e-Tourism and the opportunities that online marketing offers to the tourism sector

Miguel Ángel Culiáñez

Written by Miguel Ángel Culiáñez

What is e-Tourism?

We could define e-Tourism or digital tourism marketing as that professional and study discipline consisting of taking advantage of the possibilities offered by information technologies (ICT) in favor of the development of business processes and marketing of tourism services.

e-Tourism, online marketing for tourism companies

Throughout this article, we would like to emphasize the following aspects of online marketing that can be of great interest for the achievement of commercial objectives of tourism companies.The digital aspect of tourism marketing is one of the cornerstones of the present and future of the sector. However, it should be stressed that e-Tourism as a concept goes beyond this and may even contemplate the use of technology to completely revolutionize business models and processes. A good example of this is the case of the U.S. company AirBnB, which has found its place as an alternative to conventional vacation rentals thanks to the development of mobile applications and the collaborative economy. We are therefore dealing with a broad concept that does not refer exclusively to online marketing.

Likewise, the concept of e-Tourism is closely related to that of m-Tourism, which alludes, in an even more specific way, to the use of all the advantages offered by mobile devices to carry out the development of processes and marketing of services belonging to the tourism sector.

Similarly, it is possible to appreciate a strong linkage with the terms e-Commerce and m-Commerce, since the essence of the concept is identical, with the distinction that in the case of e-Tourism and m-Tourism the commercial relationship revolves specifically around the specific sector of tourism services.

The importance of technology for the tourism sector

The e-Tourism has acquired an increasing notoriety due to the advance of new information technologies, together with the enormous weight that the tourism sector has for the Spanish economy and that of many other countries. The tourism industry has been able to take advantage of the benefits of technology, assimilating new business processes closely linked to the application of the latest advances. Large start-ups and world-class tourism portals are clear examples of this.

SEO for airlinesAccording to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), in 2018, the tourism sector generated almost 15% of total employment in Spain. (2.8 million), and made a contribution of 178 billion euros to the country’s economy as a whole. Data such as these are what make Spain a global benchmark in the sector.

In this context, it is not surprising that the tourism sector in Spain is constantly striving to make the most of the possibilities offered by technology as a key element to help maintain and promote such a powerful industry. A reflection of this was some of the actions seen at the last edition of FiturThe event, an internationally renowned event that brings together the major players in the sector every year, was the backdrop for the initiative entitled Fitur Know-How & Export 2019 (organized by Icex, Seggitur and Fitur itself between January 23 and 27, 2019).

A particularly interesting aspect of Fitur Know-How & Export 2019 was its technology as a fundamental axis for the sector’s evolutionOne of the most notable actions in this regard were the workshops on ideas proposed through SEGITTURLab and whose themes dealt with chatbots for the tourism sector, women in technology and tourism or artificial intelligence applied to the sector.

Also in this context took place the Smart Talks program, focused on intelligence applied to tourism and the development of smart destinations, along with the presentation ofThe AppTourism Awards to the best mobile applications in the sector.

In short, when the largest annual event on tourism so clearly addresses a wide range of technological initiatives, it can only be interpreted as a clear sign of the immense importance that the sector attaches to technical advances.
The 2020 edition of Fitur is already on the horizon and, although it is not yet known how much weight technology will have in next year’s activities, everything suggests that it will once again play a leading role in such an important event.

Some key developments for the tourism sector in Spain

  • Virtual reality as a recruitment tool at source: virtual reality has more and more commercial applications that are revolutionizing sales techniques in various sectors. Tourism is no exception, since virtual reality makes it possible to virtually transport the customer to their desired tourist destination, but without physically moving from their point of origin.
    At the end of the day, the tourism sector depends on the ability to offer the consumer experiences, experiences in unique and special environments. Being able to show virtually, even if only for a short period of time, part of that experience and environment through virtual reality is something of special relevance for many tourism companies.
  • Sharing experiences: another of the advantages that the tourism sector can take advantage of is the possibility for users to share their experiences and become prescribers of a certain establishment or destination. Social networks have greatly favored the possibility of sharing experiences, evaluations and advice. Platforms such as TripAdvisor are the maximum exponent of this new power of user influence.
  • Offering a personalized service: the agility and proximity in customer service has also been improved thanks to the use of technology in the tourism sector. Chatbots, artificial intelligence or big data are tools whose advances allow agencies and establishments to provide agencies and establishments with great speed and flexibility in customer service, but also to better understand customer preferences and adapt the offer to provide a better experience.
  • The growing power of video content: YouTube has gradually become a search engine in its own right, with more and more users opting for audiovisual content as a fast and fun way to find the information they want. Once again, the tourism sector is no exception. Consumer behavior patterns throughout the process of purchasing or contracting services are no stranger to online travel agencies, airlines, hotels, restaurants, etc.
  • Search engine marketing (opportunities and challenges): there is no doubt that the power of search engine marketing (SEM), whether organic (SEO) or paid (SEA), has become a key element for companies in the tourism sector. There is no doubt that a successful management of Google Ads campaigns or a constant effort in web optimization can lead to a significant improvement in the commercial results of any OTA(Online Travel Agency), hotel chain or any other company in the sector.
    In many cases, however, this opportunity for growth also represents a new challenge, since the The expansion and easy access to these promotional channels has also been an incentive for many other companies to scale up or diversify their distribution channel.This has intensified the level of competition and even pushed aside certain players that used to play a key and undisputed role in the sales process. In short, the power of search engine marketing coupled with the many other technological advances already mentioned has represented both an elimination and an emergence of barriers. Viewing the scenario from a positive or negative perspective will depend on which side we are on, so we expand the description of this intricate context in the following section.

