Guest Post: Why tech and localisation is key to winning Spanish-speaking audiences

Guest Post: Why tech and localisation is key to winning Spanish-speaking audiences

Technology and distribution channels, not only language, are key for selling to Spanish speaking audiences says Enrique Espinel, chief operating officer of Civitatis

With the exception of Chinese, Spanish is the world’s most spoken first language. But looking at the online travel environment – whether that’s an OTA or the online points of sale for travel products – you’d be forgiven for thinking it a niche audience or that they don’t travel too much. 

But even if you leave aside that Spain itself is a top 20 global economy with 45 million citizens, or forget that there’s a sizeable middle class amongst the 400 million Spanish speakers in Latin America and the Caribbean, then you’re still left with the fact that about 20% of US citizens identify as Hispanic. 

Good point I hear you say: let’s get the marketing team producing Spanish language materials and employ a few Spanish speakers in the call center. Sit back and wait for the profits to roll in. Or maybe you tried that already and failed? That’s because catering for Spanish speakers is about so much more than simply speaking Spanish.

Of course there are some cultural differences too in terms of tastes when it comes to the products on offer. Without wishing to get into cliches, travellers from Spain might expect meal times later in the evening and then holiday peak periods work around different dates that highly change depending on the country the user is from.

Nonetheless the single biggest factors in attracting Spanish-speakers to your tourism products are a mixture of partnering with the adequate operators, having the right technology and appropriate sales & marketing distribution channels. That’s what people either don’t understand or underestimate. 

Let’s just think of an easy example and take search-engine optimization. If you’re focused on or you won’t have much luck there. Guess what? Spanish speakers go to their respective country’s domain on Google and quite different results come up there. You´ll find similar challenges on social media platforms. 

And it’s not just about social platforms, it’s also about the content, the tone, and how the audiences consume these in each of the different markets – don’t make the mistake of thinking LATAM one place remember, each country has its own specific needs.  

If you’re looking at Latin America meanwhile then any online efforts might be wasted as it is important to know that an incredibly high proportion of travel products are still bought in person in retail travel agents. Some estimates of hotel sales in the region put that at 80%. To access these Latin American retail agencies then you need to explore B2B sales channels through local players with local sales networks in place.

When it comes to Latin America too, payments can often be a challenge, in part because of a higher preference for cash and also because of currency controls in places like Argentina. You need either legal entities in each market, or to use processors like eBanx or dLocal. Many consumers expect to be able to pay in installments too, that’s a big cultural difference you need to adjust to and that’s not just a challenge in that you’re getting paid more slowly, but also the tech required to collect the money. 

Likewise the apps marketplace can be slightly different too, of course you´ll see familiar names on people’s phones, but have you heard of a super app called Rappi or ever taken a ride with Cabify? Cabify is big in both Spain and LATAM.  

All sound a bit too daunting? Just remember if you’re a European travel provider marketing to Spanish-speaking audiences in LATAM or the US, then such visitors are long-haul and that means they are much more likely to travel in groups, book further in advance, stay for longer, cancel less and all the things that are very profitable. 

In other words, Spanish-speakers are very much a worthwhile audience and the effort is worth the considerable reward. Embrace the right technology and distribution channels and you´ll soon see your efforts ‘translate’ into profits.