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