The rapid development of digital technologies has impacted the tourism and hospitality industry as well. The means of spreading information has changed, as well as the planning process, tourism product and services. In addition to making the travel product more diverse and easily accessible, all aspects of travel planning have also been accelerated. The digital transformation has created great opportunities for tourism businesses and destinations and has allowed them to increase their visibility on a larger market. However, on the other hand, competition has been increased as well and it has caused many challenges for small and medium enterprises.
The tourism industry itself is a great source of information and at the same time consumes a huge amount of data. Consequently, digital technologies play a huge role in the daily affairs of tourism and cover almost all of its stages – communication with customers, planning, booking, business management, etc.
Online platforms have become the most popular means of communication and people use tools like social media, emails and blogs to share information on a daily basis. In tourism this is one of the best ways to get information about specific destinations or businesses. Social platforms are also used by people to understand other travelers’ ratings, view their photos and listen to recommendations, which has recently become one of the most trusted sources of information.
Travel planning has also adopted the digital tools and it is probably hard to imagine traveling without booking.com, airbnb.com, maps.google.com, expedia.com and other similar platforms. More and more people are trying to plan customized tours according to their wishes and decide on the activities and locations for their travel on their own.
Digital products are another part of the tourism industry that has become especially popular in the context of the Covid-19 Pandemic. This includes the use of technologies such as 3D virtual tours, digital guide books, online menus, digital hotel keys and various travel apps. The services of tour guides have also changed and they have started to actively use digital technologies in their activities.
No less important is the use of digital technologies in the management processes of tourism businesses. Companies are increasingly using digital management platforms for hotels or restaurants, online banking services, digital channels for communicating with suppliers, various stakeholders, and online spaces for marketing their businesses.
The tourism industry, which manages to successfully use digital technologies, is more likely to succeed and establish itself in a competitive market, providing travelers with a sophisticated product and high quality service. This is why it is especially important for people employed in the tourism sector to possess digital skills and have the knowledge to use them effectively.
I•change – Digitize Georgia
The use of Google Maps remains one of the biggest challenges for the Georgian tourism sector members.
Tornike Jobava, founder and project manager of an organization called “I”:
“There are many places (restaurants, parks, bakeries, beauty salons, family hotels, pharmacies, museums, libraries, attractions, castles or cultural monuments) that are not listed on Google Maps or are marked incorrectly (incorrect pin, address, information, etc.). Many places do not contain the necessary information, such as the entrance sign, photos (interior, exterior), working hours, contact information, etc., which should motivate a person to visit. In addition, the map sometimes contains a lot of false and useless information, mostly in Russian, which not only confuses travelers, but also harms national interests.”
That is why, with the support of USAID Zrda Activity in Georgia, Georgia’s Innovation & Technology Agency, and the Georgian National Tourism Administration, “I” has launched the project “Digitize Georgia”, which is a part of the Google Tourism campaign. The project allows all interested parties to get involved in the program voluntarily, learn more about Google digital tools such as Google Maps, Google My Business, Google Site and other important features for tourism development.
Google-trained digital volunteers travel to different regions of Georgia and train digital missionaries to digitize their villages, towns, and regions.
17 different municipalities were covered as part of the first phase of the project: Kaspi, Gori, Khashuri, Dusheti, Zugdidi, Tsalenjikha, Akhaltsikhe, Ninotsminda, Akhalkalaki, Aspindza, Adigeni, Borjomi, Marneuli, Bolnisi, Tsalka, Akhmeta, Kareli. Digitization of even more municipalities is planned in the near future.
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