1997 - 2000
2000 - 2004
2004 - 2010
2010 - 2014
2014 - 2018
2018 - 2020
2020 - 2021
2021 - Present
Prof. Andy Frew, a former President of IFITT, graciously wrote this essay to reflect on his experience with the ENTER e-Tourism Conference since its early days as well as his role as the President. He offers many valuable insights on ENTER/IFITT as a community throughout its development and how we can move forward.
Early steps of IFITT
It may seem contrary, but the origins of the association are pre-dated by the origins of the ENTER conference. In 1992 Hannes Werthner visited a conference on IT in Tourism in Perugia, Italy organised by Professor Peroni, a conference consisting of mainly local participants along with some representatives from the CRS/GDS world. Notable among these participants was a loud young chap – always talking and asking questions – yes, you may have guessed – Dimitrios Buhalis. Since 1988 Hannes had been closely involved with TIS (Tiscover), now widely known as a leading Destination System provider, and he had a growing interest in the IT and Tourism domain. In fact even this statement may be a little misleading since there was no such thing as an IT and Tourism domain – Hannes, like myself at the time, was coming to the field from a physical sciences background – in his case Computer Science. This conference provided a catalyst and an initial information base for Hannes to build an understanding the key tourism system stakeholders. The outcome of this was that Hannes conceived the idea of holding a yearly conference which would focus on this interesting new confluence of IT and Tourism – and back home in Austria, the idea took shape. At the Tyrolean Tourist Board there were two individuals who were to be key to starting this process off seriously – Andreas Braun (Director) and Arno Ebner (Head of Marketing at the Board and at the same time Director of TIS). They gave encouragement and support to the idea by providing ideas, infrastructure, money and contacts. A further strong supporter was Mr. Georg Lamp from the Congress Innsbruck, who provided the conference venue (and also money by asking rather cheap fees!). In addition, this idea had a strong political support (for example, from the governor of Tyrol – Weingartner, and the responsible local minister for tourism – Kranebitter), they all were looking for new ways to position tourism.
The first ENTER conference took place in 1994 in Innsbruck, Austria organised by a first conference committee of four:
● Walter Schertler (University of Trier)
● Beat Schmid (University of St. Gallen)
● A Min Tjoa (Vienna University of Technology)
● Hannes Werthner (University of Vienna).
And there the design concept of both applied and scientific tracks as well as the field of Tourism and computer science. The vision was a forward looking conference, looking at the future, targeting at high level participants. But there was also workshops and tutorials – on rather technical topics (such as multimedia, etc.)Anecdote from Hannes: there were tourism guys (invited to speak), who said that the entire IT (still before Internet) was nonsense, one even – hearing some talks about electronic markets – left without delivering his contribution protesting against the content of the conference! YES!!! A guy from interhome.com. On the other hand others there took input from the conference, left their jobs and created start-ups! This first conference in 1994 also saw the establishment of the publishing arrangement with Springer – the widely respected publisher of computer science work. Thus the first conference – ENTER’ed upon the scene – and, to set the record straight about the origins of the conference title – it comes from the ENTER key at the keyboard (to start something) – credit for this goes to one Mrs. Danler (assistant to Mr. Lamp at that time) – so now you know.After two more years in Innsbruck (1995 and 1996), the organisers thought it would make sense to move, this is where ENTER started to travel – and the first bid was from Edinburgh (Roger Carter), who hosted ENTER in 1997. An interesting suide-note on ENTER 2005 was that some artists were invited to provide art work for the conference, with 3000 holiday slides collected form the public via radio and the Austrian prime minister to give the keynote.In the meantime a community was growing, with the known figures from further afield (such as Dan Fesenmaier), but with strong ground on destinations. With the decision to travel, Hannes was clear that a small group could no longer control the entire thing – that the process should be open and “democratised” and this led directly to the idea of IFITT, strongly supported by the Tyrolean tourist board (at that time Josef Margreiter was already the director), and they also provided financial support. So, following the 1997 conference in Edinburgh. IFITT was founded at a public meeting – first general assembly, the room was quite full. It should be remembered that by now of course the Internet and the Web were more firmly established as concepts in the industry and so the conference was timely and had significant impact, and resonance. Tourism realised its importance, and the IT industry saw this domain as crucial.
The first IFITT Board was elected:
● Kari Anonsen, Norway
● Dimitrios Buhalis, UK
● Roger Carter, UK
● Peter Dennis, UK
● Josef Margreiter, (Vice President), Austria
● John Rafferty, Ireland
● Walter Schertler, Germany
● Hannes Werthner, (President), Austria
The first secretary general was Helene Forcher, later replaced by Eva Häfele.
Then ENTER, for 1998 moved to Istanbul, where Hannes had to travel to Istanbul in the previous Autumn and to learn a design programme at an Apple computer for doing the layout and design of the ENTER programme brochure – with the Turkish company, unfortunately having problems to finish in time!
Another Hannes anecdote: after the last Istanbul evening turning back home to the hotel (at 1 or 2 o’clock at night) we discovered the instruments left there by the hotel band, which we took and made an IFITT session until 6 o’clock in the morning, leaving directly to the airport: members of the band were: Walter Schertler, Peter Dennis, Harald Pechlaner (at that time director of the south tyrolean tourist board, now professor for tourism); and singers of a Scottish, Irish Austrian chorus: Carter, Margreiter, Rafferty and Werthner (I was more disturbing than contributing).
In 1999 the conference returned to Innsbruck, before moving to Barcelona in 2000, where Josef Margreiter became President. During this time the (ITT) journal was founded, representing more or less the ENTER community also there was a shift in conference emphasis from Computer Science more to Tourism Management and Social Science issue and also one could already perceive the challenge to IFITT coming from the (highly-priced) commercial conferences in particular a challenge to the ENTER industry track from this growing competition.