For World Tourism Day, I had the opportunity to talk about digital transformation in tourism on a radio interview with Ria Murray — Communications Officer at the Grenada Tourism Authority on Power95 FM. Six questions were asked, and these were my responses.
1. Give me your perspective on how the digital transformation is impacting tourism?
Technology has led digital transformations on many fronts — the tourism section is no exception. If we analyse the customers, it is clear that the way in which they approach the process of planning a vacation has drastically changed. Gone are the days when we visit a travel agency to plan our vacation. These days consumers search online before a trip, they compare and check the reviews of other travellers, and then they reserve flights, hotels, and even tickets for shows and other attractions. Then they check-in online and while they’re here, they research information about restaurants and other leisure activities. As they enjoy the vacation, they post photos and videos about their experience and after travelling they add their review so that others may view. All of this is done mostly on a mobile device. Considering this, I would say that digital strategies in this sector are based on online presence, what makes one different, and reputation to be competitive.
2. Tell us about emerging technology which is fast becoming major players in the industry (360, VR, Augmented reality)?
I always believe in content. I think that 360 videos are excellent to showcase one’s tourism offering. These videos are unique in that travellers can choose their own experience and decide what they see. Just this week we added a new dive wreck — Tyrell Bay. A 360 video was taken by Aquanauts Grenada and soon to be released today.
Ria, did you know that some brands aren’t convinced that travellers have enough understanding of how to view 360-videos on their own?
Virtual reality is another interesting tech in tourism. I think where it gets interesting is when you add a virtual reality headset. This creates a beautiful experience. From a marketing perspective, as a destination or tourism entity having a promotional event, virtual reality is an inexpensive way to make your events far more impactful. Whether hosting a trade show booth, a press event or a promotion to showcase new offering VR will allow them to actually experience what you are offering, rather than just hearing you describe it.
Augmented Reality is changing the way we explore. Not too long ago I pitched an idea to have some virtual reality mobile app. Where one can place various snippets of content around the destination. For instance, if you on Fort George, a little sign shows that there is some content existing. The person uses their mobile phone, and they can bring up the material and see what happened there. Maybe this is something that we may include in the Pure Grenada App.
Hey Ria, I have two more items, I just want to touch on. Chatbot. Did you know that you can have a chatbot Facebook Messenger? With a trained bot, Facebook Message can automatically respond when you the user ask standard questions. For example “Is there any room available for October 2?”
Aahh lastly; Internet of Things. I am talking about 2 examples here Mobile Keys and Smart Luggage. No longer spend time at reservation waiting for your key. Guest can use their mobile phone, and a pure wave can open their door. Smart Luggage can track and view where your luggage is. Lost of luggage is common. And this is a powerful use of technology.
With the Internet of things, the data needs to be collected, stored and analysed. We at Sonover provide such service locally. Speaking of which most, if not all of all the tech I mentioned here, there are companies here locally that can give it.
3. Why is it important that players in the tourism industry embrace the digital transformation?
Simple… to be competitive. Mobile devices have led digital transformations on many fronts — the tourism industry is no exception.
4. For those wondering where to start, how can one begin taking advantage of the digital transformation?
Start by getting to know your consumer and how to give the best customer experience. Then create a digital strategy. In this strategy, it will comprise the tools you would use to achieve your goals using the various digital channel available. Be it your website, social media, bots, robots etc., see where you can optimise your business process to allow for customer experience.
5. What are the benefits of introducing technology into tourism or any sector?
There is numerous benefit of technology in any industry. Technology is here. We have to understand how to apply technology to benefit us. I believe technology was created to help make our lives easier. From a business perspective, we always keep in mind our customers and giving them the best customer experience, thereby maximising the return on investment.
6. Thoughts for the future?
I understand we crunch for time. Grenada and the Caribbean are behind in the use of technology. However, after observing where other destinations went wrong, we have an excellent opportunity to do things right in the way we apply technology. Let’s continue to focus on the consumer and making their lives better. Thank you.