As you may know, every year I write about travel trends that may impact Belize. The purpose is to reach many Belize tourism businesses that may not have established marketing departments or chief strategists that advise them on the impending changes to the tourism industry. I am personally fascinated by the travel industry and my experience as a marketer and amateur technologist helps me anticipate trends.
Last year I wrote about a rise in urban travel, food tourism, walking tours and people taking shorter trips. Obviously, those trends are still appropriate and will continue for quite a bit. However, for this version of my travel trends discussion, I will focus on technology and how incredibly important it currently is for the tourism industry. For example, take food tourism’s popularity, where restaurants are destinations. Restaurants should know that guests will be taking pictures and sharing it on social media, which means they need to optimize their restaurants for social sharing. Wi-Fi is a must, as well as good design and good lighting. Guava Limb is an exemplar of this.
1. It’s 2017, your website shouldn’t suck
In this day and age, there is no excuse for your website to suck. There are free website templates out there and custom platforms which allow you can drag and drop sections to create the perfect website. Another advice is teaching yourself how to adapt websites by watching YouTube videos, which is something that I have personally done.
2 AirBnB will steal your customers but homogeneity is worst
I spoke about Belize and the looming sharing economy a few months ago. There are over 150 AirBnB listings in the country and the company aggressively advertises on facebook and google search. This isn’t something that will go away and evidently, it will severely impact the tourism industry. Therefore, traditional hotels need to revamp to compete. Focus on experiences and uniqueness! Why is it that so many hotels in Belize look so similar? Also, most importantly, make booking easy – as easy as clicking a button! A customer should not have to email you to book your hotel.
3. Data is king
Collecting and using data from your customers allows you to fine tune your product and delivery, which ultimately enhances your value. For example, if you see a trend in the data which suggests that mostly couples are at your hotel at specific times of the month, this information should be used to make their experience better. Dim the lights and hire Pablo Collado to play the flute at your restaurant. If you recognize that a lot of young locals want to visit during a specific month – such as Costa Maya in San Pedro – book off your hotel and cater only to them so that you don’t have to worry about foreign guests who may end up not having an optimal experience.
4. Virtual Reality
If Mark Zuckerburg says virtual reality is the future and he is investing heavily in the technology, why would you not listen? I foretell that in the near future: tomorrow, a month from now, or next year, people will want to have a visual experience of a hotel or tour before they book it. Why wouldn’t they? I’d like to do that right now! So if you’re a hotel, start testing the idea out! As Richard Solomons, the CEO of InterContinental Hotels says, like a lot of new technologies, we don’t know exactly how it will work but we NEED to give it a go.
5. Pay attention to trends
The US has seen a significant growth in active and healthy consumers. Organic products and healthy activities are in, just look at how popular athleisure fashion is! Another good example is the explosion of climbing gyms, which has led to many people wanting to go rock climbing when they travel. I personally know several friends who have traveled with the specific purpose of going rock climbing. Trends are of course linked to my first advice of using data to your advantage.
Some parting advice. Whether you want to attract new customers or stay relevant, using technology to your advantage will make you not only survive but thrive.