COVID-19, as everyone knows, hit the Australian tourism market for six. Prior to the pandemic, tourism accounted for 3.1 per cent of GDP, which in dollar figures is about $60.8 billion. International travel restrictions put pressure on airlines, domestic tourism operators, hospitality businesses and travel retailers. But as we emerge from the pandemic, thanks to vaccines and effective control measures, domestic tourism is on the rebound.

Australians, instead of spending their money going overseas, are travelling locally. This benefits regional tourism operators, as well as the airlines on their domestic routes. So how can you take advantage of this stay-home boom?

AI is the answer

The challenge for operators is to offer real time deals to tens of thousands of people in a way that’s personalised and up-to-date. This is where artificial intelligence (AI) has a key role to play.

Tourism marketers can use AI to anticipate customers’ upcoming travel needs, as well as provide the right kind of up-sells, cross-sells and real time offers. Doing this manually is just not possible.

AI can also provide connected experiences across every channel like the web, email and mobile, using apps. But there’s a wrinkle: although most travellers are using mobile to research their itineraries and make bookings, changes made by Apple in the latest release of iOS, its mobile operating system, will make targeting ads and offers based on user behaviour a whole lot harder. We’ll come back to that in a moment.

Personalise email

Even in the age of mobile and apps, email remains one of the best channels to your customer. But as I have noted, creating personalised emails manually is a fool’s errand. It is just not possible to scale email to tens of thousands of contacts without the help of automation and AI.

By encouraging potential customers’ to share contact details, demographics and personal preferences, you can create an email that has targeted offers and calls to action. These are designed to encourage customers to act immediately and not miss out.

The problem with email is that if a customer doesn’t open in immediately, there’s a good chance that the details inside become stale. That’s where dynamic emails come into play. A dynamic email pulls the latest details about your offers from your database at the moment the customer opens it, ensuring that it has current information that a customer can act upon.

Our research shows that AI-driven dynamic emails will increase click-through rates by as much as 10-20 per cent and click-to-open rates by around 15 per cent.

Going mobile

Mobile remains the number one channel for prospective customers to interact with your business via apps.

An app provides the latest information and can harvest personal details to help create customised offers, build loyalty programs and help with customer referrals.

Apps typically take advantage of a technical system called IDFA (identifier for advertisers). This is a unique identifier designed to help advertisers track users across apps and websites and deliver them personal content.

For example, if you look at a seaside getaway on one app but don’t convert, an ad might later pop up on Facebook or Google with a targeted offer.

However, with the release of its latest iOS operating system, version 14.5, Apple has implemented what it calls Application Tracking Transparency (ATT). Boiled down, it means that app developers and advertisers must ask a user if they are willing to be tracked across apps and websites.

Around 70 per cent of iOS users, prior to the change, allowed their IDFA to be shared. With the release of ATT, that number is expected to fall to 15 per cent.

Given that iOS holds over 50 per cent of the Australian market, and that most of those users are going to opt out of being tracked, marketers are going to have to get smart about how they approach this massive, but now out-of-reach market.

There are no easy ways around this but doubling down on email lists and emphasising your desktop websites (no easy task) will help you maintain your personal connection to customers and potential customers. Implementing an AI system to help you is a key component in staying competitive.

With the Australian government offering a $1.2 billion package, including cheap flights to regional areas, the domestic tourism market is going to boom. But being smart about how you target your customers has never been more important, particularly given that you now can’t offer personalised ads across apps for a majority of them.

Adam Ioakim is managing director for Asia Pacific at Emarsys.