The Impact of Mobile Technology on Tourism

In the week of Digital DNA Tourism, we thought it would be as good a time as any to look at how the digital and mobile world is impacting on tourism across the UK, Ireland, and globally.

digital-tourism

Quite simply, if digital’s impact on general society over the last decade has been extensive, its impression on the tourism sector has been gargantuan. That’s because mobile technology is a perfect fit for travel and tourism. By its very nature, tourism is an “on-the-go” experience, and therefore mobile technology is ideally suited as the perfect travel partner.

As Tourism NI puts it, mobile and digital technology has ensured that global travel is no longer a leap into the unknown, and we now know as much as we want about the world around us at any stage of the tourism journey. The smartphone, and the capabilities it gives tourists at their fingertips, has empowered tourists with levels of freedom, flexibility and choice than ever before. For that reason, mobile technologies also have a huge part to play for tourism-related businesses!

For businesses involved in the tourism industry (either directly or indirectly), recognising the mobile/smartphone as every tourist’s trusted adviser is essential. Such technology is already part of daily life, but is even more important to tourists. They enable tourists to undertake tasks and manage themselves in destinations in ways that seemed impossible just a few years ago. They are now the trusted touchpoints used by tourists to do everything from book a restaurant or a family pass at a theme park, to translate key phrases, ask directions and literally guide them around new places.

For every business reading this, my key message would be to understand the degree of trust tourists afford their mobile companions. As such, it’s absolutely imperative your business leverages that trust. Like any business, you need to be where your customers are. In the world of tourism, that’s absolutely on mobile, so be sure you not only exist, but thrive there.

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Mobile also works perfectly in tourism because of the massive trend in visitors and tourists expecting to not only visit places, but experience them. Today’s visitors seek richly engaging, authentic and truly memorable tourism experiences that allow them to connect emotionally with destinations and attractions. Because nearly all of them carry smartphones, they’re the perfect, non-obtrusive way of providing exactly that.

Mobile Technology is the key driver in enhancing tourism experiences, and the uptake curve amongst visitors continues to steepen. Augmented Reality offers immense opportunities in global tourism, and Northern Ireland is no different. i3 Digital has invested heavily in Augmented Reality R&D over the past five years, and in 2015 we launched our own AR-based platform, Pocket Buddy, in Massachusetts.

Pocket Buddy

AR technology lends itself seamlessly with the mobile world and, as such, with tourists. Using smartphone cameras, visitors (and of course, residents) can now experience destinations through unprecedented perspectives. AR’s uptake and success reflects a hugely growing trend in tourists wanting to immerse themselves in the places they visit, and this aforementioned desire to truly “experience” a venue/attraction/place means destination apps and mobile technologies for the tourism industry will continue to soar in popularity. Augmented Reality and other mobile technologies offer every destination business an opportunity to promote and enhance their offerings. Tourism businesses can essentially now exist and engage with tourists (and locals) on platforms that their target consumers are truly comfortable using.

Tourism Businesses – Plan Around the Fact that there is No Plan!

Nowadays, over 25% of UK consumers go on holiday with no accommodation planned, then use their smartphone to book accommodation of their choice on arrival! (Hotels.com). Think about that – this is something that would have been pretty unfathomable just a few years ago, but is now fairly commonplace, and is just one example of how mobile is changing the game in tourism. Mobile technology now means tourists can (and often do) tailor their holiday/travel to suit their needs when they arrive, and this trend is continuing to rise. Once again, if your tourism business isn’t alive on kicking on mobile, it’s missing a huge trick.

To close, here’s a few statistics from Tourism NI relating to mobile’s influence on tourism:

• 94% of leisure travellers travel with a smartphone, with 97% of business travellers bringing at least one device on every trip.
• Mobile devices effectively serve as a concierge, guide and companion for travellers, who rely on smartphones and other mobile devices at every stage of their journey.
• “Travelers are not only researching and booking trips on mobile, but they’re also complimenting their meals, complaining to providers and capturing every trip detail. This is the new normal when it comes to travel.” (Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Expedia)
• Smartphones are used at every stage in the travel process: from initial inspiration and research, through to purchases and bookings, and used increasingly during the travel experience as well as following the trip.

To hear more about how mobile and digital technology go hand-in-hand with tourism, be sure to attend our workshop at Digital DNA on Thursday 24th November!

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