Cybertourism and Social Capital:Ethics, Trust and Sociability
Glenn F. Ross Ph D

Tourism has long been an information intensive activity. It is thus understandable that information and communication technology is being adapted to serve both the tourism industry and its customers, and that this has found expression in forms such as cybertourism. Cybertourism is essentially evolving as a response to factors such as the mercurial developments in information and communication technology, together with widespread environmental impact concerns emanating from domains such as nature-based tourism. This paper argues that, as tourism is essentially a social and relational activity, the contribution of cybertourism ought also be considered within the context of major theoretical dimensions such as social capital, ethics and trust. An understanding of cybertechnology in the light of notions such as social capital and social networks has thus far produced among commentators an array of perceived benefits and concerns that are sometimes in stark opposition to each other. Whilst some welcome the advent of cybertechnology, believing that it generally will be of remarkable benefit, others fear that it may eventually destroy the very mechanisms by which individuals in community derive social capital. A further group cautiously welcomes the application of this technology to domains such as cybertourism, yet warns of possible negative consequences occasioned either directly or indirectly by the technology. Ethical principles and mechanisms, adapted from various sources such as U.N. human rights codes, are proposed to address these challenges. Finally, a communitarian perspective has been advanced, including an elaboration of mechanisms whereby both bonding and bridging social networks associated with cybertourism may be modified and monitored for the benefit of all stakeholders.

KEY WORDS: Cybertourism, Social Capital, Social Networks, Information and Communication Technology, Communities

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