Tag: tourism


Latvia’s linguistic journey

Language, Travel and Culture

Tourism is popular the world over, as MultiLingual’s new issue on tourism can attest to. And Latvia is no exception.

Once, at a resort in Whistler, British Columbia, I was surprised to meet a trainer with AirBaltic, the flag-carrying airline of Latvia. The trainer told me that when AirBaltic started flying in 1995, its flight attendants only knew Latvian and Russian. This was unfortunate when it started expanding its route system throughout Europe. Additionally, the seat-back pocket safety instruction was in Latvian and Cyrillic Russian, which did little good for a Frenchman traveling to Latvia for the first time.

“To survive, Latvia had to become more than a bilingual society,” the trainer told me. Before Latvia’s independence in the early 1990s, you needed Russian to get ahead — and aside from Latvian-Russian schools, all other bilingual schools were shut down under the Soviet regime. But after independence, English became the second language in Latvia, especially for the younger generation. And then Latvia joined the EU, and with the adoption of the euro it could attract tourists from all over.

The translation issue to promote tourism became apparent during my first trip back to Latvia in 1989. There were no translation companies and most translation was done by Baltic speakers in their countries. I know — I translated the franchise agreements for Coca Cola and others into Latvian while living in the US.

The OECD now reports that tourism is booming in Latvia. In 2012, for example, “The top source markets for international tourist arrivals were the Russian Federation, Lithuania, Sweden, Germany, Estonia and Finland, together generating nearly 70% of the total overnight count.”

Latvia finally realized that tourism means economic development, and a Latvian tourist development agency was formed in 1997. The tourism campaign came up with the recent slogan “Explore Latvia slowly,” focusing on road trips. I like this slogan better than that of neighboring Vilnius, Lithuania: “Nobody knows where it is, but when you find it, it’s amazing.” You can use your imagination as to what this latter slogan is referencing, or you could watch the John Oliver clip about it.

My two favorite places in Riga, Latvia, are the Riga Central Market and the Occupation Museum. The Occupation Museum shows what happened to Latvia during two totalitarian regimes: Nazi Germany and then the USSR. Its mission, explained in Latvian, English, Russian and German, “is to remember those who perished, were forcefully deported, or fled the terror of the occupation regime.”

Latvia Translation tourism

Interactive map of Latvia from Latvia’s tourism site.

Today, translations are everywhere in Latvia. To attract foreign investment, the Latvia development agency where I served as the US representative for 16 years has a website (www.liaa.gov.lv) in Latvian, English, Russian, Japanese and Chinese. Russian firms are coming to Latvia, and perhaps the most notable is Stolichnaya Vodka (Stoli), which now makes much of its vodka in Latvia.

To deal with some of the issues that researchers found in foreign language availability, the Latvian government set up a travel portal that provides maps and booklets in a variety of languages for each of the four regions of Latvia. This is pretty amazing given that Latvia is not a huge country — and the documents are localized for different demographics. For example, Booklet about Latvia is in Korean and Chinese, and Cycling Routes in Latvia is in Latvian, English, German, Russian and Dutch.

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John Freivalds runs an international communications firm and is the Honorary Consul for Latvia in the US State of Minnesota.


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What the localization of travel websites can tell us about the future of tourism

Localization, Travel and Culture

localization of travel websitesWe all know that North America, Western Europe and East Asia have long been popular markets for the tourism industry. But we also know that people living in these places aren’t the only ones who want to explore the world. Companies are recognizing the value in marketing to emerging markets and lesser-known regions. Where else in the world is tourism expected to grow?

We thought of an interesting way to answer this question. Our team conducted a study of ten leading tourism websites to determine which of these companies make the most effort to the localize their website in different languages, and what that can tell us about where the tourism industry is headed.

We took a look at a variety of tourism websites to try to get a good feel for the market. We could not consider every tourism website out there, so these are the results for the sample we selected. The results of the study are as follows:

  • Leading the pack in our sample is travel fare aggregator and lodging reservation website Booking.com with 43 languages, including Thai, Polish and Malay.
  • In second place is Agoda, Asia’s leading online hotel reservation service, which operates in 36 languages and has a site localized in Brazilian Portuguese.
  • com comes in third with 34 languages.
  • Trivago comes in fourth with 32 languages.
  • Tripadvisor and Skyscanner both fly in at fifth place, with 28 languages each. Skyscanner also has three localized websites in British English, Latin American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese.
  • Seventh place belongs to Kayak with 22 languages.
  • Expedia and Accor Hotels are in eighth place with 18 languages.
  • Couchsurfing, a website that connects travelers and hosts for homestays and events, comes in at tenth place with nine languages.

