Technology is a train that can take your brand places it’s never been before. Fear, complacency and ignorance keep you on the same path you’ve beaten manually for years, but it’s got a dead end ahead with limited prospects and lots of hard work for minimal returns on your invested resources. The question you’ve got to answer is this: do you see your business keeping track with changes in the tourism trade or are you studiously giving travel tech the side step?
Travel research goes digital
During a study conducted by Travelport of the top global digital traveller nations, it became apparent that the use of digital for travel-related purposes has achieved levels that would shame us for not competing more robustly in that space. Consumers have generally taken to running their lives on their mobile devices, including searching for travel inspiration. So having an online presence is a good start but innovation will take your brand that definitive leap toward thriving in the digital economy.
44% tend to research & book all their travel arrangements on their smartphone; 65% avoid hotels that charge for WiFi.
The point about WiFi should be no surprise to anyone, by the way. Even for travellers who desire a bit of a technology disconnect during their holiday, free Internet is as essential as a decent latte or a fluffy pillow to rest their head on.
When they’re not using their phones, they’re completing their planning and booking on their laptops or tablets. For modern travellers, it’s a convenient and the safe way of doing it themselves. They get to take control of their travel arrangements, feeling empowered in their decision-making.
If you’re not in the space or on the devices that millennials, baby boomers too, and even silver travellers are running their lives and businesses from, that leaves you well out in the cold. Don’t fool yourself. It’s happening now. Digital permeates commerce in 2018 just as predicted and will only escalate from here on.
In order to survive, you should already be in the race. If not, we wish you good luck and assume you know the limitations of your market and reach..
Tech travels everywhere
With the world getting smaller and the Internet bringing everywhere closer to each other, access is a luxury and an expectation. I can go online in search of information about a particular experience in any corner of the world and find content from all sorts of sources. If I’m a typical modern traveller, I’ll use the tech available to me to seek out the views and opinions of other travellers: what they’ve experienced and where; what they recommend; and what they advise against. Reviews and travel feedback of this sort spread across social media platforms like wildfire because it’s digitally shared, and it sticks worse than superglue. That’s awesome if your reviews are good and complimentary.
So tech gives life to those social networking communities that provide a vital source of travel info. By the same token, trade partners can network with each other more efficiently (without leaving their offices) via technology. Simply by engaging in a digital forum that enables the sharing of content, local knowledge, in-destination contacts and connections, commissionable rates and special offers, you engage in a form of collaboration that serves everyone involved. In the end, travellers gain the biggest advantage.
Opportunity lies beckoning on the horizon. When things are being disrupted and the playing fields are level, we can once again jostle anew for a bigger share in the prospects. If we follow the path carved by modern travellers, our future clients, we see that with tech supporting our efforts, we stand a fair chance to do more than just survive. We can thrive in the digital economy.
How your content rules the day
The printed paper brochure or glossy coffee table book may be pretty to look at, nice to hold, but before long that’s all the purpose they serve apart from being glorified coasters. That’s because they age and become dated. There’s money to be lost in trying to keep them vaguely updated each time some part of your travel offering changes, or you choose to target a different language market to grow your business.
If you’ve invested in these beauties, how well have you measured their reach and lead generation? If they were digital, the tech behind the content could tell you how many times it had been clicked on, downloaded, embedded into 3rd party websites, viewed and/or used in itineraries. The reason this data is so valuable has everything to do with the fact that your content is at the heart of the travel sale.
Travel is now a lifestyle choice, influenced to large extent by pop culture and the entertainment media that dress and prop it up. The Cosmopolitan (printed or online magazine) for example offers its mass following strong doses of travel as lifestyle advice. Lonely Planet is not alone.
Cosmo‘s January issue encourages readers to try something new or different in travel this year, like taking a ‘cold’ holiday as an unusual experience, or being more responsible travellers.
Apart from the trends they dictate as to where and how to travel, they’re also good indicators of other consumer trends and activities.
