MOD­ERNISING TOURISM

How tech­nol­ogy can be used to re­form and re­fine the Car­ib­bean’s tourism prod­uct

The Star (St. Lucia) - Business Week - - FOREIGN AID - BY CATHER­INE MOR­RIS, STAR BUSINESSWEEK COR­RE­SPON­DENT

Tourism ex­perts talked tech last week as sec­tor stake­hold­ers met for their an­nual State of the In­dus­try Con­fer­ence, hosted by the Car­ib­bean Tourism Or­ga­ni­za­tion (CTO).

The week-long event, held in Nas­sau, Ba­hamas, was a chance for every­one in­volved in the busi­ness of tourism to dis­cuss chal­lenges and trends. Un­sur­pris­ingly, the dis­rup­tive power of tech­nol­ogy was high on the agenda with at­ten­dees and speak­ers brain­storm­ing how the Car­ib­bean can be­come more cut­ting-edge.

EX­PE­RI­EN­TIAL TRAVEL

What do to­day’s trav­ellers want? Ex­pe­ri­ences. Tourists, es­pe­cially mil­len­ni­als, are in­creas­ingly valu­ing authen­tic ac­tiv­i­ties that give them a hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence in their des­ti­na­tion. Ac­cord­ing to a 2014 Har­ris Poll, 78% of mil­len­ni­als would rather spend their money on ex­pe­ri­ences than things and, given that this de­mo­graphic is ex­pected to com­prise 50% of the trav­el­ling pub­lic by 2030, the in­dus­try is shift­ing its fo­cus to keep up.

This is where tech­nol­ogy comes in, giv­ing hos­pi­tal­ity providers the tools to cu­rate and cus­tomise an ex­pe­ri­ence tai­lored to each in­di­vid­ual guest. “Over the last few years we have seen a rise in ex­pe­ri­en­tial tourism,” said Casey Davy, co­founder of hos­pi­tal­ity tech group Busy Rooms, speak­ing at the CTO con­fer­ence. “The Car­ib­bean has a unique op­por­tu­nity with mul­ti­ple ex­pe­ri­ences in one des­ti­na­tion and that can all be cu­rated to­gether to of­fer an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to guests. There is a lot of tech­nol­ogy out there and it is not about what it can do for you, but about how you can use that tech­nol­ogy to im­prove guest ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Whether cre­at­ing a data­base for re­peat vis­i­tors that pin­points their in­ter­ests and flags birthdays and an­niver­saries, in­vent­ing apps for self­guided tours or us­ing ge­olo­ca­tion ser­vices to help tourists find their way around, tech­nol­ogy can make travel more con­ve­nient, more cost­ef­fec­tive and more per­sonal.

And trav­ellers will re­pay the favour – those en­joy­ing their ex­pe­ri­ences are more likely to share them across their so­cial me­dia plat­forms, spread­ing the word and en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers to fol­low in their foot­steps. Turn­ing trav­ellers into ad­vo­cates for the des­ti­na­tion trans­lates into easy and in­ex­pen­sive des­ti­na­tion mar­ket­ing on a large scale. Ac­cord­ing to travel mar­ket­ing firm, nSight, 76% of mil­len­ni­als say their friends’ rec­om­men­da­tions are top in­flu­encers for travel and 80% look at travel pho­tos on­line as part of their pre-trip re­search.

VIR­TUAL RE­AL­ITY

Tourists can now get that Car­ib­bean ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore they set foot in the is­lands, thanks to a boom in Vir­tual Re­al­ity (VR) of­fer­ings.

This tech­nol­ogy first hit the scene in the 1950s with a rudi­men­tary sys­tem known as ‘the sen­so­rama’. As multi-sen­sory ma­chines be­came more so­phis­ti­cated they’ve been used in a va­ri­ety of in­dus­tries in­clud­ing gam­ing, ed­u­ca­tion, real es­tate and now tourism.

Last year, Toronto-based Winged Whale Me­dia teamed up with the An­tigua and Bar­buda Tourism Author­ity to cre­ate a VR 360

For decades, the Amer­i­can econ­omy cen­tered around ma­te­ri­al­ism, with the role of mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing re­volv­ing around con­nect­ing po­ten­tial cus­tomers not only with prod­ucts they needed, but also prod­ucts they wanted or thought they wanted. An emerg­ing trend is the shift to­wards plac­ing value on ex­pe­ri­ences, rather than things

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