Not surprisingly, the study revealed that the most popular languages appearing on each of the ten sites were English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Mandarin. However, what’s interesting is looking at which other languages appeared on the websites.

The next most popular languages are Russian, Dutch, Japanese, Polish, Indonesian, Korean, Swedish and Thai, with nine translated sites. On eight websites you’ll find Turkish, Traditional Chinese, Danish, Norwegian and Finnish. Seven sites are localized in Vietnamese and Greek. Six are localized in Czech, Hungarian, Arabic and Hebrew. Five sites are translated into Ukrainian and Malay. Romanian, Croatian and Slovak appear on four websites. Three sites were translated into Catalan, Bulgarian, Latvian, Estonian, Lithuanian, Slovenian and Serbian. Only two are translated into Filipino and Icelandic.

What does this mean for the tourism industry?

Our test data shows that the popular sites are noticeably present in the developed markets of Western Europe, North America and East Asia. However, digital tourism giants are identifying growth engines and are beginning to show their presence in the emerging markets of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet bloc countries, along with East Asia and the Middle East. According to our estimation, this phenomenon will only increase.

Thanks to a growing middle class in developing countries enjoying rapid economic growth — due in large part to technological advancements — more people are able to spend their time and money on travel. This was either an unlikely or impossible reality for people living in these regions 20 to 30 years ago. Furthermore, customers are reaping the cost benefits of technological innovations in the aviation and tourism markets as companies continue to lower their prices.

What does this mean for the translation industry?

There’s a good reason why all of these companies (and they’re not the only ones) are localizing their websites. Localization can help an entity greatly expand their market reach, whether they operate in the tourism space or not. Furthermore, it can be done at relatively low costs.

Many businesses translate large quantities of content with hybrid translation, which combines neural machine translation (NMT) with the expertise of human editors and testers. In some cases, hybrid translation can lower traditional translation costs by 50% — theoretically, without compromising quality.

We’ve developed a translation quality score (ONEs) which evaluates NMT systems on a quarterly basis. The Q3 2018 score rates the translations for the travel and tourism sector above 90%. With such a high score, it’s evident that the need for human post editors is reduced to a minimum, and only minor fixes are required to bring texts to human-level quality.

We estimate that within 6 to 12 months, most of the travel and tourism industry, starting with the high-volume travel websites, will stop using traditional human-only translation services.

MultiLingual will devote the last issue of 2019 to tourism, so if you have direct experience with emerging trends in tourism localization, get in touch!


Yaron Kaufman is a cofounder and CMO of One Hour Translation. His main interests are localization technologies, online advertising, SAAS and entrepreneurship.

SDL Tados 2021

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Pura vida, the translation industry way

Travel and Culture

You may have noticed that MultiLingual published an issue on travel and tourism yesterday. We can learn a lot from travel. In February of 2017, I took my children to Costa Rica for a 15 day cross country adventure. We drove through several climate zones and hiked the dry forest, rain forest and cloud forest. We snorkeled in the ocean and watched a whale splash its tail. We took a boat ride in the mangroves and impersonated howler monkeys. We stayed at six different hotels, rented a car and were guided by tour guides from different providers. It was a real eye opener to see the ecosystem of tourism operators in Costa Rica.

In the short 15 days, I witnessed different styles of tour operators — some aim for exclusivity, some strive for volume, some are very focused at customer experience while others not so much (one naturist tour company had a survey done after each guided tour and each ground transfer while most companies did not survey their customers).

The experience very much reminded me of the translation industry, where we also have an ecosystem of players of large and small, volume versus niche. Everyone is striving to build a profitable company with plenty of growth. We seem to be in a competition with each other in a race to get bigger. It seems that small companies claim “small is beautiful,” but secretly everyone thinks otherwise.

I am the first one to acknowledge that money and financial security is very important and one of the most practical yardsticks of measuring the achievement of an entrepreneur. But what happens after we have bread on the table and our children have shoes? What keeps us going? The pursuit of getting bigger brings us what? More responsibilities and challenges to keep us up at night? I am sure the answers to these question vary from person to person. We all have our own reason for continuing. Some people have examined it more than others. The stay at Pacuare Lodge, my favorite hotel of the trip, gave me clarity as to why I keep doing what I do after 18 years and my own dialogue of small versus big.

A 19 room hotel

Our stay at Pacuare Lodge was characterized by eye-opening uniqueness and top-notch hospitality. All the lodges were candlelit only (my kids begrudgingly put down their iPods and computers); we ate candlelit dinners every day but had to wear headlamps to see what we were eating; we had a rain forest themed bathroom including an unforgettable outdoor shower; there were always extra guides to ensure our safety and enjoyment (at the canopy and hiking into the forest); and gourmet meals every day including seared tuna (although my children were secretly hoping for chicken fingers).

