At every exotic and not so exotic tourist destination across the world the advent of Web 2.0 and social media is forcing a new standards paradigm in service and marketing for the tourism industry. Over time fierce competition for the tourist dollar has raised the bar of tourism services and hospitality products, most often businesses find they are constantly competing at an international level. However studies show that regional tourism destinations have not kept up with, customer comfort , technology and service that tourists from the metros take for granted.
Not too long ago when ever you set off from Sydney or Brisbane to go to another capital city in Australia (which usually an 8-22 hour drive, you knew that there was not going to be any good coffee between here and there. The best coffee you’d often find was at a Truckers stop, which was a ‘Nescafe’ made with milk traditionally served from an urn which had been bubbling away for some hours. One thing you don’t do at truck stop is complain.
Sure there were always one or two ‘good’ places that everyone held as special, the ‘best’ breakfast, lunch or dinner in a particular little town or remote truck stop. I have fond memories, long before McDonalds dominated the landscape, of giant early morning breakfasts in Taree and Grafton, alas never a descent coffee. But it didn’t really matter because you weren’t staying and you would not have to suffer more lousy coffee again. Vowing that “next time” you’ll bring your own.This is a critical point, there is a mindset that comes into play once a person ‘hits the road’ on any journey.
Tourists will put up with sub standard facilities, for a time because they vow never to return. Which puts the destination or business on the hunt for new customers all the time, instead of servicing returning customers. As a tourist quite often you find yourself trapped in an uncomfortable place, what do you do? Well, generally you just grin and bear it.
Sure over the decades things changed, everybody went and got an espresso machine, big screen TV’s and Wi Fi to keep up with the times, however not many places learned how to use them. You still find places where there is a espresso machine and you get an instant in a foam cup, cause they don’t use it.
Remote and Regional locations have the advantage of distance between services. Operators know the tourists ‘can’t go anywhere else’ In due course this can only lead to complacency.
Social media happened and Word of Mouth went digital. Now the customer is telling his social media friends and connections about their experience, as it happens, they are reviewing it on Facebook, Foursquare and Yelp, rating it on Trip Advisor etc. every flaw and every flower are now open to scrutiny by your potential customers. Travellers heading towards your town know in advance if the hot water is working or if there is no heating and organise to either drive through or stay somewhere that has a good or better rating. Many would see this as a negative step, where a few vocal disgruntled customers could sour the rest, and if allowed to go unchecked it will sink a business.
Pre social media the traveller had no idea of the previous visitors experience and so things just stayed the same. Social media gives the operators power too, it offers the chance to address misunderstandings, dispel regional myths, offer their services to a whole new generation, and highlight those customers that do have a good time and do have great things to say.
Now with every destination touting itself as amazing and more amazing than the next, travellers, who’s time is ever more limited are making up their mind’s online before they set off on long journey’s. That’s Tourism 2.0.
Tourism 2.0 is about: Regional engagement, where we engage local residents first, and promote interactions between residents and their friends who are potential visitors.
Generosity or if that’s too hard to swallow try Giving things away for FREE, like providing exclusive offers to your social network users; competitions’, opportunities for recognition, discounts.
Market research as never before small businesses are able to analyse the activity around their services, websites, blogs and other social media assets, almost in real time. In the past access to market research like this has been prohibitively expensive, now it’s almost free.
Those that can embrace the social media phenomenon and get a prominent foothold in the virtual travel space. Cultivate their own crowd, tribe fans or followers will find themselves with a sustainable future, not reliant on restrictive affiliations and massive advertising spends.