In the world of the modern traveller, communication is the anchor of their consumer experiences. This anchor is secured by the weight of efficient, game-changing, barrier-busting travel technology. And if you’re not plugged into it, you’re doing your client and yourself a frightening disservice. Tech has infiltrated all areas of travel – swimming against this tide serves no one but your competition. The writing on the wall is bold and clear: go digital or go home with nothing but a fishy tale.
There’s nothing like a friendly face and a reassuring voice to make anyone feel taken care of and well-served. With both your ‘face’ and ‘voice’ represented by your brand, how your brand is communicated is extremely important. Prior to travel, during the planning and booking stages, technology has the power to get your brand chosen over another simply because you’ve made yourself more attractive, more accessible and more responsive to travellers. What kind of content do you make available and how do you communicate it? Enter digital and content marketing. Two easy bedfellows that once you’ve hooked your brand up, it’ll sell your property/activity with its eyes closed, any time of the day.
The modern traveller wants to feel you’re addressing them directly with the content you put out there and they want to have it delivered to them on their personal mobile devices. Your website, social media pages and any other marketing tools need to tell the same consistent story about the experiences you offer. The closer to reality your depictions can get, the more persuasive they are. And there’s none closer than VR. Virtual Reality is real – it has the ability to bring the traveller and potential client ‘into’ the experience. It’s no longer a distant space age fantasy.
Drone photography has left its spy days behind and has become a fairly prevalent fixture in modern marketing, and travel is a huge benefactor. Picture exciting aerial views of your property or the area you operate your activities in, in high definition colour, vividly in-your-face. The potential is mind-boggling. A set of VR goggles aren’t even prohibitively priced and they’re an increasingly popular gadget to own. It speaks volumes to the traveller who’s after a more immersive travel experience anyway.
The cost of units capable of filming 360° footage is falling quickly… Drones, another vital component of VR marketing, have already hit the big time…
Virtual tours offered by 360 degree images/videos also pack an immersive punch. As it virtually places the viewer on the deck of your boat, right inside your gardens, sumptuous suites, boma, on the back of your safari vehicle, etc. it presents them with the opportunity to connect with the experience quite intimately, in a way that still photographs struggle to do. Pretty pictures depicting immersive experiences have a place too but they just work better if they’re presented in an interactive format that engages the consumer. The human eye and its predilection for the visual, especially moving images, is a combination that wins over text-heavy descriptions any day of the week (a truth that pains writers, but there it is). You’ve still got to give the masses what they want or they’ll do a silent treatment protest all over your website.
By extension, the operators and travel agents that want to sell your product/service in their itineraries, need you to play ball too, so that your product is an attractive ingredient in the final presentation they make to their clients, rather than a below par entry that ruins an otherwise beautifully constructed itinerary. Well, it’s either that or they use some other supplier that offers a similar travel product to yours in the same area. And that’s the growing trend: visually inspiring, sophisticated digital presentations that tell a cohesive, holistic story that the traveller should want to see themselves experiencing.
That’s the experience you’re promising during the buyer journey. What about the buying experience itself? Having marketed successfully during the travel planning stage, you now need to make the booking stage competitively easier than anyone else offering similar products in your area.
Also, your OTA that helps sell your product owns that precious client data and you want ownership of it for yourself; so offer something substantially more.
As the purchasing journey can be quite stressful for the travel buyer, imagine how empowering for both you as supplier and for your client if you can enjoy consistent, reliable contact with each other. Waiting in the communication wings are the clever little chatbots making you super available, accessible and service-oriented. Your client can get quicker responses to their questions, complaints, crises and comments. Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are only 2 popular options that are known to many consumers, but there are plenty of other choices out there. Whichever you choose, what it says about you and your brand is that you care, your service is superior and highly competitive, and you’re very capable of catering to the needs of the tech savvy traveller.
Being connected makes the process of travel buying far more personable and efficient, so the traveller feels like an individual and they’re seeing immediate results. Using these kinds of messaging Apps also closes the gap between direct contact and broad-based marketing: your client has the luxury of clicking through that awesome digital catalogue you’ve posted on your Facebook page and instantly message you about which day tour/activity or room they want to book. It’s a cyber-hook up with technology as the matchmaker.
Messaging positions travel suppliers to address queries on a real-time basis and nearly instantaneously, and it gives travel operations the opportunity to coordinate on-site efforts in new and powerful ways.