Relevance of search engine marketing for tourism companies

As has happened in the real estate sector, when it comes to the Internet, there is an increasing concentration of supply in the hands of large portals that monopolize the top positions (both in organic and sponsored results). Booking, Kayak, eDreams or Logitravel could be some examples of this in the tourism sector.

e-Tourism, digital marketing for the tourism sector

At the same time, the power of the search engine itself (Google in Spain is the main protagonist) has come to offer a direct response to the information demanded by the consumer, as if it were a sort of great comparator of comparators. However, the search engine also includes the final service providers in the equation, giving the user the option to compare the offer of the large intermediary portals and that of the final tourist company from Google Search itself, in order to make a direct reservation if this is more convenient for us. And going one step further, we are not only talking about bringing together offers for direct contracting, but also unifying the search engine with the compilation of other customers’ evaluations, maximizing the degree of information provided to the user from a single point.

The main beneficiary of this integrated information formula (including the best possible economic offer at a glance) is the end customer. But one wonders how this leap forward by Google itself affects the so-called OTAs(Online Travel Agencies). In this scenario, it seems feasible to think that there is room for coexistence, although the OTAs are called upon to provide a new differential value that will continue to give them prominence, as well as to seek new ways to reach the consumer.

This is where the value of the FES (Search Engine Advertising), advertising on social networks, the use of automated marketing processes to offer personalized discounts that improve the prices indicated by Google or the use of the retargeting to make the most of all sales options. In short, it is a matter of defining alternative strategies that will make it possible to continue to reach the user by taking advantage of all possible options.

On the other hand, when it comes to organic positioning, all is not lost for online travel agencies, since a proper content strategy (in different formats) coupled with a point of creativity in linkbaiting, and being as balanced as constant with respect to the rest of the blocks that make up a good SEO work (WPO, information architecture, on-page relevance, etc.) can work “miracles” even in such adverse scenarios. This is where it is important to keep in mind that there is always a loophole to penetrate the consumer’s mind at some point in the customer journey. This is even more so in a sector in which research processes can take much longer than in others and in which searches aimed at gathering quality information before making the important decision of where we are going to spend our next vacation can be numerous over time: itineraries, best places, best restaurants, museums, original activities, etc.

This is precisely the potential that can be exploited by all the players involved in the sector, whatever their position compared to the tourism giants on the Internet (including Google itself): a better sale of experiences. Offering a service that is so emotional and important to the lives of many tourists. The differential elements provided by each operator, such as personalized treatment, a high level of security in the correct provision of the service as expected by the client (even more so after such high-profile cases as those of Thomas Cook) or a highly specialized offer can be added values that, together with a good use of the possibilities offered by new technologies, will allow each company in the sector to find its space to grow.

E-tourism as a driving force for Spain’s tourism sector

At Human Level we have extensive experience helping companies and public entities in the tourism sector to grow, providing our expertise in SEO and online advertising management. That is why we are so convinced that a good search engine marketing strategy, effort and perseverance in its correct implementation and a touch of creativity can help any company in the sector in a remarkable way. Taking advantage of the potential of search engine marketing will always allow each tourism company to find its niche in order to reach its target audience, being well positioned to be found. It matters little what the increase in the levels of competition or the size of rivals if we are able to find our place to satisfy a need in the market better than any other player and we are able to see in the media that technology provides us with another opportunity for growth rather than a threat.

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Miguel Ángel Culiáñez
Miguel Ángel Culiáñez
Former responsible for business development at Human Level. Graduated in Business Science and Advertising and Public Relations. Specialist in marketing and e-commerce.

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