Travel and hospitality localization

“Virtually all source markets reported higher tourism spending in 2017, reflecting continued strong demand for international tourism across all world regions. Both emerging and advanced economies [fuelled] growth…” Source: UNWTO

Travel and tourism equates to big bucks – we are talking about trillions of US dollars to the global economy. With these kinds of stakes, it is no wonder that more and more businesses catering to the travel and tourism industry are investing heavily in localization.

Hotels and motels, private accommodations, all-inclusive resorts, airlines, airports and more all cater to travelers. There truly is an endless list of hospitality services reliant on a global audience – but do these industries truly understand what it means to effectively communicate on a global scale without compromising a local feel? Do they have a firm understanding of how necessary it is to localize their message? Some do. Some definitely don’t. So, let’s shed some light on this topic.

International travel

Whether we travel for business or pleasure, we all expect comfort and convenience. From asking for directions and ordering a cab, to requesting that an extra towel be sent to our hotel room, having the comfort and convenience of communicating in our native language is worth its weight in gold.

But how is this even possible? With over 6,000 spoken languages in the world, how can any business possibly ensure that each traveler will have the opportunity to communicate in his or her native language?

Well, when we put it that way, it does seem rather daunting, doesn’t it? But it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of studies out there that track the most popular tourist destinations as well as the countries whose citizens travel the most frequently. There is even a sea of data showing the largest business travel markets. If you keep your finger on the pulse of travel statistics, you should be able to strategize an effective localization plan to meet the needs of these frequent flyers.

According to WorldAtlas, the following is a list of the countries whose citizens travel the most frequently:

Country International travel Domestic travel Total
Finland 1.700 5.8 7.50
United States .20 6.50 6.70
Sweden 1.50 4.40 6.00
Denmark 1.40 3.90 5.30
Norway 2.00 3.20 5.20
Hong Kong 4.30 0.03 4.30
New Zealand 0.50 3.80 4.30
Canada 1.00 3.20 4.10
Australia 0.40 3.40 3.80
France 0.40 3.10 3.50

The above chart focuses primarily on traveling for pleasure. But what about business travel?

Business travel accounts for more than a tenth of the global travel and tourism economy, and it seems as though this market is increasing.

By the year 2021, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) predicts a 5.2 percent growth in total business travel spend, and China is leading the pack

Even though there are a gazillion ways to use technology to communicate with international clients without leaving the comfort of your office, nothing says “I’m accessible and personable” better than a face-to-face. By the year 2021, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) predicts a 5.2 percent growth in total business travel spend, and China is leading the pack:

Country Business Travel Spend (billions) 2016 Business Travel Spend (billions) 2021 CAGR (percent)
China $318.00 $474.50 8.30%
United States $283.60 $342.90 3.90%
Germany $68.20 $104.90 9.00%
Japan $64.80 $104.90 9.00%
United Kingdom $50.40 $78.90 9.40%
France $38.60 $56.20 7.80%
South Korea $33.40 $40.40 3.90%
India $33.00 $59.50 12.50%
Italy $32.70 $44.80 6.50%
Brazil $27.20 $31.00 2.60%
Canada $23.50 $31.40 6.00%
Australia $22.00 $27.10 4.20%
Spain $20.80 $31.00 8.30%
Netherlands $18.40 $24.20 5.60%
Russia $16.10 $23.50 7.80%

 

Travel is indisputably a significant driver of economic growth. As one of the most diversified and fastest-growing economic sectors worldwide, the travel and tourism industry would be foolish not to focus on localization and globalization.

From a language services perspective, one of the first questions that comes to mind after scanning these charts is, what languages do these frequent travelers speak? We know you asked this question. And we’re glad you did, because we have the answer. We took a look at the official and/or most commonly spoken languages in these countries, then placed them right here, for your comfort and convenience. After all, it isn’t just the travel and tourism industry that aims to please:

Travel and Hospitality- First and Second Most Common Language Spoken

Want to take a closer look? Grab all tables in Google Sheets!

NOTE:    Although there are many more languages spoken in each of these countries, we are listing the languages that are spoken by the majority of residents, either as native or fluent speakers. If this percentage fell under 80 percent, we noted the ‘next’ most-spoken language. In the case of Australia, the non-English speakers account for a combination of minority languages. In the case of India, the ‘other’ 55 percent of people represent speakers of either the Indo-Aryan or Dravidian languages.

