Opinions: 

#DTTT Blog

The third day of X. Festival has been incredibly insightful. We have heard from leaders in the data and research sectors, who helped us understand what is happening in the market and how to prepare for recovery through sharing invaluable insights and forecasts.  

Let’s recap on what we have seen on X. Rebuild.

We travelled to the mountains with Alex Herrmann, Director of UK & Ireland at Switzerland Tourism, with another daily dose of Switzerland.

Lynette Pang, Assistant Chief Executive, Marketing Group at Singapore Tourism Board has opened X. Rebuild with a magnificent keynote about STB Partnership Framework for Recovery to drive brand equity and power innovation. A great example of this is the Virtual Singapore Food Festival, which featured live masterclasses of home-grown culinary talent, enriched with food bundles for the audience to create a more engaging watch-from-home experience. They also launched a three-day virtual rave, with a partnership with Zouk Phuturescapes, with a line up of local and international DJs and a global audience of more than 7,000 people. To support creativity, STB has created an SG Stories Content Fund which is seeing incredible and inspiring new content about Singapore being created, enabling to keep Singapore top of mind even whilst the world can't travel. Partnerships are more important than ever right now. Lynette explained that data partnership with key partners like Visa and Mastercard helped them get a detailed understanding of what's happening and react.

Norbert Kettner, Managing Director at Vienna Tourist Board has shared honest and grounded insights on the strategy they are working on as a city destination. He explained that Re-Cover & Re-Imagine are the two talking points of the coming months. To help recover, they have set up an Agile Response team to foster new markets, develop new products and help the city to rebuild. The Vienna City Card Experience is just one of the examples of how they've pivoted by targeting the virtual market. It fosters demand from the local population and it gives access to experiences, places not usually open to the public and discounts and deals which incentivise people to spend and discover locally. Whilst developed out of the pandemic, this is something that will remain in the future.

Edmund Morris, Founder of Equator Analytics explains the case he worked on in Jordan to develop the tourism market. From a wide range of professional experiences, he took away and then shared the key trends to be aware of when we look towards the post-covid industry and we want to build back a healthy industry. Trends such as asymmetry and segmenting markets need to be considered in order to ensure a successful come back.

Adam Sacks from Tourism Economics opened his talk in an optimistic way saying that right at this moment in time, we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Whilst we see record falls ranging from drops of nearly 80% in North America to 70% in Asia when it comes to international arrivals, we have already seen an improvement around the world, with global international flights still just below 50% to the same time last year and domestic travel a little higher. One of the biggest concerns is 'how people feel': people don't feel safe right now and that's widespread throughout society and the world. At Tourism Economics they are talking about a V-Shaped Recovery moving into an L-Shaped recovery. However, China and Asia, as before, are still expected to lead economic growth and be a driver for incremental travel around the world. If we turn to politics, we see the impact of Biden's election in the US, being 'pro-growth' with investments in the US economy, jobs and growth being a very positive thing as it means more travellers. Recovery today is defined by market exposure. Understanding this is critical to understanding where different markets are exposed. In North America for example, the domestic market will allow them to recover quickly, the same is the case for Europe where 34% is short-haul cross-border recovery, which is also going to help growth if confidence can return.

Caroline Bremner, Euromonitor International, introduced their report Accelerating Travel Innovation after Coronavirus: From Tragedy to Hope.  She encourages to embrace transformation. Visitors — the lifeblood of the tourism economy — disappeared in 2020, forcing European destinations to go back to first principles. Reinvention through VR/AR was popular. To continue engagement with potential visitors, Egypt, Uganda and South Africa have launched virtual experiences including virtual safari tours thanks to live streaming. Destinations have turned to their residents, offering apps to discover “off the beaten path” activities and tours. The digitalisation of the customer journey has continued apace, with AI and automation deployed to iron out pain points. Mobile apps have provided greater transparency to consumers about their travel impacts such as Meravando in Germany, enabling carbon offsetting for cruises. In Argentina, the Imagine Initiative is a very simple but effective idea of a Green Passport, encouraging consumers to track their carbon footprint.

Olivier Ponti, ForwardKeys, explains that thinking about the future is what we need to stay focused on, or we'll miss the boat by focusing on the recovery alone. You need to prepare for it as if you're getting ready for a marathon, it's a journey where we need to think about those bigger questions, such as how sustainable you want to be, which partners align with your brand and where do you want to go as a business. Volatility is also something we need to be prepared for, so being agile and adaptable is key. Data has now come into its own. Before this crisis, there was a lot of talk of data but little real leverage of it. Now we see that the value of real-time data has never been as important as it is now. Whilst not losing sight of your strategic objectives, keep an eye on the tactical opportunities too. Lastly, maximising the tactical opportunities requires the empowerment of in-house analysis. Rebuilding tourism is going to be tough but it is our opportunity to address major issues and rebuild better.

