Virtual travel community: Bridging travellers and locals
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With the rapid development of Web 2.0 influence in tourism, this chapter aims to examine the current state of virtual travel community (VTC) studies, and to offer an additional perspective of VTC, beyond the conventional research trends. The notion of virtual community includes a group of people who tend to build relationships with one another via computer-mediated communication, regardless of geographical distances (Rheingold, 1991). However, current VTC knowledge has primarily focused on consumer behaviour from the travellers' side (e.g., information search, decision-making process, sharing experience with other travellers), and little attempt has been made to examine the use of VTC for connecting travellers in the generating region to the locals in the destination region. Emerging information communication technologies (ICTs) and the use of technology in tourism e-tourism- make it much easier to communicate between people in both regions. This chapter brings empirical evidence from one virtual community - CouchSurfing.com - and demonstrates that the opportunity to build relationships between potential travellers and locals has increased dramatically through innovative technology services. Further research is recommended through the use of alternative methodologies, such as netnography or social network analysis. This chapter provides both policy and managerial implications by exploring how technology and VTC can support the bridging the gap between locals and prospective visitors. © 2010, IGI Global.