Five trends of the digital tourist

Digital technology is developing rapidly and the tourism industry needs to adapt and capitalise on these changes to grow.

Trends expected from the ‘digital tourist’ are discussed by technology and digital marketing consultant, Stephen Whitelaw, in Tourism Intelligence Scotland’s latest webinar Future trends of the digital tourist

Here we have highlighted just five of the top digital tourist trends he predicts, and how businesses can make the most of them.

This new generation of traveller will expect a highly personalised and customised experience. At one end of the scale, there is currently a hotel in Australia which is integrating images from customer’s Instagram accounts into its decoration; images of them in frames in their rooms for example.

Most tourism businesses know that customers already, and will increasingly, expect services to be tailored to their needs and anticipate fast, accurate and instant replies, any time of the day, to questions they pose on websites or via social media or they quickly move onto the rival business. 

One way businesses can find out more about who their customers are is by looking at who uses their website; for instance, if 30% of people searching your website come from China but only 1% of those visitors book, there may be a need to translate the site into Chinese in order to convert those looking into bookings. 

Independent travellers
Today’s independent travellers are researching, booking and planning their holidays online through websites and social media and are using less and less the services of a travel agent or visiting a local tourism information centre for on the ground advice. 

The next generation of traveller will expect to be able check in on a mobile device, use a code at a self service kiosk to gain entry and receive updates directly to their phone, without the need for human interaction. In the webinar, Stephen Whitelaw points out the trend of seeing fewer hotel concierges as travellers do their own research about what to do in a location. He continues by advising that tourism businesses should be using their websites as an online concierge, linking with local places of interest, museums or restaurants, which will enable guests to plan their trip without the need to speak to a member of staff. 

Augmented reality
Stephen Whitelaw points out in the webinar that future travellers will increasingly expect to be able to merge their physical environment with interactive virtual information via augmented reality (AR) apps to learn more about their surroundings. 

There are a number of these apps available, not all free, and they can be used in several ways by tourism businesses; for example, historical venues could simulate otherwise impossible experiences i.e. bringing battle scenes to life in an open field via a video, or customers in restaurants could use AR to order items from a multimedia menu or see a live video-feed from the kitchen. 

Social Media 
The impact of social media platforms in tourism is becoming increasingly powerful as users share travel experiences and search social networks before making a purchase to view other traveller’s experiences. Stephen Whitelaw explains that the effect that social media can have on a brand’s reputation is incredibly powerful and cannot be ignored.

Effectively managing your online reputation is vital (you can find out more about that in the Managing your Reputation Online webinar), as it has the power to make or break for a business. Customers are increasingly choosing to complain via social media, rather than contacting customer complaint’s hotlines; so a tourism business must be seen to ‘care’ and to deal with any complaint swiftly and effectively in order not to alienate future customers.

The Internet of Objects/Internet of Things 
Stephen Whitelaw touches on the Internet of Objects also known as the Internet of Things. This, he explains, is that soon everything will be searchable ‘online’ with distinct addresses, known as IP addresses. For instance, lamp posts will be ‘online’ allowing local councils to check which lights are working without the need to go out and physically look at the bulb. He predicts that in the future, most objects, and even living things, will be ‘online’. 

This can benefit all tourism businesses; an example of an innovative way to use BIG Data could be by a dive centre communicating to scuba divers when basking sharks will be swimming into a specific area, because the sharks have been geo-tagged. 

Digital tourism is fast changing and affects every business. These are just some trends, find out more about them in the webinar, or stay one step ahead by checking out Shine Online for more information on how to make the most of future technologies.