This section explores the fundamental role which technology plays for youth travellers, particularly in terms of how they search for information, how they share their travel experiences and how their interaction with technology is shaping future developments.
According to research carried out by Marketing Works, University of Strathclyde, and backed up by industry statistics from BETA UK and others, the use of technology, mobile, digital and social media by youth travellers is key - they are early adopters.
Gen Z are natives, having grown up with the Internet, social media and devices including smartphones, and taking these methods of communication and information acquisition as completely standard. They are hardwired for tech and their behaviour is impacting on how this develops.
Header image courtesy VisitScotland Digital Image Library.
According to research carried out by Marketing Works, University of Strathclyde, backed up by industry statistics from BETA UK and others, the use of technology, mobile, digital and social media by youth travellers is key - they are early adopters.
Furthermore, youth travellers' decision-making is heavily influenced by word of mouth, or E-word of mouth, principally from friends, colleagues and family, but also from reviews and social media. Internet search is the top source of travel information acquisition, and mobile shouldn't be underestimated as a communications channel for this market.
Youth travellers' decision-making is heavily influenced by word of mouth, or E-word of mouth, principally from friends, colleagues and family, but also from reviews and social media. Internet search is the top source of travel information acquisition, and mobile shouldn't be underestimated as a communications channel for this market.
Internet search the most popular method of travel info acquisition – don’t forget that Gen Z have grown up with Internet, mobile and social. Word of mouth (WOM) is the most typical format of information reception, particularly from family and friends. They rely on more on each other's views than promotions (or traditional types of promotional marketing)
Having been born into a digital age, Generation Z travellers have very different expectations of technology, and this has significant implications when it comes to how they search, access information for travel, engage with businesses and brands, and the kind of personalised experience that they expect when looking, booking and experiencing travel.
Youth travellers are visual consumers and have voracious appetites when it comes to consuming visual content –Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat are great examples of this. Visuals are highly important for younger travellers and part of the quest for authenticity. Respondents didn’t rate highly photo-shopped blue skies and preferring ‘real’ over brochure type depictions of Loch Lomond even if they showed cloudy skies and rain or less than perfect images. That said, high quality imagery from businesses is important in showing that they care about their brand and what they are attempting to convey in the imagery they use in digital media.
Access to wifi is considered fundamental, in the general visitor experience, however for Loch Lomond, survey respondents seemed more relaxed about the absence of wifi when out and about and considered it more of a priority for sharing the experience after it had occurred, when back in their accommodation for example, so that they could then create posts and share their experiences.
UGC – user generated content is also key – social proof is highly ranked – word of mouth particularly important via friends and family. Twitter and Instagram users actively seek out WOM recommendations. Youth travellers engage in and create user generated content (UGC) and rely on EWOM (e-word-of-mouth) as the most common sources of travel inspiration and influence and recommendations.
Youth travellers are heavily influenced by social and digital media to purchase and make decisions related to travel. The reason youth travellers prefer these methods? They are seen to be more persuasive at time of decision-making. However they do look across a range of media, including product placement, sponsorship - they are not immune to these. Digital marketing can and should allow two-way interaction with the customer. Youth tourists however may be more suspicious and sceptical of ads.
First things first, websites and e-marketing should be optimised for mobile - otherwise travellers will go elsewhere. Mobile shouldn’t be underestimated as communications channel – in terms of instant messaging and social media apps such as Snapchat, Whatsapp, etc. Mercat Tours offer WhatsApp to their customers and ReviewPro is soon to integrate Whatsapp in its features for hotel communications. Apps are becoming increasingly influenced by gamification – Quest Native offers visitors to Edinburgh the opportunity to list their preferences for the types of things they want to see and do, and then serves up ideas to them across the city, letting them accumulate points which translate into discounts and offers at the city’s attractions and venues.
Video appears the number one channel as it’s considered ‘real’ by youth travellers and more authentic than photo-shopped images where there may be a gap between how the destination is presented and how it is experienced in reality. Destinations are highly searched for on Youtube and popular in terms of content on Facebook and Instagram
Brand perceptions are important and youth travellers are savvy and good at spotting what they don’t consider authentic. Photoshopped blue skies for example. They seek ‘real.’
Bloggers and digital influencers have traditionally been important role models, sharing and communicating travel experiences to younger travellers. Natbees, Kirsten Alana and Finding the Universe have created attractive blogs about their travel experiences within the destination as well as George the VisitScotland Ambassadog!
When attempting to engage with youth travellers, how do tourism and travel businesses and communities stand out from the crowd? How have they developed their products and services to meet the demands of tech-savvy, experience-hungry digital natives? Here are some examples from Loch Lomond and beyond.
Scotland’s Wild: Small Group Tours of Loch Lomond Trossachs National Park & The Highlands
Small group tour operator goes ‘sightdoing’ and not sightseeing – a unique approach which its customers love, judging by their TripAdvisor reviews!
The company regularly uses Instagram to share customer experiences and highlight its excellent TripAdvisor reviews. It engages past, present and future customers this way and converts them to ambassadors for its small-group tours of the Loch Lomond Trossachs National Park and other parts of Scotland.
