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Managing digital assets - more important than ever for travel

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What the research has shown is that while there are some concerns within the industry in relation to challenges such as security and digital migration, the sector has overall been successful in working with digital media and adopting emerging technologies.

When it comes to the travel and tourism industries, visualisation is one of the most important aspects of a marketing effort. Seeing an image of the Caribbean, for instance, is possibly a far more effective tool than reading about it.

For every company in the sector, managing the digital assets used in marketing and advertising efforts is a tremendous undertaking. From organising their collections to providing access to users worldwide, Digital Asset Management (DAM) platforms have proved invaluable to the sector.

Keeping up with an ever-evolving industry
FotoWare, a provider of DAM solutions, recently completed an analysis into the sector about how managing and sharing of digital assets has changed over the last 25 years. This research was formed by interviews and analysis of user cases, including data from Thomas Cook (now Ving) and the South Australian Tourism Commission.

What the research has shown is that while there are some concerns within the industry in relation to challenges such as security and digital migration, the sector has overall been successful in working with digital media and adopting emerging technologies.

In the travel and tourism sector especially, digitising workload has been a major theme of the last 25 years. DAM software users have not only achieved fully digitised archives in many cases, but also enhanced their value by adding extensive metadata to images of destinations and accommodation. 

The primary challenge cited by respondents was organizing digital assets - 55% of  respondents cited the ability to organise and manage digital assets as the major challenge. With many managing thousands of assets (the highest figure mentioned was 170,000), there is a need for a system to process and access them quickly, especially as the amount of assets increases.

Metadata governance was also seen as a major challenge by 48% - without strong metadata governance, many assets are hard to find and in danger of remaining unused, while others are published multiple times, especially among large collections. Respondents want to speed up the creation of metadata, as writing captions and keywords for all images extremely easily and quickly speeds up asset selection. Respondents also explained that many assets have small variations and good metadata is essential in finding the right version. 

The top priority for 48% of respondents is workflow automation, so speeding up and simplifying the management of assets. With a growing influx of assets from different sources, respondents cite the need for workflows to automate repetitive tasks. For respondents working within diverse businesses with different users, easy to understand workflows are key, and enable users to standardise entries and save valuable time that can be used for other tasks. “Metadata automation will be a part of the new "digital" strategy, which we have to speed up now.”, said one user at a leading travel group.  

AI not robust enough quite yet
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not necessarily powerful and accurate enough in all cases to make it a benefit across the board, so only 6% of respondents are already using AI to manage digital assets, all respondents plan to implement it. However, 75% are not sure when they would start to use it, while only 9% plan to introduce it in the next two years. 

In the travel and tourism sector especially, digitising workload has been a major theme of the last 25 years. DAM software users have not only achieved fully digitised archives in many cases, but also enhanced their value by adding extensive metadata to images of destinations and accommodation. Although AI is not necessarily powerful and accurate enough in all cases to make it a benefit across the board, all travel or tourism sector respondents either had used AI and automated metadata successfully already, or thought that it would be important in the near future.

AI will become increasingly important to their business, which shows that the sector is not only aware of this technology but is also looking forward to employing it.

AI, ML (machine learning) and automations (workflows) using metadata will be important to the future. However, what is seen today with AI is not able to serve, for example, the museums and heritage sector’s needs. Even though an AI can recognize an object in an image, it cannot do abstract interpretations such as in the case of art. 

Easy collaboration and remote user management are a must-have
Many organisations  have changed their way of working since COVID-19 and this is reflected in priorities for 2020/2021. 35% of respondents believe that having remote access to files is crucial when working from home and for disparate teams. 

In the tourism and travel sectors, where teams are often based in different locations and fast communication is critical, one can easily see how DAM systems can be helpful.

For example, a marketing team may wish to create a blog post which will advertise the latest areas of interest in order to attract more travellers. By hopping onto the DAM platform, they can find appropriate imagery and instantly request permission from a manager, who in turn can easily approve the request with a single click.

This use case would also showcase the various integrations which support the sector. A DAM system could be integrated with WordPress, for example, so that attaching images to a blog post becomes a seamless experience.

One travel sector respondent explained that DAM software: “is part of a "content-driven" digital publishing platform, I designed a long time ago. But, from today's speeded up 'digital networks', we will have to build new models for CMS and several APIs to other platforms.”

Initial migration - a barrier associated with significant labour
The initial migration from an existing infrastructure to a DAM solution is frequently a barrier to adoption.

Moving from traditional, highly manual archive processes to fully digitised, searchable systems could have resulted in the travel industry encountering common pain points along the way. These include the trials of internal Change Management and training on new systems, consistently managing multiple user groups across disparate locations, and ensuring that rights management is baked into the resulting processes and systems.

In line with FotoWare’s analysis, all respondents agreed that there was a significant amount of labour associated with such a migration owing to a variety of factors such as allocating sufficient internal resources, poor existing cataloguing discipline, and dealing with the duplication of images which already exist on the system.

The issue of image duplication is particularly prevalent in the travel and tourism sectors who often have to resort to manual processes in order to identify and deal with them.

“A challenge [of migration] is/was a redundancy of uploaded images; two images that have the same content is a key challenge as often employees do not check to see what is already available”, said one travel sector respondent.

The security of visual content is of paramount importance
With 87% of respondents having some sort of security measure already in place, the fact that protecting digital assets is important is plain to see. Organisations in the travel and tourism sectors use a selection of protection methods according to their own needs.

For example, some may employ the use of mirrored backups in order to ensure that no digital asset will be lost, while others may focus on access management with the use of measures such as two-factor authentication and network segmentation.

All of these measures are meant to restrict access to those with approved rights, as well as make sure that the digital assets will not be misused. Combined with other ease-of-uses features of DAM, such as remote user management, these measures provide the sector with much-needed peace of mind.

Despite any concerns that the sector may have, it is clear that the adoption of structure digital asset management is benefitting travel sector companies across the board. Whether managing assets or users remotely, cloud-based platforms are becoming the norm, and can support the sector with collaboration tools, easy to implement security systems, and faster management processes company-wide.

Finally, the need to centralise the collection of digital assets in the travel and tourism sectors remains a focal point. Thankfully, from filing cabinets of 25 years ago, today assets are held in the cloud, which has become an invaluable tool for these organisations managing millions of images and videos to entice travellers to join the adventures on offer.

More than 250,000 users and 4,000 customers in a wide range of industries worldwide use FotoWare including NHST Media Group, Lindex, The White House Historical Association, The Financial Times, Marks & Spencer, Metropolitan Police, Axel Springer Verlag, The Economist, Australian Defence Force and Thomson Reuters.

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