How to grow travel and tourist industry in emerging nations

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Video of keynote on Future of Travel and Tourism Industry at Google Travel Conference.

Many emerging nations are enjoying rapid growth in revenues from the hospitality industry, tourism and business travel, yet there is often room to go faster and better.

What is the future of tourism, travel and hospitality industries in these nations?  What steps should governments take to encourage sustainable development of tourism? We need to keep in mind that tourist travel is all about shared experiences, sensations, new foods, emotions, connections, passions, explorations, learning, discoveries and above all about creating wonderful, lifelong memories.

1) Strengthen the national tourist board

- with authority to drive change at every level, combining efforts of hotels, museums, heritage sites, national marketing and visa departments. Ensure the tourist board has a reasonable budget for international promotion, but remember the most important place for tourism marketing is now online.

2) Make visas easy and cheap to obtain

– study competing countries and make sure there is a great welcome at all places of entry, paying special attention to reducing waiting time on arrival in airports.  First tourist impressions really matter.  Consider a welcome card that is inserted into every passport on entry by immigration officials, with useful tourist information and phone numbers.

3) Set up national quality assurance

- for hotels, hostels, museums, tour guides and so on, with official inspections and grading systems.  Promote it widely with badges of recognition, on national tourist websites.  Give special honour to hotels that trully reflect your national culture, rather than offering a standardised, anonymised international tourist experience.

4) Faciliate annual and regional tourist industry conferences

- which pull together all key players in tourist support, to discuss opportunities and challenges, and strengthen joint planning on every aspect of tourism.  Use these conferences to drive improvements in customer experience, profiling great tourist case studies, with high-profile national awards.

5) Increase government profile, with high-level speeches and media interviews

- showing public commitment to excellence in travel, hospitality industry and tourism.

6) Locate spare capacity and encourage discount marketing

- to help balance demand throughout the year eg hotels combined with flights and tour guides.

7) Encourage tourism by own citizens within the country

– exploration of our own national resources.

8) Review every aspect of the tourist experience

- through the eyes of typical types of international visitors eg American back-packers, recently retired Europeans, young couples from Asia, business people taking extra days for sight-seeing, corporate hospitality and events, cruise ships, river tours and so on.

9) Ensure good, clear signage in English and any other important tourist in the region.

Make sure all writing in museums and heritage sites are translated fully and professionally.  Think about what tourists from that language group are likely to be interested in, and write additional materials.

10) Commission city, region and national tourist guides

- if existing ones are out of date or are a poor reflection of reality.

11) Make sure all promoted tourist sites are open

- at times tourists are likely to want to visit.  For example closing for two hours at lunch time is a disaster for tourists who may take until late morning to have breakfast, get into a coach and arrive at the destination.

12) Clamp down severely on taxis with rigged meters and other illegal activity which targets tourists – by using people pretending to be tourists.

13) Ensure that museums and important public sites have clear layout, are welcoming

- and that their state of upkeep fits the image of your nation. Ensure good, clean toilet facilities (some nations are particularly sensitive to this).

14) Make huge efforts to promote a large number of tourist destinations online

– every good restaurant, every hotel, every sight-seeing opportunity.  Most visitors will do most of their resarch online before deciding where to book a holiday.

Remember that social media comments are more important than any official copy so pay close attention to key sites like TripAdvisor.  Encourage hotels and restaurants to reply to comments or criticisms in a positive way.  Enter search terms into Google that potential visitors might think of, in different , and check what comes up in listings.

that information on influential sites like Wikipedia is up to date.

15) Ensure good real estate planning in all key resorts and destinations, paying close attention to all that are environmentally sensitive.  Introduce strict planning controls or your greatest asset could soon become your greatest embarrassment.

Finally, remember that your greatest marketers are those who have recently visited and have had a wonderful, life-changing experience – their Facebook comments, photos on personal blogs, Twitter commendations and online reviews.

Success brings success.  Happy tourists will influence hundreds (or through social media tens of thousands) of others.

* What do you think about ways to improve tourism in your nation or places you have visited?  Interested in your comments below.  I reply to each one.


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