On a recent trip to Argentina I was determined to bring the right power plug adapter. There are actually two standards in use across the country and you can’t always be sure what power outlet will be greeting you in your hotel room. The last time I was there I guessed on using just the Type I plug and ended up with the wrong adapter.
For this most recent trip I packed both the Type C and Type I plugs:
And I was glad I did bring both. Some hotels have only one type of plug.
However, I did discover one hotel, a more modern hotel, that provided a dual-mode outlet, shown here:
If you’re planning to do a lot of traveling across Argentina, I recommend packing both adapters.
Globalia is the leading travel company in Spain, generating 3.5 billion euros in revenues across more than a dozen brands.
I visited the global website recently and noticed something missing from the home page — my native language. Not surprisingly, the global home page defaults to Spanish. So I went looking for a link to English-language content.
I first scanned the header. No luck.
Then I moved down to the footer and, in painfully small type, I found the link to the “English version.”
Clearly, this is not the best place to locate a “global gateway,” even if the gateway itself is simply a link to a second language. Language/location links should always be in the header to save your visitors from needless searching and scrolling.
Globalia could take a page from one its companies, AirEuropa, which does an excellent job of locating its global gateway in the header — and using a generic globe icon, as shown here:
Since so many global home pages default to English, I find the Globalia home page to be a useful case study for many American-based multinationals. Because here in the US, it’s tempting to just assume that the global home page of any company should be in English. While this may be the case for most multinationals, the most sophisticated companies greet users in their preferred languages, whatever that language may be.
Web localization isn’t simply about supporting a set number of languages, it’s about support the most important languages of your customers, whatever those languages may be. And, when you do invest in all those languages, don’t let them waste away by burying your global gateway in the footer.
In 2016, more than 120 million Chinese traveled internationally. which is roughly the entire population of Japan (or Canada, Italy and Australia combined).
And only 10% of the country has a passport.
Imagine the travel industry when 25% of Chinese residents are traveling abroad. Where will they go? What will they want to see? To help shed light on these questions, Hotels.com recently interviewed 3,000 Chinese residents who traveled internationally over the past year.
China is already the largest source of international travelers for many countries.
Yet only 10% of the Chinese population had passports in 2016.
Shopping is no longer the prime attraction for a growing number of travelers
Nor is group travel, which is quickly losing favor among older travelers. Translation: Chinese travelers are tiring of those buses.
Independent travel is very popular among millennials.
And eco/green tours are becoming quite popular, particularly among older travelers. I’m very happy to see this.
The most welcoming countries to Chinese travelers, based on survey respondents, are Thailand, Japan, Australia. The USA made the top 5, though I suspect that ranking might be slipping based on current events.
The top landmark in the US: Grand Canyon.
The top landmark in Australia: Great Barrier Reef.
And in France: the Louvre.
Chinese visitors spend more in the US than visitors from any other nation, approximately $7,200.
So what does this mean for hotels and other travel segments? It means you have be curious, nimble, and you had better support Chinese — both on your website, in your call center, via social media, and with in-house Mandarin speakers. Survey respondents ranked poor hotel localization as a top 5 problem.
Chinese is also not as well supported across many of the global travel websites I reviewed two months ago. As shown here, based on our new report Destination: Marketing, Chinese is found on only 64% of the leading tourism websites.
Also, accepting Visa or Mastercard is not good enough. Most Chinese travelers prefer to pay with UnionPay.
While I’ve closely studied travel websites for many years (such as airlines, hotels, travel agencies) as part of The Web Globalization Report Card, I’ve not spent much time looking closely at destination websites, such as for cities, regions and countries. That is, until earlier this year.
For this report we benchmarked 55 country, region, and city tourism websites across six continents. Of those websites, here are the top 10 overall:
Germany emerged on top driven in large part by its support for a leading 24 languages as well as global consistency and local content.
The leading city website is Paris, with support for 11 languages, which may not sound like many languages, but is actually well above the average for city websites.
Which leads me to the key finding of this report: the growing language gap between travel and tourism websites, which I will write about in a later post.
Western Australia came out on top of the regional websites. Shown here, note the globe icon in the header used to highlight the global gateway — a very nice touch.
Tourism websites should lead the travel industry
Language is just one of the areas in which tourism websites need improvement. This report carefully documents the many different types of navigation strategies used by tourism websites and provides best practices that all sites should consider. It also takes a close look at localized content, social media, and support for mobile users (also a weak point).
It’s my hope that this report helps tourism organizations make a stronger case for globalization. After all, the travel and tourism industry is growing at a faster pace than the global economy and by 2017 is projected by the World Travel and Tourism Council to account for 1 of 9 jobs on this planet. Tourism websites play a key role in attracting travelers and more than half of these travelers do not speak English.
This is the third year that we’ve combined web-based travel services companies with the travel companies they represent. And while OTAs (online travel agencies) have long dominated this category, we’re seeing airlines and hotels become much more competitive in the fight for customer relationships, and not just in developed markets.
Booking.com emerging number one overall. It leads all other websites with support for 41 languages and leverages global templates across all local websites. The mobile website is also lighter (in kilobytes) than most competitive websites giving Booking.com a potential performance advantage. Following close behind in score is Hotels.com.
The travel industry is by definition a global industry. When your customer may be located anywhere in the world and traveling to any other place in the world, you need to support not only a significant number of languages but also currencies, time zones, and mobile devices. A number of the companies in this sector have been aggressive in using geolocation and content negotiation to greet visitors with the right language, region and currency. But they also provide a great deal of flexibility. For instance, Booking.com and Hotels.com allow you to change your currency using what I call the currency gateway:
But Booking.com is far from perfect. It buries its global gateway on its mobile website, which is not ideal for visitors who need to quickly change settings. Instead, I recommend including the global gateway link in the header, as shown here with Emirates:
I recommend a more generic globe icon than the one used by Emirates, but this is far better than most other mobile travel websites.
American Airlines does not use a globe icon, but does at least make its global gateway available in the header, as shown here:
I do not recommend using flags for navigational purposes and many travel websites continue to use them today. Flags do not scale well and flags convey meaning that often goes far beyond mere navigation — a reason why a number of websites intentionally leave the Taiwan flag off of the global gateway, even though it includes all others.
A number of companies have been quite busy expanding their linguistic reach; websites that added languages over the past year include:
KLM, by the way, leads all airlines with support for 28 languages. And Hilton leads all hotels with support for 23 languages (though if you include Airbnb as a hotel brand, it emerges on top).
Websites that scored on the negative end of this list include Four Seasons, Enterprise and Avis.
To learn more, check out the Web Globalization Report Card. Travel and travel services is the largest sector covered by the Report Card, a section more than 50 pages long.
I wrote an article for UX Magazine (based on my research for Lionbridge) that highlights global best practices in the travel industry.
Travelers want websites that travel with them
In the travel industry, your customers are mobile. If you greet them with a “select country” pull-down menu, they might wonder if you’re asking for their home country, departing country, or destination country. Which means you need to invest a great deal of planning into your global gateway.
More important, you need to offer users a consistent language experience across any device they may be using. It’s a mystery to me why a company will localize its website into 30 languages and only localize its mobile app into five or six languages (I’ve seen many instances of this).The irony here is that mobile apps, if developed properly, can be localized more cost effectively than websites.
The linguistic “syncing” of websites, mobile sites, and apps is a hot topic among many of the companies I’ve spoken with this year — across all industries. Given the rise of Internet usage on mobile devices, it’s fair to say that all Internet users want websites that travel with them.