Guest Post: How destinations will use invisible tech to fire traveller imaginations

Guest Post: How destinations will use invisible tech to fire traveller imaginations

Phil Teer, global strategy lead brand and customer experience agency VMLY&R, says destination truths are the springboard for engagement and loyalty

Phil Teer, global strategy lead brand and customer experience agency VMLY&R, says destination truths are the springboard for engagement and loyalty

“Think of Florence, Paris, London, New York. Nobody visiting them for the first time is a stranger, because he’s already visited them in paintings, novels, history books and films.”.

This quote from Scottish novelist Alasdair Gray speaks to the fact that destinations exist in our minds – even when we can’t be there ourselves.

Close your eyes, and you can envision the streets of London, New York or Hong Kong. You can sense the sights and smells, picture the people and places. Your imagination creates the experience.

And for much of the last two years, imagination was our only option. But that is changing. Restrictions are lifting, and travellers once again have the world at their feet.

Predictions forecast that British holidaymakers alone will spend £41bn travelling abroad in 2022. But where will they choose to go?

Authenticity is the runway

Destination marketing has never been so important.

Paris has made a name for itself as the city of love. Rome is renowned for its food. New York is the city that never sleeps.

These identities – cultivated over an extended period – ensure that tourists continue to flock year after year.

A destination without this authentic truth faces an uphill battle convincing travellers to make a booking.

So how do you express this truth?

Cultural reinforcement is crucial. Books, music, films – these are all tools that can enhance a destination’s reputation.

Authenticity is not something that can be bought overnight. It is the result of consistent, collective, creative reflection over time.

Marketers are at the forefront of this search for authentic truths. Through them, brands hold great power over the creation and continuation of cultural legacies.

Paris may feel like a romantic city when you’re in it, but this feeling has been perpetuated by moments of passion told through luxury brand creative from the likes of Chanel or Yves Saint Laurent over decades.

Reputations can also rise quickly. Qatar is a prime example of this, with Doha’s futuristic skyscrapers and ultramodern architecture quickly becoming a global attraction.

The nation has invested in cultural attractions too. Architectural masterpieces like the desert-rose inspired National Museum bring to life the country’s past, present, and future innovations.

Combining modern skyline, timeless heritage with endlessly sunny weather, Qatar is drawing in influential visitors and content creators; and is in a strong position to grow its destination reputation, which will only explode as it prepares to host the FIFA World Cup next year.

But creating a destination truth requires more than just consistent expression through traditional channels and experiences.

It must live and breathe through the people who can tell these stories in engaging and meaningful ways.

Partner with artists to paint a picture of what the destination means to local people or give access to the daily lives of young people as they take you off the beaten track and show you authentic cultural experiences.

Content creators can tell the real story of a destination through a lens of passion that goes beyond a brochure.

Lift-off with tech

In 1981, Alasdair Gray noted that paintings, books, films and novels help us imagine and shape the idea of a destination.

If he were writing in 2021, the influence of technology and the internet would be on that list too. Perhaps at the very top.

The pandemic has sparked new habits which destinations can leverage to create a deeper and more personalised experience for visitors.

Technology shapes our perceptions and enables destination storytelling to come to life.

Not only does it give creators the platforms needed to reach prospective audiences, from social media to the metaverse, but it allows destinations to build an entire connected customer journey.

New technologies have the potential to reimagine the entire discovery experience for customers searching for a holiday destination, offering moments of delight.

Why not allow them to use drones as a way to explore and test a location from their home? Or use machine learning and search pattern information to analyse behaviours online and create the perfect tailored holiday experience?

And as people enjoy their escape, recognition technology invisibly improves hotel and airport experiences with contactless check-ins and passport checks.

VR and AR help solve the post-holiday blues by allowing people to re-experience their trip and build loyalty around these interactions.

How a destination appears in the imagination is crucial, then it is our job to make the imaginary reality.

Destination truths are the springboard for engagement, and seamless, invisible technology will power the connected experiences, which locks in consumers’ loyalty.

And if done correctly, the sky’s the limit.

Photo credit: Dimitry Anikin, Unsplash