Localization of Tourism Destinations' Websites: Theory and Practices

Localization of Tourism Destinations' Websites: Theory and Practices

Emanuele Mele (University of Lugano, Switzerland) and Lorenzo Cantoni (University of Lugano, Switzerland)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2930-9.ch008
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The globalization of the tourism industry has been made possible thanks to ICTs. From a communication viewpoint, Internet does not know political borders, but still experiences linguistic and cultural ones. This situation requires that publishers provide both a linguistic and a cultural translation of their messages. Only caring for such a comprehensive “localization” will ensure being understandable and attractive for people with different cultural backgrounds. The chapter analyzes (1) the reasons why localization in tourism online communication is needed (with a focus on tourism destinations and cultural tourism); (2) the main needed activities to provide it. It also discusses (3) different practices and strategies (presenting a few cases), as well as (4) the issue of how much localization is needed, and when it may become counter-productive, making the destination too much similar to one's own experience at home.
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According to the statistics released by the World Tourism Organization of the UN (UNWTO), the number of international tourist arrivals reached 1.186 billion globally in 2015 and they forecast to mark 1.8 billion by 2030, with a growth of 3.3% a year (UNWTO, 2016). Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) play a major role in supporting and enhancing this phenomenon. Nowadays, tourism players are able to make their services and products more accessible for the publics they want to address. The availability of such information allows prospective tourists to find – first of all – inspiration while browsing the Web. A recent study conducted by Google (2016) in USA shows that one out of three accesses the Internet without a concrete place in mind. Referring to this dynamic, research underlines that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a crucial component for Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) that want to attract people from key markets (Pan, 2015).

According to a report elaborated by Euromonitor International (2014), 87% of prospective travelers make use of the Internet for travel planning, 45% look for trip ideas, and 31% look for inspiration by watching videos (see Figure 1). Hence, it becomes easier to realize why tourism players are involved into this set of practices. An interesting study by Achkasov (2015) examines these dynamics from a cross-cultural viewpoint. More specifically, the researcher shows that SEO can be considerably enhanced by assisting it with a proper cultural adaptation of website keywords. Answering queries in a local language would allow tourism-related businesses to prevail over the stiff competition that characterizes the online environment (Achkasov, 2015). Among the innovations, it is important to underline that online visitors can share and retrieve information from their peers on the web about products and services. This dynamic allows them to decrease risks and uncertainties arising from the intangibility of tourism services. Indeed, reading comments provided by other tourists allows them to assess the quality of the offered service as well as visualize it in their minds (Park & Nicolau, 2015).

Figure 1.

Consumer research, shop, and engage about travel. (Euromonitor International, 2014)


According to Euromonitor International (2014), online travel sales will experience a steady growth by 2017. Among the categories included in the study, there are accommodation, transportation, and tourist attractions. Such projections certainly stimulate destination stakeholders to better understand (i) how to adapt their products and services online; and (ii) how to shape their communication strategy according to the reference markets. Addressing these aspects, a study conducted by Michopoulou and Moisa (2016) analyzes the role of cross-cultural backgrounds in differentiating the way travelers plan their holidays on the web. More specifically, the researchers refer to elements like lead-time for the preparation of the trip, flexibility, and attention to service details. Managerial implications for such outcome point at the need to implement tailored communication strategies according to the audience of reference, a need that includes the importance of accurate translation to make the content accessible (Michopoulou & Moisa, 2016).

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