Do you know what is digital era? Digitalization is firmly embedded in our lives and extends to all areas of human activity, including tourism. For many of us today, digitization is a great opportunity for development. Digital marketing has long been not a trend but a full-fledged helper in building a competitive business strategy, especially in tourism, where the choice of destination and the decision to buy are often made online. That is why various online courses are now being held, aimed at studying all new technologies. They are constantly being developed and opening up new opportunities in the market for existing firms and new emerging competitors.
The digitalization of tourism can be divided into external and internal. The first case is the systematic conversion of communications with the client into a digital environment. Usually, this is the travel agent's website, which can also host a special chat-bot to communicate with tourists. The fact is that today people want to get the right information quickly and easily. No one wants to waste extra time that can be reduced. One of these redundancies is going to a travel agency. That is why, of course, if we choose between going to an agency and searching for information on the internet, tourists will choose the second one.
Internal digitalization aims to develop CRM systems, automatic tools for setting tasks and planning. It becomes an important factor in increasing the competitiveness of firms. Automation of such processes frees up time for other tasks, such as studying new technologies or other related areas for the agency's work. The latter is becoming particularly important now, as only those organizations that expand the boundaries of their sources of income will reach a new level and survive the system crisis.
A study by Booking.com showed that one-third of the world's travelers are interested in helping artificial intelligence in travel planning. People enter all the necessary information about themselves into the system. 50% of respondents did not care whether they were helping to plan a trip - live operator or chat-bot. If the tour selection or hotel booking service offers a suitable option, the probability of buying a tour is significantly increased. Larger online services will continue to develop their artificial intelligence, and smaller players will gradually pick up on their experience.
However, private companies have realized the power of digitalisation in the travel industry. Many governments are already investing their time and sources in the digital ways of promoting their countries.
According to information provided by representatives of destination management and marketing organizations during the OTM Digital Days 2018 conference, Israel spends 25% of its advertising budget on digital promotion. Since last year, the representative office of Germany's national promotion office in Russia has decided to spend 90% of its marketing budget on digital promotion. It explains this by the higher efficiency of internet promotion.
In social networks and websites, you can increasingly see Visit Dubai publications that are promoted on a paid basis. They collaborate with influencers, travel bloggers, organize press trips, realize that the modern consumer wants and needs to be a part of the country even before their visit.
For example, Iceland began to actively promote itself in social media with the marketing campaign Inspired by Iceland, in which the country was able to create a virtual social movement. According to their research, 90% of the people who visited Iceland were willing to share their stories. People worldwide started posting on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and the Vimeo video service as part of the campaign. According to some estimates, about 1.5 million publications on the campaign were posted on social media during the week. Every visitor became a brand ambassador for the country, and even the President of Iceland participated in the campaign. Following this success, Iceland ran several other social media campaigns, such as Iceland Academy, a campaign aimed at increasing people's awareness of responsible tourism and Ask Gudmundur, which increased social media interaction and helped tourists plan their trip or get answers to various questions.
In our previous articles we were talking about e-visas, their benefits and private companies that can provide a modern traveller with a stress-free visa application process. For example, Pickvisa.com, a young but aspiring company has already helped thousand of tourists to make their pre-travel experience much more pleasant avoiding the embassy lines and endless requirements.
So, in the modern world where you can get a visa with one click, choose a travel destination by checking Instagram and get advised on the most affordable plane ticket in a minute thanks to AI, the question is the following: Do countries still need to maintain expensive, permanent official establishments in foreign capitals?
Or have advances in communication overtaken embassies and consulates? Like a hardy perennial, this question comes around every few years.
Let's take a very interesting case of the Estonian Data Embassy to help you think of an answer.
What is Data Embassy?
Data Embassy is an extension in the cloud of the Estonian government, which means the state owns server resources outside its territorial boundaries. This is an innovative concept for handling state information since states usually store their information within their physical boundaries
During the last few years Estonia has held talks with a number of countries and has now succeeded with one of the smallest countries in the European Union. The first data embassy is already based in a high-security data centre in Betzdorf, a commune in eastern Luxembourg. "The Luxembourg site is storing the copies of the most critical and confidential data," Sikkut explained, adding that the first data embassy had a goal to become operational by the end of 2017, or at the latest, at the start of 2018. "Once the first one is running, we will analyse and evaluate whether we need to enhance our capabilities. It is highly likely that we will set up additional data embassies, but that all depends on the cost and our experience," he said.
In reality all the data was transferred to the Luxembourg data center in September 2019.
Estonia is currently paying the government of Luxembourg 200,000 to 300,000 euros ($226,000 to $339,000) a year for hosting its data.
The two countries have signed a mutual agreement in summer 2017, but it is already clear that the Estonian data embassy will have the same protection and immunity as the traditional embassies. "Luxembourg has been a very good partner. In essence, we are creating a new precedent in terms of international law and practice, a kind of innovation. Luxembourg has been keen to think along with and contribute to the creation of the new concept. The 'physical' embassies are our sovereign territory under the Vienna Convention. Now we want to bring the same concept to the cyber world and data centres, Sikkut explained. This effectively means that officials from the host country will be barred from accessing the data.
So, considering this drastic move and step further in such a sensitive topic as data storage, that will definitely inspire more countries to follow the example of Estonia, what are your thoughts on my previous question?
Do countries still need to maintain expensive, permanent official establishments in foreign capitals aka embassies and consulates, while we live the digital evolution right here and right now?