Technology and Tourism

AirBnB Belize

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.

 

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About Lorenzo Gonzalez

Lorenzo Gonzalez is the founder of Belizeadventure.ca, a resource for travel information on Belize. He enjoys traveling, social media and Paranda music. Contact him at lorenzo [at] belizeadventure.ca. Learn more...

2 Responses to Technology and Tourism

  1. Judy duPlooy June 21, 2017 at 9:22 AM #

    Lorenzo – according to the AirBnB rep, there are 600 offerings in Belize. Licensed operators would like to see a requirement that everyone in the accommodation business is licensed by the BTB and collects the hotel tax. It seems that most of these operators are not licensed and, in many cases, not even residents of Belize. And that many of them are here under the QRP (Qualified Retirement Program) and therefore receive many benefits that the rest of us don’t have.

    This gives them the advantage of lower overheads, allowing them to sell at a much lower rate than legal entities. There is also quite a bit of illegal touring within this group.

    It’s here to stay, but a level playing field would be welcome.

    Judy duPlooy

    • Lorenzo Gonzalez June 22, 2017 at 4:42 PM #

      600 rooms, wow! When I looked on their website, the page said 157 listings. Yeah, some regulations should help level the playing field. One recommendation would be to do what some cities have done and make Airbnb include the destination tax when customers book a room. (However, transparency on how the money is re-invested would be good.) In Toronto, due to affordability issues and the lack of housing, a new law will make it illegal for people to list apartments they don’t live in. The argument is that the premise of Airbnb has always been to share an extra room, not become a hotel.