Brand authenticity, focusing on the customer journey and using social media effectively were highlighted as some of the key factors for helping Scotland’s tourism sector achieve its aspirational plans for growth at the recent Scottish Tourism Alliance conference.
Keeping it real
Your everyday is someone’s special day. This was one of the powerful messages from the recent STA TV conference –one of Scotland’s leading events for the tourism industry.
With a range of high-profile speakers from across the sector – including Caroline Warburton from the Scottish Tourism Alliance who spoke of Scotland’s ambitious target to increase visitor spend from £4.5 billion to £5.5 billion by 2020 – the message of authenticity came through loud and clear. Tourism professionals were urged to explore what could make their ‘everyday’ special for visitors while staying true to their roots.
And, while guest speaker Huw Williams of specialist travel and leisure marketing agency SOUK spoke of the increased value of products or experiences that retain their heritage, provenance and authenticity, he also pressed that businesses must consider their customers’ journey and how easy it is for visitors to ‘give it a go.’
According to Williams, making it as easy as possible for your customers to try new experiences - whether it’s tasting a new food or trying an extreme sport – is essential for helping your guests get the most out of their visit and, in turn, helping you grow your business.
Another of the messages from this year’s conference was the importance of collaboration between tourism businesses in streamlining the customer journey.
With many of Scotland’s most popular attractions located in the most far-flung corners of the country, there are fantastic opportunities for transport providers and other operators to work together in order to encourage visitors to see more, experience more and improve their overall experience. Connecting with other businesses in your area and exploring ways in which you could work together to improve your customer experiences could increase the likelihood of your visitors returning as well as help you connect with a whole new customer base.
Keeping it social
It’s hard to imagine a time before people took to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Trip Advisor or other social media platforms to share their travel experiences and post recommendations.
That’s because 76% of people now use social media to share their experiences after returning from a trip - one of the reasons that tourism experts are encouraging business owners to embrace technology and let their customers do the talking for them.
Justin Reid, Head of Destination Marketing for Trip Advisor, was one of many inspiring speakers from the event and offered great insights into the role of the internet in influencing travel decisions.
With 65% of potential visitors starting their buying journey on Google, Reid highlighted the importance of the Rule of Google. That is, if you focus on the end user and how visitors will be researching and booking trips, all else will follow.
He also spoke about one of this year’s buzz phrases – Big Data. Big Data is the information gathered on your visitors, their behaviours and preferences and can be a valuable tool in capturing the interest of your target market.
However, several of the speakers were keen to highlight the importance of content over traditional advertising, as well as the value of focusing on design and usability of your online offering, whether it’s how mobile-friendly your website is to how easy it is for potential visitors to book online.
Insights for the future
Attendees at the two-day event were left with valuable insights into how Scotland plans to achieve its ambitious growth plans in tourism, with business owners, managers and entrepreneurs encouraged to focus on visitors from their ‘home turf’ – a lucrative market for Scottish tourism.
The second biggest market to target for growth, according to recent research, is Scotland’s near neighbours, following by the country’s distant cousins and emerging markets.
Experts also touched upon some of the additional factors which could provide new opportunities within the sector. Lower oil prices could encourage more visitors to travel by car to rural destinations, while favourable exchange rates and an increased number of flights from New York by American Airlines could further boost the already-strong US market.
Find out more
To find out more about STA conference and the key messages from the speakers, read the STA TV round-up.
For more information about the Scottish Tourism Alliance or to engage with your local STA association, please visit the STA website.