Scotland's Wild uses video creatively, sharing short videos via Twitter and Instagram; and also creates a short personalised video for each customer who takes a tour, as a prized memory of their trip.
The company regularly capitalises on opportunities to work with bloggers, digital influencers and travel writers, and this has also helped showcase its unique style and digital content to younger travellers. Blogs by Natbees and 366 Days of Running are some examples.
The Queen of the Loch Pub with Rooms, Balloch, Loch Lomond
The Pub with rooms in Balloch offers a free ice-cream if you sign in to use their wifi - allowing the pub to capture data to build a relationship with the customer and entice further with discounts and offers. The Queen of the Loch holds regular competitions to win food and drink prizes, and promotes event and food and drinks promotions and offers, all via Facebook. Website users are offered a free dessert if they sign up to the mailing list.
HaGGiS Adventures – Scotland Tours Done Differently
Operating since 1993, offer a huge variety of small group tours across Scotland and the Islands for a younger demographic, from one day trips to 10-day adventures. The company offers free wifi and device charging points in its vehicles as standard, because that’s what their customers expect. HaGGiS also regularly works with a range of bloggers and digital influencers and has built a community of advocates in its customers, via its social media platforms and user generated content, with dedicated hashtags such as #staywild. The company also uses video creatively to communicate the tour experience.
Radisson Red Hotel Glasgow
actively targets younger travellers with a high focus on technology – the hotel features keyless entry and self-check-in and check-out. It also has its own app which guests can use for additional hotel requests and for chatting with other guests. The hotel has a food, drink and social hub on the ground floor and a Sky Bar, Glasgow’s first rooftop bar. It also has three event and games studios that feature modern tech and super-fast WiFi.
Travel Massive - A Global Travel Community
connects thousands of travel insiders to meet, learn and collaborate at free events all around the world. It’s a global community of travel, offering events, a jobs board, messaging, and more. Country chapters welcome travellers and bloggers who have recently arrived in destinations across the world and are looking to meet and make connections with others. In Scotland, to date, the Edinburgh chapter has built a community of over 500 travel insiders through events sponsored by Festivals Edinburgh, Edinburgh's Christmas and the Kelpies, amongst others, and is considered one of the most active chapters in Europe outside London. Travel Massive Glasgow is also growing and hosts regular travel tech meet-ups and events.
Youth Travel Edinburgh: #UncoverEdinburgh
is an established, industry-led business to business group working to promote Edinburgh as a youth and student travel destination. Edinburgh is a highly attractive destination for youth travellers - one of the reasons why Youth Travel Edinburgh has developed as an initiative and in Summer 2018 launched a digital campaign, , which aims to help drive more youth travellers to Edinburgh as part of the 2018 Year of Young People. Campaign content is being co-created with young people in conjunction with social media influencers, and businesses are encouraged to take part in a city-wide initiative.
What's next in terms of technology and the future for youth travellers? The best travel experiences will surely still focus on meaningful human interactions, however, it's crucial for travel and tourism businesses to keep up with tech and mobile developments in order to engage with customers and meet their needs at every stage of the journey.
In addition, adapting smart uses of technology can help businesses in terms of efficiency, costs savings, performance and more.
The Internet of Things, increased development of personalisation, voice technology, messaging apps, advances in AI, AR and VR are just some of the trends impacting on the customer journey now and in future.
Messaging apps are becoming a key marketing tool for businesses. A study from BI Intelligence shows that messaging apps have 20% more monthly active users than social networks. Validating this trend, Statista projects that messaging apps will hit 2.48 billion users in 2021.(Statista, 2018) In a recent survey on mobile messaging apps for business, 63% of participants said they message more with businesses than they did two years ago, 67% expect to message more with businesses over the next two years, and 53% say they are more likely to shop with a business they can contact via a chat app. (Facebook Insights, 2016). Source: Trekksoft, 65 Travel Statistics to Know 2018/2019.
Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR): The past few years have seen an increase in AR or VR popularity among travel and tourism companies, and the trend is set to continue. These technologies are being used either for content marketing or to enhance the customers’ experiences. For example, airlines have started using VR technology to show travellers the cabins in advance, in order to increase ticket or ancillary services sales.
Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI is behind several evolving technologies and innovations in the travel and tourism sector. The ways in which it helps the industry can be grouped into three key categories: Machine Learning, ChatBots or TravelBots, and Robots. Thanks to AI, operations which usually require human intervention and a lot of time to learn new skills, can be automated, thus speeding up processes, while improving quality and performance, and decreasing costs.
Internet of Things (IoT): IoT has huge potential to shape the future of the travel and tourism industry, and companies have started to wake up to the advantages and how they can translate into enhancing the customer experience. One example is how IoT can be used to reduce anxiety and stress levels associated with lost bags - from carrier Lufthansa. Passengers can track their baggage via a link found on their mobile boarding pass in the Lufthansa app.
Voice Technology: Voice technology is also disrupting the travel and tourism sector, as more and more customers switch from typed-in search to voice interactions. Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple are investing billions in the technology with clear implications for the travel and hospitaity sector. The hotel sector has started to experiment with voice-activated devices, covering requests which may have previously gone to a concierge, such as restaurant recommendations, or controlling lights, and developments will continue to bring enhancements for guests and travellers.