This story is sponsored by PixelForce.
With the words isolation and lock down part of our lives in these days of COVID -19, our ability to get out and about to Australia's most magnificent tourist destinations has been one of the freedoms hardest hit.
For those in the tourism industry it's been devastating, particularly following so close behind the summer's bushfire crisis.
But in the face of such unprecedented challenges for the sector, smart operators in the industry are harnessing the power of digital technology to begin preparing for the time when the world opens up again.
"For regional tourism operators it's more important than ever to use the technology available to engage with customers now as well as investigating how they can incorporate it into their businesses once the restrictions are lifted," said Jason Quinn, Digital Marketing Officer at leading Australian web development agency PixelForce, which has a history of working alongside local businesses to create digital solutions to solve complex problems.
"The travel industry has been one of the sectors at the forefront of digital innovation for a long time and has fed the appetite of today's digitally savvy travellers. At the moment people might not be travelling but they are online and engaging even more with things like social media so it's an opportunity to get the right digital tools in place and encourage future customers to get planning."
Today websites, online platforms, a social media profile and search engine optimisation are almost essential starting points for any tourism business but technological innovations like virtual reality, augmented reality, and gamification are driving even more opportunities to engage with audiences and deliver the special experiences they demand.
"These technologies are all out there and available to use in so many creative ways. At the very least you should have social media - Facebook or Instagram - and be using it to give an insight into your business, your people and the destination. Create that personal accessibility before they even get there. Give them an insider's view into the region you're promoting and the experience you're offering."
"Adding something like a web app or a mobile app lets you speak to them even more directly. You can use it to do things like push notifications straight to mobile devices for updates on news and events, encouraging people to buy gift vouchers, offering discount codes. An app can be a lot of things - it could be geo-aware so that when someone's visiting an area alerts pop up on their phone with information about sites or landmarks. There's a lot of flexibility."
Even technology as simple as a QR codes are being used in clever ways to market to customers or enhance their visit to a region, city or place of interest.
"QR codes are being used to instantly let people access information about locations, particular attractions, local maps, anything, via their phone. If someone is looking at some rare object there could be a QR code alongside it to scan to bring up everything they want to know. It means there's no need for bulky signage or big maps at the site that might impact on the environment."
Pushing the creative bar is also the idea of using gamification to promote tourism destinations. Leading the way is the success of Pokemon Go which in 2019 helped generate $250 million in tourism revenue. Each year host cities and regions are selected to be the next event sites where participants head to bag some virtual characters.
"If you can find a way to gamify your business or region, create a fun experience, it means you can really engage with people, and give them an even better experience," Mr Quinn said.
"There are so many ways technology can benefit tourism and improve the experience for people, whether that's just as simple as a website that automates the customer experience, or something much more."
Get in touch with a PixelForce team member to discuss your digital solutions needs with a free half hour consultation via www.pixelforce.com.au.
This story is sponsored by PixelForce.