For the last 6 months, I’ve done research at Spotted by Locals for a Bachelor thesis. My aim was to investigate the needs and wishes of travelers in terms of “Local Travel” – experiencing a destination like a local (as opposed to visiting highlight only). In this post, I’m sharing my conclusions.
The entire thesis is available for download from here.
Defining the topic boundaries
The basis of my research revolved around two things. 1) I wanted to know more about the travelers that used the tips shared by Spotted by Locals’ bloggers and 2) Whether local travel information is used by city travelers. Travel information on the internet is expanding exponentially and therefore it is very difficult to find what you’re actually looking for. The next problem is, whether the information is commercial and written by a company to make a profit or written by someone you can trust. It is also important to know if the information is up-to-date or rather very old. How do you know which of the thousands of sources on the Internet fulfill these criteria? This was the starting point of this research, to find out about the needs of the traveler using travel information out there on the Internet.
The development of new technologies, such as smartphone apps has brought a big change in the tourism industry and as a result, information is more accessible to travelers throughout their trip and not only before traveling. These apps are offered nowadays by more and more tourism businesses and will probably replace the good old guide book to a certain extent very soon. But are these apps really being used and trusted by the travelers? This is another question and therefore part of this research.
The interest in culture is not only my passion but also that of many fellow travelers. The urge to learn and experience other cultures through traveling and meeting locals is a continuously growing market, as many researchers before me already concluded. This interest in cultures includes having special experiences and seeing the culture from a different perspective and not only scratching the surface.
I was interested in seeing what information travelers in European cities really look for and what they are interested in. Besides this, I wanted to explore the developments of tourism boards and if they act upon the trend of local travel, or if this is rather a phenomenon only known under a small group of travelers.
The earlier research done by Spotted by Locals about the users of their travel information can be supported with the results of my research; the average city traveler is rather educated, affluent and fairly young. The profile of this specific group of travelers can be seen in the image above.
The majority of the travelers made about 2-4 city trips in 2011 and rely on the opinion of friends and relatives when it comes to travel information. Travelers tend to trust the information from friends and relatives due to the knowledge they have about the person. This same effect is being created by Spotted by Locals, through the interviews and background information given about the Spotters. Reading the interview about a spotter brings him/her closer and I can feel a connection as if he or she is a friend of mine. When I find a Spotter who fits my own personality and interests, then visiting his/her favorite places will probably also make me happy and be a good experience for me.
The following graph shows fairly clearly whom the travelers trust, and based on those results you can conclude that information offered by locals is highly important when giving the traveler what they’re looking for.
The majority of the tourism boards that were interviewed, do not include local travel information in the information they offer and do not cooperate with organizations offering this type of traveling yet. On the other hand, most of the city tourism boards do acknowledge this trend and want to act upon it, but experience difficulties in implementing it. Some cities, such as Copenhagen and Oslo do quite a lot with local travel, for instance, they offer the possibility to get a free travel guide with tips written by locals. Copenhagen publishes reports on a regular basis, in which celebrities or other locals talk about their favorite spots in the city and through this give the traveler the opportunity to experience the city from the perspective of locals.
This research shows that all of the travelers are interested in local travel and information offered by locals, therefore the recommendation to city tourism boards is, to recognize the importance of offering this kind of information and include the locals in the tourism activities of the city more.
Local knowledge is seen as very valuable by tourists, therefore their information can make destination marketing very efficient and outstanding, when using their knowledge and making it available to travelers. This added value can help to draw the travelers to a specific city as it would seem more interesting to them compared to other cities that only offer travel information by professionals and the main tourist attractions.