We live with a digital layer, which, like a layer of dust, covers everything and penetrates all aspects of our lives. It is always there, and this has obviously had repercussions on the products and services provided by companies in the tourism industry, changing how they relate to customers and how they “do” tourism.
Without a doubt, the ones who are leadering the changes in the world of the Internet are the millennials. The way they look at life is different from that of previous generations in terms of sharing experiences, enjoying a family lifestyle and respecting the environment. And obviously today’s life with the digital layer enables us to be more sustainable, to be in closer contact with our families and friends, and to be more productive in the work we now share and co-create with colleagues.
As tourists, this means that no matter where we go, we also take our digital layer with us. Firstly, this digital layer helps us search for accommodation and transport to get to our destination, but then, once we are there, it also enables us to reserve a table in a top restaurant, to buy tickets for local museums, to ask the hotel concierge for more pillows, to download a local guidebook after we have read the recommendations posted by our favourite travel bloggers, to contact volunteer tourist guides paid by tips, to find a trendy vegetarian restaurant, to find the best place from which to admire the sunset or the neighbourhood with the best local galleries.
Another example of a new product and/or new behaviour is the bleasure tourist, or the tourist that combines business trips with leisure activities, with or without the family. In recent years, this new type of business tourism has emerged, in which family members may even take part in company events. Once more, this has been brought on by the fact that millennials want to share their successes with their loved ones, and that technology enables event organisers and service providers to satisfy customer needs much better. For example, via specific apps for incentives trips, the collaborator and her family have installed on all of their devices containing: a) pre-trip information; b) the agenda of activities (both for her and for her husband and the children) so that the whole family can enjoy the hotel services, the parallel activities organised for the family, or explore the area independently; and c) real-time connectivity with social networks and Kodak moments to ensure that they can share their experience with those that were left behind.
Another example, this time of disruptive software, that is changing the way an age-old service is provided, is Monscierge. Created in 2009, this software carries out all of the functions of a concierge, your contact in the hotel for anything from sightseeing suggestions to directions to tickets for a show. The Concierge, the expert in the local experience –another sought-after commodity for millennials– is now a machine. But this machine does not put distance between the customer and the hotel; instead, it helps the customer/tourist make sense of his surroundings, connecting him to information via a multiplatform, accessible through mobile, tablet, computer or the hotel TV.
According to the statistics website Statista, the market penetration rate of smartphones in Spain is expected to rise to 74% by 2019. What’s more, a 2015 study by Fundación Telefónica presented the following findings: 93% of smartphone users in Spain use their mobiles for social activities (chats, emailing, social networks), 63% for leisure activities (reading the news, listening to music, games, blogs), 39% for information searches (weather, health and wellness, restaurants), and 41% for functional activities (internet banking, fashion, fastfood).
With one of the highest smartphone market penetration rates in Europe, and the latest findings from Fundación Telefónica, companies are already beginning to propose new ways of reaching potential customers: software enabling you to take a virtual tour of your chosen tourist destination –Total Recall is “very” near–; hotel applications to check in/check-out; applications to locate family members in your all inclusive hotel or to find lost children; applications that convert into a room key… there is no end to these applications!
Technology, digitalisation and the Internet are going to continue influencing the future of tourist companies and the way that customers experience tourism. The preliminary results of the study we are carrying out in EADA confirm that it doesn’t matter if you are a hotel manager, travel agency or transport agency, companies are investing more and more frequently in multiplying the ways through which they can reach and interact with the customer and adapting their product or service to tourist’s today, who live under a permanent digital layer.
Portions of this article were originally published in Cat.Económica.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mireia Montane holds a Master in Hospitality Management with a major in Human Resources from the University of Nevada (Las Vegas, U.S.) and a BA in Anglo-Germanic Philology from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Mireia has served as Executive Director and HR Consultant for La Mola Hotel & Conference Centre, and as HR Opening Director of Renaissance at the Barcelona Airport Hotel, as well as in the U.S, where for 7 years she managed the HR Department of the Ark Las Vegas Restaurant Corporation, with over 1,000 workers on its payroll. In 2006, Mireia began collaborating with EADA as an associate professor and she has been on the full time staff since 2008. She has managed several programmes in the areas of Personnel Management, Tourism and Hospitality Management, and is currently a professor in the Strategy, Leadership and People Department at EADA. Since 2012-2013, she has collaborated as a Reviewer with two tourism journals.