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The mysteries underlying the database

Data is the name of the game in tourism marketing. For a long time now it has no longer been a matter of simply presenting one’s business on one’s own website. During the customer’s journey and at the destination too, all those involved will in future expect mixed reality experiences, whether seated in front of a screen or at the travel agency.

Travel agencies are still important

The travel sector is still not completely digitalised: 48 per cent of customers continue to use a travel agency to make their holiday bookings, even though most of them will have done their research on the internet. This was revealed by a tourism study conducted by the digital association Bitkom and presented at the eTravel World at ITB Berlin 2018. Only 25 per cent of vacationers use the internet to obtain the inspiration that precedes the supply of information, whereas for the remainder it comes from friends and other offline sources. The head of Bitkom, Bernhard Rohleder, revealed his own surprise at how little difference there is in the various age groups with regard to this question, if one disregards the over-65s, who do not attach such importance to online usage. It also comes as a surprise to learn that the use of services such as Airbnb is still not very prevalent: when booking on the internet the vast majority of tourists use the providers’ websites (90 per cent), followed by the main tourism portals (70 per cent). The percentage of online platforms for private sector accommodation or file-sharing sites, on the other hand, is in the single-digit range. In general Rohleder described travellers as “extremely open” to new forms of marketing. Notwithstanding all the digital aspects, some 25 per cent still have reservations about data security. The head of Bitkom predicts a promising future for mixed reality services. One example he gave was of travellers using digital glasses in the Colosseum in Rome to view animations showing life in ancient Rome.

“We configure curiousity”

The data from this animation can be used at home to activate an important tendency, that of curiosity, as was emphasised by Julia Jung and Stefan Niemeyer of Neusta eTourism. In view of the fact that “structured data does not recognise empathy”, it is up to the people providing the data to stimulate curiosity among their potential guests, they stated. The tour operator should adopt a course of making mundane data something that can be experienced emotionally. People only become curious if they have a link to the provider of information. This emotional aspect should not be left up to artificial intelligence, but should arise from the presentation of something new, controversial and unknown. But something completely new should be avoided because this could arouse feelings of fear and rejection. The content offered to clients should contain “30 to 40 per cent that is familiar”. There are four basis types of curiosity: “snack curiosity“, which people are seized with, so to speak, as a small hunger for knowledge in between times, a “curiosity for knowledge”, serving the normal need to know, “shame-induced curiosity”, arising from a sense of shame at revealing oneself through a lack of knowledge, and a “passionate curiosity”, in which the seeker after knowledge wishes to immerse him- or herself. These should be satisfied using all available media. Among all these different types, Jung points out that “shortly before achieving a sense of satisfaction the client experiences the highest stage of perception, and this is where the decisive brand or statement should be positioned.”

Web pages are becoming less and less important

This thesis from the CEO of, Hartmut Wimmer, may at first appear provocative, but it became evident when he demonstrated how, in submitting results, some major search engines no longer refer to the relevant websites, but immediately display important content. Google has already perfected this in the tourism sector in particular. “Actually they are no longer search engines but answering machines”, said Wimmer. “No one wants to dismiss the user.” He explained this by means of an example of how important it is to provide the available data from suppliers and customers with suitable algorithms, to ensure that people can perceive what is being offered in the most widely used media. “If it is not there, it is not happening.” Websites must now become semantically structured databases. “We have to get to know the user.” Until now the data obtained by the customer has not been used to maximum effect. “We ask them for so many details. But without asking, we already know a lot about them: where they have been, where they checked in.” And once one knows that they are interested in skiing in the mountains, it is no longer necessary to approach them about mountain biking. The more precisely the data is evaluated, and the more accurately the subsequent information meets the customer’s interests, the less danger there is that the advertising will only be seen as an annoyance. Of course, all this must be done while complying with the relevant data protection laws, Wimmer added.

Holidays with a dog on the North Sea coast

However, many travel trade professionals do not make the most of the opportunities available to them through social networks. Tanja Weinekötter, proprietor of the agency Marketing + Event Support, demonstrated how booking options and selective canvassing can be conducted, using Facebook and Instagram as practical examples. This works, both free of charge and also through paid advertising. Using perfectly normal Facebook posts, it is possible to integrate offers using a button that refers to the website. Weinekötter reported that the tool “Facebook Shop” is already being used in the United States to market direct offers, and conjectured that this could soon be possible in Europe too. If this should become the case care should be taken to ensure that the “two-click method” is used because, before a purchase agreement can take effect, the buyer must be made aware of the general terms of business, the data protection regulations and the possibilities for cancelling the order. Other methods include Facebook Canvas, whereby one clicks to immediately display a website’s landing page on the screen, and Facebook Pixel, to follow the user’s actions and record them. With Instagram a great deal can be achieved using hashtags, whereby brands or precise descriptions such as “#northseaholidayswithadog” can be used. With the photo-dominated app the fundamental rule is “it is better to show fewer, but better” photos, Weinekötter pointed out.

Thomas Rietig

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