Hospitality companies should think like a human, think mobile, and understand the world of today's "digital natives" in order to thrive, delegates at a tourism conference were told yesterday.
The Future of City Tourism conference, organised by the European Tourism Association (ETOA), VisitEngland and Virgin Trains, took place at the newly-opened Rum Warehouse in Liverpool's Stanley Dock.
Nick Hall, director of digital marketing researchers Digital Tourism Thinktank, explained how hospitality and tourism companies should adapt to today's "changing tourist", focusing on digital marketing.
He advised businesses to "think like a human" by making sure that their marketing was interactive, open to visitors' opinions and aware of what competitors were doing.
He also suggested that businesses hoping to capture the 35-year-old and under market should understand that for younger people, there was no distinction between online and offline. Marketing campaigns should reflect this, he said, by becoming involved in visitor-generated content such as photos, video, online reviews and involvement in social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
However, he urged that companies should not forget their own brand, and could merge traditional, high-end marketing techniques with more amateur elements, to maintain a professional approach with a user-focused message.
Younger audiences trust online review sites such as TripAdvisor, despite questions over some reviews' authenticity, Hall said.
Hall highlighted new apps and website services that were changing the landscape, including AirBnB, Uber, and new translation app WordLens, as examples of new innovations that were forcing the hospitality industry to adapt.
"Online and offline are merged for young people today. Glossy one-way communication is no longer cutting it," he said. "Mobile is changing everything."
Also speaking, Helen Thompson, of BBC Mobile, suggested that companies should not be afraid of getting involved with social media, but should equally not feel pressure to change their "voice" simply because they were online.
She used the BBC as an example, stating that although the company was active on social media, it was always conscious of the professional tone that users would expect from the service.