A new study has discovered that making small changes in Wikipedia can hugely increase tourist revenue for small cities and large towns.
As reported by The Guardian, the findings suggest that it makes more sense for small cities to just update their Wikipedia pages, rather than employing marketing agencies or publishing glossy brochures inviting people to visit.
The research was conducted by Assistant Professor Marit Hinnosaar at the Collegio Carlo Alberto in Turin, Italy and involving NEW in Mannheim, Germany.
The study discovered that making small improvements to city’s pages can have a really sizeable impact on tourists’ choices, leading to an increase in hotel stays of 9%—an annual increase in tourist revenue of $129,000.
The authors randomly selected Spanish cities and then added content to those city’s Wikipedia pages. This included uploading high-quality photos of the region and adding information—a few paragraphs—on local history and attractions.
Crucially, it didn’t take an expert to write the changes and most of the words were taken from the Spanish Wikipedia pages and simply translated into English, German, Italian or Dutch.
The study is called Wikipedia Matters and is important because it proves how online user-generated content can actually lead to real-world economic results.
“If we extend this to the entire tourism industry, the impact is large,” said the authors, Marit Hinnosaar, Toomas Hinnosaar, Michael Kummer and Olga Slivko (quoted in The Guardian). “Its impact could be in billions of euros.”
However, it was clear during the research that there is one major snag in using Wikipedia in this way—the site doesn’t allow commercial gain (it is famously advert-free) and relies entirely on public contributions and volunteers to update the site.
During the research, a senior Dutch editor noticed that lots of additions were being made by the team and banned all future uploads, as well as removing existing ones within 24 hours.
Whilst even the most learned professors start their research by having a look at relevant Wikipedia pages, there is also an additional issue with using Wikipedia in that it may prove to be biased or incorrect; it is only as good as the volunteer uploading the information.
The Telegraph reported that Wikipedia is the eighth most-visited website in the world and so the kind of information added can also be important. They quoted Dr Mike Dickison, who has been travelling New Zealand encouraging locals to “talk up their towns”, to increase tourist revenue.
Dickison gave the example of Fox’s Glacier in New Zealand, which he called a world-class attraction but which only has 400 words on its page and those detail the number of fatal accidents. Dickison said, “I can’t imagine someone planning a trip to the West Coast and googling the famous Fox Glacier wanting to stay and explore the area based on that.”