Global Hospitality Chains Move For “Cheaper, Faster, Better” Localization


Global Hospitality Chains Move For “Cheaper, Faster, Better” Localization

By Liz Elting - February 1, 2012

Selling to international tourists presents a significant set of challenges for organizations in the hospitality industry, chief among them the creation and distribution of multilingual content. This challenge impacts companies of all types, ranging from global mega-hoteliers to small, local boutique properties, so long as they share one common trait – the desire to attract international customers. In many cases, this appeal starts with an online presence, whether in the form of a site, a series of sites, an online booking application, or information meant for distribution. These assets are designed to ultimately attract a potential visitor from another country or a customer who speaks another language. Just being “in-language” is often not enough - success requires that localized content be of high quality, relevant and culturally appropriate, which can be tricky given the “cheaper, faster, better” trio of mandates most brands face.

The challenge of the information itself has increased exponentially in recent years. The sheer volume of content, its rapidly changing nature and the multiple sources from which it comes all force hotels and others in the industry to carefully consider their globalization strategies.

Additionally, many companies want to launch and support a portfolio of brands. Therefore, it’s important to consider how to support individual brands in order to protect their inherent attributes across a much more diverse marketplace. And last but not least, the market must deal with constantly changing patterns in globalization, new information channels, emerging markets and new competitors. All of this leads us to a big question: how do we create a viable business solution that provides a balance between cost, time and quality, and can meet the challenges globalization poses?

Why content localization is no longer optional

Before we try to answer the big question, let’s look at where Internet usage is today on a global basis. According to recent statistics, 44 percent of Internet users are in Asia, 22.7 percent in Europe, only 13 percent of Internet users are in North America, and the remaining 10 percent are in Latin America. This means that 87 percent of all users are outside of the U.S. or Canada and most likely speak a language other than English. In fact, there are 670 million Spanish and Chinese language users (versus 560 million for English). Here are a few more compelling numbers (Sources: Internet World Stats, Common Sense Advisory, TransPerfect Research 2010):

  • In the last decade, Internet use among Chinese-speakers has increased by more than 1,400 percent. For Spanish speakers, the growth is about 800 percent.
  • Research shows that in the absence of a site that is not in their language of preference, 73 percent of consumers will abandon a site for one that is translated and actually proceed to a purchase (or booking).
  • Fifty percent of users state that, left to their own devices, they will either translate the site themselves or use a generally available web tool to do it. This is not exactly desirable for companies intent on delivering consistent messages and protecting their brand voice.

Those numbers are indicative of where business is moving. As brands open new properties in multiple markets abroad, they must support those efforts with localized content that prompts website visitors to convert and travelers to book rooms. Meeting those globalization goals starts with four steps:

  1. Identify your markets.
  2. Define a language and content strategy.
  3. Balance market opportunity, language requirements and content requirements with timelines and budgets.
  4. Use technology that will allow you to publish multilingual content rapidly and efficiently.

Use the right mix of technology support and human expertise

To find the right mix of quality, efficiency and affordability, hospitality companies can draw from several content localization options. The first is human translation. When combined with computer-assisted translation tools, this is the best way to ensure a high quality end product – an accurate translation that preserves the original brand message and spurs bookings.

Companies might also choose advanced machine translation (MT), which is most often used for high volume translation with machine-level quality. This type of translation is not supported by human experts, and is therefore potentially risky. Some brands choose a variation on MT, including a post-editing process that is conducted by a human translator to get better results.

There are two flavors of MT: good and bad. The good kind employs trained MT engines that are optimized and maintained for specific target markets. These solutions use translation memory as part of their workflow, and they do a decent job with structured, predictable, matter-of-fact language translation. Even when MT is good though, brands should limit its use to less critical content where a good-enough translation will not derail bookings.

When MT is bad, it is the equivalent of going into a market blind. Bad MT uses generic engines that are not trained or optimized for your market. These options don’t include translation memory, so every word or phrase must be newly translated every time it is encountered; the system never learns or improves based on its experience with repeated content. Too often, hotels and tourism companies relying on bad MT don’t even know how poor the quality of their localization is – but their international visitors certainly do.

Presumably, most companies choose between human translation, good MT, or some combination of the two. One approach to balancing out quality and efficiency is to localize an entire site in a new market, but find ways to minimize cost by using MT and perhaps updating content less frequently. This decision should be based on the company’s content map and priorities for various kinds of content in specific regions.

Another option is partial localization, at least as a starting point. This might include all of the user interfaces and static content, the top destinations, the booking engine, local promotions, legal language and monthly deals. All of these could be localized with human translation, then the brand can embrace good MT as the site grows or budgets decrease. has developed technology that takes into account the full range of challenges facing the travel and tourism industry, as well as the “cheaper-faster-better” solution most brands want for their localization projects. The market is moving from a requirement for 2,000 words translated per day to 200,000. Here’s how we tackle that shift:

  1. Combine smart technology with human translation to process more content faster, and at a lower overall cost, in more languages
  2. Automate business processes to facilitate the transfer of data for translation from internal systems (new or legacy) with an appropriate level of integration
  3. Reduce the burden on your content, distribution, IT and local teams by providing a robust but easy to use translation platform

Booking more rooms for more customers in more countries

The content created by the hospitality industry is complex and voluminous. Brands must describe not only their hotels, for example, but also their amenities, local points of interest, booking engine processes, dynamic promotions and other elements. To get all of that content up and running quickly in languages ranging from Spanish to Chinese and from German to Turkish without overburdening IT or breaking the budget requires careful planning and informed choices about process and technology. Hospitality companies have options once they understand their own needs and the available localization options; create content strategies that balance cost, quality and speed; and stay current with trends in their industry, as well as in localization technology.

Liz Elting co-founded TransPerfect in 1992. TransPerfect is a provider of language services and technology solutions which operates in 70 cities on 5 continents with over 2,000 employees. Elting oversees the day-to-day operations of the company, headquartered in New York City.

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