Visitor Information Centres to lead on Digital

Liz Ward of Tourism Tribe speaks on how visitor information centres can grow online bookings and lead digital at the Bookeasy conference in August 2015

Visitor Information Centres to lead on digital

If Visitor information centres (VICs) can play an active role in educating the industry as well as facilitating new business for local and nearby operators through the VIC, the VICs will remain relevant in their destination and to consumers visiting the area and have sustainable businesses into the future.

There was plenty of enthusiasm at Q1, Australia’s tallest building and resort tower in Surfers Paradise, on 5th August, when Bookeasy hosted their inaugural educational conference for their visitor information centre (VIC) clients.

Whilst attendees came from all over Australia from varying sizes of VICs with different business models, a common theme was that everyone was eager to learn how they could use digital technologies and web marketing in smarter ways to improve their visitor experiences and drive their sales up.

Amongst a line-up of top digital experts, Tourism Tribe’s CEO, Liz Ward, presented on how to get tourism operators more engaged in digital so they can appreciate the value of the distribution services that their local VIC provides.  VICs have a niche in servicing visitors before and during their travel and can offer unsurpassed local knowledge about products and experiences, culture and history in their local area.[

Just like any online and offline travel agent, VICs require good quality products and real-time available inventory to be able to meet the demands of their web and walk-in customers.
This makes it vitally important that local accommodation, tour, attraction and events operators are connecting to their VIC’s booking system and loading inventory and pricing information, so they can participate in this important regional booking channel.

It can be a challenge to get tourism operators to use current technologies including real-time booking systems like Bookeasy, social media platforms and search engine optimisation despite the majority of travellers being prolific users of online booking, social media and mobile search.

We know why this is, as operators tell us regularly that they are busy running their business and it takes a lot of their time to learn about new technology tools and platforms and knowing where to start can be overwhelming.

Liz spoke with the group about the critical dynamic between growth in sales and industry education as the basis of a strategy to get more operators engaged with the VICs booking channels and to grow the economic future of their destinations.

$ales does talk to industry and when an operator can see that the booking channel is attracting a growing number of consumers, enquiries and bookings, then they’ll invest their time in feeding inventory and good quality information to it.

This requires the VIC to:

  • adopt best practice web marketing techniques;
  • take a leadership role in digital in their area;
  • do their utmost to attract their target market through a focused digital strategy;
  • and make it as easy as possible to buy from them.

VICs like any travel agent need to be competitive in the online space.  They need to:
  • support their booking capability with a dynamic content strategy;
  • be active advocates for their region on social media;
  • ensure everything they do can be easily accessed on mobile devices;
  • set targets for sales, leads and consumer engagement;
  • and use relevant metrics, track everything and report to all stakeholders regularly.
We’ve found at Tourism Tribe through our industry education work that often the first step in digital engagement for a tourism operator is getting their online distribution organised.  This entails choosing an inventory management system with distribution capability like BookEasy has through the VICs.
Once they’ve got that embedded into their businesses, then they’ll trial web marketing and social media activities to enhance their online presence.
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