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As the internet’s role in providing travel information grows, meaningful opportunities exist for countries to grow their tourism economies through investing in online content.

Published in 2013, Oxford Economics (“OE”) reviews the role of the internet in growing the European travel sector thus far and quantifies future opportunities for generating tourism through increased online content adoption in Greece, Italy and Spain. Multiple measures of performance in the tourism sectors of these countries are contrasted relative to the average in the EU. Results suggest that these industries would benefit substantially from further investment to levels match those of the leading EU countries.

The internet plays a vital and growing role in the generation of tourism. Travellers report that online resources are amongst the primary sources of travel information, surpassing the importance of newspapers, television, guidebooks and tourism offices. In spite of this, a relatively low proportion of enterprises in Spain, Italy and Greece are moving their business online to gain access to these customers. While online content supports, on average, 49% percent of all tourist arrivals in the EU, this figure is at a much lower 10%, 26% and 43% in Greece, Italy and Spain, respectively.

“[D]estinations making greater use of the internet in reaching customers have performed better than their peers in recent years and have gained market share from competitors.”

An increase in online sales and marketing presents a significant opportunity for these countries to grow their tourism sectors. The benefits accrued from the provision of increased online content extends from well-known travel brands to smaller and independent establishments. This also facilitates the emergence of new small and medium-sized cultural tourism enterprises, enabling tourists to experience more niche cultural activities.

OE estimate that the Greek tourist industry would achieve a long-run increase in demand of up to 20% if their online content were to match that of leading EU countries. Taking the full breadth of benefits into account, this would increase GDP by 3% and generate over 100,000 new jobs. Similarly, Italy could grow its tourism demand by 10% and GDP by 1%, translating into 250,000 new jobs. Spain’s tourism demand would increase by as much as 3%, with a total GDP boost of 0.5% and 50,000 new jobs through increased investment. Looking at cultural online content alone, GDP could grow by 1.5% in Greece, 0.3% in Italy and 0.2% in Spain: equivalent to 50,000, 75,000 and 20,000 new jobs in each country, respectively.