Tourism ranks as the number three export worldwide — ahead of even food and cars, according to 2016 data from the UN World Tourism Organization. Emerging countries, the majority of which use languages other than English, are projected to dominate international tourist arrivals by 2030 with 57% of the market, or one billion arrivals. And it’s not just outbound tourism that’s driving this consistent growth, but domestic travel as well: the Chinese alone took off on more than 2.2 billion trips in the first half of 2016.
Multilingual content helps drive the T&L export engine
Whether user-generated on TripAdvisor or Dianping, white-labeled on Expedia or Ctrip, or corporate-branded, content underlies this growth engine in multiple languages. Common Sense Advisory (CSA Research) has analyzed how travel and leisure (T&L) companies exploit multilingual content to support global customer experience. Their challenges parallel those of other industries as they struggle to adapt to quickly evolving customer preferences and expectations as mobile, personalization and Millennials dominate the landscape. At the same time, they must find ways to stay ahead of brutal competition from well-funded local upstarts and disruptors.
Other companies can learn from travel industry colleagues
Companies in retail, high-tech, consumer goods, life sciences, financial services and manufacturing can learn from the following areas in which T&L excels, as well as from their cautionary tales. Language providers hoping to service the travel sector can pick up pointers about the sector’s special needs and requirements, as detailed in CSA Research’s report “How Travel and Leisure Companies Buy Translation,” including:
1. Welcome user generated content (UGC) and machine translation (MT). Brands whose success is directly tied to the availability and quality of user reviews tackle UGC with real-time and post-edited MT. They understand the connection between how UGC delivery affects brand perception and their bottom line — especially among the Millennial crowd that routinely factors in other opinions before tapping the “confirm” button.
2. Focus on content tiering. Travel companies have a hard time describing their global customer personas and content usage patterns. As a result, they often translate too much content into too many languages. Don’t fall into the same trap. Classify your content by local market factors, content type and quality requirements. This allows you to prioritize the right pieces to localize for each market and to obtain the most for every translation dollar, euro, yen or pound.
3. Assimilate online and offline worlds. Mobile devices allow interaction on a more personal level with prospects and clients, but that comes with the responsibility and opportunity to provide upgraded experiences. Travel brands enhance digital access to their audience’s offline lives. Examples include services such as mobile check-in and keyless access at hotels and resorts, and free Wi-Fi on planes.
Travel and leisure companies process a wide range of content types from internal and external sources. Their material requires varying levels of linguistic quality and often includes large volumes of user-generated text and images. At the same time, they face heavy competition within and outside their industry. As they race to personalize the content experience through mobilizing and socializing it, companies in other industries can apply the lessons learned to their own sectors.