Inbound tourism to the UK from other countries is booming. These are uncertain times for the UK economy, but the tourism industry seems to be going from strength to strength. Fortunately, businesses operating in this space are quickly realising that they need to cater for travellers in their own language if they want to remain competitive.
Inbound tourism continues to flourish
It seems that foreign tourists aren’t letting Brexit uncertainties put them off visiting the UK. As we all gawped at our televisions and newspapers during the final quarter of 2018, hoping for some solution to the Brexit impasse, tourists were happily going about their business, spending their hard-earned cash in our shops, hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions.
According to the latest figures from VisitBritain, some 9.2 million foreigners visited our shores between October and December 2018, up 3 per cent on the same time a year earlier. In fact, visitor figures have steadily risen for the past decade.
So why do overseas visitors want to visit the UK in greater and greater numbers? Typical British landscapes, world-class museums, our pastimes and historic locations are all part of the rich tapestry of the UK that attracts millions of visitors each year. A growing appetite for English gardens, for example, is adding to tourist numbers. This is according to research that found that a third of inbound visits included a visit to a garden, with tourists from the US, France and Germany making up the largest group of garden fans.
How can businesses cater for the growing numbers of non-English speaking tourists?
The UK attracts vast numbers from the US, Australia and other English-speaking nations, but some of the fastest growing groups of tourists are from Europe and Asia. A large proportion of these tourists don’t speak any English at all and, to take full advantage of this growing market, tourism businesses need to be moving with the times in terms of the translation services they use and offer.
It’s easy to assume that visitors to the UK will speak English, but this simply isn’t the case. Only 51 per cent of Europeans can have a conversation in English, according to the European Commission. When it comes to the Chinese, (who accounted for almost 400,000 visits to the UK in 2018, up 17 per cent from 2017) fewer than 1 per cent of the population speaks English.
This just sheds light on a simple fact about all business – not everyone speaks English!
If you’re not using translation services you’re missing out on a huge amount of potential revenue.
The value of Chinese tourism cannot and should not be ignored. China’s growing middle-classes love nothing more than travelling to Europe, and particularly to the UK, and they are increasingly shunning the traditional package tours and opting instead for independent travel. VisitBritain found that Chinese visitors ‘appreciate’ efforts by businesses to provide information in their own language – and this is the kind of research tourism service providers should be paying attention to if they are to attract this lucrative market.
How can tourism service providers improve their language provisions?
Catering to inbound visitors is all about extending the reach of your services and written information. Bubbles Translation Services has worked alongside several organisations to translate everything from brochures and guides, to signposts and other practical information.
As well as the written material and information that tourists use to enhance their experience when visiting a site, they may also expect the technology they use to adapt to their native language. And this requirement can begin before they’ve even booked their trip.
If you want to attract visitors (or any income) from across Europe, it’s worth considering translating your website and booking site into some different European languages. If you want to home in on the Chinese market, make sure Mandarin-speaking customers in China can access your site and book onto your tour, or read about your restaurant. Consider taking payments in foreign currencies and ensure your content is culturally appropriate.
Once your customers have arrived, ensure other tech, such as audio guides and apps, are available in their language. Again, consider using localisation experts to guide your content policies and ensure information can be understood, is relevant and that there are no cultural insensitivities.
From a tourism perspective, we are living in a very small world. Vast numbers of people can and do travel and they seem to love coming here! If you want to ensure you can enjoy your piece of this ever-expanding pie, investing in effective translation and localisation services for your tourism-centric business is a no-brainer. It will help you retain your competitiveness and can deliver a healthy return on your investment – and let’s face it, it could make your life a lot easier.
Work in the tourism sector? Read more about how some of the UK’s biggest tourism attractions are maximising their impact with overseas visitors.