The SMH recently published an impassioned article titled ‘What’s wrong with tourism?’ that sparked quite a debate in the comments section and on social media.

In the opinion piece, author Tony Featherstone argues that “there are too many tourism operators (in Australia) who gouge holidaymakers, do not care about repeat business, and have appalling service standards”. His solution to the problem? Technology and big data.

In my role, I’m dealing with many dedicated tour and attraction providers who have put their blood, sweat and tears into their business and do everything they can to offer their customers a memorable experience.

That’s why I disagree with his general statement that Australian tourism standards are deteriorating. Just because a few black sheep are delivering a substandard experience, it doesn’t mean the industry as a whole is in trouble.

What I do agree with though is that technology has a major role to play in improving the standards in the tourism industry – although not in the way Featherstone suggests.

Many of his ideas, such as building a smartphone app for the entire destination and using real-time feedback, are simply not solutions small tour and attraction providers can implement on their own.

These kinds of projects will take the initiative and resources of local councils or tourism organisations to come to fruition. But at the moment it looks as if this space will be taken up by somebody entirely different: private travel technology companies.


Deliver timely, relevant marketing


Companies such as TripAdvisor and Expedia are starting to go way beyond flight and accommodation bookings. These businesses are now sending relevant, targeted suggestions for destination activities to holidaymakers.

The challenge for tour operators and attraction providers is to position themselves effectively to make the most of this opportunity and ensure that their business is advertised to travellers who are planning to visit the region. Another reason why using these distribution channels is becoming increasingly important.


Online reviews weed out ‘bad’ operators


These days, it doesn’t take a deep dive into analytics to find out which tour and attraction providers are doing the region proud and which are simply not delivering a great customer experience. As the old marketing adage goes: ”Satisfied customers tell three friends, angry customers tell 3,000”.

Ultimately, this means that operators who consistently deliver a bad experience simply won’t survive long in this competitive, customer-centric environment. Who would want to book on an experience that has never gotten anything better than a one-star review?

However, this also means that tour and attraction providers need to have strategies in place to deal with negative online feedback to prevent any damage a bad online review by one disgruntled customer may cause.


Better online feedback, better online rankings


The rankings on online review sites and apps such as Google Places have the added benefit that results appear in order of performance. A tour operator or attraction provider who consistently delivers stellar service will automatically come out on top in searches on what to do in the region, leading yet again to more bookings.

Was there ever a better incentive than being rewarded with more happy customers?

About the author:

Renee Welsh is the CEO of Booking Boss, an Australian based booking management software company for the tour and attraction sector. Previously, she has held senior roles at Lastminute.com, GoDo (Wotif) and travel.com.au.

Do you agree with Rene Walsh that technology has a major role to play in improving the standards in the tourism industry?