Benchmark and industry trends

Opinions: 

Travel Tech

Recently the Think Tank published two critical reports: the 2014 Executive Destinations Benchmark provides an evaluation of the websites of 21 National Tourism Organisations (NTOs), while the Industry Trends Research report takes an in-depth look at the impact of digital technologies on all tourism-related businesses.

2014 Executive Destinations Benchmark

The Think Tank applied a robust and rigorous methodology based on several key components of a website’s performance. These were web design / inspiration, social integration, content, mobile & tablet and search functionality. Having assessed each of the NTO website, the Think Tank then assessed which were the most successful, and named the best in class for each category.

Encouragingly, the report found that generally the performance of the 21 NTOs was pretty good in terms of producing engaging content. Norway, Slovakia and Denmark were particularly commended by the DTTT for the overall positive user experience that their websites deliver.

 NTOs Neglect Mobile

However, one area where NTOs could improve significantly is with regard to mobile and tablet access. The report found that NTOs are almost ubiquitously neglecting this area of their operations. This should be of concern given the growing importance of the mobile sector.

The impact of digital communication on the tourism industry in its daily work, and the importance of this particular niche cannot be underestimated. Mobile is an incredibly important platform for both research and e-commerce.

The value of mobile e-commerce transactions is expected to exceeded $3 trillion by 2017, and the number of mobile devices in developed economies already outnumbers people. Figures also indicate that mobile is an incredibly important resource for marketing and promotion. Nearly one in three travellers have located flight and hotel deals through mobile apps, while 85% of travellers utilise their smartphones during trips, and 50% post reviews of hotels outline via this technology.

With wearable tech also coming to the fore, travel-related companies such as Expedia and Virgin researching and implementing functionality related to devices such as the recently unveiled Apple Watch. Thus, NTOs efforts related to mobile need to be substantially stepped up.

Industry Trends Research - Rapid Mobile Growth

As a perpetual monitor of digital trends, the opinion of the DTTT with regard to digital technology carries considerable weight. This report argues robustly that digital technology is a “disruptive” influence on the tourist industry, and one that NTOs simply must embrace enthusiastically.

Mobile internet is already huge business, and growing rapidly; the number of mobile broadband subscriptions grows around 45% each year. By 2018, 85% of the world’s population will have at least 3G internet access. Mobile payment systems such as NFC and iBeacon are now becoming mainstream, and the latter also potentially offers marketing potential.

Vast Social Media Penetration

In Europe, social media penetration is massive. However, the percentage of young adults (18-29) utilising social media on a worldwide basis is particularly high. Also, travellers within the 25-34 age range are most likely to use social networks to acquire ideas and inspiration for travel plans.

The DTTT has recently published numerous articles which indicate that social media can play a key role in tourism marketing. A recent study published by DTTT’s partner TripAdvisor indicated that hotels who engage with customers via social media are around 25 percent more likely to attract custom. The Industry Trends Report paints a picture of social media being prevalently used by young, relatively affluent, mobile-friendly consumers, and this thus must be viewed as an extremely fruitful marketplace by NTOs.

Tablet Significance Growing

The report also outlines the importance of targeting tablet computing. Tablets are frequently adopted by consumers when engaging in e-commerce activities, particularly in the travel and hospitality sector. The Daily Telegraph recently  reported that tablet computing is the fastest growing form of consumer electronics in human history.

Consumers show high involvement across multiple mobile platforms and devices during all stages of travel. The DTTT concluded that it is of supreme importance for tourism businesses to provide fully mobile and tablet-compatible websites that support consumers efficiently at all key stages of the marketing process.

Augmented Reality

Finally, the report looks at the potential of augmented reality technology, which is already being utilised despite its infancy. Virgin was the first organisation in the travel sector to incorporate this technology across it branches, and the DTTT has already reported on the potential offered by forthcoming virtual reality headsets such as Project Morpheus and Occulus Rift.

As digital technology evolves and consumers engage with it, the necessity for travel-related businesses and destinations to embrace this technology  comes more sharply into focus. The two reports produced by the DTTT, not to mention the entirety of its work, makes this reality emphatically clear.

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