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Nicholas Hall


#DTTT Blog

The Future of Tourism, Nick Hall talks Mobile, Wearable Tech, and Content

Sojern, the world's leading performance marketing platform for travel brands, puts more heads in beds and travelers in town for its clients worldwide. Sojern is a provider of a data-driven traveler marketing platform that utilizes programmatic buying and machine learning technology. Sojern partners with travel companies to collect anonymized (non-personally identifiable) traveler profiles. Sojern has been partner with the Digital Tourism Think Tank for the past two years and they were fortunate to host Nick at Sojern’s UK office to talk about the changing face of tourism and travel. Here is part two of that conversation:

How has mobile impacted destination marketing and how is its impact on DMOs different (if at all) from other travel verticals (e.g., hotels)?

I think when mobile first came on the scene it was really focussed on the in-trip point in the travel cycle. We now know that mobile is very powerful as an awareness and engagement tool. This means that for DMOs, mobile has moved firmly into the early research and inspiration stages of the travel cycle, so their content needs to be right for mobile.

The industry has moved away from this knee-jerk reaction of developing apps for apps’ sake, towards developing content as they’ve always done, but developing it in a way that’s really fit for mobile. Sometimes it’s really simple things, but it has to be a seamless mobile experience. You can’t just have the first level, and then drop off to a poor user experience.

What impact do you think mobile or wearable tech will have on tourism boards/digital marketing in the next 5 years?

Everybody loves to talk about wearable tech, I think we’ve seen a proliferation in the last couple of years of new things. I think we know that everything can be connected, but at some point it’s also a question of lifestyle and a natural integration with daily things. I don’t think wearable tech is going to transform radically beyond what it already has done, and I don’t think it’ll have any major impact on destination marketing, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some interesting things coming. Who knows what’s coming in the drone space. But in terms of mainstream consumer marketing, we should remain focussed on the channels where people have those conversations and discover and consume content.

What’s the most surprising trend to the industry in destination marketing that you’ve seen emerge in the last few years?

I’d like to think we have a pretty good barometer for what’s coming, but one of the trends that I think has surprised the industry is definitely content; understanding that creative content is a role that the destination needs to play a direct part in producing.

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We’re also seeing a shift in the model of agencies. Destinations are recognising the need to bring more talent in-house whether that’s making sharper decisions themselves about the ad campaigns they want to be running and who they want to work with, or whether that’s the content they want to produce and inspire people with.

This idea that tourist boards invite 10 creative agencies in to pitch and they choose the best one, doesn’t create a very consistent or coherent campaign approach. Some destinations have changed their tagline and branding every year with each new agency pitch—it’s completely inconsistent. They need to have much greater control over it.

At our recent Content Campus, there was a general consensus from the destinations that they need to become more like a fully integrated media agency. They never had to think of themselves like that before. In the end, it’s a good change and it means building a team of talented people, and having the right talent within their teams. They can really do some amazing things beyond the remit of what’s been done in the past.

What’s your favorite travel destination?

I think that every single destination I’ve been to has something incredibly unique about it. It might be things you can see, things you can experience or the people you meet. Some destinations that appear bland and uninteresting have really interesting people with subtleties that make them really unique.

I love meeting new people and discovering these subtle differences, whether it’s between two Scandinavian countries and you realise, wow, these are two neighbouring countries, but they are very different in their attitudes and how they do things.

I don’t actually think I can pick a favourite one. At the end of the day, there’s no place like home. I mean, when you travel a lot, you actually appreciate what you have. And living in Brussels, I want to go home when everyone else wants to get away from it. It’s a strange feeling and the strange thing about travel, but I love it.


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