The lodge owners also make the best of the resources available to them. In the absence of ocean waves and beaches, Pacuare finds its own unique way of creating “deep” travel experiences for its customers. It offers several variations of eight-hour or multi-day hikes deep into the jungle (some to a native reserve only accessible by a very narrow foot path).

As I soaked in my experience, my brain kept digesting how the learning was relevant to me and the translation industry. Here are my take-homes:

  • The Pacuare Lodge was built off the beaten tourist path (which meant the cost of land and labor was lower than built-up areas). Note to self: what is the equivalent of “off the beaten path” for the translation industry?
  • Leverage available resources (proximity to native reserve — hiking, nature education, more personal attention- three people at the zip line as opposed to the norm of two everywhere else, two guides at the hikes as opposed to one, very personal attention everywhere)
  • Exclusive experience yet guests feel a great sense of value (feeling safer at all the hikes and tours, gourmet meals included in stay). How do we make our clients in the translation industry feel the same? What could we learn from this?
  • Balance of profitability and sense of purpose (well being and caring of the environment, its employees, and guests while running a profitable, vibrant business). Don’t we feel good for making all the stake holders prosperous?
  • Quality trumps quantity. Isn’t it better to run an amazing 19 room hotel than a lousy 500 room one? If we can find all the ingredients of what makes us feel alive and happy, do we really need other people to tell us what we do is enough?

Pura vida

In Spanish, the literal translation of pura vida means pure life. It has a lot of cultural connotations for Costa Ricans. It represents their love of nature, friends and family and the longing for a simple, peaceful life. It represents the quintessential spirits of its culture. We could all learn from the essential teaching of pura vida — clarity of what is important to us; at peace with the bounds of our geniuses and be fully present in life.

The journey to Costa Rica was a pura vida moment to me. Now every time I feel I am in a rat race, I remind myself of the 19 room hotel and how I would like to build my own version of it so I could reach my full potential while in full harmony with my environment – providing well being to people that I come in contact with, my children, my employees and clients, the environment and the universe at large. I know now why I do what I do and how I am going to continue my entrepreneurial journey.

May you find your pura vida moment too.


Huiping Zhang is the president of wintranslation and an entrepreneur with 17 years of experience managing multilingual communication services.

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Travel, tourism, Cuba and the New Year

Localization Culture

Cuban cowboys

Cuban cowboys checking their phones in a public wifi zone.

In 2017 we have a host of new localization subjects to explore. One is travel and tourism. I’ve traveled all over, but after spending ten days in Cuba, I can say it’s one of the most-visited and still least-touristy places I’ve been. From a tourist’s perspective, it’s aching for some seriously localized tourist amenities: wifi, online booking, straightforward, comfortable transportation, more English. However, the underlying reason it lacks these things is precisely why it is so appealing to tourists — it’s its own thing, not some foreigner’s version of itself. Although it is possible to find Air BnB listings in some places, the network of casa particulares needs no internet, relying instead on interpersonal networks of friends in other cities and getting a small cut. You can find a casa in Havana and have your entire trip planned for you by your host, taxis arranged, lodging arranged, everything. And even paying a few extra bucks for lodging, this is doubtless cheaper than redoing the infrastructure of the island nation.

If you’re adventurous, it’s not hard to find transport and places to stay yourself, even just walking into a town; it may not be what you’d expect, but that’s, in part, what people pay for. They want to experience a place where the cars are so old that it’s standard procedure to pack 16 tourists into a 1950s-era army truck with plastic seats bolted to the floor and then drive for six hours in diesel fumes. They want to experience a place where McDonalds doesn’t exist. Where they have to be smart and savvy in order to get around the language barrier. Where they can take photos of men carrying hay through the streets by horse wagon, where they can buy socialized ice cream for four cents, where they can haggle and quibble and still have no idea if they’ve overpaid. Tourists, to a large degree, want the foreign. It’s why they travel.

They also want the familiar, however: they want to be able to look on Yelp for restaurant reviews, and they want to be able to upload their photos to Instagram. The balance of keeping places their own thing, and localizing for tourists, is a delicate one.

If you have expertise in this field, or in any of the others we’re covering this year, send us an email. We’re always looking for expertise.

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Katie Botkin, Editor-in-Chief at MultiLingual, has a background in linguistics and journalism. She began publishing "multilingual" newsletters at the age of 15, and went on to invest her college and post-graduate career in language learning, teaching and writing. She has extensive experience with niche American microcultures across the political spectrum.

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