From operations to marketing, digital technology offers so much opportunity to create a better visitor experience. So, why are so many tourism operators not leveraging digital to their advantage? Maverick Digital’s Founder and Head of Strategy Alex Bayes talks tourism tech for 2019.
Enabled by technology, the way travellers research and book travel is changing rapidly. Depending on country of origin, up to 85% of travellers will plan and pay for all or a portion of their holiday on their mobile device. From individualized content to leveraging granular travel data from the likes of Adara or extracting value from previous customers, tech in 2019 will play a big part in changing the way the industry attracts, converts and delights visitors.
Using digital to empower the way operators connect with their clients is an exciting area we’re pushing into. Due to their scale, and the early adoption of online technologies and digital marketing, OTAs will always play a part in digital distribution, especially for accommodation operators. Despite, or perhaps because of this, we’re seeing a shift in NZ businesses wanting to make sure they’re protecting their brand online. Without brand protection, when a traveller searches for a specific company name in Google, there’s a high chance they’ll see an OTA ad rather than coming into contact with the operator’s website itself. Booking through an OTA means a watered-down or non-existent brand experience – from confirmation emails to post-experience feedback comms. NZ operators are beginning to realize that when a user doesn’t book direct, they’re not able to control the pre and post-brand experience. They’re losing more than just the commission; they’re losing all contact with the traveler outside of the experience itself.
We’re seeing travellers in New Zealand – both domestic and international – lifting their expectations for personalization when researching travel online. Broad campaign messaging isn’t getting the same engagement they were a few years ago: travellers are only reacting to a more refined type advertising that’s specific to their preferences, whether it’s family holidays, adventures or budget road trips.
Working with online platforms like Crimtan and Adara – who specialize in granular travel data and online behavior tracking – has made a big impact in online travel campaigns of late. By leveraging their superior consumer data, these platforms are able to drill down onto incredibly specific audiences. It’s now possible to serve advertising to an American family who has booked a trip to New Zealand and is arriving in Auckland in autumn, or to show ads to a couple on their honeymoon who have just walked through the doors of Queenstown Airport. This type of marketing automation helps tourism businesses get in front of the right kind of visitor, at the right time in the online travel research/booking journey. It’s having a measurable impact on online sales growth.
Using tech to increase the volume of people booking through tourism operator’s own websites is one thing, but digital can have a huge impact on visitor experience too. Once a traveller books online, the challenge is to then leverage up-sell opportunities and get them as engaged and excited as possible about their upcoming booking. Every time a soon-to-be guest comes into contact with your branded communication online is an opportunity to deepen the visitor experience. This highlights again the importance of controlling the user journey from inquiry to conversion to post-visit, and keeping sales directly through your own websites.
In 2019, think of your digital approach as a spinning wheel, where the three spokes of acquisition, conversion and customer delight continue your movement forward to success. Remembering that the user journey never stops, rather than just focusing on a conversion funnel, is when tourism businesses really start to see results.
Harnessing tourism tech trends in 2019 might look like:
In 2019, the opportunities that tech offers to enhance visitor value within all aspects of a tourism business has never been greater.