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

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!

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