As travellers become even more discerning than before, it comes as no surprise that entities such as the World Bank has been documenting the way digital platforms have been impacting the way in which tourism is run from end to end.
According to the World Bank, digital platforms have been disrupting the way destinations facilitate tourism, develop product, gather data, access markets, and attract visitors.
"This digital disruption has ripple effects across the tourism industry, making it challenging for low-income markets to leverage tourism for development impacts,' the agency notes.
The impact of digital platforms have not been lost on Jamaica and its Caribbean Counterparts.In fact the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) notes that "social networking has changed how travellers research trips, make decisions and share experiences" and that "sites such as Facebook, with more than 800 million active users, and TripAdvisor, with 50 million unique monthly visitors, enable travellers to seek trip information and advice from the sources they trust the most, other travellers and people they know.
As a result they arrive at our doors more informed and empowered than ever before, with higher expectations and all sorts of channels for sharing likes and dislikes with large volumes of people".
According to Marcia McLaughlin, Deputy Director of Tourism at the Jamaica Tourist Board, "these days marketing is less about finding customers and more about being found by customers. This requires shifting resources from traditional "push" media like advertising and direct mail to owned and earned media like websites, review sites and social networks".
The World Bank, which is a specialised agency of the United Nations, is looking at how international partners, country leaders and businesses can work together to better manage digital for sustainable tourism development in emerging markets.
The World Bank says "two prominent disruptors are the digital platforms that facilitate peer-to-peer accommodation and user-generated content, which have shifted the power away from media companies and hotel conglomerates into the hands of the consumers".
It also notes that "the peer-to-peer accommodation economy is growing six times as fast as other forms of accommodation. Peer reviews and other user-generated content (UGC) facilitated by digital platforms have become the fastest growing and most important sources of travel information—more important than tourism board and traditional coverage.
In the case of Jamaica, former JHTA president Nicola Madden-Greig noted during her tenure that "when fully optimized, helpful and relevant content in the form of news, stories, blog posts, descriptions, photos and videos will increase a businesses' visibility on search engines, drive traffic to their websites and social networks, and help convert visitors to guests."
She says: "As the use of mobile devices continues to proliferate across the globe, more travellers are researching, seeking advice and making decisions on where to stay, eat, drink, shop, explore and relax while on the go. At the JHTA we want to ensure that our members are well equipped with all the latest developments and are poised to take advantage of the opportunities emerging".
PHOTO CREDIT: Black Enterprise