Following her first meeting as a full member of the European Parliaments Tourism Taskforce, Fine Gael MEP for Ireland South, Deirdre Clune has cautioned those in the tourist trade not to ignore the fact that the tourism market has gone digital.
"Fáilte Ireland research shows that over 73% of holidaymakers to Ireland use the internet for planning a holiday here. What is more interesting is how they are using the internet. According to travel website, Tnooz.com, in the first half of 2014, nearly 16% of bookings and 19% of room nights were booked on tablets and smartphones. 41% of web visitors and nearly 38% of page views were generated from non-desktop devices (mobile and tablet). Tourism providers need to optimize their presence in all three channels to provide the best user experience on each device (desktop, mobile, tablet).
"It is not just about having a website anymore. Small B&Bs, restaurants and tourism providers need a complete online strategy that includes social media, promotions, online bookings and linkages to last minute deal apps and sites.
"Potential visitors are increasingly reliant on reviews and sites like TripAdvisor.com are becoming hugely influential to people’s decisions on where to go and where to stay. Tourism providers need to be aware about what is being said about them online and to be in a position to act on feedback and recommendations.
"We have a top class tourism product in Ireland but tourists are more sophisticated now and want to browse through a B&Bs rooms, check on prices, read reviews, explore local amenities and eventually book and pay for the whole thing online, on their phone and tablet or through specialised booking apps.
"Simply put, Irish tourism providers need to move with the times. Local B&Bs, restaurants, hotels and providers that don't offer a full online compliment of services are at a distinct disadvantage.
"Domestically, Irish consumers are now spending more than €6 billion online every year. This figure is growing, and it’s growing fast. Yet, less than a third of this spend goes to Irish retailers, and only 23% of small Irish companies have engaged in online sales. These statistics also apply to our tourism sector.
"Help is available to small tourism providers who want to develop their online presence. Through their local enterprise office, small businesses can apply for financial assistance of up to €2,500 to develop their online trading capability. The scheme gives priority to businesses who aim to extend their customer base, start exporting, and create jobs. More information can be found at http://www.localenterprise.ie/
"I am looking at organising a seminar in the constituency on how tourism businesses can best use their online presence to make money and create more jobs and I hope to have details of that shortly.