But with our government aiming to reach $41 billion in revenue from the tourism industry by 2025, it’s time to explore new, high-tech ways of engaging our visitors. With the number of smartphone users worldwide expected to grow to 6.1 billion by 2020, it’s safe to say people want to stay connected on the road and technology will play a huge part in achieving that revenue target.
So, how do we give tourists a seamless online experience to match the wow factor of our scenery? Are Kiwi businesses using technology wisely to ensure visitors come back for more? We explore the impact technology can have on tourism.
Taking the guesswork out of travel connections
New Zealand’s largest passenger transport network, InterCity, has enthusiastically embraced the idea of keeping its customers connected. With free WiFi available on all buses and a Bus Tracker app that lets passengers book fares on the go and track buses 24/7, general manager digital and brand Daniel Rode says it’s just the beginning.
“We couldn’t run our business without digital solutions now,” he says. “That’s because of the complexity of the network, the volume of passengers and the communication that’s required to run seamless transactions around the world.”
Rode says digital solutions, such as APIs (application programming interfaces) mean systems can talk to each other and information can flow effortlessly without a human touch. He says it simply makes it easier to be a tourist in New Zealand.
“It’s about avoiding anxiety,” he says. “If you’re joining one of our buses six hours in on its way to Wellington, you want to know exactly when to turn up. A lot can happen in those six hours. The app gives our passengers the ability to track their bus all the way through its journey. Even if you book a ticket 10 minutes before the bus leaves, the driver will know who you are. That’s the world we live in now. Real time information.”
Michael Sewards, director of 24-hour Auckland airport shuttle service SkyBus, says high-tech solutions, such as those developed by Spark specifically for SkyBus, are invaluable for travellers.
“Our passengers can hop on our bus and enjoy free WiFi for their entire journey. Plus our SkyBus app has ticketing options and a free ‘kerbside concierge’ offering help and advice with boarding and ticketing via a wireless tablet,” says Sewards. “Passengers tell us SkyBus is often the first time they connect with their home using social media and they are eternally grateful for the service.”
Overseas visitors expect minimal mucking around when it comes to technology on the go, with strong WiFi and efficient mobile broadband networks a given.
One Kiwi company recognising the demand for connectivity and efficiency is Jucy Snooze. Guests who stay at its pod-style hotel (opening in Christchurch in November) will get 24-hour room access, smartphone check-in and out, room cards issued via a computer in the lobby, and reliable WiFi. So instead of waiting in a long queue to check in and out, people arrive and leave with an impression of efficiency and convenience.
Another home-grown company, Wherewolf, is helping speed up the welcome process while delivering greater control over the customer experience with its customised check-in app.
The app collects customer information, displays it on a tailored dashboard with trip manifests, equipment hire sheets, staff allocation, groups and loads, and then filters it for targeted marketing. It also sends customers thank you emails prompting reviews, likes and referrals. Shotover Canyon Swing and Rotorua Canopy Tours are two of the many businesses using the app across the globe.
Moving into new realities
New augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies are also making travelling more interactive and simple. Now you can take a virtual tour of your hotel, restaurant, or activity options before you book, and translate signs or navigate public transport from your phone with this Departures Switzerland app. It gives travellers the ability to experience their holiday and planning in a much more interactive and enriching way before and during their trip.
A handful of New Zealand companies are using VR to engage with visitors including Ziptrek Ecotours, which offers 360° video footage of its Queenstown ziplining adventure before you book.
Director Trent Yeo says VR and AR offer two huge opportunity points for the tourism sector – pre and post experience.
“We can use them to help sell the activity or attraction and to give people something memorable to take home with them. Imagine the shareability? There’s no doubt footage of you flying through the air would go viral, promoting the crazy experience you had in New Zealand,” he says. “Hardly anyone is using VR and AR in the tourism sector here. We need to dip our toes in this or we will fall behind.”
InterCity’s Daniel Rode agrees. He says millennials are comfortable pushing the boundaries of new technology but it’s new for a lot of businesses, so their awareness of the tech space is not as strong as it could be and should be.
“The wheels are really spinning on this and businesses need to invest in technology, understand it and be upskilling themselves. It’s important to prepare yourself for what’s coming next or you’ll risk being left behind,” he says.