When you think about tourism, what comes to mind? Is it the travel agency down the street with beautiful catalogs? Or the flight comparison website you used for your last vacation; the guide book you purchased at the book store; the apartment sharing platform you visited last month; the app you used this weekend to find things to do during your weekend trip; the review website you visited to gather new ideas? The reality is that the travel industry includes many different verticals and components.
There are several ways to categorize travel companies. You can first sort them by their main presence: online or offline. You can create a differentiation between the transactional companies and the ones that are mostly inspirational. Another clear separator is by vertical: airlines, hotels and accommodations, activities and so on. Each of the categories requires a different type of content and therefore different localization strategies and processes.
In recent years, the travel sector, like many other industries, has been irremediably influenced by two major innovations. First is the internet: people now consume information online. They prefer to reserve trips on a screen. They can learn more about a specific topic on their own, and they don’t feel the need to go to a travel agent, to buy a paper travel book or to go to the library to do their research about a certain destination. In 2016, for example, over 70% of the flights booked in Europe were purchased online.
The second innovation is mobility: everything is turning toward smartphones and tablets. Consumers can now get their information on a screen and on the go. This is a game changer. It influences the habits and expectations of consumers and travelers. The consumers of today are expecting content, and all supporting information, to be available instantly and accurately in their language. Customers may not even keep records of their room description or of their travel activity summary. Content is just a means to an end: experiences. The content also needs to fit new types of devices — the screens are smaller and the attention span is even shorter than on a desktop session. Customers don’t want to scroll down to find what they need. It is all about the now. Therefore, the trend is to display shorter copy with more icons and images. Frequent updates are also expected.
What does this mean for travel industry players? They need to adapt to the expectations of their customers and localization departments are in the first row of that skirmish. The mobile shift introduces new challenges. Since everything needs to be fast, accurate and fluent, content must be available in a clear, concise language style that gives them the information needed effortlessly. Mobile content should be lean and to the point.
At GetYourGuide, we focus on giving our customers experiences that they will remember. As an online platform for tours, activities and attraction tickets, we are at the heart of the transactional travel experiences. Our customers can plan activities a long time in advance by browsing on their computer, or book during their trip on their mobile device, right when they need a ticket. We therefore must display accurate content at all times. We currently offer close to 30,000 activities to choose from in 14 languages.
The particularity of online travel experience content is that it displays large volumes of unique descriptions that are frequently updated. The localization of content is therefore a complex machinery where processes play as much of a role as linguistic expertise. Our goal is to create, translate and adapt the various travel experiences in real time in each language, while keeping the appropriate level of quality. One of the main challenges here is how to combine information reliability with the style of production and the accuracy of the language. Our approach consists of simultaneously running different localization models for different types of content. A newsletter, for example, needs to be inspiring, to be perfectly accurate and to convey the tone of voice and style of the company. Since an email cannot be modified after it has been sent, the final product must be flawless.
On the other hand, the description pages of activities are used as a commodity and can therefore be considered as disposable content. The emphasis is on translating all facts accurately while keeping the fluency of the production. This is also the type of text that is updated most frequently. As a result, we privilege fast iterations over perfect quality scorecards, as we can change any online translation anytime. Of course, the aim is to get it right the first time and we strive to optimize processes and production flows of source and target content to avoid quality issues.
The travel sector is continuing this transformation toward real-time information delivery and will soon be dominated by mobile. The new European directive removing all roaming fees in Europe for European customers starting June 2017 will accelerate the shift. Travel industry players are getting ready and many exciting opportunities already arise for all players in the localization industry to meet the expectations. New technologies are competing to support growth in online companies: machine learning applied to machine translation, automation and standardization of content production, rapidly evolving translation management systems, for example. Language service providers also adapt to the need of delivering more batches of smaller volume with a very short turnaround time. And let’s not forget linguistic experts and translators who see their job description change as new innovations appear.