by Filippo Renga and Eleonora Lorenzini, Digital Innovation in Tourism Observatory
Recently we published some comments that highlighted how much Italian and European tourists have now ‘gone digital’, giving way to tourist flows in the digital world, even though switching between physical and digital worlds is taking unexpected turns.
Often, when talking about this to Italian players in this sector we are frequently asked questions such as: what is happening in the Eastern hemisphere? Is the role of digital tools for tourists in non-European Countries just as important? Do we need them if our incoming is primarily from the far-east?
The data is clear. Looking, for example, at China and Russia, two of the most promising Countries for the future of our incoming, it is quite clear that also in these markets it is necessary to be ready to intercept the flows of digital tourists. Online penetration in China across the various phases is very similar to Europe (86% Inspiration, 82% Research, 76% Booking) and only slightly lower in Russia (78%, 79%, and 61% respectively).
Also as regards single Digital Tourist Journey activities, Chinese and Russians are comparable to Italian tourists, and often superior in the use of digital tools. For example, in gathering information prior to departure the influence of social media goes from 81% for Chinese tourists, to 65% for the Russians (Kim et al., 2017; Kulikov, 2015). Throughout the trip 64% of Russian tourists purchase local activities on the web, 56% of Chinese get information on available tours or visits. Clearly, comprehending these phenomena enables those capable of understanding and leveraging them to gain a significant competitive advantage.
Examining also the most innovative channel, the smartphone, which is showing the strongest and most consistent growth also in Italy (+47% between 2017 and 2016 in mobile commerce in Italy), the high-potential growth countries appear to be particularly dynamic. If in Italy 18% of digital tourists purchased or booked at least one product through mobile devices, in the USA mobile penetration in tourist services is greater than 20%, but it is countries such as India and Indonesia that register the highest levels of use, while China even exceeds 50%!
All this makes it clear, therefore, that it is necessary to push the accelerator on digital competences. At all levels. Perhaps something is moving.