International research team mines search engine data for tourism industry
December 21, 2009

Dr. Zheng Xiang, UNT assistant professor in hospitality management, is one of four researchers studying the growing importance of search engines in the travel and tourism industries. Xiang's colleagues include Dr. Bing Pan, College of Charleston (principal investigator), Dr. Rob Law, Hong Kong Polytechnic University (principal investigator), and Dr. Daniel Fesenmaier, Temple University (co-principal investigator). Their project titled, Developing a Search Engine Visibility Information System (SEVIS) and Benchmarking Online Performance of Tourism Businesses and Organizations, was funded by Hong Kong Polytechnic University through their competitive International Collaborative Research Grants program. 


The two-year project, under development at the University of Charleston, examines the queries American travelers use for searching for cities on the Internet.  The data is being used to develop a search engine visibility benchmarking system to monitor the online performance of tourism businesses by tracking the ranks of their website on Google, Yahoo!, and MSN. Currently, the researchers have retrieved and stored hundreds of gigabytes of data from the Internet for continuous data mining. In July 2009, three of the researchers traveled to Hong Kong to meet with Dr. Law and presented a seminar to faculty and graduate students in the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.  Their research also has been accepted for presentation at the 17th International Conference on Information Technology and Travel & Tourism (ENTER) 2010 in Lugano, Switzerland. 


The emergent research areas in travel and tourism have significant implications for understanding the dynamics of the online tourism information space.  Xiang, who has been an active researcher in this area for several years, notes the benefits of collaborative, international research. "Beyond the personal benefits of increasing my research skills, this project brings international recognition to UNT and the School of Merchandising and Hospitality Management," says Xiang.  

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