The behaviour of the digital traveller
How is the tourism industry adapting to the consumption habits of the digital traveller?
What role are new technologies playing in the evolution of tourism companies, adapting to the demands of self-sufficient travellers?
Questions as varied as their answers. Just emulating them generates a mixture of ideas and variables, as well as answers in the form of questions. Are we looking at tourists who travel for a particular type of motivation? Whether they’re looking for an adventure-filled holiday or a trip where they can disconnect and find total relaxation. We could also analyse the well-covered topic of tourist type per generation (millennials, generation X, Y and Z, etc.). We could also digress and consider which tourist categories should be the focus of our study: urban tourism, the classic “holiday” tourism or the new type of sports tourism are just a few examples.
It’s crazy! Meanwhile, with regards to the future, it might astonish you to learn that an estimated 10 billion tourist trips will take place between now and 2030 – a little over 10 years’ away – with new types of travellers joining the already existing ones.
For the new ‘digital’ traveller, the internet is a commonly-used ecosystem of which they have comprehensive knowledge. Starting with the spark of initial inspiration and lasting throughout the trip itself until the return home, the traveller remains connected at all times. Some of the technological innovations that have changed how we travel include online platforms for private tourist services, information search engines, price comparison websites, social media platforms, mobile apps and geolocation services.
Technological developments mean that today’s traveller has access to a much greater range of products and services than those of previous generations. Following the ‘boom’ of social media platforms and “hyper-connectivity”, I’m meeting more and more people who are voluntarily seeking an “analogue experience” in which they can disconnect from the digital world. “Authenticity and privacy” are increasingly sought after.
It goes without saying that age restrictions are becoming increasingly insignificant, which proves especially true after analysing consumer habits per age bracket.
Millennials have gone down in history, as the bulk of this age category is tech-savvy. While consumption habits may differ, data analyses and new technologies mean that we are able to perform individual monitoring of each consumer and make predictions (regarding expenditure, travel preferences and consumption) based on their real behaviour, using this as the foundation for creating personalised messages.
Put in another way, age categories are becoming increasingly less significant, especially when individual data is available. When talking about large volumes of tourists, it’s clear that this personalisation will only be viable if the consumer is willing to disclose their information! Analogue consumers who leave no “digital footprint” will always exist, although there are increasingly fewer of them.
The days of traditional travel agencies selling the same holiday package to everyone are now resigned to the history books. Consumers are increasingly looking for a more personalised experience. It could be said that the one-size-fits-all approach is now a thing of the past. Travellers now see personalisation as a right rather than a privilege, and we in the tourism industry need to adapt to this new demand for tailor-made holidays.
While certain social groups might be more reluctant to disclose their personal information, it’s true that the trend of providing personal data to private companies is increasingly popular, as consumers tend to trust the security mechanisms under which their data is managed, offering their data in exchange for great benefits such as personalised services, recommendations and offers.
In this sense, tourists are increasingly willing to pay a little bit more for tailor-made holiday packages, making this an excellent opportunity for those providers who offer flexible packages.
Another recent phenomenon is that of tourists travelling in search of experiences, with increasing numbers of tourists obsessing over questions such as “what is there to do in the destination?” as opposed to logistical questions such as “where is a good place to stay?” and “how do I get to the holiday destination?”
Stemming from this, low-cost tourism – which originated in the transport sector – has expanded to accommodation options, making price the key element in the decision making of consumers, becoming more important than value and even the brand. And it’s this very consumer, who aims to save as much money as possible on flights and accommodation, who will then push the boat out when it comes to paying for new experiences. These trends are precisely the reason that have led to the boom in the online reservation of activities in the destination.
The demand for experiences is one of the trends that show no signs of slowing down in the sector over the coming years. However, the quest for unconventional, innovative and unusual experiences is on the rise. These tourists are no longer interested in visiting cathedrals and museums, pushing these to one side in favour of visiting “hidden secrets” and performing activities that derive from the norm.
We know that the new traveller is self-sufficient. All aspects of the journey are digitalised, lasting from the moment of initial inspiration until they return from their travels, including the experience itself at the destination. In order to survive in this industry in the era of the digital traveller, we need to check all the boxes of this hyper-connectivity to ensure we have a presence in some of the thousands of available options.