Websites: Dropping the content ball

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CHIANG RAI, 12 February 2018: The cliché message uttered by travel industry leaders goes something like “content is king.” But is it really king?  And just what kind of content are we talking about?

This is the age of influencers and bloggers, who are often paid to spin a tale.  It is invariably called story telling. But is that a close relative to the art of telling stories or even in the extreme  “porkies” if you are accustomed to Cockney rhymes?

Seeking facts and conducting a reality check on travel is a far more complicated process than in the past as the lines drawn in the sand between truth and wishful thinking in advertising or editorial are muddled.

The search for facts, reliable research and the reality of travel gets harder by the day. If content is king then we would expect that corporations would post their latest news on their websites. But a search often leads to a cul-de-sac of historical record and out-dated news that should have been trashed years earlier.

I invariably discover that important travel sites especially those of government offices or tourism marketing agencies have dropped the ball on content updates.

They built their websites with the best of intentions, but somewhere along the way the cost of maintaining content percolated to the surface, or corporate policy shifted focus to use the website solely as a booking tool.

Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism deserves praise for launching, earlier this month, a new Thailand Tourism Directory at www.thailandtourismdirectory.go.th/home.

It’s a major step forward as the information is in both Thai and English. Has there been a reality check at the ministry?  Communications in the Thai language are essential, but considering Thailand’s position as one of the world’s leading tourist destinations its messages, stories and data should coexist in various languages.

Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports also needs to urgently upgrade its tourism research data sharing it in major languages to gain maximum exposure.  Releasing data and press releases just in the Thai language is a mistake if the country seeks global status and respect in tourism, worldwide.

It’s early days for the Tourism Directory, but already there are queries. The directory has a section on tour operators. Just eight companies are featured, out of potentially a thousand or more candidates. Of the eight lucky firms some have  ‘verified’ box ticked and others presumably of a higher standard have a tick against two boxes; “verified and official”. But there are no explanations as to the difference that makes.

Tour operators might ask what is the criterion that sets these eight tour companies apart from their brethren?  And more to the point what do the words ‘verified and official actually imply?

If content is king then the ministry should share its valuable research data on its tourism director platform. It was around two years ago that a company was hired to revamp the ministry’s tourism data and the pilot project was on view during the UNWTO World Tourism Day, hosted in Thailand, in October 2016. The demo was quite impressive, but not even a single ping from the developer since on the app’s health and vitality. Does it still exist?

That’s a question that deserves some thought. Perhaps even an infusion of meaningful  content and data on the new website that would reach out to the global travel industry.