The new tourism model
Information and communication technologies (ICTS) have shaken up not only the way we plan and book our trips, but the way we enjoy and share them. Antonio López de Avila Munoz, director, corporate relations, Tech&lifestyle for IE Business School in Spain, gives us a rundown on how the industry should adapt
This past decade, we have witnessed the birth of a new digital tourist: more self-sufficient, very demanding, multichanneled; someone who expects a personalized customer service and feels the need to be connected on a full-time basis.
Destination managers and companies must evolve in order to offer an entire range of services for the entire journey – before, during and after – to this new digital tourist. Marketing, promotion, services provision…a comprehensive makeover is needed, as opposed to slight changes or repeats of old models. We are witnessing the creation of a new tourism model for the 21st century, the Smart Tourist Destinations, where the ultimate goal is to achieve a long-term economic, sociocultural and environmental sustainability for tourism.
New business models are emerging, exploring all that this new technological environment has to offer. There is a completely new scheme of innovations, starting with a wider offer in terms of purchase processes, sales, internal management, communications, availability management and mediation. There are also new, disruptive business models as well, stuck in the midst of trend changes and social movements, boosting sales and exchanges, encouraging the act of sharing among peers (‘Peer2peer’).
New game, new rules
Innovation and technology have irrevocably rewritten the rules; playing the role of game changer, and tourists now hold the cards; destination search and selection, products and services screening, hypersegmentation, self-planning of trips, posting and assessing the travel experience. Therefore, the offer must be adjusted to a more demanding customer, who asks for truthful and trustworthy information, the best price-quality ratio, genuine experience, and destinations providing a distinguishing offer. This trend has an impact, not only on the average tourist, but also on the premium sector, as shown in the results of the latest IE Premium Travel Barometer, recently published by the IE Premium and Prestige Business Observatory.
Smart Tourist Destinations are based on innovation, technology, accessibility and sustainability. Their development began in 2012, in Spain, driven forward by the efforts of the public company, State Society for the Management of Innovation and Tourism Technologies (SEGITTUR). Its achievements have transformed Spain into the world’s leader in terms of progressive implementation. Spain was also the first country to publish a certification standard in ‘Management System of Smart Tourist Destinations’ (UNE178501). However, this new tourism model goes much further; it’s a door that has just been opened on to thousands of new business opportunities all around the world.
A new era is coming
New technological developments linked to the Internet of Things (IOT), to Big Data/ Open Data, to Artificial Intelligence and to Virtual Reality, are forging a path to new processes and to new ways of managing things, as well as new strategies to win and ensure customers loyalty in a way we could have never imagined. A warning to marketing teams, sales and loyalty enhancing programs - there is a new era coming! A new era of knowledge, analysis and lifelong learning.
Tourism Intelligence will become a key part of the new process from the very moment we start analyzing data. Acquiring greater knowledge of the tourist’s profile and mobile technologies (Go mobile!), will give us the opportunity to undertake totally new, disruptive digital promotions and marketing strategies. These can be related to our customers’ and potential customers’ emotions and needs in a simple, straightforward way. Artificial Intelligence technologies, such as machine learning, Chatbots, smart data, deep learning and natural language processing, which are available now to all kinds of companies, allow us to analyze our customers’ profiles at almost lightning speed. Moreover, we can obtain a deep understanding of what, when and how our product or service is wanted, enabling us to provide them in the most efficient way possible.
We must train our teams so they are capable of managing and leading the digital transformation that is essential for both our companies and destinations. Training is essential if we are to survive in a scenario that includes digital tourists requiring volumes of real-time information and, simultaneously, we are given much more information about them than we could have ever imagined.
We are part of a sector that comprises travelers and hosts. Let’s leave all that routine, automatic work to machines and let’s encourage our ‘human teams’ to add value where a human touch is needed. A gentle look and a smile… those little details that can truly make a difference!