Understanding the visitor cycle is extremely important in tourism, many workshops and events often focus on this topic, examining all the stages a visitor goes through from inspiration to booking, experiencing, sharing and engaging. However, when visitors are actually present in a destination, marketing often does a poor job of engaging with them, with many marketers forgetting what it is like to be a real visitor.
With this in mind, The Digital Tourism Think Tank have designed specific ‘Walkshops', which help destinations and tourism businesses to re-explore a city in a tourism context. Participants of a Walkshop adopt different persona profiles and walk around a city or town, using digital tools and technologies, solving tasks along the way.
Each Walkshop is focused on identifying innovative use cases and highlighting user experience issues, driving a discussion among small groups participating in the events on how to address these issues. Focusing the Walkshop on specific issues helps tourism businesses to reflect on digital strategy, their own digital footprint and how to tackle common issues in order to stand out from competitors.
UK Mobile Walkshop
On 30th March 2015, representatives of Visit Kent’s industry explored Canterbury as part of the first UK mobile Walkshop that the Digital Tourism Think Tank had put together. The participants were divided into small groups with the aim of examining how their mobile visitors explore the city. Each group was presented with different personas to consider, a raft of set instructions to follow and an array of tasks to solve.
As part of the walkshop, the participants set off to explore the city through the eyes of a visitor, researching places of interest, navigating their way to them, using social channels to enquire about information, and finding good places to eat and drink based purely on the online reviews and ratings that other visitors had left.
Of course, this was not an easy illusion to achieve as all of the participants were quite familiar with the city; thus all prior knowledge had to be erased for the walkshop exercise to work. Re-exploring the city purely based on information from smartphones delivered interesting results for the participants. Understanding how visitors perceive places, what help and support they need to get around, and how experiences are shared and documented digitally was a wake up call for many. Applying things that everyone would do when exploring places in their personal lives meant looking at things with a critical eye.
After a day out in Canterbury exploring the city and solving different tasks, a number of findings were discussed which we will outline in the remainder of this article.
Wifi and Mobile Phone Reception
There is no doubting the importance of a good mobile phone reception in a city if visitors are to be able to navigate the urban environment. Many visitors from abroad will face high roaming charges, so free Wi-Fi within a city is really important; businesses that offer complimentary Wi-Fi for their visitors should make sure their customers are made aware of this service. The walkshop also highlighted the importance of Visitor Information Centres, which can provide valuable information and recommendations. Ensuring that visitors have the confidence to explore the city is crucial, providing guidance on navigating around the city.
In case there are roadworks or streets blocked, this is the kind of information to pass on to visitors in order to make sure they can actually take the routes and traverse to any places suggested. Ensuring all attractions and points of interest within a city have signposts can also be a useful point of reference for visitors to understand where they need to go. In Canterbury, the walkshop participants relied quite heavily on signposting within the city, as in many places it is difficult to acquire a sufficient 3G connection to be able to use Google Maps and other similar mapping tools.
Use of digital apps
Visitors tend to use apps such as TripAdvisor, Twitter, Instagram and Foursquare in order to gain inspiration on where to go. For tourism businesses it is thus absolutely crucial to provide recommendations online and engage with visitors enquiries. Visitors expect a timely response and also do want to have a conversation about what they could do once they are visiting, or when already in the city. For businesses this means that social channels need to be monitored. Instead of providing useful links, visitors are often keen on getting an answer or suggestion for a restaurant immediately.
Personal contact still matters
Having personal contact with visitors is still important. Canterbury River Tours is an example of a company doing just that; providing recommendations on what people can do and experience in the city. Even though we can see a clear shift towards visitors increasingly relying entirely on their smartphones, personal contact still matters, especially when technology fails us, or batteries run out. Training staff to provide recommendations is therefore really important. Rather than handing out maps and information material, we also need to see where apps and online sources can be good references for visitors to peruse, and actively recommend them in that appropriate context.
Your digital footprint
Every business will have a digital footprint, meaning all data that is left behind by users on digital services. A visitor researching a business or city will see its digital footprint, from information that comes directly from the business or city, to images and content that other visitors have written about across digital platforms. The accumulation of all this information forms the digital footprint. For any tourism business, it is absolutely crucial to understand the digital footprint, how visitors come across your business, what they are talking about in reviews, and also on the wider web, and ensuring that visitors can acquire all of the information that is needed.
As digital marketers, we are often get caught up in daily responsibilities, working on a range of tasks and activities. For many people, spending a day in the shoes of a visitor might sound like a waste of time, however, investing time into a Walkshop can actually mean fixing small issues within your business or destination. This can help ensure that visitors are made aware of your business in the right way, resulting in them having a great experience when visiting. With the importance of digital growing exponentially, this can have a huge influence over the success of online operations, and ensuring that the online and offline experience are both coherent.
Interested in a Walkshop?
The Digital Tourism Think Tank are creating walkshops together with destinations to identify how a visitor is experiencing a place, helping destination marketers re-explore a city in a tourism context. Are you interested in bringing a walkshop to your city, then Contact us about the Walkshop and speak to our experts.