Digital skills 2023–2024

The latest trend on improving and expansion of digital skills of owners and managers of small businesses in the area of tourism and hospitality.

According to general trends of development of tourism and its marketing, digital internet marketing will keep having leading positions in this area.

The effort on running digital promotion requires more and more knowledge and engagement from owners of the businesses. The reasons for this being that instruments become more complicated and many new features being added to them.

This brings in responsibility for owners and managers of small touristic businesses to constantly learn new things and improve their digital skills. Otherwise, they would not be able to survive the pressure from competition. It is obvious that sufficient amount of customers come from the internet, so this is not resource to neglect.

A lot of people agree to the importance of internet marketing. However, there are still some superstitions and misunderstandings in the methods and approaches that should be taken.

Some people believe that one could just hire third-party specialist that would do all the work and this would lead to great results. In practice, such approach does not work. Firstly, because there are not so many really good specialists in this essence. Secondly, their services are very costly for small businesses. Further on, if one hires someone who would do all internet promotion, this would require some control of the work being done. Such control is not possible without understanding objective data and markers of the activities on the internet and what instruments and techniques are used by the hired specialist. Our research has shown that majority of owners and managers of small touristic businesses have lack of knowledge and skills for this kind of tasks.

Another common misconception is that one could hire an agency that would develop and perform a valid internet marketing strategy. However, there are not so many highly-qualified agencies on the market and those that are there prefer to work with large companies for obvious reasons. Such agencies are also non-affordable for a small business. Once again, if one wants to hire an online promotion agency, it is necessary to understand what exactly they do, what techniques and instruments they use.

In addition, majority of agencies and freelancers are not aware of the specifics of marketing in tourism. Of course, marketing in tourism has a lot of peculiarities such as relatively expensive products, specific TA (target audience), low frequency of purchase (typically 1-2 times/year), potentially big physical distance from a customer, separate platforms for placement (e.g. Tripadvisor or Booking) and so on.

Purchasing service on online promotion from a third party could be compared to buying tomatoes based on the fact that they are sphere-shaped but not specifying whether they are red or green, tasty or not, large or small, etc.

For this reason, we advise all stakeholders to learn and improve their own skills on digital promotion of tourism and hospitality services. Of course, it is fine not to know every little detail of every existing instrument, but understanding how main instruments work, what kind of statistics to look at and how to control the processes of online promotion are absolutely necessary today and in will be mandatory in the nearest future. In the modern world, online channels are the most important channels for distributing information about touristic products and selling them.

Our research of touristic businesses conducted in 2023 has shown that many stakeholders have some skills on online promotion. However, there is absolute absence of knowledge of new and modern services. Below, let us have an overview of the most common problems and absent skills that managers of small touristic businesses have.

Absence of digital strategy. This leads to undefined aims and target audience of the whole marketing process, absence of correctly built sales funnel, random choice of channels of promotion and unreasonable spending of advertising budget.

Absence of analytical skills. This results in misunderstanding effectiveness of different channels and constant guessing which one would be better, which one would have more sales, which one would bring more loyal customers, which social networks bring customers and which ones bring useless visitors.

Lack of understanding of how advertising is being purchased in social networks and on the internet. As a result, advertising is bought in wrong places. This leads to ineffective advertising just because it seemed easier to buy for the owner of a given business. A consequence of this is higher cost of leads and uncontrolled paid promotion. Further on, not being able to use variety of instruments leads to overwhelming of the one used instrument, which leads to many other problems.

Absence of criteria to evaluate content. This leads to boring posts and publications, lack of useful information for client on the website and so on. This results in low popularity level of the pages of the company in social networks and low coverage. Moreover, the organic traffic of social networks and website decrease a lot.

Inability to make decisions based on facts and data, rather than intuition or gossips. This leads to lack of order and control of internet promotion. Another obvious problem is investing time, effort and money in inefficient channels. In general, working without statistics and analytics leads to significant increase of costs of any internet promotion.

It is worth noting, that our report has something more than just this list of problems. We give recommendations on what to do to fix the current situation. It is up to stakeholders to realize and admit importance of learning digital skills. Once they start learning, the state of online marketing of their businesses will benefit a lot.

Full report can be found here.

We recommend all stakeholders to download this report and use it to detect what improvements could be done for the case of their company.

In the end, there is a growing trend of educating and digital training of owners and managers in tourism. Those who neglect this risk not to stand a chance against competitors who are willing to do something in that direction.