If you’re reading this, you’ve clicked on a hyperlink to access this page on your digital device. You could be anywhere (with Internet access of course) – on a beach, sipping a cocktail, at home or at the office. Not a piece of paper in sight. The travel trade has come a long way since Thomas Cook sold the first packaged tours in the 1800’s. But you’ve felt the winds of change, you’ve observed the changes in consumer habits. You’ve probably welcomed and dreaded the dawn of the digital age. No need to be scared. Travel technology is a tough nut, but it can be cracked.
One key component in travel tech evolution is the shift to the consumer focused approach – everything needs to revolve around what the client/traveller demands and expects to experience.
From experiential travel to personalised consumer experiences – you can’t feed them the same old travel fodder that used to work in the past and expect to retain loyalty.
From the frequent flyers down to the hip, cool, cruise-loving grannies, everyone is somehow plugged into social media.
They have Facebook accounts and surf the Internet for specials. My mom is 77 and she does. She also posts reviews online during and after a trip.
Get in on that action.
Among the challenges operators are facing are competition from OTA’s, customer acquisition, sales and marketing, and effective networking with other industry professionals. Travel technology can go a long way to addressing these issues:
- Build your brand by promoting and advertising in all available media. If you can produce attractive, digitally sophisticated content, distribute it far and wide (via various digital platforms, email, and so on), you can effectively compete with other brands and play in the same arena as OTA’s. Jack up your website; produce emotive videos, 360° images and interactive itineraries. We all have access to the same tools and talent; it’s just a matter of investing some time and capital to locate the resources that best suit your goals.
- Invest in the user-experience by empowering clients with a seamless, holistic purchasing experience, from choosing a destination to selecting activities and other interests, supported by a concierge messaging service during travel, and ending with a follow-up email post-travel.
- Engage with the public and prospective clients on Social Media because they are active there, looking for recommendations, reading reviews, sharing their views.
- Collaborate with tourism partners. Trade shows and face-to-face meetings are first prize; otherwise a digital forum with a strong interdependent community enables useful relationships to be built around a common purpose. Gaining convenient access to supplier information, having the facility to rank your preferred suppliers, match them up with your client and easily access and use their content and specials in an itinerary; empowering agents to further personalise itineraries for their clients; all of these have the power to revolutionise your business practices.
And guess what: the technology for all of this exists.
When you weigh up the cost of investing in these tools VS the costs of neglecting to do so, what do you think will be the conclusion?
~ How much time and labour does it cost to curate your travel product content?
~ What’s the quality of the content you use daily?
~ How reliable and current is it?
~ How is it presented?
~ How is it accessed, managed and distributed?
The ideal is for your preferred suppliers to manage their own content and having a convenient location to access this content. Everybody wins! Collaboration results in comprehensive destination and product content as destination marketers and suppliers combine their efforts. Yes, the world is huge. Travel tech, with the help of the Internet, shrinks the globe sufficiently so that we as tourism professionals can network effectively without being in the same room.
Consumer habits dictate our practices significantly as we try to keep pace with the rise of the mobile smartphone and the increasingly tech savvy traveller. We exist in an App culture where phone users want apps for pleasure, work and travel. It’s all about the consumer experience.
Does your company feature prominently in the search, select and travel stages of the customer journey?
Are your offerings accessible on any device?
Do you operate a digital marketing platform?
Do you make your client’s travel information and/or itinerary available to them on their devices?
The answer to all these questions should be yes. Mobile friendliness is now an imperative – if you pass on this, you lose face, get left behind. The DIY traveller will leapfrog you, while others will simply fall to your competition.
Technology also places in your hands the wonderful tool of analytics – how to measure the effectiveness of your marketing and sales campaigns. It empowers you to learn and understand how your packages and products perform, how to adjust your offerings to match the demand and ultimately, how to grow your business by diversifying. Everything comes back to the consumer and speaking to their desires. You need the data to help you get it right.
Finally, nobody can argue this point: you need to save money and time in your business practices. You want to get more done in less time, right? Desire an integration of topnotch quoting systems with industry-leading content publishing services? Match the right time- and labour-saving technologies to your business to make that happen. It’s that simple. Producing 10 itineraries within 1 day as opposed to 3 days, especially if you have good quality content easily and freely available, sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? Impossible dream? Nope! You can sell better and sell more.
I worked as a Tours consultant for almost 6 years and my biggest frustrations were the daily manual aspects of the job: researching (slowly and laboriously) travel content; producing each itinerary from scratch; battling to find acceptable alternatives when my first choice accommodation was unavailable; mapping self-drive routes; the list goes on. But the solutions do exist..
Progressive, innovative travel technology is the aspirin to your operator migraines.Time to take that pill and chill.