In countries where the tourism sector is important, we need to treat tourism translation with the respect it deserves. People often talk about the importance of tourism marketing: online presence and reputation, the key aspects of a social network strategy, the development of content and new technologies and much, much more. However, people don’t often stress that we also need to translate all this content so that it can reach a wider audience. Or mention that, above all, we have an obligation to produce a high quality translation. We can all think of striking examples, such as crazy translations on menus or posters with very obvious and embarrassing mistakes.  Contrary to what many people think, not everyone is qualified to do tourism translation, not even all professional translators. Tourism translation requires the same level of specialisation as any other type of translation, since it has very specific characteristics.

What does tourism translation involve?

You may wonder which materials should be translated to reach the highest number of tourists possible and improve the image of your business. Some of the materials that can be translated are:

  • Tourism promotion catalogues,
  • Corporate and tourism websites,
  • Tourism apps,
  • Restaurant menus,
  • Tourism leaflets,
  • Tourism guides,
  • Maps…

30% of hotel bookings are made via the Internet, the largest proportion through the hotel’s own website. It’s a big mistake to implement a complicated reservation system only to then find that it’s in a language the customer doesn’t understand! Even though it seems that everyone understands English these days, by adding other languages to your reservation system, such as French, German or even Russian, your conversion possibilities will multiply.

Characteristics of tourism translation

First of all, we need to understand the importance of tourisms translators given their role in promoting culture. Whether we are talking about tourist brochures, websites, promotional videos, travel guides or restaurant menus, tourism translators are ultimately talking about the history, customs, geography and gastronomy of a country and a culture. They must have mastered the terminology used in very specific disciplines (such as art, statistical analysis, literature, architecture, sports, etc.) but still use different reference and information sources. It is very important to read, compare and check.

The style and format of tourism translation are characterised by being clear and understandable, as well as upbeat (given that it is about emphasising the most attractive aspects of a culture).  A tourism translation that is well produced will generally have a descriptive style, with suggestive adjectives and can even come close to being poetic at times.

In addition, tourism translation requires a large amount of creativity. In fact, it is often similar to advertising language, in the weighting of its descriptions and adjectives and in the tone it uses to appeal to and attract tourists.  Word games, humour and proverbs are aspects of the target language that the translator must have mastered. You might not have realised just how many tourism brands exist, but we see their marketing slogans and claims on a daily basis, for example with restaurants and tourist attractions. In addition, there are almost as many brands as there are cities and countries (or even provinces in our case) and they all use very carefully thought-out phrases that need to express the same idea and emotions in several languages.

Lastly, a high quality tourism translation requires consistency and clear ideas about which words need to be translated and which do not. For example, terms that have no equivalent in the target culture, proper names, place names and the names of festivities are not always translated.

Why we should translate and why we shouldn’t do it using an automatic translator

Undoubtedly, a tourist will feel much more comfortable and willing to spend money if they can read or listen to something in their own language. That is why, if you have a tourism company, you need to be really careful about the translations of all your content, including your website, brochures, guides, promotional videos and even your restaurant menu. Many companies cannot resist the temptation to use automatic translators, believing that this is an affordable, fast resource. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

A clear example is that of Casa de Pilatos in Seville. If you want to go, you had better get in shape because, according to the translation of the posters commissioned by the Council of that Andalusian city, it is “Pilate’s House”, This is only one of the dozens of tourism translation mistakes made recently by the council and that could drive foreign tourists crazy. And no wonder!

However, Seville is also doing well for producing a literal tourism translation of other places to visit. The Hospital de las Cinco Llagas seems to be said in the same way in other languages because the translation is so literal that nothing has been changed. Signposts are short, but they can cause problems if you use an automatic translator. For example, what if exit is translated into Spanish as “exito” rather than “salida”? Since “exito” means success, it would be a success if you could actually find the exit!

There is no point in having wonderful places to visit if the translation is not up to scratch and ends up driving tourists away. Remember that translation is the calling card of your business where tourists are concerned, so you should be careful about how you do it.

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Author Marketing

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