Last updated on May 23rd, 2023 at 09:16 am
Did you know that tourism is responsible for one in every eleven jobs worldwide?
With this week being National Travel and Tourism Week, we thought this would be a fitting post.
Tourism is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world. In 2013 alone, international tourism grew by 5%. In fact, tourism represents nearly a full third of all global export of services and it’s growing exponentially every year.
Not only is tourism a large and powerful component of our international economy but it’s becoming more and more diversified as tourists expand their horizons to travel to new locations and as new tourists from a broader array of countries enter the scene.
There’s a lot of competition to attract and retain tourists. This can be challenging for hotels, inns and other places of lodging as they attempt to capture the imagination and dollars of such a diverse group.
Many hotels know by now the value of multilingual services but there is more to being the next hot tourist spot than simply translating a few welcome signs or adding a multilingual staff member.
Good tourism translation requires consideration of a few more elements that hotels especially must consider if you want to attract and keep international tourists.
Know Your Audience
A good multilingual and translation program starts here. The last thing you want to do is spend a lot of money on Spanish translations, for example, if you’re attracting mostly Chinese tourists. So while you may eventually want to expand your global reach, it’s always a good idea to start with what’s right in front of you.
Starting small with one specific language and culture gives you the option to learn and grow. You can work out the kinks and fix your mistakes in one instance instead of tackling many languages and watching your mistakes multiply.
Knowing your audience will also guide your decisions when it comes to your hotel’s offerings. Culture plays a role in the services that people enjoy and the ones they may find unappealing (and that will be unprofitable for you).
In fact, knowing your audience is such a huge component of the effectiveness of your multilingual program that it affects everything from services to the colors you’ll use in your marketing materials, the symbols you’ll use on your door signs and the foods you’ll put on the menu. Different cultural values and expectations can deeply affect a visitor’s perception of your brand and their willingness to return – and to recommend your location to others.
If you want to attract tourists, you’re going to have to engage in marketing or advertising and you’ll need to translate those materials into your target language.
Sounds pretty straightforward until you begin to consider the implications. For example, something as simple as the use of space on a page can change dramatically from language to language. And it can even change dramatically across media, from print to web.
Depending on the material being translated and the target language as well as the ultimate end point (Web page? Brochure? Event Flyer?) a translation can either leave you with a lot of white space to fill or reaching for a new sheet of paper. This opens up an entire conversation about design and layout and how you can keep your materials in line with your brand image.
But it’s not just about the literal translation; it’s about the messaging, too. This is where translation becomes transcreation, which means adapting a message from one language to the next so that it evokes the same emotions and conveys the same sentiment beyond mere words.
Some cultures prefer shorter, more direct language. Some prefer longer and more indirect messaging. Knowing your audience will help you determine the best path for your translations.
But wait, there’s even more! Did you know that something as simple as the colors you use can greatly impact a visitor’s perception? For example, red is often associated in English speaking countries with danger. But in other cultures it indicates happiness. If you want to warn your visitors away from something, you need to be sure they’re not misreading your intentions as welcoming them in.
And don’t forget imagery. You may have photos of farm-worthy Midwesterners on much of your local marketing material but if you want to attract a Latin, Chinese, African or other audience then it’s time to switch up the faces.
Language is such an integral part of our day that we rarely notice how deeply ingrained it is in everything we do. That’s natural as we go about our everyday lives, but if you want to attract international tourists to your hotel then you need to uncover all the nooks and crannies where language hides.
Some of the more obvious things that need translating include menus, check in/check out sheets, hotel literature (with events, recommendations, etc.) and signage.
But others are not as obvious. For example, have you considered ATMs? As the source of your guests’ funding, you need to ensure that people can understand and use this important bit of equipment.
And how about phones? It’s common in the United States to dial a one or a nine to escape the in-house phone system but your international guests won’t necessarily know this. Clear instructions that make it easy for your guests to use everyday amenities are vitally important.
We mentioned menus, and not only is it important to consider your guests’ culinary preferences, but it’s also important to ensure accurate and understandable translations so your guests will receive exactly what they expect.
Imagine you visit the gym of a hotel in another country where you don’t speak the language. You find a sign on the wall with instructions that are translated into your language but because the translation hasn’t been done well, you misread the instructions and hurt yourself or do something wrong.
Our philosophy of translation is simple: do it right or don’t do it at all. Sounds like something your mother probably taught you when you were young, and she was right! There can be no half-measures in tourism translation or any other translation.
In the case of our gym-going traveler, it may have become a liability issue.
But even without the threat of larger issues, poor translations of tourism instructions and signs demonstrate a disrespect and lack of consideration for your audience that reflects poorly on your brand.
A thoughtful translation, however, that takes into account things like customer perceptions, color expectations, word usage and other factors will create a positive experience for visitors and show them the comfort and respect they want to feel when they’re under your roof.
As you’re surely beginning to see, there is a lot to creating a positive experience and a welcoming environment for your international guests. But with a focus on your audience and the right team on your side, you can begin to take your hotel or inn into this exciting new world.
With tourism predicted to grow by 3.3% annually through 2030, it’s clear that the potential for revenue is tremendous.
So if you’re ready to take the next step, then you’ll need to work with professionals experienced in tourism translation who have delivered translations your target audience and industry.
Look for someone who can guide you not just in literal translations but in all the other considerations, from colors to symbol usage in translation of tourism signs, to messaging to whether or not your translated menu items will fit on the page.