By Chris Dove – Professional Writing and Editing for Businesses and Individuals
Building on historic cultural and economic links with Spain, the International Travel Market for Latin America and Europe (EUROAL 2013, 6-8 June) saw José Luis Córdoba Leiva, Director of Marbella’s Andalucía Lab Tourist Innovation Centre, host a conference for small and medium-sized tour operators on “How to Become Intelligent Destinations and Not Die in the Attempt”.
Held at Torremolinos Palacio de Congresos, 11 themes were highlighted:
1. The transformation of destinations explained how travellers are increasingly looking for holidays with added value elements, and stressed the importance of operators investing in customised adventure experiences for travellers willing to spend significant amounts of money enjoying extended breaks in stimulating destinations.
As an example, a YouTube video of Postulate One was broadcast – two young citizen journalists travelling by bike from Paris to Shanghai on a fundraising mission to find the places and people behind issues that matter. Their journey took around 14 months and demonstrates travellers’ demands to combine exploring new locations with personal challenges and objectives.
2. Changes in people’s behaviours show they increasingly look to mobility to stay connected and access information via mobile phones and tablets. Offering enriched, unique activities satisfiestravellers’ interest in documenting and photographing personal experiences ‘on the go’ to share on blogs and social networks. This mobility and sharing capacity allows tourism companies to inform clients of where to go, what to buy, special offers, etc.
Research by Airbnb travel accommodation showed reservations across their network increased from 1 million in 2008 to 4 million in 2013 – tourists voting with their feet for short-term stays in unique rental spaces in neighbourhoods around the world.
3. User-driven content such as Instagram photo sharing demonstrate people’s trust in information provided by their peers rather than from traditional sources such as Tourist Information Centres and Town Halls.
4. Web behaviour analyses show the separation between browsing on computers versus mobile devices – indicating people’s desire for information on the go as they look, consider and buy. As José Luis explained, “Tourism is one of the most information-intensive industries” and tourist guides are optimizing content to fit mobile and tablet display and keypad functions.
5. Googling “what to see in London” produces 1.85 billion search results. This ‘Big Data’ is an example of travellers’ information demands – opportunities for providers to upload quality content promoting their products and services.
6. The geographic make-up of the world is changing. As individuals in emerging countries become more affluent and destinations become more accessible, we’re seeing a shift in traveller choices – for example, the Chinese have become the highest spending non-European visitors to France, more so than Russians.
7. Now more than ever it’s essential to know your market – find out as much as possible about clients’ interests and demands.
8. The luxury travel sector is increasing. On 3 June 2013, management consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers recorded an 8.8% rise in high-end hotel reservations. An example of Chinese travellers paying $82,000 dollars for a round the world trip shows where the wealth is and the sector’s future potential.
9. According to PhoCusWright travel market research, nearly 1 in 3 leisure agencies is hiring, while the American Society of Travel Agents reported 57% increase in independent agents’ business over 2011 shows the sector’s demand side bouyancy.
10. Managing a hotel’s online reputation is key in a market where purchasing decisions are influenced by peer-to-peer holiday review sites such as TripAdvisor.
11. As web browsing shifts from computers to mobile devices, Apps will become an increasingly important information access point for travellers with the added advantage that online connectivity isn’t needed once the App is downloaded.
José Luis reassured SME tour operators that adapting to technology developments isn’t technical or difficult, especially with the guidance of agencies such as Andalucía Lab.