What’s up in the digital front of travel industry?

What are the hot topics in the digital side of travel right now?

Travel industry was one of the first industries to go truly online. Already in the late nineties OTA’s started to take market place and nowadays majority of air and hotel bookings are booked online from most markets. This is no news to anyone.

What is happening in the market right now is that finally also the activities and tours are moving online. It has taken some time as most of the activities companies are very small and have not had the resources to invest in their own technology as such. It has also been hard and unprofitable for OTA’s to handle these products on their platform (too many separate contract, hard to handle inventory etc.). Now there are easy to apply solutions and platforms that any small company can utilize and create their own market place and get on to global distribution channels. The great thing is that it makes it easy to also cross sell and promote products and services.

As more and more travellers are moving from traveling in groups to individual travel (yes, also from Asia) and want to be able to find and book services easily online, it is initial to any travel industry provider to be present online. If you do not have a professional online presence, you do not exist for majority of the travellers. As a minimum online presence for a company looking to have international travellers, one should have a website that is optimized for both desktop and mobile and has online booking ability. All the information should be available at least in English. In addition, simple things like having your TripAdvisor profile taken care of will make a difference!

Based on a small survey amongst companies who have participated in our Visit Finland academy trainings (241 companies) we found out that 56% of the companies are not bookable online and 49% do not have a website in English. There is work to be done!

What I personally find most interesting in digital and travel currently is the change from the traditional and linear sales funnel (the most simple version being: search – book –travel) to a very complex and scattered model. People are searching, getting inspired, comparing and having hundreds of digital “moments” before they book, during their travel and afterwards. This does not even take into account all the offline moments with friends and family that of course are impactful but not as easy to track. For very digitally savvy companies this actually gives a great chance to get to the customer in many phases of this process and possibly get them to book directly, recommend your services to their friends etc. Big players are investing a lot to stay in this more and more complex game (like OTA’s investing in metasites) but I do see big opportunities for direct suppliers as well.

There is a lot going on in the digital side but these are on top of my mind right now. Let’s save something for later as well…

What is Visit Finland doing to support the digitalisation of travel industry?

Just last week (10th October) we had a big event for the travel industry leaders and decision makers about digitalization of travel industry. D.Day for Travel was an event we hosted together with Tekes and the goal was to inspire and to get the industry working together to help the Finnish travel sector take the next leap in the digital side of travel.

We have all the potential to be the leaders in digital innovation in travel. The feedback received has been great and I know that many of the projects discussed in the workshops are moving forward, so I am very pleased and looking forward to following up the developments. For me one of the key messages from the event was “let’s grow the Finnish pie together, let’s not fight over the small pie”.

One exciting thing is the launch of Team Finland Digital Innovations competition for travel industry at the D.Day. I can’t wait to go through the ideas and innovations as I know there will be many great ones. The competition is open until 30th November and the winner will be announced in January at Matka travel fair.

In addition to these, we are offering digital training to travel companies. We will have 19 trainings arranged in different regions around Finland by the end of this year. Regional travel organizations have been able to book the trainings from our Visit Finland Academy trainers. There is a wide selection of courses available and the possibility to tailor make a one-day course. So, there should be between 200–300 companies who will have some digital training by the end of this year. From what I have heard, the companies have been very pleased and found the training very useful.

We are also further developing our MyStay portal. We will have a more user friendly MyStay available at the start of next year. We want to be able to showcase truly the best service offering, make it easy for the visitors to find what they are looking for and share information with their friends.

Furthermore, we want to build good direct relationships with the key online travel channels. There are many ways to work together with these channels also on a country level with our regional partners and travel companies. Starting point for this process was the digital channels survey we did in our key markets. More on this will follow.

I suppose it is ok to mention now also that I will be working on these things more officially from the beginning of next year onwards as a new Digital Development Manager at Visit Finland. So excited!

Kaisa Kosonen
StopOver Finland Program Manager
Visit Finland, Finpro

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