, and/or information on accommodation and services selected. Finally, only the 2.92% has guestbook.

In regard to the content category, the results reflected as the 37.86% of the analyzed portals have outdoor advertising. The on-line communication is employed, for the most part, advertisers that pay to appear in the web. Other has advertisements for searches on Google. This means that many companies use this other line of business on the Internet, apart from the pure marketing of tourism products, for profit or simply in order to maintain the active web. Normally the advertising consists of banners that are paid on a quarterly or annual, by means of a fixed fee negotiable depending on where you are located the announcement. Advertising on-line, such as the traditional advertising, has as purpose of disseminating information in order to draw the attention of the consumer on products or services of a particular company and thus initiate the transaction purchase-sale between company and final consumer. However, this type of advertising differs from the traditional in that it allows consumers the direct interaction with the advertiser. In addition, online advertising has one of the advantages of direct marketing, and it is the ability to measure in real time the degree of response obtained by any action on-line (or mailing in web promotion), and therefore, determine the success of an advertising campaign (Gómez, 1998).

If we consider now the existence of content in other languages, we find that the 53.90% of the analyzed companies if they have the content of their pages in another language, English, French and German more employees (see figure 5). Some companies use, in order to save costs of web design, online tools such as Google Translator, but the end result of the text is not an extraordinary quality.

Further, in the results obtained with regard to the activity of the commercial portals analyzed, these show how just 32% are web marketing that allow the user to make an economic transaction, the rest are web of company that only offer information.

If we turn now to study how to perform the reservations, we find that in a general way Booking4 is the CSR5 more used, result to corroborate the data obtained in other studies of the sector, such as those of Martínez, Bernal and Mellinas (2011, 2012). Other CRS used to a lesser extent are: Direction, Last Minute, catch him, Hotelopia, Hotels, Trivago, etc. In addition, it has been considered a heading called Associations, which include those Central Reservations that are associated with the main company, for example, and the CRS, are not the same company but are associated and have direct relationship. Other pages if you allow you to book an accommodation, but with a reservation form prior, and although you can see the availability cannot be booking directly. Another system of book is to facilitate a direct link to the web page of hotel reservations or establishment, always being the final web the official establishment. In the websites as we analyzed the associations (CRS regional or local that sell products only in that area) occupy the 26.92%. Again, it has been found that is booking the CRS employed more used (20.51%), although the 14.10 % of the companies use other CRS different external to booking. Only 6.4 % of the companies surveyed used booking forms, and the 17.94% facilitates a direct link to the web of reservations of the establishment. Only, the 14.10% used CRS own.

Taking into account only the companies that commercialize (32% of the sample), the 56.41 per cent of these facilitate an e-mail or phone number so that the customer can contact the company. With regard to social networks, the 58.97% of the portals used them; Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are the most used. Also note, that only 37.17 % have advertising, which means that the majority of companies that sell are public in nature and have restricted the use of advertising on their websites. Finally, and in reference to the language used, the 62.82% give the user the option to translate the page, English being the most used, followed by French, German and Italian.

By Autonomous Communities, we notice that it is again the Andalusia that greater volume of trading is followed by Castilla y León (Chart 6). The regions that least marketed however are Galicia, Navarre and Murcia.

Also, we wanted to perform a more detailed analysis at the level of provinces, because we believe the Communities pluriprovinciales may have more presence in the network (a portal for each province) that the uniprovincial.

Table 1 shows the portals that are marketed as an Autonomous Community including all provinces i.e. that market the entire community as a single destination. The autonomy that has a greater number of webs that if marketed, as we have already mentioned, is Andalusia followed by the Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Basque Country and Castilla y Leon. Galicia, Aragon, Valencia and Extremadura have a single web, and finally Catalonia and Castilla La Mancha not marketed as a single community, but they are differentiated by provinces.

