Tnooz Node in Marseille Claude Benard secured an exclusive interview with Phillipe Fabry, ICT executive at tourism development organisation Atout France.
Philippe, what's your background and how did you decide to work in the etourism?
I’ve a first degree in ICT, a master’s degree in virtual communities (communities of pratice, knowledge management) and another master’s degree in history (Medieval Ages).
At the beginning, it’s far from tourism. My first long term job was webmaster in the French agency for tourism engineering. I saw rapidly that main problem wasn’t technological but the expectations and the behaviour of internet users.
Can you explain further the Atout France - its goals, organisation and your activities as a tourism engineer.
Atout France is the state operator in the tourism sector.
The main goal is a better coordination of public policy. It also aims to promote the destination efficiently and helps companies adapt to new demands.
Added to engineering and promotional functions, Atout France has other missions: training, hotel classification, file travel agents…
Atout France is a national agency which assists regions, territories and the private sector in their development, a key method for the growth of tourism.
My engineer activity is to help territories with their internet strategy in tourism and particulary e-business.
What are your opinions on international trends with etourism? Is mobile a hype or a new paradigm with technologies and strong marketing potential?
The trend is social networks. Nowadays, the challenge is to integrate the practices of Web 2.0′ into the heart of the products and online strategy.
The user generated content (UGC) need to drive sales and the reputation. The challenge is to understand that now it’s not enough to speak with your audience but to interact with your audience.
Conversation is the key trend. But we learn from the different markets that it isn’t very easy to animate an online community and interact in social media.
Mobile will become more and more important. But we speak too much about technology and not enough about services and environment.
The potential is high: personalization, one to one marketing... Mobile operators and tourism professionals need to work together.
Today we don't have a real ecosystem. The costs are too high for the consumers (for example "roaming" when you're in a foreign country).
So we can imagine beautiful services and trendy mobile applications, but the price is a barrier. So marketing is the next step.
Today the app store from Apple is for me the first ecosystem in mobile tourism.
In the battle against other destinations in the etourism sector, what do you think are the elements that you have that will help you to catch up?
France is a real brand and not only online, so we can capitalize on it. In France, internet users are very active on social networks.
Tourist boards are also increasingly active on social media. Community management by French DMOs would be an advantage.
Can you highlight some French start-ups or French technologies that have international potential for the etourism market?
For example cityzeum.com (mobile guides) or metroparisiphone.com (iPhone guide about the Parisian subway with some points of interest).
The French are well known about their historical assets and cultural tourism. Do you see some convergence between cultural tourism and technology?
Today, tourism and culture shoulbe be working together - it should be a joint approach.
A tourist can easily prepare at the same time he is travelling and sightseeing.
The tourist must go on several sites. One example of a good practice is digi-guide.com. This is not a very complicated product, but it takes into account all the activities and needs of a tourist: GPS, POI, shopping (it's often forgotten), and restaurants...
Do not isolate the culture of other activities is a trend that we should follow online. Today I don't see a lot of things like this online...
French DMO’s claim to be more open about Web 2.0 and other etourism trends. What can we do to help them to go further and what do you do at Atout France to help them?
Jakob Nielsen gives us the key when he says: "Content is king!". It’s very difficult today to have good content. Or more precisely a content that interests internet users.
French DMO's know their territory well and have the capacity to give some advice. Pure players are looking for that!
Strangely, French DMO'S know little about the internet and especially e-marketing. ATOUT France will help with training program and more particularly in e-tourism.
You have a knowledge management background. Do you think we can learn important and useful things from other internet industries?
Google, of course! It's a good thing to read What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis. I think this particularly about the DMO's.
This is not jsut to make internet services and tools to internet users available, but also content (videos, photos, etc). It is Platform as a Service (PaAS).
It's importance to to everyone is the ability to retrieve content but also make tools and services appropriate.
We can also learn a lot from airlines, especially with loyalty programmes such as Air Miles. This concept can also be used online: reward people who participate in online communities.
Sustainable tourism and green tourism are big international trends and a necessity. What can we can do in the etourism field to deal with these issues?
The training of tourism professionals is an important part, but not enough. ICT can reduce costs, but also consume less energy (online brochures for example).
Transport will become increasingly expensive, so we can certainly imagine online products.
We have to think about those who will not go away but want to visit such monuments or exhibitions. But we have to offer something else. We must do something different with ICT and do not simply reproduce reality.