It’s become a bit of a dog fight on the travel supplier side of life. Travellers have their pick of accommodation types, day tours, excursions and activities, and the increasing popularity of cruising, train travel, and mobile accommodation in different forms poses huge challenges for us as suppliers to get our piece of the action. But we’ve learnt some valuable lessons this year about how we fit into modern tourism and how to dig out the opportunities. As we bring this year to a close, we reflect upon some of the resolutions we need to make for the year ahead.

Resolve to be relevant Luxury has undergone a re-birth: to the modern traveller, it is now about getting to do what they can’t do at home but fantasise about. We understand that the buyer’s market compels us to address client needs and travel desires before we push our own agenda; or find clever ways to marry the two. Product/Service development must be customer-driven. We’ll tap into our big data constructively in order to understand our target markets better. #KnowThyClient is a slogan we’ll chant ad nauseum because knowing what motivates a person to travel or stay at a particular accommodation goes deeper than their desire for some fun in the sun. They’re driven emotionally, socially, psychologically, ethically, even environmentally; so we won’t live in a blissful vacuum of indifference, hoping the crowds will arrive if we continue to put out what we’ve always done.

The beach resort lovers still want that pristine, deserted beach experience but they want it responsibly; so if they want to get involved in clearing flotsam, jetsam, litter and such from a beach in need, it pays to factor that interest into your offering. We’ll understand that some of our clients will prize close interaction with animals, while others will be offended by it; and we’ll adapt our offerings accordingly, with sensitivity. So we’ll invest some time in the research that is broadly available and get clued up.

As for the big data, we’ll gear up our digital tracking tools and get analytical. We’ll profile our travellers. Then we’ll get creative and provide value-adds that are relevant to them.

The end-goal is to diversify in such a way as to offer holistic, end-to-end, valuable experiences. And then to promote these experiences in a format that is relevant to modern consumers.

Resolve to develop a content strategy We’ve connected the dots and now appreciate the emotional power of storytelling in travel marketing. Putting the traveller, our guest, into the story virtually, digitally, conceptually, sounds a bit complicated but it simply means using moving, shimmering, visually rich imagery to tease and titillate the senses, complemented by cleverly worded descriptions to simulate the experience we wish to sell, and showcasing all that delicious content in a way that enable viewers to engage and interact with it. To make this a reality, we’ll learn what kind of images work best, the size and lay-out, focus on the traveller visibly engaged in the experience; we’ll get some moving travel videos shot professionally and even include some raw footage taken by travellers themselves. It amounts to powerful, persuasive content that speaks directly to our client, inviting them to explore experiences via our content.

We’ve learnt that a place of accommodation can be the portal to a destination, making it crucial to destination marketing. So we’ll engage with trade partners in the vicinity, hospitality and transport companies, and other relevant service providers, as well as interested locals, to promote the area comprehensively as a destination. We won’t isolate ourselves. We’ll remember that competition may make us faster, but collaboration will make us all better. It will say to the traveller that we care enough about their full travel experience to consider what happens once they step outside of our premises; and it will go a long way towards establishing their trust – that emotional linchpin of content marketing.

Resolve to improve the travel buyer experience We’ve learnt that there are many touch points during this journey where we can and should be present. It’s broadly understood as good customer service, but its value is so deep that it can make or break the relationship we have with our clients as well as our reputation as a travel supplier. It has the power to define us as trustworthy, reliable and as innovative, all of which contribute to our competitiveness. The more frustrations we can remove, the more convenience we can effect for our guests, the more loyalty we earn. In practical terms we’ll try to offer as much of a one-stop-shopping experience for our clients as possible.

Our increasingly mobile-reliant traveller expects a hi-tech experience; so ensuring we provide services to that effect is imperative. We’ll explore mobile as a distribution channel to support upselling, we’ll check out online check-in options, online payments, and direct messaging.

We’ll keep the old school guest in mind for their traditional creature comforts and love of paper, but remain ever alert to our growing base of tech savvy clients. We’ll accommodate the various language groups among our desired target markets with translated, accessible content.

Resolve to be more efficient in our work practices From quicker response times to enquiries and complaints with direct messaging, to ensuring our content is always easily accessible in a convenient format to clients, we’ve learnt that the right digital tools enable us to work quickly without sacrificing quality. We’ll engage with analytics derived from tracking client interaction with our content online and fine-tune our products, our content and the travel buyer experience to better serve our clients. We’ll also make our best content available to our trade partners, so that they sell our products better and we can get our products into more sales. No one knows our products as well as we do, so we should manage our own content and commit ourselves to keeping it fresh and current.

We’ll investigate our compatibility with integrations with reservations systems or quoting software programmes that would enhance our prospects.

We resolve to banish the fear of technology having learnt and now fully accepted that travel technology is here to stay and it is our friend.

We’re learning that the cost of tech is far from prohibitive; in fact what justifies it is the excellent return on investment that travel companies the world over repeatedly and increasingly celebrate. Any tool that helps us work more efficiently, saves us time, and gives us more time to devote to more business, is ultimately going to make us more money.

We’re ready to go deeper down the technology rabbit hole because it’s the way to a wonderland of challenges turned into opportunities.

Resolve to collaborate better with the trade We’ve learnt the better we engage with our community of fellow tourism professionals, the more exposure we’re likely to benefit from, the more visibility we enjoy. We’re ready to take our traditional networking to another level, a digital one. We understand the potential that exists within cloud computing for developing working relationships with our trade partners. If we share information, we can effectively cement our common goals in marketing and sales: to jointly promote our destination with tour operators, travel agents or DMCs that operate in our area, we’ll ensure we make our best product content available to them at all times. We’ll update our images, our specials, videos, virtual tours, descriptions, etc. regularly so that our partners always have the latest correct information to use in their itineraries.

We know they’ll battle without our initiative, and in other cases, we know we risk being misrepresented if we leave it up to them to source content for our products from alternative sources. We’ll collaborate on joint offerings so that we respond better to our guest’s desire for a fully immersive experience of our destination. We’ll develop new tourism products such as festivals founded on food tourism, cultural events and other current trends.

Resolve to develop our brand presence online We’ve come to understand the power of social media (SM) in travel and its role in marketing. We realise that not having a solid presence makes our brand pretty much invisible to an exponentially growing global audience. We’ll ensure consistent brand representation across channels, from our website to all our SM platforms. In particular we’ll invest in our Facebook and YouTube profiles as these are among the most popular platforms for video sharing and it’s been proven that travellers are increasingly choosing travel based on video.

Given the SM habits of the average global consumer, the opportunities for marketing are staggering. We’ll get tweeting, instagramming, snapchatting, pinteresting, and so on, for the value in the way it creates communities of common interest. We’ll engage travel bloggers and influence marketers to evangelise us online. We’ll encourage our clients to review us on various wherever we can. We’ll respond to commentary openly, transparently, effectively managing our brand reputation. We’ll invite UGC through online competitions. We’ll introduce ourselves, our staff, to the world because we know that the modern traveller likes to know whom they’re dealing with and that’s another way for us to build relationships with the travelling public. Once we develop an understanding of who they are, we can engage them with more targeted advertising, getting ourselves the right client at the right time.

Tourism evolves as the traveller evolves. And we’re resolved to evolve along with both. What excites us is how the digital age makes the world seem smaller and everywhere seems more accessible. It means we can have stronger, closer relationships within the travel community, as travel professionals and travellers. As an industry we’re employing more people, generating more revenue for our national coffers, and we’ve already been proven to effectively promote peace around the world. It truly is an awesome industry to be part of. Here’s looking forward to another year of growing tourism together. SUP

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