Personalization of the Search Process in Tourism

Sven Doering

Personalization of the Search Process in Tourism

Dissertation, University of Augsburg.
1st Examiner: Professor Dr. W. Kießling
2nd Examiner: Professor Dr. B. Möller
erschienen 05/2008


The combination of travel and tourism represents the leading domain for applications in B2C e-commerce. Thus, it deserves highest attention. Since most people only have a very limited number of vacation days each year, they have learned to be more demanding about their trips. More and more they ask for better-personalized travel products instead of standard packages designed by tourist operators. Due to insufficient search engines and the lack of personalization, however, arranging a trip on current online travel portals is often not as easy as it should be. Even for rather straightforward scenarios, searching and booking a suitable travel package can be tedious and might often take longer than 1 hour. In order to provide good sales experiences and custom-tailored products similar to the ones competent human travel agents can offer, a personalized search approach for online travel portals has been overdue for some time. This thesis, therefore, presents a novel personalized search process delivering travel products exactly tailored to customers with respect to their situations and preferences.

In a first step, a novel model for the search process in electronic commerce will be introduced. A deep personalization of the search will be provided by dividing the process into four stages, namely Preference Analysis & Modeling, Search Interface, Query Processing, and Presentation. The main part of this thesis, will then apply the new model to the tourism domain, i.e. each step of the search will be examined in the context of tourism. A situation model adequately adjusted to the tourism domain will then provide each stage of the search process with additional situational knowledge. Based on this, several essential components for a domain specific search in tourism will be introduced accordingly: a new preference constructor dealing with typical price-quality tradeoffs, a smart preference elicitation process supporting customers who have to find an optimal departure airport, the composition and evaluation of database queries supporting the interplay of individual and global preferences, and an appropriate adaptation of search interface and product presentation. Moreover, by using preference search technologies as underlying basis for the search itself, best alternatives can be delivered in case there is no perfect match.

Several novel software components for a personalized search process in tourism have come into existence in the context of this thesis, e.g., the personalized prototype COSIMAT. The interplay of these components with existing preference components will be examined and evaluated by means of numerous use case scenarios at the end of this work. It will be demonstrated that by a proper combination of these components, custom-tailored travel products with respect to preferences and situations can be found and presented to the customer in an intuitive, fast and more comfortable manner than before.