machine translation in tourism marketing

Machine translation in tourism marketing: The difference between giving information and selling a service

Last week, I was fortunate enough to take advantage of the new direct flight connection between Newquay and Alicante. As I was waiting by the check-in desk, I spotted this German leaflet from Coastline Travel:

machine translation in tourism marketing

I was really excited and proud to see that a Cornish business has gone to the trouble of providing a German leaflet. However, to anyone who knows the German language, it’s immediately obvious that this is a machine translation. It is littered with grammatical errors, nonsensical words and typos. As a professional translator, my immediate reaction was to cringe at the poor quality of the translation, particularly because it would have cost very little to translate this small flyer professionally.

But then I asked myself: does the flyer do the trick? And in all honesty, yes it does. Despite the poor German, I could understand the gist of what was being offered and how to go about booking transport. With that in mind, wouldn’t it be perfectly fine to use machine translation like Google Translate to translate all marketing material for your tourism business into other languages? Well, it depends entirely on the context of where the translation appears and what it is you want to achieve.

The bare bones: providing information for your guests

Let’s take another look at the Coastline Travel leaflet: The aim of the flyer is to attract the attention of German tourists who have just landed at Newquay Airport. They are most likely looking for transport from the airport to their accommodation, so they are ready to buy. This is less of a hard sell and more about letting the new arrivals know what it is Coastline Travel offers. It’s about providing information. When we ourselves go on holiday to other countries, we don’t necessarily expect to go to a restaurant and expect a flawless menu in our own mother tongue. As long as we roughly know what it is that we’re about to eat, we’re happy, right? The same goes with informational signage around city centres or information about WiFi or laundry services at hotel receptions. As long as we get the gist, we are content. It doesn’t mean that machine translation is good practice (after all, any type of corporate communication should reflect your business, your brand, in the right light). But in these very specific contexts, where the customers are already there right in front of you – ready to buy – providing a translation (of sorts) can help to bridge the language gap.

Beyond giving information: selling your product or service

But is that, in reality, all you are trying to achieve? Bridging the language gap? Or are you in fact translating this information not just to provide information, but to sell a service/product? Going back to the restaurant menu for a moment, there is a big difference between ordering ‘pork with chips’ and ordering ‘tender medallions of succulent pork with hand-cut, Cajun seasoned chips’. You end up with the same food on your plate but one description conjures up mouth-watering images of beautiful food and contributes to a wonderful dining experience (think good reviews, good tips, repeat custom), while the other one, well, doesn’t.

Particularly when it comes to selling higher-value services like accommodation and spa packages to overseas visitors who book before they set foot on Cornish ground, it’s not enough to just tell them what you have to offer in the most rudimentary form. Using machine translation for your website, for example, is like saying ‘Me hotel, you guest. Here come, pay this much, I bed for you provide.’

When searching online, overseas visitors have a plethora of accommodation options to choose from. As a marketing manager, it is your job to make sure they understand your value proposition – you need them to WANT to stay at your hotel and convert those web visits into booked rooms. And that’s the difference right there. Machine translation brings across information (sometimes). Professional translation helps you to actually sell your product or service.

Did you know that people are six times less likely to purchase from websites that are not presented in their own mother tongue? If you would like to find out more about affordable translation options for your tourism business, please get in touch for a chat and a free quote. We provide a wide range of tourism translation services, including website translation, multi-lingual social media as well as print media like brochures and welcome packs. For some examples of our work, read on to find out how we’ve helped St Michael’s Mount, Newquay BID and Cornish Cycle Tours to connect with overseas visitors.

Not sure if you should be translating anything at all? To get you started, take a look at our bog Marketing translation: the cost of (not) translating your brand.

Marketing translation and return on investment

Marketing translation: the cost of (not) translating your brand

As modern consumers, we are constantly inundated with information. The rapid adoption of mobile devices like smartphones, tablets and wearable tech, coupled with an increasingly reliable internet connection on the go, means that we are rarely off the grid. Digital content is coming at us from all angles and as a result, we have become very good at the art of ‘extreme skim reading’. As we try not to drown in content, we are learning to filter out anything that isn’t 100% relevant to us. We simply don’t have the time anymore to invest in reading something – anything – unless we feel that we really get something out of it. And we make that judgment call with lightning speed. In today’s fast-paced, content-rich world, 10 seconds is like a lifetime. So when your potential customer is reading your text (in whichever format you have delivered it, be it an email, a promoted Facebook post, your website, a Google Ad), you need to make it count.

When you create your English marketing materials, you have got it covered – you know exactly what works and you create bespoke messaging for your English-speaking target audience. But as your business starts to grow and you enter new markets for the first time, how will your English copy fare? Many international companies work with an ‘English first’ content strategy, where marketing content is first created in English (most often the company’s business language) and subsequently translated into other languages. In the beginning, a marketing translation is often more cost-effective and easier to manage and implement than engaging with content creators and marketing agencies in the new target markets.

