The business of tourism in the digital age
Published November 24, 2016
Tourism Northern Ireland’s Digital and Social Manager Paul Coleman shares some of the latest research on how digital and social media influence the visitor journey and outlines the key opportunities and challenges for local industry in turning online engagement into revenue.
The journey is the destination
It all starts with looking at how visitors decide to come to Northern Ireland and this is no longer a simple linear process. Google has identified five stages of travel: dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing and sharing. Desktop computers, smartphones and tablets are all used by visitors for different stages of the travel model. Visitors first educate themselves, become informed and investigate before they decide on a destination, travel arrangements, accommodation or activity, so it is important that Northern Ireland stands out on the international digital stage as a must see destination.
Quality and quantity content required
Quality content is key in attracting international visitors to Northern Ireland, and the tourism industry’s focus must be on the needs of the visitors, we must ask ourselves who are our visitors and what interests them? The answers of these questions will help form a digital engagement strategy.
Transitional content leads to transactional content
Various types of content are required throughout the stages of the visitor journey, so content should be relevant at each stage. Transitional content is becoming more and more prevalent, helping to move the visitor through the sales funnel, as visitors move further the content should become transactional and enable visitors to complete their transaction, whether booking a hotel room, securing a place on a tour or making a dinner reservation. As the visitor gets closer to the point of converting their online experience into a sale the focus should shift to on and offline customer service.
User generated content fuels conversation
With billions of pages of information available online to visitors, peer review is increasingly important. Recent statistics show 42% of visitors read reviews by other travellers and 27% look specifically at travel content or reviews by friends or family, reinforcing the importance of user generated content. We see this on the Discover NI consumer website, discovernorthernireland.com where not only does content need to provide inspiration for the 34% at the dreaming and planning stage, it also needs to provide very specific information at the accommodation planning and booking stage. The final two stages of the visitor journey, experiencing and sharing are distinct, but the line between them is becoming increasing blurred. The Tourism NI digital team curate and share user generated content that inspires those in the dreaming and planning stages.
Advertising to target key markets segments
Social media and programmatic advertising allows advertisers and brands to target specific market segments more precisely than ever before. Invest in understanding your target segments and then choose the channels that allow you to reach those audiences in the most cost-effective way.
The role of real time engagement
In essence, tourism is a people business. This, coupled with the fact that visitors are now always-on, local businesses need to rise above the noise to create impactful, real-time engagement. Visitors are increasingly using social whilst in destination, either for inspiration about what activity to do next, or because they have a particular service need. Real time engagement with visitors has become a big opportunity, but also a big challenge. Market demand has led to the rise of social media listening and trying to service visitors’ needs around the clock, rather than on a nine to five basis.
Ensuring economic growth for Northern Ireland
Tourism Northern Ireland uses various streams of insight to ensure we convey the right information to the right people at the right time to promote Northern Ireland as a must see destination. In doing so we can positively influence perceptions of Northern Ireland and address barriers to planning a short break here. The tourism industry in Northern Ireland must be available, active and accessible online, in real time, to increase visitor engagement and convert conversation into sales.
The science of social media
Social media shouldn’t be a marketing afterthought; it must play an integral role in marketing campaigns to attract visitors. Analyse the types of content that create the best levels of engagement across each social platform. Content is not a one size fits all model, what works on Facebook, won’t necessarily translate to engagement on Twitter. The Discover NI social platforms have continued to generate great levels of engagement with inspirational video and image led campaigns, with over half of visitors watching video online when planning their holiday.
Experience experiential tourism
Experiential tourism is a trend that will continue to grow and we will continue to see consumers spend more on experiences rather than material goods. Destinations and other travel businesses need to be aware of this trend and factor it into their wider marketing strategy. User generated content is particularly important here, with social media users being more willing than ever to share their experiences, both good and bad across platforms. Consequently, good customer service has never been so important.
However you prefer to engage online, make sure it is consistent, creative and accessible to all visitors.
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Posted by Tourism NI
Produced by Tourism NI