A quick-start guide for travel agents to reach out to digital-savvy travellers with cost-effective solutions.

How to connect with travellers in the digital age

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Social media platforms and apps make up an important toolkit for agents to tap on, and connect to today’s digital savvy customers. Photo Credit: Macau Tower

Many countries are now looking to shift gears to prepare for the endemic world. Border re-openings and quarantine-free travel options are bringing optimism to travellers. It is a matter of time before tourism starts to bloom again. When that happens, are travel agencies ready to meet the boom in demand? Will they be top of mind for their customers?

How agencies spend the next few months will be vital in regaining their foothold in the market. This is the time to ramp up marketing efforts and increase brand stickiness with customers pre-departure, during a trip and post-departure.

It is now even more vital for travel agents to take to the stage and shine as many travellers will choose organised tours over free and easy vacations to avoid any potential problems with Covid-19 government regulations and procedures. Travellers need their agents more than ever, and agents have to juggle even more concerns now. They have to ensure that the itinerary programme goes smoothly as well as prioritise safety, hygiene and contingency planning. These pressures should not distract the agent from engaging his customers and value-adding to their experience.

To start off this series on practical digital ideas for agents, we touch on various formats such as video, social media platforms and apps that make up an important toolkit for agents to utilise in their work. These ideas are meant to be easy, cost-effective and quick to implement, bringing agents a few steps forward in the digital era.

Videos tell a vivid story

When it comes to travel, there is nothing more compelling than to have a destination come alive in a well-produced video with sights and sounds to make wanderlust that much more difficult to resist. And agents don’t have to produce it themselves either. Tourism boards have a wealth of high-quality resources that are free and available for agents to use in their marketing.

For instance, Macau has destination videos that promote tourist-worthy events such as the 68th Macau Grand Prix — happening 18-21 November, and an events calendar to see what’s happening in one quick click. And to attract visitors back to the destination, Macau also produced Macao on the Move: Vibrant & Safe (above), a video to highlight the destination’s appeal to post-Covid travellers.  

Let’s not forget the many fans, influencers and organisations who have produced Youtube videos on destinations. Select the respectable ones and share their links with customers. For instance, The Venetian Macao produced a slick teaser video on Macau 2021 that showed off the night views and city lights. While they may not always be the typical slick video production, they do offer a raw and genuine perspective of destinations that has credibility, especially with new-age travellers who want authenticity. Agents should make use of these videos to give their marketing campaigns a multi-dimensional appeal that brings a destination to life.

The creative ones may want to explore creating their own marketing videos using low-cost apps instead of the typical expensive video filming set-up. There is a variety of apps available for download that make it simple for non-professionals. Agents can simply work with existing templates, drop in photographs and select desired transition and sound effects. A popular example is Canva, which offers a drop and play user experience that is not intimidating to those not used to video editing software.

Another option is to collaborate with agencies in Macau to leverage on their visual assets. An example would be China Roads which produces its own 360 degree photos and virtual tours.

Agents should leverage on a destination’s marketing tools, such as Macau’s mascot MakMak, to secure a regular online presence and to cultivate brand association with other players.
Agents should leverage on a destination’s marketing tools, such as Macau’s mascot MakMak, to secure a regular online presence and to cultivate brand association with other players.

It pays to be social

This is the age of a socially-driven era, with consumers and businesses both ‘talking’ to each other via popular apps such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the latest to join the club, TikTok. No matter the age group, there is a social media platform that is suitable for everyone. And it garners the eyeballs and attention that is highly desired by marketers. Agents need to be visible and active on these platforms to connect with their customers.

Producing original content is important if agents want to secure interest and engagement in their posts — plus a few other 'social tricks' to increase brand exposure to travellers — which usually cost nothing for the company at all.

For instance, agencies are part of an ecosystem that includes tourism boards, hotels and attractions. Many of them have social media accounts which agents can like, share and comment on posts that are relevant to their travel portfolio. For Macau, extensive publicity activations were done via WeChat to appeal to the China market while its Instagram handle @makmakmacao is a rich reference source for destination highlights and activities. Agents should leverage on that to establish a regular online presence and to cultivate brand association with other players.

Social media hashtags are the new sales pitches of today.
Social media hashtags are the new sales pitches of today.

An important aspect of social media is the hashtag. It is the new sales pitch, and it’s one of the easy ways to jump right in. Tourism companies are creating catchy hashtags. Travellers are tagging too. To get into the online conversation and to find out what’s popular, take a look at what hashtags are being used. Popular Macau hashtags are: #macau (4.4 million posts), 澳門 (1.2 million posts), #macauig (282,000 posts), #macaulife (76,500 posts), #wowmacao (46,400 posts) and #makmak (30,900).

Consider creating hashtags for your marketing campaigns, promotions and events. If you manage to garner a strong social media following and they share your hashtag, it’s free advertising. Keep it short, catchy and emotive. Do make sure it’s not related to any negative trending news or is being used by someone else for their campaign.  

This AR-powered app lets tourists experience the magic of House of Dancing Water anywhere — simply by placing their phones over the postcards, which causes performers to ‘swing’ and ‘dance’ just like in real life.
This AR-powered app lets tourists experience the magic of House of Dancing Water anywhere — simply by placing their phones over the postcards, which causes performers to ‘swing’ and ‘dance’ just like in real life. Photo Credit: BrowserCam

Apps are the perfect assistants

While on tour, agents have to juggle so many operational aspects of itinerary planning. On top of that, they have to make sure that they are engaging with their travellers and giving them a great time. So, it helps to think about planning needs and curate a list of useful travel apps that either agents or travellers are able to use. Whether it’s to save time, increase productivity, better convenience or just simply to enhance the travel experience, it makes sense to rely on readily available apps that can be downloaded from Apple Store or Google Play.

To plan travel itineraries, Macau’s all-in-one app Experience Macao is a valuable tool that should be downloaded. The app comes in traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, English and Portuguese and is meant to be a convenient guide for any traveller to get started on getting around the city. Its key features include: information on sightseeing, entertainment, restaurants, shopping and accommodation; walking tour routes; an events calendar of monthly events; an online map and navigation with offline data download; and check-in function. For getting around, the EasyGo app by the Macau government is extremely useful as well.

Even for attractions, look out for those who tap technology to enhance the tourist experience. If visiting the hugely popular House of Dancing Water at City of Dreams Macau, be sure to direct your clients to download the ‘Dancing Water Video Postcard’ and watch as augmented reality (AR) transforms regular photos to life through their phones.

While exploring the sights, its handy to have a translation app on standby as well. Try Google Translate or Papago, which is good for Asian countries such as South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. For text recognition translation apps, TextGrabber is wonderful to have. Just simply point your mobile at any information source and it will translate offline; over 60 languages are available.

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This article is brought to you by Macao Government Tourism Office



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