Technology has been part of tourism dating back to, and well before the internet age. Marketing, sign-in systems and tourist experiences themselves have relied upon technology to keep operators relevant and desirable for travellers. With the world rocked by COVID-19, borders have tightened and New Zealand’s tourism industry has been greatly affected. Without the millions of tourists entering Aotearoa and spending, operators are forced to either close or find different ways to keep revenue coming in.
As the recovery from COVID-19 progresses, technology is continually being looked to as an answer to challenges created by social distancing and safety requirements. One look at video conferencing app download statistics and COVID-19’s influence of tech is clear to see. So how might technology and tourism work together in New Zealand to ensure recovery happens as fast as possible? We explore some of these areas today.
Virtual reality and tourism have been connected long before 2020’s events. The immersive 360 degree experiences enabled by VR have been used both pre-travel as a way to market places, and as part of the tourist attraction itself (think theme parks and museums). Even our coolest little capital Wellington has received the VR treatment.
Virtual reality isn’t just a format for travel shows, airports and tourist attractions anymore. With the emergence of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Google’s own affordable Cardboard, VR is accessible in the comfort of our homes more than ever.
The use of VR tourism during a lockdown mindset is multifaceted. Those with itchy feet to travel looking to plan up a storm could use 360 video experiences to properly scope out destinations and build an itinerary based upon which locations they enjoyed in VR. Tourist operators can even include call to action (CTA) within VR previews so prospective travellers can book straight away.
Then there’s the experience itself. Adventures like extreme sports, caving, diving, theme park rides, museums – all present opportunities to develop VR equivalents of their paid in person products. If tourism brands can do this well enough, an international market is still accessible as a paying customer – even if the total revenue isn’t comparable with pre-COVID levels. Tech professionals with an interest in or existing skills in VR development, could find their skills required to bring Kiwi tourism into the digital age. Even if customers spend a smaller percentage on a tourism experience remotely, VR gives the opportunity to reach more people and will help sell the in person experience in the future once global tourism is back.
As COVID-19s full impact and duration is still developing, one thing is for certain – safety precautions around the spread and containment of Corona Virus is going to be essential. Contact tracing systems that help to place individuals in public or businesses can assist health authorities in managing and contacting individuals who may carry the illness. Tourists and operators’ staff can participate in using a system such as an app and QR codes placed at locations around the country.
Many of these apps are being developed currently, and tech professionals in the app development space (such as React Native) may find work opportunities helping refine and build these platforms. For the solutions at tourism sites, sign in platforms may need to be adjusted to incorporate this functionality as well.
Tourism operators that have enjoyed the bulk of visitors from travel agents, affiliates, partner companies may find their own website needs attention. Many websites could be international-facing and less focused for the domestic market. For others it could be an overhaul to the booking system to pre-book visits for a to be confirmed date – we’ve seen some businesses offer great discounts to future customers who pledge payment well in advance.
Other businesses are pivoting their entire model to stay compliant and responsive to the short term tourism market. Developers and designers could find opportunities on website projects refreshing tourism brands for a Kiwi-focused experience or altered digital-focused offering.
Where we see tourism websites needing help from IT professionals:
- Booking platforms
- Design to align with branding direction change
- Search Engine Optimisation towards certain terms or audiences
- New website development for reshaped or new offerings
- Promoting new services or experiences
No one knows for sure how the next few years will play out for tourism businesses, but the website is an owned channel where changes can be made relatively quickly. At the very least, tourism operators can focus on building awareness and desire for their product, if not book future visitors well ahead of time.
Social media has already seen a large increase in engagement from COVID-19, presenting an opportunity for NZ tourism businesses to promote to a domestic market ahead of reducing restrictions around travel. Kiwis’ growing desire to support local business and inability to travel overseas could mean that social media marketing and community engagement could be used to sell New Zealand back to its own. For many Kiwis, local tourist destinations may have only been visited once or twice – if at all.
Internationally, social media is one of the more cost effective ways to communicate with target markets. Depending on the business, messages could range from showcasing the experience on Instagram to running active acquisition campaigns for book-in-advance arrangements.
Specialists in social media will be required to assist tourist operators with these campaigns – and with more captive eyes on social channels, there’s never been a better time than now to start. After all, it’s been noted that the ‘instagramability’ of a location plays a factor in its desirability for many would-be travellers.
Digital Marketing Domestically
Digital marketing across Search, Social, YouTube and On Demand should make up part of a tourism brand’s re-entry to market. Being born-travellers, New Zealanders will be looking for homegrown travel experiences over the next year at a level likely much higher than normal.
Video marketing though pre-roll placements on YouTube and NZ TV On Demand services will be key for awareness and dream building. On the search front, Google Ads for terms relating to locations and experiences will certainly play a part in capturing new customers. Brands will be looking to go beyond brand name, and into generic searches by Kiwis in the itinerary building phase.
Digital Marketing To International Market
Regaining the loss of overseas travellers to New Zealand and its economy won’t necessarily be a fast process. But as COVID-19 is reduced, managed and eliminated, borders will reopen. At this stage, tourism operators will need to promote back out into target markets. While parts of paused international strategies can resume, there may be a need for businesses to promote their businesses in different ways to encourage making the long trip to New Zealand over other potentially closer destinations. Digital marketing might also need to address concerns like safety and contact tracing to give overseas visitors peace of mind before they book.
Businesses will be requiring expertise to help set up, run and optimise these digital campaigns in what could become a crowded space of domestic tourism. When this involvement is required, will largely depend on the industry’s recovery and New Zealand’s success at eliminating the Corona Virus.
AI, while not necessarily a COVID-19 specific solution, has been assisting the tourism industry for years. Machine learning and artificial intelligence enable places with large traffic and/or booking volumes like hotel chains to offer a better service to customers. A good example of AI in tourism are chatbots that can take your booking, or suggest activities to help you build an itinerary. With data on similar customers, AI can be harnessed to personalise an experience from browsing to booking. This information can even help to customise the service travellers receive while visiting the tourism operator including meal preferences and upsells.
AI/ML is a space where expertise is increasingly required. If you have experience here, you could find opportunities in NZ’s tourism sector.
Standing behind our tourism businesses
Absolute IT stands firmly behind our amazing New Zealand tourism industry. Contributing billions in revenue to our economy, it’s a huge part of what makes our country so great.
We encourage all of our IT community to find ways to support Kiwi tourism, especially while border control prevents overseas visitors. This is a perfect time for us all to rediscover what’s in our own backyard. Jump online and check out what’s around your town to do. You might just find your most memorable holiday doesn’t require you to travel very far at all.
Are you a tech professional looking for opportunities in tourism?
Absolute IT ‘s team helps connect tech professionals with awesome jobs across different NZ industries. As tourism recovers from the impact of COVID-19, expect a larger demand for tech expertise. If you’re keen to explore your options, get in touch with our team for a chat!