By 2030, Gen Z will represent 27% of global income and are the decision-makers of the future. Catherine Flanagan, CEO of Ireland’s Association of Visitor Experiences and Attractions (AVEA), says the nation’s tourism industry needs to adapt to this digital-first generation.
The sixth annual AVEA annual conference will take place in County Clare on October 23rd and 24th during which the owners and operators of Ireland’s leading visitor attractions will gather to discuss how the industry can achieve their full potential and elevate their businesses under the conference theme of “World Class Experiences – Local Authenticity,” which will place a focus on how tourism businesses must deliver excellent and memorable experiences to their visitors while remaining true to the spirit of Irish hospitality.
However, the industry will need to find the fine balance between ‘local authenticity’ and ‘world-class’ with a digital transformation on the horizon. Eoghan Phipps, Country Manager for Ireland at Google says “AI is the next big tech shift. Seven years into our journey at Google as an AI-First company, we’re at an exciting inflection point. We have an opportunity to make AI even more helpful for everyone, including businesses. AI is not only a powerful enabler; it’s also a major platform shift. Every organisation is thinking about how to drive transformation, which is why we’re focused on making it easy and scalable for others to innovate with AI – the travel industry included.
From our travel trend data, we know that the time a consumer spends researching their holiday online is getting longer. Presently, for every one week of holidays, we spend a minimum of three weeks researching, planning, considering, dreaming – and then booking. This means that businesses need to ensure firstly that they are displayed in online search results, but secondly, that visitors can book online in advance, and have access to all of the key decision-making information online.
Catherine Flanagan CEO, at AVEA says, “AI is transforming customer service in our tourism sector, and we are known worldwide for our warm Irish welcome. This welcome is going to have to shift somewhat online and how Ireland’s tourism attractions and experiences can do that is one of the key areas for discussion at our upcoming conference. AVEA members have made huge advances digitally in recent years through Fáilte Ireland’s Digital that Delivers programme; now that we have built the capability, we must be ready for what’s next.
ChatGPT, for example, enables people to tailor-make their holiday itinerary based on their activities, who they are travelling with, and what they are interested in. In the past, 100 people might do the same search and get the same results - however, now, AI is personalising the data served to the individual, so each search result can have an almost bespoke offering. So we need to look at how our offering can include much more sophisticated customer service tools, anticipating search requirements, while still maintaining our warm Irish welcome and local authenticity.”
Delegates will also hear from tourism leaders Jenny de Saulles (Director of Sector Development Fáilte Ireland), Alice Mansergh (CEO designate of Tourism Ireland), Eimear Callaghan (Head of Experience and Industry Development, Tourism Northern Ireland), and Eoghan O’Mara Walsh (CEO of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation).
International speakers include the Head of Hampton Court Palace Rachel Mackay and Rich Neville, who led the operations teams for ABBA Voyage and the BBC Earth Experience in London. Kelly Molson, MD of Rubber Cheese, will report on changing trends for booking experiences online, and John Harte from ATS Heritage will reveal findings from AVEA research on how visitor attractions meet the requirements of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community.