Patrick O'Shaughnessy, Industry (Development) Manager at VisitScotland, examines how technology is shaping the visitor experience.
It was great to get to head along to the Eye for Travel Europe conference in London earlier this month.
It was a chance to hear from lots of industry leaders in travel, tourism and technology. For me there were three great takeaways:
1. Experiences (what we know as visitor attractions, tours & activities) are undergoing massive disruption, today and definitely going forward. The holiday is about the experience - so we’d better get it right and if you don't have an experience element in your offer you need to be thinking about that.
2. Personalisation (great customer service that’s very much tailored) isn't a new term, knowing your customers and trying to enhance their experience and provide an element of surprise is a great way to deliver great customer service and to increase repeat business. Now, it’s also about delivering a personalised experience using digital platforms
3. Partnerships (working together) need to be at the forefront for businesses like never before.
Booking Holding (formerly Priceline- owners of Booking.com and others), AirBnB and TripAdvisor have upped the ante in the experiences sector. Booking bought Fareharbour, TripAdvisor bought Bokun, which was renamed Viator and most of us have heard about Airbnb widening their product offer from just homes to now include experiences.
These guys don't get involved unless there is real opportunity, and here is why:
- The market is valued at around £180 billion (Phocuswright Global Travel activities market, 2014 – 2020)
- Between 40 – 80% of visitors don't book until they are at their destination (Think with Google 2017)
- The rise of smartphone usage means discoverability of your "latest available product" is critical. No-one wants to rock up to find you’re fully booked.
- Millennials see personal experience as key and focus less on their accommodation. However, they still require and expect a certain quality. Cornell Center for Hospitality Research tells us that millennials will constitute 50% of our market by 2025.
- The experience sector is a very fragmented market place.
What does all this mean for you as an experience deliverer or accommodation provider? Well, from these trends, I believe all of us involved in tourism need to continue to improve the quality of what we deliver but also to understand what products and services our visitors want across the different platforms they purchase on.
We also need to test and learn, using all the platforms available including your website and social channels.
Accommodation providers also have an opportunity to work with local partners to offer more than a place to sleep and eat (referred to at the conference as “ancillaries”) but I think that missed the point. It shouldn’t be about an extra, it is core to our visitor experience.
How do we deliver a personalised customer service through digital?
At the conference, one company guaranteed a 25% uplift in revenue using their booking software that personalises the customer booking process. This is the power of personalisation, and something you can implement within your business. It could even be something as simple as offering a slightly later activity time to accommodate a party who have been travelling through the night. Be fun and be creative about how best to tailor your guests’ experience.
We know that Scotland is an amazing place to visit and the recognition from massive travel brands, such as Lonely Planet, testifies to this. For industry, this existing demand for Scotland provides an opportunity to put strong focus on what your business does well, and to team up with others who have the same mindset to deliver amazing visitor experiences. Then, make what you have to offer really easy to buy (they liked to call this frictionless) on those platforms you have been testing!
Remember to consider GDPR and the upcoming package travel directive (EU law protecting consumers purchasing package holidays) when considering these trends. They’ll inform and grow your business, and perhaps most importantly - your bottom line too.
For more advice, assistance and help on all things digital – be sure to take a look at: www.digitaltourismscotland.com