Your traveller prepares to hit the road. They must contend with queues at airports, waiting for transfers, and the usual suspects of traditional travel inconveniences. Where can you assist in reducing the discomfort and sundry nuisances? Offer a late check in or provide extra staff at your reception perhaps? Fast-track their boarding procedure for an extra fee perhaps? Or you could offer a digital check-in/boarding solution. Save anyone a bit of time and hassle, and they’ll love you for it. In-room WiFi is standard but make sure you optimise the quality of your connection and service because travellers want that.
In terms of the streaming service often used by guests, just over 60% of millennials, 50% of Generation X and 17% of baby boomers use their device to watch media during a hotel stay.
A digital concierge service will score you even more brownie points because you’re offering your guest/client a major convenience during their time with you. You can offer information that’s relevant to them on an App on their digital device, on things like excursions, places of interest or attractions, restaurants, events, shopping options, local transportation, maps/directions. Partner up with other travel or hospitality companies, entertainment venues or transport companies in your vicinity, and score some lucrative add-on’s.
It’s the streamlined, holistic experience that’s all the rage now, that more and more travellers will come to expect. It’s a real trend that’s started and you’d best not be caught empty-handed. Communication is a wide net with incredible data yield potential and technology does the harvesting for you. Sorry if I’m mixing my analogies, but it is so much like picking juicy morsels out of a digital net that you can use to nourish your product development and marketing strategies.
Imagine you have an online booking portal, an online payment option and hyperlinks on your website with metrics tracking built into all of it: what invaluable data could you gather?
You could measure what got clicked on the most, what didn’t get any clicks, the number of conversions originating on the various pages.. A digital heatmap could indicate where your site visitors spent most of their time hovering their cursors.. You could ascertain the nationalities of your site visitors.. You may be surprised to learn that your product could sell very well in the Brazilian market but there’s drop-off in interest right at conversion point, perhaps because you haven’t got your content available in Portuguese. If you had the same product content on your website as, say, on your Facebook page but the latter got more love, you might learn, for example, that your website has a few UX issues to resolve (maybe buttons or CTA’s in the wrong place) or maybe you’ve got a more engaging ‘personality’ shining through your social media content.
Data can be derived from ascertaining traveller motivations either for researching or booking particular products.
..the information can then be used to devise marketing initiatives around content, deals, specials, ancillary services targeted to particular travellers.
In short, you could learn heaps about what and where to improve, just from analysing your digital data. Nuggets of travel consumer data gold, preciously collated and ready to help you to devise strategies around creating those personalised experiences your potential client prefers to spend their money on. It’s data communicating to you through tech how you can keep track with the client-driven product/service trends in travel. And it certainly empowers you to build better relationships with clients.
One last nagging fact about the impact of tech on communication in travel is about how members of the travel trade interact with each other to work more efficiently, convert more enquiries to sales and ultimately meet more of those traveller demands. For the sake of a healthy tourism industry, it works in everyone’s favour to share expertise and content, and to share the ride in the same boat.
Controlled, consistent content that you’ve curated yourself, made centrally available to any travel partner keen not to be left behind, can be easily and conveniently stored in the cloud. If you need to change anything, add anything new, remove anything expired or outdated, the cloud takes it in and spits out the fresh content live across all your digital outputs. What could be easier?
Travel professionals will continue to deliver value as travelers swaps their DIY frustrations for the expert’s touch. Their role will become…more about being true collaborators who leverage relationships, networks and connections on behalf of their clients.
Imagine you discover (by analysing your consumer data) that a product you’ve sold for over a year simply is not that popular any more but interest in the local community offering demonstrations in traditional cooking seems to be taking off. Operators might not know about this and continue trying to sell the old product. One swift update of your content in the cloud, a bit of knowledge shared for everyone’s benefit, and just like that you’ve got an upsell to pass on to operators/agents, who can then sell the new experience to their clients more successfully.
Fragmentation in the trade dies a happy death to be born again as collaboration.
Is it wise to wait for the moment that your traveller completely outsmarts and out-consumes you in the tech stakes? The truth is that the demand for travel content in particular will evolve alongside consumer trends; keeping up is becoming increasingly challenging. Tech is the one grounding, binding element in the entire puzzle that empowers us all as suppliers of travel to continue evolving to meet that challenge. SUP