Do More with Less: The Power of Innovation & Technology
Enrique de la Madrid Cordero
Secretary of Tourism of Mexico
We live in an era of fierce competition and slow economic growth—an era where having a buoyant travel and tourism industry, which fosters development, job creation and growth, can only be achieved through hard work and innovation.
Experience has shown that efforts shouldn’t just be left to national organisms, like tourism ministries, boards or departments who often have budgetary constraints. Rather, local actors should join in in the development of new and innovative touristic products that will deliver value to both the travellers and the local community.
Today travellers want diverse and unique experiences, giving entrepreneurs the opportunity to create distinctive value propositions that will not only attract visitors, but will help transform their local economy. In Mexico, I have seen entrepreneurs successfully leverage our delicious cuisine, traditional Mayan handicrafts, colorful art and diverse sceneries to generate interests from tourists.
While tourism plays a critical role in nearly every country’s economy, governmental budgets, both at the national and local level, don’t measure up. The digital revolution has provided solutions to this challenge. In effect, the widespread access to the internet and the surge of social media and innovative online travel tools have made it much easier for a local product to have a regional or global impact.
New ideas and products can go viral in a matter of days, turning unknown destinations into global hotspots. And the best part of it is that most of these new channels can be employed without significant financial resources. All you need is creativity, talent and imagination.
Access to data, from the aggregate, to the segmented and even individual level, has enabled us to target our marketing efforts. Long gone are the days when we have one strategy for all; we can now appeal to the personal lifestyles and unique interests of people across the globe. By using big data, we can tailor our existing products and develop new ones to create a stronger emotional connection with travellers. We believe that through savvy marketing and an incredible experience, today’s tourists will become tomorrow’s ambassadors for our destination.
Yet to be able to seize these opportunities, we have to develop new capabilities in our industry—its institutions, companies and labor force—so we can keep up with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. So what can national entities and educational institutions do?
First, we must have the right infrastructure and service levels to deliver on the promise of better and personalized experiences—and this doesn’t necessarily involve great sums of money. Tourism ministries and agencies should work with the service providers to adopt internationally recognized tourism standards, develop labour skills, remove bottlenecks and introduce policy changes.
And they should certainly help and participate in financing. First, by matching investors and developers, but also by designing special schemes with local or international development banks, and even venturing in public-private partnerships.
Governments should also identify their competitive advantages. Mexico, for instance, found a niche in medical tourism. We relied on our existing infrastructure but appealed to a whole new type of traveller, through policy adaption, promotional campaigns and alignment in economic incentives
Finally, and above all, governments need to be convinced of the value of tech-enabled and smart marketing initiatives. To me, it is the right path to grow our tourism industries. It enables us to promote sustainable economic growth and peaceful relations between all cultures, all without straining national budgets and risking financial stability.