Rewire your Wine & Food Tours for the New Generations

There is a shift away from Baby Boomer and Generation x, to one shaped by globalised young Millenials and the radical Generation Edge. How do we adapt our wine tourism businesses?. IWINETC speaker Paul Richer gives us some clues to keep up with and winning in the “Generation Game”

At IWINETC Hungary 2018 you talked about Digital natives and digital immigrants. Can you clarify the difference and give some indication of how the wine and culinary tourism industry needs to change and adapt?

The difference between digital immigrants and digital natives is quite straightforward. For example, I am a digital immigrant. My formative years growing up were prior to the advent of the digital era. There were no mobile phones, no personal computers, no internet. However, as digital technology has been introduced, I have embraced it and now make extensive use of it in my day to day life. I am a digital immigrant. I have moved into the digital world and am amazed at how it has changed all our lives. Digital natives were born into the digital era. They would not have known of a time when the digital conveniences of modern life did not exist. They are not amazed at what digital technology can do. They take it for granted in the same way that I take it for granted that when I turn a tap, water flows from it. They expect it to work and to provide utility and convenience.
Digital natives still want live experiences. Yes, they may spend a considerable amount of time socialising on digital channels and enjoying online gaming, streaming services and so on, but they still wish to engage in tourism in the same way that tourists and travellers have always done. The difference is that they will research the experiences in which they wish to engage via digital channels, with an expectation of gathering as much detailed information – text, graphic and video – as they wish. They will gather information from experts (such as travel industry professionals), influencers (those who have positioned themselves online as being subject experts) and a wide circle of social contacts.
The wine and culinary tourism industry needs to understand these channels of influence and tap into them in the most beneficial way. For example, this might mean creating meaningful and personable video content, inviting influencers to sample products and creating a social circle of enthusiasts and advocates.

At IWINETC Basque Country, Spain you gave a talk on AI, IOT and all that. AI seems to be all a bit technical, filled with jargon. For people working in the travel industry do we need a science degree to make sense of it for our businesses?

Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things (AI and IOT) are the current manifestations of the digital development. They are different but related. AI is computer programming that makes the use of extensive information databases to create the right responses to interactions. An interaction might be a question being asked of an AI Chatbot that requires an answer or it might be the translation of spoken words into computer code that can be understood by machines. IOT is the overall descriptor for physical devices that are connected to and communicate via the Internet. Voice devices such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home are IOT devices that connect to AI computer coding. The AI is to some extent self-learning, for example, gaining a better understanding of your voice commands or refining its answers to common questions.
People working in the travel industry do not need to understand the science behind AI and IOT but we do need to understand how to harness the opportunities this technology presents. This is in just the same way that most people will not understand how their cars work but will understand how to harness the opportunity of being able to use cars to get somewhere.
Very few travel businesses are going to develop AI-driven computer applications but we do need to take an interest in what is being developed by our industry’s technology providers and grab the opportunities they are offering if we assess they are worthwhile and cost effective.

Can you give a couple of examples of how AI is or will impact on the wine and culinary tourism industry?

Wine, in particular, is a very specialist area. I can imagine AI being used to help people select the wine that they will most enjoy. Both within the wine and culinary tourism industries, I see AI-driven chatbots being used to answer customers’ questions and queries, only passing these to a live expert when the queries move beyond what the chatbot is able to answer.

What do you advise tour operators, wineries, hotels….to do, to remain relevant and attractive?

My advice is embodied in my previous answers. You need to learn about and understand how to harness new digital channels of influence so that you can tap into them cost-effectively. You need to take an interest in what travel and tourism technology providers are offering and assess whether what is being offered can be utilised by your business to good effect.

Coronavirus: Life after lockdown. How do you think the wine and culinary tourism industry might change after lockdown?

I think we will all become more accustomed to using online communication services, whether this is video conferencing services such as Zoom or messaging apps such as WhatsApp. This will be for communication within our businesses, with suppliers and with customers. We may find that as a result of the way we have been communicating during lockdown we use these real-time services more and perhaps use email a bit less. You could consider that we will actually be communicating in a more old-fashioned way, actually talking to people and seeing them face to face, albeit over the Internet rather than in the same room. Tourists will always want wine and culinary travel experiences. Thankfully, I don’t see that changing after lockdown. We just need to get past this awful period and back to normality.

Paul Richer is founding partner of Genesys Digital Transformation, the realisation of his vision for a management consultancy offering the highest professional standards to specifically address the requirement for advice and project services relating to technology in the travel, tourism and hospitality industries.