Last updated on October 11th, 2016 at 05:59 pm
Did you know that international air passenger traffic has increased by five percent over this same time last year? According to the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, China, Mexico, the Caribbean and Middle East are among the top inbound markets for international travel.
Here’s another interesting stat for those in travel and tourism industries: year to date international visitor spending is up by one percent in the United States, which is perhaps not as impressive as the dollar amount that accounts for – a whopping $93.5 billion.
U.S. resident spending abroad is up significantly more, by six percent, totaling $63 billion in expenditures on travel and tourism-related goods and services.
That’s good news for travel and tourism industries, from airlines to hotels, destination sites, tour bookings and more – but only if you can capitalize on the trend! And one of the most impactful ways you can do that is by localizing your website.
Let’s face it – these days you don’t have to be a Millennial to take to the Internet for everything from discount flights to recommendations for a great bed and breakfast.
Sales of international guidebooks such as the popular Lonely Planet series were down 42% between 2006 and 2013, but travel and tourism during the same period was up. Does that mean fewer people researched and planned their trips? That hardly seems likely. The more likely explanation is that people are now turning to the Internet to plan, research and dream up their next itinerary.
And planning is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the purpose of a good travel website. It can also serve as a hub for visitors and guests, a profit center and more.
To put it simply, a well localized website can give your business (and bottom line) a leg up in a competitive space.
Localizing your travel website effectively is not as simple as translating it into one or more target languages depending on the visitors you hope to reach. There is quite a lot more to consider and each of these can have a tremendous impact on your brand and your ability to appeal to international visitors. But if you plan effectively and put the right team in place to implement your localization strategy, you’ll ultimately reap the rewards.
Here are just a few things to consider when you’re ready to localize.
Consider Colloquial And Regional Language
Travel and tourism content is often figurative, designed to create visual imagery in our mind’s eye and speak to our emotions. A popular United States destination website welcomes visitors with these words: Live Free And Shine Bright. And while that may appeal to an English speaking crowd, it may also lose its meaning and intent when translated into some languages.
Another type of language that loses its intent is alliterative phrases – imagine a beach resort inviting guests to “Wade Your Worries Away”. Once translated, the effect is likely lost.
That means that as you localize your tourism website, it’s important to consider not merely its translation but your messaging to be sure that it’s both consistent with your brand and meaningful to your audience. This is often described as “transcreation“, which means creatively adapting content to maintain its integrity and intent.
Plan For Online Payments
If you maintain an eCommerce site or accept payments for any services online then it’s important to consider currency. Will you accept payments only in your native currency or will you accept the currency of your visitors and guests?
While there is no “right” answer, it is a point worth considering. If you don’t plan to accept local currency then consider the barriers that may introduce if your visitors don’t know or understand the exchange rate.
If you do plan to accept local currency then it’s another technical matter to ensure that your website is fully functional when accepting various types of payment.
Understand Space Usage
Websites have specific layouts, and in these days of mobile responsive design, your website may have multiple layouts – for desktop, tablet and smart phone, each with its own nuances.
That only compounds the challenge of translating your content because different languages can take up different amounts of space on a web page. Add in transcreation and you’ve got a lot of layout issues to contend with.
As you plan to localize your website it’s important to consider how it will affect your overall design and be prepared to modify as necessary.
Make Forms Functional
In the United States we take it for granted that a phone number is ten digits long. But if you’re planning to accommodate an international audience then even small things like how many digits are in a phone number or the format of an address can have a far reaching impact on your ability to do business.
If your web forms are configured to accommodate only the most common native fields, that will be a problem for international visitors who must check in or out, pay for items, register for events, make reservations and more.
But wait, there’s more! Depending on your audience you may need to accommodate for western and non-western characters. Chinese and Japanese characters, for example, can take up additional space, which will affect not only your form fields but your database, which must be able to house these various character types.
Be Mindful Of Photos
If you search on many popular American stock photo sites there is no shortage of blonde-haired blue-eyed models engaged in myriad activities and staged in countless poses.
And while that may be a limitation of a commercial stock photo site, it is certainly no excuse for a lack of diversity on your international travel and tourism website.
Depending on your target audience it’s important to consider not only the language you use but the photos you choose to represent your visitors and guests. Visual imagery must appeal to the local people you want to reach.
Beware Linguistic Generalizations
It’s too easy to think in broad terms when it comes to language – for example, French, Chinese, Spanish.
And yet a language as seemingly simple as “Spanish” has many variations, from Mexican Spanish to Venezuelan Spanish and Spanish from the country of Spain itself.
Each of these has different nuances and cultural understandings. That’s why it’s important to produce a neutral Spanish website or localize to particular Spanish speaking countries or regions.
It’s wise to recognize the importance of your visitors’ country of origin, and even the region within the country. That will ultimately inform your choice of phrasing, messaging, imagery, colors and more.
Choose How You’ll Handle Reviews
Many travel and tourism websites have an online review component for visitors to leave their comments, praise and even complaints.
Given the power of the social Internet to influence, reviews can be a powerful ally – but only if your target audience can read them!
Translating reviews poses a special challenge because they represent unstructured content that is often written colloquially and may contain uniquely cultural references or abbreviations, even errors and misspellings. The question is: what’s the best way to handle them?
The most important thing you can do is to determine your policy for managing review translations up front so that it’s not a guessing game later. Decide whether you will keep or fix errors (grammatical or otherwise) and how you will handle the linguistic license that many people take with their own writing.
Consider Timely Issues
Rapidly changing weather. Incoming storms. Beach closings. Event cancellations. These things and more are important to travelers and tourists and they may be relying on your website to keep them informed.
That means you need a reliable method of getting this information to them quickly and accurately. Failing to do so will not only result in disgruntled visitors but can also become a danger or liability. Ensure that you have a strategy for passing along vital information as needed.
Consider using advanced translation solutions to update your content quickly.
Budget can ultimately be the deciding factor when it comes to localizing your website because without the financial capability to do the job thoroughly, you may be better off not doing it at all.
An improperly localized website will, at best, reflect poorly on your brand and at worst it may offend your visitors so that they refuse to do business with you.
To effectively localize your tourism website you need to consider the factors we’ve just mentioned here and even more, from language and imagery to currency and symbols.
If you’d like to discuss the possibility of localizing your website, let us know. We’re here to ensure that your site will effectively represent your business and brand and that your guests will feel welcomed home when they visit.