Going small: the rise of mobile marketing in the tour operator industry

The travel industry is shrinking. Not necessarily the industry per se, in fact the UNWTO Tourism Highlights 2017 shows why tourism matters. Tourism has experienced continued growth and deepening diversification to become one of the fast growing economic sectors in the world. As a comparison, today, the business volume of tourism equals or even surpasses that of oil exports, food products or automobiles. In other words one of the major players in international commerce (UNWTO, 2017). But why the word shrinking then? Well one of the primary ways travel companies interact with customers is getting smaller and smaller, more and more agile, in an effort to reach new customers and markets while still maintaining diversification is use of a mobile phone and mobile marketing (Ostdick, 2016).


It’s barely understandable how the mobile phone became so important in not only the travel industry but everywhere. To put this in context Peelen et al. (2013) stated in his book: “The ultimate promise of mobile marketing is to integrate some form of the organisation’s presence into the everyday lives of its customers. But mobile marketing is not very mature, many of the primary applications are directed at advertisements or stimulating transactions.” (Peelen et al., 2013) Now 4 years later it’s not a surprise that today’s traveler is largely dependent on the comfort of a mobile device.

Furthermore, a study by comScore revealed that mobile devices and related apps were one of the biggest drivers of consumed media on a daily basis; 88 percent of activity on smartphones and tablets stemming from apps (Baran, 2015). And lastly, my personal experiences underlines this information. While travelling through New Zealand my mobile device acted as a personal assistant for me, with all the information packed into it. But also as stated in a previous blog I could use my mobile phone to share information and create UGC.

The question is then how the tour operator industry is using this mobile marketing phenomena towards its customers? Visit Berlin developed a Going Local Berlin app, an app to discover the real Berlin how they described it. This travel guide has more than 700 tips, events and restaurant recommendations. Also there are tours and videos included in order to make the best out of your time in Berlin (Visit Berlin, 2017).



Another creative way how mobile marketing is used, is by Trafalgar, a tour operator in the U.S. They developed “the myTrafalgar” app which is designed to improve and personalize the on-trip experience. When downloading the app before the trip starts it gives guests the opportunity to connect with their travel director, and the travel director, in turn can learn about his or her group in advance to better customize the experience. Once the trip is underway, the app will help for the guests to get socially connected with each other. Before the app was launched Trafalgar conducted a research where they found out that their guests appreciated meeting new people within their travel group and the shared experience within a destination. Therefore, the app enables connectivity to new friends and encourages social engagement (Baran, 2015).

To conclude from these examples, mobile marketing is a big player nowadays in the travel industry. Smartphones, tablets, laptops and other mobile device not only changed the way customers research and book their travel arrangements, but also changed the way travel companies view devices as tools for interaction and communication with travelers.

Baran, M. (2015). Apps and ops: Tour operators step up mobile efforts. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from http://www.travelweekly.com/Travel-News/Tour-Operators/Tour-operators-step-up-mobile-efforts

Ostdick, N. (2016). Going Small: How Mobile Apps Impact the Travel and Tourism Industry. Retrieved October 09, 2017, from http://www.dcsplus.net/blog/going-small-how-mobile-apps-are-changing-the-travel-industry

Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management (2nd ed.). Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.

UNWTO. (2017). UNWTO Tourism Highlights 2017 edition (Rep.). Retrieved October 08, 2017, from http://www.e-unwto.org/doi/pdf/10.18111/9789284419029

Visit Berlin. (2017). Going Local Berlin. Retrieved October 09, 2017, from https://www.visitberlin.de/en/going-local-berlin

2 thoughts on “Going small: the rise of mobile marketing in the tour operator industry

  1. chrisverstappen

    When I’m thinking of practical advice for tour operators who for example can’t afford the costs of research and the development of an app. Social media goes hand in hand with mobile marketing. Smaller tour operators can make use of mobile social media for marketing research, communication, sales promotions/discounts and of course relationship development or loyalty programs. This relationship is also researched by Kaplan (2012).

    Kaplan, A. M. (2012). If you love something, let it go mobile: Mobile marketing and mobile social media 4×4. Business horizons, 55(2), 129-139.


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