Youcheng Wang, Quaehee Yu and Daniel R. Fesenmaier
National Laboratory for Tourism and e-Commerce, Department of Leisure Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL 61820, USA
The notion of community has been a central element of the Internet since its inception. Though research on virtual communities have been extensive the concept appears to be ill defined and the understanding of members’ needs remains fragmented. The purpose of this article is to identify a theoretical foundation of the concept of a virtual tourist community based upon the core characteristics of a virtual communities and the fundamental needs of community members. Perspectives of how one can define and interpret virtual communities within the tourism industry are discussed and issues related to the functions of virtual communities are explored from the member's viewpoint. Implications are made regarding virtual communities in the travel industry from marketing and design perspectives.
Author Keywords: Virtual community; e-Commerce; Communication; Marketing; Tourism