Era of the digital tourist

SONIA BEAL
Last updated 12:00 14/09/2012

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In the era of smart phones, Google, self-scan grocery kiosks, Facebook, and Wikipedia, tourists are no longer satisfied to wait around, a tourism specialist warns.

Victoria University associate professor of tourism management Dr Ian Yeoman was speaking at a three-day national i-Site conference in Blenheim yesterday, attended by about 100 managers and staff from i-Site visitor centres across New Zealand.

The tourism industry was seeing the rise of the "digital tourist", he said.

"We live in a society that's all about networks. We're all extremely connected."

Whether people were at the bus stop, waiting for someone, or just had idle time on their hands, the first thing they would do was do something on their mobile phone, he said.

Readily available information anytime, anywhere meant today's consumers had more choice, but it also meant they were more demanding and less likely to remain loyal to particular brands if they happened to find a better deal on a similar product.

"Tourism is the world's most competitive industry," he said.

As the scenario planner for Visit Scotland, similar to Tourism New Zealand's role of marketing the country to the world, Dr Yeoman established a variety of techniques including economic modelling, trends analysis and scenario construction.

While working there, he discovered that 60 per cent of accommodation providers in Scotland used an email booking system that provided consumers with booking confirmation within one to two days.

Businesses that operated that way now would not stand a chance, he said. "If they can't make the booking right then and there, they [businesses] will lose the business."

Among the conference speakers were Marlborough deputy mayor Jenny Andrews, Destination Marlborough general manager Tracy Johnston and Associate Tourism Minister Chris Tremain.

Mr Tremain said the government remained committed to supporting the second biggest industry in New Zealand.

The Government would invest in international marketing to encourage international visitors to New Zealand, leverage off the release of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy to highlight the country's attractions as a tourist destination, and continue its commitment to the New Zealand Cycle Trail to attract domestic and international tourists, he said. It would support the establishment of new airlines and routes to increase trade and tourism, and continue to assist the Christchurch re-build. The city was the gateway to the South Island's tourism network, he said.

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- The Marlborough Express

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