Luca Romozzi, Sojern, presents their work and relevant data they have collected from the market. Knowing the behavioural shift in how people are thinking, looking and perhaps not booking means we can reflect that into our market efforts, deciding the content and engaging with travellers based on their feelings. This is how you know whether to deliver a 'dream now travel later message' or 'getaway next weekend' message. Explaining the data journey that each of us has in our daily lives, we realise that those 500 touchpoints, which is the number of digital interactions we have on average before booking a trip, are spread across so many different channels. Behavioural data helps us to understand who is undecided, but also the same behavioural data can tell you who is ready to book. Getting this real-time data into the marketing workflow is so important to getting the message right and converting those visitors who are in the market for travel.

Gloria Loree graced once again one of our stages, although virtually this time. Jumping back one year, looking at 2019 data, we can see just what a strong destination Canada is, globally, breaking yet more records from global source markets; yet this also highlights the dependence of Canadian's tourism industry on international markets. Jump forward to today and the focus is on the risk that many businesses face, more than 9 in 10 to be precise, who are facing the devastation of covid-19. Two in three restaurants are at risk of closing and there's a risk of 50% unemployment. One thing that nobody could have anticipated in this moment of crisis, is that it would last so long, with the international border remaining closed past 1st July. The second thing that nobody could have predicted was the closure of internal borders. This incredible story of triumph and challenge leads us to refocus and visit our guiding principles. It meant standing up and saying "we don't have a plan" if that, honestly, is the truth. There were many questions for which there were no answers. We had to enact a triage approach and ask the key question "are we actually being helpful?".

Sara Pastor, Adara, provides us with these key pillars that can support organisations when rethinking your data strategy to be ready for the years ahead, fully focusing on data:

  • Conversion data and intent
  • Consider real-time data and how this drives a dynamic strategy
  • Think about both verified and unified identities
  • Understand the detail of deterministic data - this is your 1st party data
  • Permission and consent-based data allows us to take action

Lately, Toby Morris, Adara, leads an amazing panel with Mélia Hotels International, ETraveli Group and Skyscanner. Turning to the biggest lessons we can take into next year and beyond, José Luis (Mélia) notes that the market is more dynamic than ever. Today the situation is completely different from tomorrow and this means that we must have all the systems in order. If we don't have the right data and technology strategy, we're not able to communicate the right information to clients, apply the right level of flexibility or offer the right level of personalised messaging and transparency. We need to be completely customer-centric but also, important not to forget, we have to be hotel-centric and ensure that we also continue to deliver the experience in the hotel itself, where we see things like sustainability being clear priorities for customers too. At the end of the day, we are not just products but we are brands. This is very important to remind ourselves what is the core of this brand, what's the value we create for our customers.

Helena Sjögren, ETraveli Group, points to three key things to keep in mind; know your numbers, know your data and make sure you put this data to action to steer your business. If you don't today have really smart engineers, then hire them. The other thing to consider is the need to embrace change, the landscape is changing all the time and we simply can't live how it used to be - embrace change, encourage the organisation to embrace change and look at what is next. Lastly, be open to creating strong partnerships and alliances as these are going to be key for a stronger and more successful future. Some of these relations have been strengthened through the pandemic and coming out the other side of this situation you will forever be appreciative of those partnerships that have been formed right now.

Closing off, James O'Leary, Skyscanner reminds us that 2021 will still be a steep learning curve, we're not going to have all the answers and we shouldn't let that worry us. Surround yourselves with people who can help solve some of the problems, but don't forget the travellers who are looking for transparency, trust and confidence. Travellers are going to become a lot more discerning in these areas and they aren't going to turn a blind eye to it. If we keep these things in check, the customers will come back, which is also why we must have a wider horizon too, don't ignore 2022 either, as this is going to be a really important year, if possible, to maximise the opportunity of recovery.

