Digitalisation has transformed the way companies do business.  In the tourism industry, purchasing flights online and booking hotel rooms on the Internet marked the early days of digital transformation in the sector.  Since then, the online marketplace of travel products has witnessed the extraordinary rise of OTAs, the most dramatic example of how distribution channels in the sector have changed forever as a consequence of the digital revolution.  Today, these technologically advanced e-commerce platforms have captured an estimated 40% of the global travel market and as contactless solutions remain in high demand in a post-COVID world, OTAs look set to continue their domination of the sector.

In spite of challenges for local tour operators in developing countries that include upskilling the workforce, keeping up with the rapid pace of development and relatively high costs of implementation, digitalisation offers multiple opportunities for SMEs.

Harnessing and interpreting big data can help acquire the right customer and provide the travel services they demand. There are many market research and software sales companies that publish useful travel and consumer insights, gathered as big data and sometimes provided free that can help inform marketing activities. Having an thorough understanding of customer needs supports the development of suitable travel products, an improved quality of service and increased visitor satisfaction.  Online sales are increasingly the norm in the travel industry, either directly or through other sales platforms like OTAs, as tech-savvy consumers demand speed and convenience.

Understanding the importance of having a strong and relevant online brand message provides another opportunity for SMEs to compete in the digital marketplace.  A holistic digital marketing strategy is key to maximised efficiency of a marketing campaign, by reaching the right people on the appropriate platform.

Above all, implementing robust security measures to keep businesses and customer data safe, and systems free of online threats such as malware, phishing and data theft is essential.  A myriad of digital solutions are available to research online, ranging from password management systems to secure web gateways and comprehensive security solutions. Keeping operations safe online is a key task for tourism businesses seeking to go digital and paradoxically, the Internet is a good place to find the right support.




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