INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON DIGITALISATION AND SUSTAINABLE TOURISM IN MAURITIUS
Mauritius has hosted their first International Conference on Digitalisation and Sustainable Tourism, organised on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of their independence and was a very well attended success.
The Prime Minister of Mauritius, Hon. Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, declared the conference open and gave a motivating speech. He is a Barrister by profession and discussed their latest initiative as having special significance in view of growing uncertainties in the global market place, climate change, increased interest of green destination, rising costs and technological advances all aimed at putting travellers at the centre.
Mauritius is very forward thinking in their initiatives for best practices and sustainability and by hosting this fascinating conference have shown how committed they are to face up to the multi-faceted challenges, taking responsibility to ensure that the tourism industry remains sustainable, inclusive and complies with the Sustainable Development Goals. They adopted a declaration at the end of the conference on how to cope with digitalisation in a sustainable way, contributing towards charting a new road map for the tourism of the future.
The Hon. Anil Kumarsingh Gayan, their Minister of Tourism recognised that the world is at a crossroads with the rise of digitalisation and must know which turn to take, to learn and strategise to develop the road map for the tourism of tomorrow. He noted that the impact of digitalisation on sustainable tourism and all the new technology holds both promise and disruption and he asked the key question “are we looking for sustainable digitalisation or digitalised sustainability? Digitalisation can be both a friend and a tyrant” he noted and because there are so many new avenues, Mauritius cannot afford to not be a leader.
They recognise the potential as the world becomes ever more connected, with unimaginable prospects for tourism as people move boundaries and covered new areas of growth in Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, big date, blockchain, GDPR, mobile, content and social media amongst others as it's all moving so fast that the tourism industry needs to keep up. They looked at the ethical issues, the privacy issues, the concerns as well as all the positives for mobile to mobile as the individual becomes the focus - the one to moment stage we are currently in and personalisation in general. They were keen to emphasise that no technology can substitute a smile and human contact and that the local community remains the ultimate shareholder as tourism is owned by everyone.
So many interesting talks on over the two day event, covering many of the opportunities and challenges, destination competitiveness through technology and innovation, development goals and redefining destination marketing strategy in the digital era.
Amanda Hills, President, Hills Balfour & MMGY Group was invited to attend as both a speaker and a moderator. She was on a panel during the second plenary session on "Redefining Destination Marketing Strategy in the Digital Era" which focused on the shifts in media consumption and how the world went digital. Panelists included Dr Javier Gonazlez-Soria y Moren de la Santa, Amanda Hills, Michelle Randall, Alessandra Bitetti and Thomas Drescheler. The moderator was Aradhana Khowala. Trust has become imperative as brand safety develops. Now that the consumer has become so all powerful, the way they behave has changed. Gone is the traditional sales funnel, replaced by the Bumble Bee model whereby they dip in and out of sites during the purchase path. Now the key is to reach the consumer at the right place in their journey, at the right time and serve them the right messaging. Video content is now a hugely important consideration, with predictions being that 80% of all internet traffic will be video by 2019, but of course it must be authentic, emotive and personal, because not all travellers are created equal. GDPR, voice technology, chatbots, was also discussed, together with permission based models and some case studies looked at.
The ultimate message was "Be Brave, Be Confident, But Above All, Be Authentic".
Moderating on the panel looking at "Harnessing the potentials of digitalisation for tourism development" with panelists; Dr Javier Gonzalez-Soria y Moren de la Santa, Dr Upasana Singh, Mr Roopanand Mahadew, Mr Barry Youxin Lin and Amanda Hills.
Professor Geoffrey Lipman, President, International Coalition of Tourism Partners was the keynote speaker for the conference and his presentation was concerned mainly with climate change and how the world needs to find a way to make it though the next 50 years by focusing on climate change and the bigger picture.
The challenge of the future, he said is how we can make travel better for consumers and for hosts and that should be the main aim of the tourism industry moving forward. There is an increased need to communicate in the digital world and to learn how to thrive. This conference went a long way to help put the building blocks in place.