Then we have been joined by Maria Founta, Google CEE, who presented the "Grow with Google" business programme. Greece's economy is certainly heavily dependent on tourism, which is one of the reasons they have been one of the first destinations to put in place measures to screen visitors on arrival and to establish air bridges with other countries. A thriving tourism economy is everyone's priority, which is why Google has responded by rolling-out a large-scale support programme for the tourism industry in Greece. As we look towards recovery, many Destinations will be asking themselves "should we prioritise recovery and development support with promotion and activation?". Helping to answer that question, Maria shared insights on doing both, deploying an industry development programme together with a global activation campaign on the brands with Greece from Home.

Mathieu Jaton has shared truly incredible insights on how Montreux Jazz Festival and a series of stakeholders responded to the lockdown in order to keep the engagement with their audience high. He introduced us to the 'Dolce Riviera', a concept created in response to the cancellation of summer events in Montreux, Switzerland. The project was born between March and April 2020 under the impetus of about twenty actors from the economic, cultural, political and tourist sphere of Montreux. An unprecedented 'sacred union' whose objective was to bring together human and financial resources in order to offer something fresh, pleasant and attractive during the summer for both locals and visitors. This is a best practice on how to build strong partnerships in the destination and use inventive and digital as the means to succeed.

The team of Visit Dalarna has presented how they have sup We've all witnessed a sudden enthusiasm for domestic travel. What this shows us, if we look at the data today, is that people visit places they can go to, and tomorrow they will visit places they want to go to. So instead of trying to reinvent a completely 'new normal' which is really exciting, there are also some tactical choices that can pay back quickly.

    • Play with sentiment data
    • Deliver experiences expert today
    • Engage with faces of the destination

If we think about 'playing' with sentiment data, it's very important to understand what are the tactical quick wins that anybody can benefit from. Since the start of the pandemic tourism took a really hard hit from early to mid-march with incredibly negative sentiment. This has since been contrasted with a strong increase in positive sentiment, driven by stories, emotional campaigns, hope for a vaccine and other factors, but this is constantly pulled back by lack of clarity, reputation on handling the pandemic and other issues related to how it is managed.

What a day! I hope you took some notes and are ready to kick off 2021 with a brand new set of recommendations.

More from #DTTT

  • In April we present:
    Strengthening Knowledge Share for City Destinations
    Canterbury, United Kingdom, 28th April 2021 The Digital Tourism Think Tank (DTTT) today announced its renewed support for city destinations by strengthening the existing cooperation with European Cities Marketing (ECM). Working together with the philosophy of embracing a ‘partnership-led recovery’, members of both organisations will now benefit from four new areas of cooperation, including a [...]
  • In March we present:
    Digitalisation in times of COVID
    Impacts on operations, business models and employees   This week, our CEO, Nicholas Hall, has taken part in the Euractiv virtual conference. We have been working a lot on Digitalisation - it has been the DTTT's focus for years, although it faded a bit lately, giving space to other major subjects like sustainability, content & [...]
    #virtual event #travel industry #operations #employees #euractiv #recovery #COVID-19 #agile #discussion #panel #team #business #Development #SMEs
  • In January we present:
    How are consumer attitudes shaping Travel trends in 2021?
    This week we caught up with YouGov to share some insights on the latest travel trends for 2021. With a new year ahead, we wanted to check how travel sentiment has been evolving across different markets and customer segments. How is the pandemic affecting travel intentions compared to 2020? How is consumer sentiment shaping domestic and [...]
    #yougov #covid #travel sentiment #travel trends 2021 #2021 #restrictions #lockdown #Staycation #COVID-19 #travel #travel trends
  • In December we present:
    X. Imagine Recap
    The last day of X. Festival was probably the most unique: two tracks were available to be followed. One was packed with talks and presentations from the most visionary tourism leaders, the second one was a line-up of live roundtables aimed at answering the most debated questions in tourism.   Let’s recap on what we [...]
    #reshapingtravel
  • In December we present:
    X. Engage Recap
    Day 4 of X. Festival was all about trends, digital consumer behaviour, influencers and creators, engagement and content.   Let’s recap on what we have seen on X. Engage. Alex Herrmann, Director of UK & Ireland at Switzerland Tourism, gave us another daily dose of Switzerland. Ben Shacham, Culture Trip, opened the day with an [...]
    #reshapingtravel
  • In December we present:
    X. Purpose Recap
    The second day of X. Festival is over. We have now gone through 40% of the programme.   Let’s recap on what we have seen today, on X. Purpose. Alex Herrmann, Director of UK & Ireland at Switzerland Tourism, gave us another daily dose of Switzerland. We have opened the day with an incredible piece of [...]
Show more
© 2020 Digital Tourism Think Tank