Imagine the impact of glamorous Cosmo style content with all its promises of fabulous bucket list experiences and a moment to shine in the sun or some other popular dramatic backdrop, as travel inspiration.. There’s no attracting attention, much less retaining it, with bland, run-of-the-mill content. And if there’s one thing pop consumer trends are shouting out at the top of its digital voices, it’s that your beautiful content must find its audience online.
79% of 18-24 year olds will check out videos & photos posted by their friends on social media to help inform their travel plans.
Taking a survival first approach, certainly do consider that a huge cross-section of the global travelling community is trying to access travel content online, in as varied formats as they can lay their hands on.
Hands down, though, the most popular formats remain video, user-generated content from other travellers, emotive imagery, and now (gaining ground) virtual reality tours/imagery. We humans of the 21st century become almost robotic in our reaction to interactive content: we sit and click and browse and click and view and click some more, until there’s nothing left to click on and suddenly an hour has passed while we’ve engaged with a site. It’s wonderfully invasive in the most innocent and fun way.
In order to thrive, we need a deeper understanding of how the digital economy works. While this may have been the initial impression, tech is not the preserve of the very young (reared using it), the super nerds, or even for the super rich only. It excludes nobody. On the contrary, it demands all of our attention and participation lest we exclude ourselves from progress.
I read somewhere that if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll continue getting what you’ve always gotten. That approach to selling travel might keep your head above water while your loyal, super dependent, old school clients continue to travel. But a manual, paper-based fragmented approach is dying a sure death with zero hopes of a revival. Tech causes it as much as tech is a result of changing needs and developing trends.
Tech transports the imagination
Beautifully crafted, quality travel content that invites lengthy engagement, has the power to take a traveller on a virtual experience of their dream destination. But before it can do all that, the traveller needs to access it first. Your content must be everywhere to be spotted and accessed; your brand must be showcased professionally, consistently, no matter where it is viewed. A welcoming website, brimful of your unique brand character and content, is standard requirement, as are your social media profiles. If I say tech makes light work of that for you, you might accuse me of oversimplifying a complex thing.
Distribution in the hands of technology, however, can be a simple a prospect as a hyperlink copied, pasted and shared – a 5 minute affair that puts hours back in your workday compared to the time you usually spend on content enquiries.
Well-managed content is like a trail of digital breadcrumbs, luring the traveller out to foreign and fabulous experiences in the great elsewhere. And tech connects the dots..
More time to do more of the work of marketing, selling and networking that grow your business. Thriving means growing your market share – sell in other languages, to more travelling nations, and get more of your specials into the sale; means gaining a broader traveller audience; means greater exposure of your brand to the global trade for better collaboration on common purpose; it means your processes becoming streamlined and more efficient. Your business thrives via tech when you accept the challenge presented by change, and turn it into opportunity.
How to board the gravy train:
- Embrace change to be/remain relevant
- Find opportunities to add value and sell travel better
- Acquire some tech savvy skills and appetite
- Check in with innovations – don’t fear them
- Collaborate with the trade to thrive more than survive and support tourism
- Bolster your customer service via tech
- Take travellers on a journey
- Take your own journey and stay the course!
As with money, you need to spend time to make time😏. You may complain that you don’t have the time to spare to invest in new tech, your staff don’t have time to learn how to use digital tools, some of your trade partners also cling to the old ways of selling travel, and you don’t have time to read a bit of online trade news, useful blogs or travel research.. Well, if you’re working more efficiently because you’ve invested in tech that saves you time, that frees up your staff to do other things and so add value to their time. Then you’d have to find something new to complain about, like tweaking your products to offer new on-trend experiences!
The fact that you’re reading this tells me you’re aware, you may be worried that progress is running away from you or you’re afraid that tech is essential but out of your reach.
What we suggest is that tech takes your travel business on an exciting ride into the future – it’s a journey, not a destination. It doesn’t matter how fast or slowly you’re moving forward, just as long as you keep moving. Embrace the change and evolve together with your traveller audience. Tell your content stories vividly with strong visual multi-media imagery. Organise your knowledge and expertise to the mutual benefit of your staff and trade partners. Then let technology take your brand to the world. SUP