Table 1. Autonomous Communities that marketed its tourism through the web




País Vasco


Castilla Y León










Com. Valenciana






Castilla la Mancha


The province has more tourism portals is Barcelona with 7. Cádiz has 4, Segovia 3, and the rest only have one or two companies that market. The analysis of the Autonomous Communities with one province is shown in Table 2. Asturias marketed through four web pages; Cantabria, and Madrid through three; Navarra account with two webs and finally the Region of Murcia and La Rioja with a single portal.

Table 2. Portals classified by uniprovincial Autonomous Communities that commercialize the CCAA as a tourism product










La Rioja




Finally, the analysis of the navigation category shows that most of the webs are designed by specialized companies so that all have web map. You charging time is not excessive but it depends on the type of connection used. It must be borne in mind that the majority of the tourism portals have images of plenty of weight; however, the charging time is quite short, between 1 and 3 seconds.  In terms of the search mechanisms, the 50% of the portals has them and used almost in its entirety the Google search engine.

 With regard to the availability of applications to query the web on mobile devices, only on the 6.9 % of the operating portals have a design for which the user can be downloaded. As seen in Chart 7, Catalonia and Andalusia are those that have the most developed this option.

Similarly, the use of QR codes has very little presence in the tourism portals. Only 4.5 % of the total sample possess, with Castilla y León community more prominently in this technological innovation (Figure 8), since it has four pages/tourist destinations that are made available to users these codes.

The analysis conducted on the existence of Spanish companies for promotion and/or tourism marketing in the network, we can deduce the following conclusions. The majority of the companies that promote their region are available to the public (51.78%), only 28.93% are private. In addition a 19.29 per cent of the sample works non-profit organization, solely for the purpose of informing the tourist of the possibilities of the area you have chosen to travel.

Andalusia, Castilla La Mancha, and Castile and Leon are the communities whose portals facilitate further avenues of contact with the client, the email and the phone the more used. Only 56.79 % of the sample used elements in which the client can interact; the element is the most widely used bulletin or newsletter, while the Social Network more used is Facebook.

Despite being tourist companies and know the significance that it has in the sector the use of languages, only 56.7% facilitate the translation of their website to other languages. The most commonly used is English, followed by French and Italian.

Of the total of 243 companies analyzed, only 32% sold through its website, and of them only the 14.10 % use their own CRS, while the rest uses other companies such as booking or provide direct links to the web of the accommodation or through hotel associations in the area (17.94%).

Andalusia, Castilla y Leon and Catalonia are the communities with the greatest number of portals that allow the marketing of tourist services. The areas least web sales and promotion have are Galicia, Navarre and Murcia.

Most communities that promote their destinations through the webs are again Andalusia followed by the Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Basque Country and Castilla y Leon; Galicia, Aragon, Valencia and Extremadura are the least. By one-province Autonomous Communities, Asturias, Cantabria, and Madrid, Navarra have several websites that sell, however Murcia and La Rioja have only a tourist site. Barcelona is the province that better and more volume of business has for its marketing.

Mobile applications and QR codes have not yet an established presence in the tourism sector. Some communities are betting on this strategy of differentiation. These technologies enables us to interact with the customer-tourist, not only with the mere transmission of data, but also of other sensory stimuli such as pictures and sounds in the final analysis allow you to transmit more comprehensively the experiences that the tourist looks for when decides to visit a tourist destination.

Through this research we have sought to deepen the context in which it sits at the regional level the firms which are engaged in the promotion of tourism in Spain online. We believe that, from a business point of view, the results obtained can allow to the existing or potential touristic portals, the creation of differentiation strategies in a geographical area by creating web with useful and attractive content for the tourist.

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1 United Nations World Tourism Organization – UNWTO.

2 Statements by the Secretary General of UNWTO, Taleb Rifai, in the inauguration of the global forum on tourism economy, held in September 2012.

3 Data from 2010 of the consulting firm Gartner.


5 CSR: Computerized Reservation System. Computer reservation system.

Recibido: 22/10/2014 Aceptado: 10/11/2014 Publicado: Diciembre de 2014

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