In the translation industry, professionals often talk about localisation. The essence of localisation is to make the translated text as relevant as possible to readers in the target language. The aim is to speak to the reader in such a way that he/she wouldn’t even realise that the text is a translation. Why? There are two reasons:

Number 1: Familiarity

We tend to feel safer buying from a company who speaks the same language as us and who shares the same cultural values as us. In an e-commerce context, consumers face a lot of uncertainties when buying products or services from another country, so it’s only natural that they would be somewhat more sceptical about a foreign company. Is it safe to pay with my credit card on this website? What’s the return policy? What are my legal rights buying products from another country? Most companies will have all of this information very clearly laid on their website but your potential customer hasn’t even got that far yet. When he/she first interacts with your content, you want them to feel like they are in safe hands.

Number 2: Avoiding unnecessary distractions

You need to eliminate any elements that will cause your reader to pause unnecessarily, anything that will distract them from your core marketing message. For example, if you are only displaying prices in USD on your website, a German reader would have to convert the prices into EUR to understand if it’s a good deal or not. This means stopping, calculating in one’s head or checking on a currency conversion website. By that time, your prospect may already have lost interest (or simple hasn’t got the time) and has moved on.

In a world where people’s attention span is shorter than the time it takes to say ‘content marketing’, every interaction with your potential customers, however fleeting, must be interesting and inspire confidence in your brand. So when you get your marketing materials translated from English into another language, you need to get it right from the start. Of course, entering a new market is always associated with costs, including the cost of translation. But investing in a high-quality marketing translation is your best bet to ensure that your translated marketing copy will really resonate with your target audience, and that you will see a faster return on your investment in translation. In the end, it boils down to simple maths:


the cost of (not) translating your marketing content

Web trends affecting translation industry 2016

3 key web trends that will affect the translation industry in 2016

Yesterday, leading Cornwall-based online marketing specialists Niddocks hosted the Niddocks GYM seminar (short for Google, YouTube & Mobile) to get Cornish businesses fighting fit for the year ahead.

Managing director Rob Edlin presented the latest trends that we can expect in online search this year, and he was joined by Danny Burlacu from YouTube, who spoke about the growing adoption of YouTube, both as a search engine and a marketing and advertising platform.

The seminar covered a lot of information (my brain certainly felt like it had a workout), including structured data, smart goals for AdWords and advanced remarketing. To me, the three trends that stood out the most, and which I think will impact the translation industry, are:

1) Safety first: the move from HTTP to HTTPS domains

When information is sent from a webpage on a http domain – for example when you fill in a contact form and submit it – that information is sent unencrypted. It could potentially be seen by someone that it’s not intended for, i.e. the information could be scraped for improper use like spam or phishing.

HTTPS, on the other hand, is a secure domain which only sends information in an encrypted way so that it cannot be deciphered by anyone other than the intended recipient. You might have seen HTTPS in your browser address bar on pages where you have to enter confidential information like credit card details.

Google want to make the whole internet safer and are pushing for more and more websites to move to https domains. In a recent statement, Google announced that they are now starting to index more https pages and that they will index https pages first before indexing equivalent http pages.

We’re excited about taking another step forward in making the web more secure. By showing users HTTPS pages in our search results, we’re hoping to decrease the risk for users to browse a website over an insecure connection and making themselves vulnerable to content injection attacks. – Google

Many websites of freelance translators and translation companies – including our own – are still hosted on http. With the recent Google announcement in mind and to avoid getting penalised in Google rankings in the future, now is a good time to start planning for a move to https. Gather information about the costs and processes involved in changing your website from an http to an https domain. According to Edlin, it’s important to work closely with your web developer to make sure the switch goes without any hick-ups and that all searches for your current http site are properly redirected to your https site.

2) Beacons: connecting the physical world with the online world

A beacon is a small piece of hardware that can send messages or prompts directly to a smartphone or tablet using Bluetooth technology. They are low-cost pieces of kit that are easy to install and offer completely new ways of interacting with people in the physical world. According to Business Insider, “beacons are poised to transform how retailers, event organisers, transit systems, enterprises, and educational institutions communicate with people”.

For example, shops can use beacons to not only measure the footfall in their shops, but also get a much better picture of who these visitors are (demographics) and how they interact with their products (conversion data). And that’s just one of many use cases. In the USA alone, beacon technology drove $4bn of retail sales in 2015, a figure that’s expected to increase drastically this year.

While so far, beacons relied on an app being installed on a user’s smartphone, 2016 will see major web browsers supporting beacon technology, which will open up a whole new world of possibilities. According to Edlin, a spark is needed to ignite a new location-based marketing method that will allow end users to use online search in a more meaningful way that truly connects the physical with the online world, and beacons are likely to be exactly that spark.

For anyone interested in using beacons in their business, Niddocks will soon be launching Olleno, a brand new specialist resource for the physical web, Eddystone beacons, nearby and proximity marketing – watch this space!

3) Video content: growing at incredible speed

Here is a neat statistic: According to Cisco, by 2017, video will account for 69% of ALL online traffic. The consumption of online video is growing year on year. People are watching videos at home, at work, while they are commuting, while they are eating, and even on the toilet! In the UK alone, 16 million users watch online videos every day. With an annual growth rate of 10%, video is not just a way of providing engaging content marketing for potential and existing customers, video platforms also offer a huge advertising potential to increase sales and drive brand awareness.

As more and more companies start to integrate video into their marketing strategies, the need for translation services specialising in localising video will continue to grow. Expanding your offering to include subtitling and voice over services could be a worthwhile move to create a competitive edge, as could be the partnering with a reliable video production company.