Machine Translation and the Travel Industry

Translation plays a significant role as a growth strategy for any business regardless of its size and the industry it operates. It can have a great impact on the quality of the product or service offered as well as on the relationship between the brand and the customer. 

Properly translated and localized training, advertising, or instructional materials are always welcomed by both partners and customers and can be leveraged to boost the performance of the company. 

The travel and tourism industry uses both interpretation and translation services quite extensively and naturally, which forms a great part of the budget expenses for the companies in the branch. There are also options to use automatic translation including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Translation.  

It is interesting that experts in the travel and tourism industry have different feelings towards the use of machine translation and how well it may meet the demands of the companies engaged in this field. The overall conclusion, however, is that no matter how high quality a machine translation is, the human factor cannot be ignored. A good editor needs to proofread the text before it goes back to the client and is in circulation.  


What are hybrid translations? 

A hybrid translation is a form of translation that incorporates both machine and human translation and is a service often provided by Language Service Providers (LSPs). The process goes like that: the text submitted by the client is initially translated using the most suitable machine translator approach and then it is submitted to a human translator with experience in the field for proofreading. 

There are certain pros and cons associated with hybrid translations expressed by the professionals working in the field. The basic factor here is the quality of the machine translation provided as this is the raw material that the translator actually works with and it determines to a great extent the pros and cons of the process: 

  • Advantages of hybrid translation 

The main benefit can be the shorter turnover time of a translation project given that the machine translation is of high quality. The work of the translator is much shorter as they only need to go through the translated text and correct occasional mistakes. When the language combination is popular – for example English into German or Spanish, the accuracy of the translated text is usually higher. When the right software is used the results are also much better. Some translators share that they are able to take on more projects per day and thus earn a higher income despite the lower rate of proofreading compared to a translation.  

The positive results for the client include a quicker implementation of the project and a lower cost. In addition to that, the quality is much higher compared to using a machine translator only.  

  • Disadvantages of hybrid translation  

The main disadvantage of hybrid translation is that it actually may take much longer and become quite a frustrating process in case the improper machine translation approach is used and the translated text is of poor quality. Then the human translator will have to put much more effort into proofreading the text and can actually end up translating it anew.  

Hybrid translation cannot be used in cases with more technical documentation as this cannot be properly handled by machine translation.  

The overall conclusion is that this type of translation can be helpful for certain branches and types of texts as it can provide a faster and cheaper service. According to some predictions, it is possible to successfully use this type of service for translating texts for the travel and tourism industry, especially when using the most common language combinations – English into French, Spanish or German.  


Benefits of machine translation 

There are certain benefits of using machine translation that any industry can benefit from. It gives the option to translate content that is of no such importance and that was usually skipped due to lack of budget. Now, machine translation can deliver great input almost in real-time and the quality can be quite decent, especially with a little human assistance. 

Some of the fields in which machine translation can help include: 

  • Communication between multilingual members of a company 
  • Data collection 
  • Online help 
  • Multilanguage chat with customers 
  • Lead generation – translating e-mails from clients to get the gist of their needs and desires 
  • Some less important web pages  


Is machine translation useful for the travel and tourism industry? 

With all the above in mind, it can be concluded that machine translation can assist the growth of travel and tourism companies by providing them with a cheaper tool for better communication with customers. One of the main fields it can be used for is the translation of customer feedback sent to websites offering accommodation services or different holidays. 

While the main information on the webpage should be properly translated into the languages the business has chosen to work with, it will be too much work to translate each feedback sent by a customer. The feedback, however, is quite valuable for the company as it helps attract more customers and presents them as an open and transparent business. It helps the customer understand what they are going to buy and influences their decision. 

The travel and tourism industry is well aware that the principle “Can’t read, won’t buy,” applies with full force to its service and so they strive to provide as much information in the native language of its customers as it can. Here machine and/or hybrid translation can help a lot and companies are starting to avail of the options.  


Free machine translation is dangerous 

While machine translation as provided by LSPs is a well-established service with positive results, using free translation tools for business purposes can be dangerous. Google Translate, for example, provides decent results for travelers, especially using the most common language combinations. There are also other apps and tools to assist tourists, which are just not good for business purposes. No one will sit in a restaurant and order something with a ridiculous menu translation or buy a vacation to a destination where the description is hard to understand. 

The business should be aware that the word free in front of translation services is actually going to cost them more and try to avoid that common pitfall.  


The human factor  

While machine translation has a lot of potential for the travel and tourism industry, the human factor will continue to play a vital role in adding quality to the final product.  

There are translators and agencies experienced in the field who offer the best type of service and know-how to maximize the value for the client without charging an unbearable cost. The final goal is to offer a translation that helps all the interested parties achieve their results – the travel and tourism company to present its brand identity in the best way, the translation partner to showcase their knowledge and abilities, and the customer to understand the service/product offered and make an informed decision.  

The overall conclusion is that machine and hybrid translation can help in meeting travel and tourism industry demands however it cannot possibly eliminate the human factor. Well-trained and experienced translators and interpreters will still be needed in the field but they should also be ready to accept the new challenges and opportunities offered as a result of the technology advancement.  


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