Translation for the tourism industry – 5 things not to do

Properly translated texts are essential for tourist information and guides. But they really aren’t the norm yet in the tourism industry. Over and over again we see grammar mistakes, mistranslations and other crude and basic errors in cultural or tourist materials. 

There are very few translation agencies specialized in this field – in comparison to those specialized in legal translation, literary translation or medical translation, for example. 

There are some mistakes that a specialized professional translator will never make – especially the following 5 things not to do in translations for the tourism industry if you want to offer your customers high-quality materials that meet their needs and contribute to your international growth!

The different kinds of texts to be translated for the tourism industry

Advertising brochures, visitor information, museum content, flyers, websites, audioguides, the list goes on. There are far more types of materials that foreign tourists consult when travelling than you think! 

They are an integral part of the travel experience. They relate to all aspects of daily life and every stage of a trip – from choosing the destination to coming home, through booking and planning itineraries. Neglect them at your peril!

Unfortunately, the worst translation mistakes are usually found on translated materials meant for tourists! OK, they are sometimes very funny – but they very often lead to a loss in turnover for tourism industry professionals. 

So to guarantee that all the information you want to give your customers is clearly understood, whatever the media, entrust your translation project to an agency specialized in translation for tourism and culture!

The 5 worst translation mistakes in the tourism industry

It’s always best to call upon a professional translator (whether freelance or an agency) to get all the different kinds of materials used in the tourism industry translated, because that way you can avoid the pitfalls of bad translation. 

Here’s our selection of 5 things not to do when commissioning translations for the tourism industry.

Spelling mistakes – as old as the hills

Spelling mistakes are not necessarily a disaster, and sometimes even go unnoticed. 

Like Canyonig (Canyoning), Horse Ridding (Horse Riding) or Waterskiiing (Waterskiing) These are quite common mistakes that might even be made by native speakers. 

But they demonstrate a lack of care, a lack of professionalism, and worst of all that you are sloppy and negligent. Not the best impression to give a tourist who has placed their faith in you! Spelling mistakes are only made by careless and negligent translators!

Grammar mistakes

How about this – “Upon arrival you will be drived to your hotel” (driven).  

Grammar mistakes are also known as solecisms. The name comes from the ancient town of Soloi in Asia Minor whose inhabitants had a reputation – at the time – of corrupting their native Athenian Greek and using words incorrectly.  

Nowadays, a solecism in a translation of English to French might, for example be translating “Who are you working with?” by “Qui travailles-tu avec?” – a sentence with no meaning at all for a French person. 

This is the kind of mistake that you find very often in documents translated word-for-word using a dictionary or an automated translation system. They can truly compromise understanding of a sentence or even a whole text.


Mistranslations are definitely one of the worse mistakes that can be made. They are the mark of a bad quality translation.  

This kind of mistake means that a whole paragraph or text is incomprehensible. Mistranslations happen when a sentence or part of a text is misinterpreted and the meaning is skewed. 

Mistranslations often occur when documents are translated without sufficient translation experience. 

These mistakes are generally due to lack of knowledge of syntax or language-specific constructions or expressions. 

Professional translators’ studies ensure that they have a strong awareness of these pitfalls and ensure that this kind of error never happens.

False friends

False friends are quite common in translations for the tourism industry – especially materials that haven’t been translated by a professional multilingual translation agency. 

A false friend is a word that looks familiar but in fact is not. If we take an example of translating from French to English, it would be translating “librairie “ by “library– a French librairie is a bookshop in English! 

Sometimes, a mistake isn’t too serious because the words that have been muddled are in the same lexical domain, and sometimes they’re much more serious and a false friend will entirely compromise understanding of a text. 

Here too, entrusting translation work to a specialized and experienced agency, translator or network of translators makes all the difference!

Missing text

The last mistake commonly found in translated materials is missing text. Sometimes text is missing because a translator decides not to translate it. 

A sentence or expression might be too difficult for an inexperienced translator and so they prefer to leave it out rather than mistranslate the words they don’t understand. 

A failure to translate a part of a text often comes from a lack of terminological knowledge and can often happen in scientific or medical translations carried out by the author themselves when they don’t have a good grasp of the target language. Translation software often misses out words or phrases, and it is one of several reasons why it cannot take the place of an experienced and highly skilled bilingual translator. 

Why is a faithful translation so important in tourism? 

Doing translation isn’t as easy as it seems. It’s not enough to speak a language fluently to translate a text faithfully. All the more so in sectors like tourism and culture where the specificities of each country play a key role in the terms and style used. 

As we saw earlier, guaranteeing high-quality translations for their customers is an absolute necessity for everyone working in the tourism industry. Hotels, museums, restaurants, tour operators, travel agents… all need translators specialized in translation for the tourism industry. 

Opting for the services of a specialized translation agency will enable you to fully meet the needs of your customers (and future customers), whether online or in person. With high-quality translations, you will be able to give tourists exactly what they want – whether it’s information or an experience.

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There’s nothing like discovering all the aspects of a new culture or a new country that you’ve never visited before. Who’d want to miss out on anything because of language problems!

Being able to provide a perfectly translated version of your website with no mistakes or mistranslations is a really important way of gaining your prospects’ trust. Your professionalism will stand out. 

Lastly, remember that calling upon the services of a translator or a translation agency will enable you to provide your own customers with a high-quality service!

Do you need to have a tourism-related document translated quickly by a team of specialized translators? Do you need your document proofread by a native speaker to check the accuracy of a translation? Do you need a translator who is an expert in your area? Or a quotation for a translation? 

My Translator can support and assist you in managing your tourism and culture translation projects in many language combinations. Find out more about our work.

Also discover the benefits of calling upon a translation agency and the reasons why it’s so important to choose an agency that’s specialized in translation for the tourism industry!