With the rise of online information, tourist offices are learning to reinvent themselves by offering new services online and at-the-counter. The majority of tourist offices have been able to make the turn digitally in terms of communication and promotion of their region, but relatively few have found the right solution for the digitalisation and commercialisation of their services.
The aim of this article is to present the 5 big trends in the digitalisation of tourism offers and to propose a new definition of the role of tourist offices in the digital landscape.
5 big trends in the digitalisation of tourism offers in 2021
1. The digitalisation of regional offers
Nowadays, the great majority of tourists organise their trips online. As a fact, online sales account for almost 50% of the total travel product sales (Newswire, 2019). From transportation to accommodation and dining, it is now possible to plan and book an entire stay in advance.
Following this trend, major leisure and cultural activity providers such as museums, ski resorts and amusement parks are looking for new advantageous solutions to sell tickets and services online (better rates, no queuing, packages, etc.).
While those major players are successfully digitalising their offers, tourist offices are still struggling to find their place in this digital landscape.
One of the main roles of tourist offices has always been to create synergies between various actors of a region. These synergies are now to be “re”-created in the digital environment.
Conclusion: To keep their central role in the regional tourism landscape, tourist offices need to offer regional packages and provide digital tools that allow the centralisation and online sales of all offers.
Moreover, in regards to the diversity of offers (museums, guided tours, shows, water activities, packages, etc.), tourist offices need an online reservation system that can be adapted to the different needs and characteristics of every actor in the region.
2. The popularity of individual travels
The second trend of the tourism industry is that individual travels are gradually replacing traditional group tourism. With information and availability of tourism offers being accessible at any time online, tourists are now opting more and more for individual experiences instead of group excursions.
This shift for individualised tourism is particularly noticeable amongst the younger generations and can even be observed in cultures where group tourism has been the norm for years; amongst Chinese tourists under 35, for example, less than 25% opted for a package group tour during their holidays (McKinsey, 2017).
The digitalisation of offers and the online availability of information are certainly two key drivers of the individualisation of travelling habits. Thus, one can expect that the success of a destination is correlated with the possibility to book its offers online and its online visibility.
Conclusion: One key role of tourist offices is then to create or gather and share the tourism offers of their region online to ensure that tourists willing to travel individually can easily access that information.
3. The wish for unique and personalised experiences
The demand for individual tours also comes with the wish for more personalised experiences. A study run by Google on U.S travellers has shown that 57% of tourists believe that online offers should be personalised according to their preferences, behaviours and past choices. Consequently, 36% of customers would be ready to pay a higher price for travel experiences based on their own behaviour profiles (Think with Google, 2017).
Tourists want to feel special and expect to be introduced to custom experiences. In that perspective, digitalisation allows tourist offices to take advantage of that shift in trends. It brings many opportunities to harvest data and analytics.
Conclusion: The role of the tourist office is therefore to provide tourists with a set of personalised offers and experiences online that fits their individual wishes, needs and expectations.
4. The rise of OTAs - Online Tourism Agencies
In this digital landscape, traditional travel agencies have been joined by OTAs (Online Tourism Agencies). OTA is the name given to websites that serve as central online marketplaces for all destinations. Platforms like Expedia usually started by selling one segment of the travel value chain and are now offering an extensive variety of travel products from flights to guided tours including car rentals and dining options.
With their growing traffic, OTAs represent for tourism actors an unprecedented opportunity in terms of market reach and visibility.
Tourist offices and local actors can benefit from the wide audience of these platforms. Moreover, OTAs are smart tools that can help deliver extra value to travellers, thanks to personalised shopping experiences and better-targeted offers.
Conclusion: The role of tourist offices is then to ensure the visibility and availability of local offers on powerful platforms, such as Expedia, Viator, Get Your Guide and Klook.
5. The digitalisation of destination marketing and social media
Digital disruptors like social media, mobile devices and the accessibility of information have totally transformed destination marketing. However, this comes as a positive shift in the industry for many organisers.
1. The first good news is that online content can reach an incomparable number of travellers and is much cheaper than printed content. Whether it is free or sponsored (ads and boosts), social media content enables every user to promote destinations all around the world in just a few clicks.
2. The second good news is that sponsored social media content allows you to use customer data in order to target travellers with sets of experiences that perfectly match their needs.
3. Finally, the third good news is that tourists and influencers will do a large part of the promotion of your region for free. 84% of millennials (and 73% of non-millennials) are likely or very likely to plan a trip based on someone else’s social media posts and updates (amp agency, 2016).
Give the tourists a frame and they will do the painting for you.
Conclusion: In other words, the role of the tourist offices is to encourage visitors to share their experiences and pictures online (hashtags, location tags, competitions…).
Moreover, tourist offices should not miss the opportunity to use social media ads to provide travellers with customised offers that exactly fit their needs. People can now travel all around the world through their mobile phone, make sure that you are the next destination on their list.
How Smeetz can help you meet your digital goals
By offering an online and connected solution for all types of activities and events, Smeetz enables tourist offices to play their full role in the digital age. With functionalities suitable for museums, outdoor leisure activities, theatres and festivals, Smeetz provides a centralised online booking and at-the-counter ticketing system for all the actors in your region.
The flexibility of our ticketing software allows you to offer all kinds of offers online and on-site; from personalised experiences, bundled packages of tours to day-passes and vouchers. You can sell directly from your own website with our booking widget, on most popular marketplaces with our OTAs integrations and from your office’s desk with our point-of-sales app.
Our solution also integrates with multiple DMS (Destination Management System) to provide online visitors with a unified and personalised shopping experience that can combine hotels, events and tours. In addition,Smeetz also offers a number of marketing integrations to help you optimise your digital marketing and monitor your social media.
Our track record with tourist offices and destinations go digital in Switzerland has been very positive in the last year. Our solution has been recognised as particularly suitable for the tourism sector because of its flexibility and integration possibilities.
To sum up, Smeetz enables tourist offices to digitalise their offers by allowing them to:
- Quickly promote all the offers from their region online.
- Sell the offers directly from their website and at-the-counter.
- Promote and sell their offers on multiple platforms like OTAs to reach a wider audience.
- Offer reservations, multi-entry passes, season tickets, merchandising, packages, vouchers and special offers for events, activities and tours.
- Manage all bookings and availability from a single centralised solution.
- Provide customers with flexible and customised online offers.
- Measure and optimise their digital marketing efforts.