First published Thursday, January 16, 2014
Today, January 16, 2014, Pembrokeshire Tourism hosted the annual Tourism Summit, this year themed around Digital Tourism.
We are living in a fast paced, and increasingly digital world. The days of visiting a travel agency on the high street, browsing brochures and then booking a holiday are rapidly becoming a thing of the past, as the consumer uses the internet accessed via laptop, tablet or smart phone to research and book their getaway.
This brings challenges and opportunities for businesses involved in the sector. For some, it may be that the website that was a collection of images with some basic information about their accommodation is no longer doing their business justice, or it needs to be changed to be responsive (i.e. easily viewable on a smart phone or tablet device). For others it may mean that online booking facilities need to be added, or a presence established and maintained on social media.
Regardless of what needs to be done, changed, added, deleted, there are a few things that come up time and time again when the subject of ‘digital’ is raised. “I’m already busy running my business, I haven’t got time to do all this as well”, “I don’t need to change anything, people are still coming to my business”, “I understand that it’s important to do things online, but I just don’t know where to start” are all familiar comments, but can no longer be given as valid excuses for not embracing a digital outlook.
Time is precious, and in almost every business you will frequently hear comments along the lines of “I need more hours in the day”. However, as our keynote speaker today, Daniel Rowles commented, he spends something like an hour a week managing his social media sites, posts and comments. Given the range and scope of work he undertakes, to be able to keep it all ticking over nicely in an hour or week just goes to show that it doesn’t need to be massively time consuming. Apps like Hootsuite allow you to manage everything neatly in one place, and schedule postings too, taking away the irritation that can arise when you have to break off from one task in order to post an update or link.
As for the “I don’t need to change anything” comments, whilst not wishing to sound like a teacher reprimanding a student for failing to hand in homework, change is crucial to maintaining an active presence on the internet. Google, the search engine of choice for 92% of internet users, gets cleverer with every update to algorithms used to power the searches, and will rank websites with new content and clearly defined page titles far higher than those that haven’t been changed in the last 2 years. Taking advantage of the Google+ social network, creating a profile and using that to link back to your business website also helps, particularly if you are adding new content through blog posts and then sharing that through your profile. Children as young as 3 are engaging with information technology in school, they are the customer of the future, and they will no doubt do even more in the digital world than we can even begin to conceive at present. Keeping up to date with technology and the digital platforms used to communicate and market products and services to the consumer is vital to maintain and grow market share.
It can seem overwhelming at times, with information coming in and out of homes and businesses via multiple streams, and knowing where to start can sometimes be quite a challenge. However a little time spent researching and identifying your target market can provide the pointers to the best place to start. There are of course various different ways of going about this, and various businesses and organisations who can provide support, training, paid for services and more to deliver answers to some of these questions. As with anything, it is always worth asking friends, colleagues, peer businesses for recommendations, as well as bearing in mind the old adage that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It is possible to achieve a great deal in the digital world comparatively cheaply, so doing a little homework before parting with your money is a good idea.
The one thing to bear in mind however is that whilst it may seem rather overwhelming at times, digital activity doesn’t have to complicated or expensive. What is important is to keep in touch with the key trends, and above all else, use it, engage with it, get your business involved so that you can reach out to your customers. From email to websites to social media and online forums, it is here to stay and will be increasingly important as the 21st century progresses.