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Shaping digitalization among German tourism service providers: Processes and implications

This study addresses the digital transformation in tourism, accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The SME-dominated tourism industry in Germany has been struggling with the digital transformation so far and digital transformation has become more urgent during the COVID-19 pandemic. The focus of tourism service providers is predominantly the digitalization of guest communication, whereas corporate strategies on digitalization are widely not available. Key findings of the survey indicate that competitiveness in digitalization will depend on the appropriate infrastructure, clear strategies, and organizational integration. The survey results indicate that, service providers in German tourism are well aware of the future importance of digital value creation. Nevertheless, there is insufficient understanding and know-how of the potential applications and added value of digital technologies, which are predominantly understood as customer- and sales-oriented instruments, while internal applications and requirements are considered to be low in importance. Challenges exist in terms of vague digital maturity or inconsequent organizational integration by a digitalization officer, but more importantly, service providers acknowledge a lack of know-how on implementing digital offers and tools across company divisions. This study shows that the courage, speed, and freedom of choice of service providers to deal with the issue of digitalization has reached a new level. Decisions are made significantly faster and have helped to boost technological transformation. However, the digital gaps have become even more visible due to the COVID-19 pandemic and should be minimized. A significant amount of work has been done in the direction of digital communication and product development so far, but internal processes have been neglected. Overall, the study affirms the increased speed of digital transformation against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and reveals the need for greater focus on internal processes. In addition, an orchestrated linking of the service providers in a digital ecosystem that is supported by national efforts is proposed.