Travel business leaders warned not to fall behind on technology

By Travolution
By Travolution

Travel and tourism business leaders must embrace the challenge of constantly changing technology or fail, according to a leading technology consultant.

Jerry Noonan, global consumer practice leader at Spencer Stuart, told the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit:

“The change in strategic importance of technology to business is a challenge for business leaders.

“It is a rapidly changing dynamic and there are countless examples of businesses that have been slow to change.”

He said: “It requires business leaders to remain curious and continuously learning.”

Noonan insisted: “It is something everyone who leads in travel needs to think about.”

“The primary purchase pattern that defined the travel industry has fundamentally changed. This is not a static moment. This is an accelerating set of forces.”

Value Retail chief executive Desiree Bollier said: “Technology is disruptive but if we don’t make it part of our business we will fall behind.”

However, Henrik Kjellberg, president of travel website Hotwire and chairman of Chinese online travel agent eLong, argued: “The consumer is just in a much better position than 15 years ago and who would want to go back?”

He added: “I sit on the board at eLong. At the start we were saying ‘This is what you should think about.’ Now I just steal everything and take it back to the US. In China they are just way ahead of everyone.”

Kjellberg also suggested: “The sharing economy will have a profound impact on the industry. It is a bandwagon and will grow. It is something technology does really well.”

Jami Timmons, president of nSight, argued: “There needs to be ongoing investment. It is no good to invest in technology and then never look at it again.”

She argued: “There is a ton of ways to use the massive amount of data in hospitality.”

Kjellberg was less impressed, arguing: “Big data does not necessarily give you big insight. It can be very costly from a time perspective. It is easy to get distracted by Big Data.”

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Tips for using holiday downtime

By Carrie Finley-Bajak

Carrie Finley-BajakDuring the downtime before the new year, travel agents can improve their technology skills. Mastering technology can include figuring out how to use your smartphone or tablet or, better yet, invest some time exploring how to use social media to take advantage of current trends like context marketing.

Context marketing has been around awhile, but for some travel agents it could mean new business opportunities. The goal of context marketing is to create marketing strategies that are both personal and relevant to the consumer.

We know consumers are spending time online researching trip ideas and reading reviews about airlines, destinations, vacation packages, hotels and cruise ship vacations. In fact, in a tracking study commissioned by Google to better understand the role of travel in the lives of U.S. consumers, it was reported that 68% of the respondents began researching online before they decided where or how to travel, vs. 65% in 2012. Travel agents need to be where consumers are online early in the planning phase to offer guidance and expertise (see the “2013 Traveler” study at

While consumers are researching online, agents can take advantage of the information they leave behind.

To get started, agents can perform searches on their clients’ and prospects’ social media accounts to gain an understanding about their audience and how they consume content for use in highly personalized marketing campaigns.

Because most travel agents lack the resources needed to retain the services of third-party consultants to help them design context marketing strategies, I have compiled a list of best practices to get you on track for success. Below, you will find suggestioins for how you can integrate context into content that drives results.

Try linking your Facebook account to TripAdvisor.• Be your own data analysis expert. Spend time analyzing and gathering demographic data about your audience. Figure out their likes, dislikes and topics that interest them. Once you have sufficient data, create targeted email campaigns or social media updates that are personal and relevant.

Savvy travel agents are learning how to use the vast amounts of user-supplied data left on social media sites like Facebook. Spend time reviewing information in your friends’ newsfeeds and discover what interests your clients and prospects who follow you on Facebook. Study their likes, dislikes and interactions with travel suppliers for context clues. This information is helpful for creating custom marketing materials to match the right travel product to the individual, which adds value and creates business opportunities.

• Take advantage of Facebook’s custom list feature, which enables users to organize Facebook friends into categories. This feature will come in handy when looking for context clues to use in future marketing campaigns.

• Another source for finding context cues is on TripAdvisor. Try linking your Facebook account to TripAdvisor. Once you have done so, log in to TripAdvisor with your Facebook credentials.

Do some destination research and pay attention to the sidebar on the right (see screenshot above), which displays recommendations from your Facebook friends. This information can come in quite handy for trend spotting and for seeing which Facebook friends are sharing on social platforms.

Knowing how to leverage context about your audience, prospects, leads and clients in your digital marketing campaigns enables travel professionals to present content in a frame of reference that is more likely to result in a response to take action.

• Research what is trending on your favorite supplier’s Facebook pages and then create Pinterest boards that reflect those trends to tell the story. Then share links to your Pinterest boards with your audience, and share your expertise about the topic. Your goal is to offer guidance that helps people learn the unique selling points regarding the products you sell.

• Be flexible and willing to adapt marketing efforts. Knowing what interests your audience online is just one piece of the context-marketing puzzle.

• Another area travel agents can focus on is metrics. Having a system in place to track conversions is necessary to determine if your marketing efforts are successful.

• Be sure to track conversions and measure your return on investment per campaign.

• Keep track of website traffic and correlate with content marketing campaigns.

Finally, use and measure traffic coming from social channels. Pinterest is great for referral traffic and with specific Product and Places pins now available, it is easier than ever to take advantage of the third largest social network.