TOURISM stakeholders are encouraged to reassess the kind of products and services they sell and deliver as the new breed of travelers now seek out authenticity and local experiences.
Caroline Bremner, head of travel research at Euromonitor International UK, said going hyperlocal is a big game in the travel and tourism industry.
“Tourism now is going hyperlocal. This is not only happening in the west, but all around the globe,” she said during the Pacific-Asia Travel Association (Pata) Annual Summit 2019 panel discussion.
Based on their studies, Bremner said there is a significant rise in consumer spending on experiences than in material goods. In emerging countries, consumers set aside 10 percent of their income for travel.
“Every year, we see consumers prioritize experience and they are shying away from products and goods to services like travel,” she said.
But she quickly added that this isn’t just the typical travel they are willing to splurge on, as they increasingly want authentic and local experiences—the reason global campaigns like “live like a local” or “eat like a local” appeal to them.
She noted, however, that this “experience phenomenon” poses a challenge to businesses, which are used to offering tour packages similar to what their competitors are doing.
She encouraged tourism players to reassess their products because travelers value customized experience, which drive the new behavior of the way people travel.
One important tool that can help players win this game is the use of technology.
Bremner said business owners can capitalize on big data and analytics to determine which tour packages and activities their target market wants to experience.
“We have a lot of data (in the industry), but they are unstructured,” said John Koldowski, special advisor to Pata’s chief executive officer and professor of the school of tourism at Leshan Normal University in Sichuan Province, China.
Koldowski said this data could help business owners step up their businesses in this new age. They could make use of information to study the interests and new traveling behaviors of the market, which are dominated by millennials and the middle-class.
Andrew Staples, global editorial director of The Economist Corporate Network-Singapore, also identified digital infrastructure and human capital as critical investments to make travel and tourism a sustainable industry.
He said countries need to beef up their investments in technology and people to shape business if they want to grow and remain relevant amid the uncertainties in the global market.
International tourist arrivals grew six percent in 2018, reaching 1.4 billion, according to the latest United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) World Tourism Barometer.
The growth was well above the 3.7-percent growth registered in the global economy.
The Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Pacific and Europe led growth in 2018.
“The growth of tourism in recent years confirms that the sector today is one of the most powerful drivers of economic growth and development,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili in a statement.
“This is why UNWTO is focusing 2019 on education, skills and job creation,” he added.
The Asia-Pacific recorded 343 million international tourist arrivals in 2018. Arrivals in Southeast Asia grew seven percent followed by Northeast Asia at six percent and South Asia at five percent. Oceania showed more moderate growth at three percent.
UNWTO’s long-term forecast published in 2010 predicted the 1.4-billion mark of international tourist arrivals for 2020.
Yet stronger economic growth, more affordable air travel, technological changes, new businesses models and greater visa facilitation around the word have accelerated growth in recent years.
“Digitalization, new business models, more affordable travel and societal changes are expected to continue shaping our sector, so both destination and companies need to adapt if they want to remain competitive”, the UNWTO official said.