And there you have it. Out of the more than 6,000 spoken languages in the world, approximately 15 of these languages are spoken by people who travel the most frequently. This number is a much easier number to work with in terms of localizing your business and readying yourself to welcome and accommodate your guests.

Localization musts for the travel and tourism industry

We need to learn from the pros – so we decided to focus on Marriott International and on Airbnb. Just what are they doing to reach a global audience, and how can you do it too?

Airbnb

After launching in 2008, Airbnb exploded onto the international market in under 10 years. They achieved this success with one clear vision –becoming a global travel network.

Travel and Hospitality- AirBnB

Of course, it is a lot more complicated than this. To further connect with international travelers, Airbnb:

  • Reached out to local communities overseas who know their neighborhoods best. Smart move.
  • Leveraged their user reviews by offering Airbnb credit for both those who referred and for those who get referred. Super smart move.
  • Used the most popular forms of technology per region. Super-duper smart move.
  • Effectively and efficiently translated content into 26 languages using TMS. Brilliant.

Airbnb is undeniably a key example to study for those wishing to expand their brand on the international stage, but other companies, like Marriott International, also have a few words of wisdom when it comes to taking your brand overseas.

Marriott International

With well over 6,000 properties worldwide, Marriott International now has a presence in 127 countries and territories. This didn’t happen by accident. It took a lot of work. And, although this mammoth hotel chain has admitted to making mistakes along the way, those mistakes became eye-openers. In fact, those mistakes led to a greater, and more committed understanding of what localization means.

Travel and Hospitality- Marriott International

But just as it hasn’t been that simple for Airbnb, it hasn’t been that simple either, for Marriott International. The company works hard to study the different countries in which they wish to expand – primarily Japan, China, and the Middle East. They pay close attention to cultural nuances, technology trends, traveler preferences, and international travel trends. They then use this information to find ingenious ways to bring comfort and convenience to their guests. Perhaps the best example this is the new hospitality program offered through Marriott Rewards.

Specifically designed to please Chinese travelers, the Li Yu (礼遇) program offers a number of perks when staying at the Marriott. Through the WeChat mobile app, Chinese guests visiting Paris, London, Dubai, Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Bangkok, and more, can communicate with Marriott staff on a wide variety of topics, and completely in their native language. Guests can even use this app ahead of travel to learn more about the area they are visiting. Once they have arrived, guests can use the app to request some comforts from home, including traditional Chinese tea, food, and beverages. Many of these hotels also offer Mandarin-speaking staff, destination guides in the Mandarin language, Chinese newspaper delivery, and more.  

And that epitomizes knowing your guests and bringing them the comforts of home – China is a mobile-first country, and Marriott paid attention, then went one step further to bring in the comforts of home. Through technology as well as through the old-fashioned personable touch, Marriott International is clearly working toward a new level of localized service on a global scale.

Profiting from experience

So, what are the takeaways? Plenty, actually. Let’s summarize them here:

Hook

Hook

Remember, it is still all about your brand and your voice. The hook gets your foot in the door.

Offer

Offer

Think about different perks you can offer that would appeal to your global audience.

Study

Study

Never assume. Learn about your visitors’ cultural nuances and travel preferences.

Personalize

Personalize

Even in this modern world of technology, a personable touch goes a long way.

Inquire

Inquire

Don’t be afraid to run surveys or ask for reviews. Travelers want to share their experiences.

Tap into technology

Tap into technology

Find out what technology your frequent visitors use – then offer it.

Automate

Automate

Hand-in-hand with the personable touch, is automation. Don’t fall behind the times.

Language servces

Language servces

Learn which languages your frequent visitors speak and offer language-rich services.

Invest

Invest

Investing in localization and globalization services is an investment worth making.

Translate and transcreate

Translate and transcreate

Localization is just part of the whole. Don’t forget translation and transcreation.

Yield profit

Yield profit

Following all of the above, will likely yield you a healthy profit.

There is a lot of information to digest in this series, which is why we are breaking it down into bite-sized chunks. Don’t miss out! We will keep you posted as each new report is published so that you are sure not to miss anything.

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