The Irish tourism sector must move fast to keep up with changed ways of doing business as a result of the internet or it could lose market share, an e-marketing conference organised by Tourism Ireland heard today.
The industry must learn how to appeal to the Google and Flickr.com generation and adapt to the trend for self-generated content.
The conference heard that Ireland as a holiday destination has continuously punched above its weight offline, growing at a faster pace than the rest of the world and Europe.
However, this advantage could potentially be lost in the now totally transparent ‘eshop’ window where it is more difficult to make noise. The industry must adapt to survive..
“As little as seven years ago Google, blogs and 3G meant nothing to the ordinary consumer,” Mark Henry, director of Central Marketing explained. “Today they are common currency for our potential customers across the globe. The tourism industry here must move fast to keep up with changed ways of doing business or it could lose market share.”
Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism John O’Donoghue TD, who formally opened the conference, said that the challenge for the industry was to ensure that all tourism players and products on the island were fully visible and purchasable by potential holidaymakers.
“In 2006, an estimated 55pc of holidaymakers to the island of Ireland used the internet to plan or book their holiday here,” said Minister O’Donoghue. “By 2010, Tourism Ireland estimates that the percentage of people using the web to plan or book at least one element of their holiday here will grow to over 75pc.
“Marketing channels have changed and we ignore this at our peril. The inherent charm of so much of the tourism product here is that it is small and independent in nature. But this presents its own challenges. It is essential that the smaller-scale players in the industry make themselves look-able and book-able by overseas consumers on-line.
“Huge strides have been made in the development of platforms via the Discoverireland.com websites but much more needs to be done,” O’Donoghue warned.
Recent research undertaken by Tourism Ireland shows that consumers’ knowledge and usage of the internet is becoming increasingly sophisticated and demanding.
Tourism customers are not just searching for the lowest fare any more; they are seeking information and recommendations on the perfect holiday experience, with user-generated content becoming increasingly popular and influential as a source of information. In search of the perfect holiday experience, consumers now seek to find the inside track before they arrive.
“Word of mouth and the recommendations of friends have always been key factors influencing the choice of Ireland as a holiday destination. This is now shifting to word of mouth recommendations from strangers across borders,” said Henry.
“Websites such as IgoUgo and www.flickr.com allow people to access blogs, consumer reviews, feedback, shared videos and podcasts. Flickr.com already has 375,000 images of Ireland posted on its site by visitors to Ireland. Tourism Ireland’s website acts as a portal for the Irish tourism industry and we are keen to maximise this potential to the fullest. The more information providers have about themselves online, the more business potential available to them,” Henry said.
By John Kennedy