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

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.