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Oli Puts Digital on the Tourism Map

By Felicity McNeice on 28th October 2014

Oli Puts Digital on the Tourism Map image

Irish News

Tuesday 28th October 2014

Putting digital on the tourism map

With travel fast-becoming an interactive experience, companies operating in Northern Ireland’s tourism sector are being urged to harness the power of digital media in order to engage more fully with potential clients. James Hanna, of tourism and heritage consultancy Oli, explains how digital tools can really put the local tourism sector on the global map. The NI market is certainly buoyant, and digital offers a means by which tourism businesses can seize a share of this market.

Recent data has pointed to a 6% increase in tourism spending here, and in the year to June 2014 some 4.17m overnight trips generated a spend of £755 million – £45 million up on 2013. Digital will help businesses grasp the emerging opportunities. In the next five years, many travel operators expect their share of sales via digital channels to rise by 50%. Already Tourism Ireland reports that 22% of its website views are from mobile devices. 

Northern Ireland's tourism strategy aims – among other things – to boost visitor numbers to 4.5m and create an additional 10,000 jobs by 2020. It is by embracing and developing digital opportunities – such as those offered by Game of Thrones, golf and the Giro d'Italia's visit to Northern Ireland – that the region’s tourism sector will achieve these goals. Social media must play an integral part in any digital strategy. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube are the new way for holidaymakers to communicate and they represent a global shop window that can have a major impact on travel decisions. For example, a recent European Travel Commission consumer trends report found that 40% of travellers are influenced by travel content on social networks when planning a holiday and that 50% base their planning on other people’s experiences.

Peer reviews are important too. A study by the rating site, TripAdvisor, has indicated that hotels which engage with customers via social media are around 25% more likely to attract custom. Rather than merely offering a bed for the night, hoteliers can: build customer loyalty by engaging with their customers; guide them during their stay; and link them up with other providers, destinations and suppliers.

By monitoring Twitter and Facebook hashtags to identify specific searches, providers can help tailor their services to potential customers, or simply using an Instagram or Flickr account to show off their accommodation or the local scenery can help to entice visitors. 

James Hanna will be speaking at the Digital DNA tourism conference taking place at Crumlin Road Gaol on Friday November 7th 2014.

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