As the World Travel Market opens in London, with over 50,000 representatives from 190 different countries, what better time to consider how travel and tourism as a sector can best respond to the challenge of communicating internationally and growing overseas markets. Travel and tourism is an inherently international industry, and is already one of the largest online market sectors. But companies in this sector could grow their revenue significantly if they were to address the localisation of products more professionally and market themselves more effectively on the Internet.
Tailoring your message to speak the buyer’s language.
The simple fact is that you need to address users of your service in their own language. Although English is the international business language, research has shown that even fluent English speakers are much more likely to buy from a company whose website has content in their native tongue. Producing and maintaining multi-lingual content has become even more important in the last couple of years, as Internet growth in emerging markets has reduced the market share of English online (based on page views) from over 50% in 2002 to under 30% now.
As with all marketing copy, web content selling travel products must be closely tailored to the potential buyer’s needs and desires. This is more important when selling an intangible experience, which must be exciting, luxurious and different enough to get the prospective buyer’s juices flowing and to encourage him to make a purchase. The task becomes even more challenging when you are seeking to attract buyers from different countries, all of whom have different cultural backgrounds and have different which you need to push. For example, as Roy Graff, a former director of octopustravel.com in China, explains, you wouldn’t market to Chinese visitors in the same way as you would to westerners:
”Chinese people coming to the UK are interested in the country’s history, but their real focus is on shopping. Many items considered by the Chinese to be luxurious are much cheaper here, and they enjoy trips to places like Bicester village where they can buy British products for less than they can at home. The Chinese are less interested in cultural events like theatre where the foreign words and cultural references wouldn’t resonate with them.”
So when trying to attract Chinese (or indeed, any other) visitors to come to these shores, it’s worth keeping at the forefront of one’s mind what exactly is going to sell them on the idea of making that trip. This is where the localisation of copy becomes a necessity in order to target your message appropriately. As more people the world over use the Internet to plan their trips rather than going through traditional travel agencies, it is vital that your message bridges any cultural and linguistic divides which might separate you from your target customers.
Managing multi-lingual content
Professional translation and localisation are now a necessity for travel companies and tourism organisations alike. But having all this material in foreign languages can pose its own challenges. How do you ensure that foreign character sets appear appropriately on your website? How can you avoid your staff having to copy and paste material in a language they don’t know into your content management system (a recipe for disaster, if our experience is anything to go by!)? How do you ensure you are using translation technologies effectively to keep costs down? We at Lingo24 have seen companies try to manage their translated content in-house, and we’ve witnessed some well-intentioned but horrendously inefficient attempts to take a perfectly good website and make it multi-lingual. It is not a simple matter, and it’s something translation service providers are best placed to handle in consultation with client companies. As with other web projects, it is best to plan how a multi-lingual website will work well before it is actually constructed.
Translate and they will come?
Of course, there is little point having a slick multi-lingual website if you aren’t able to attract enough of the right visitors to make a good return on your investment in foreign language content. The key is to establish where you need to appear online, be it through search engine listings or on partner websites, in order to drive targeted traffic. To achieve this, you really need to have an understanding of the ‘online scene’ in each of your target markets, and a partner who can help you achieve the positioning that will generate returns. It’s also important to measure both your successes and failures in online marketing, as this will enable you to optimise your campaigns over time. In an online marketplace as crowded and competitive as travel and tourism, those companies that seize the initiative to build well-targeted, highly visible and manageable, multi-lingual sites will reap the rewards now and for years to come.