Key Themes from World Travel Market 2023
World Travel Market has always been a calendar highlight, allowing us all to catch up with friends and colleagues, and to assess the overall mood of the industry.
This year, the mood was undeniably buoyant with many destinations and travel operators reporting soaring demand, arrivals up, sales targets being beaten, plans to double visitors etc.
In and around all the positivity, I spied five key themes coming through…
CONTENT IS KING
The need for robust content strategy is nothing new, and the term ‘user-generated content’ (UGC) gives me 2013 vibes, but it is being looked at through a new lens. Increasing numbers of people now identify themselves by what they do – and not what they own – and social media is where they share their identity and find community.
With this in mind, travel brands can bring their unique offering to life by enabling their customers to share their experiences and further inspire target audiences to enjoy it first hand themselves. This isn’t a world of high production values, but it’s quick, efficient, unvarnished and 100% authentic.
Trip.com has tapped into this beautifully by focusing on three core areas to connect with key audience interests: Experiences, Deals and Trends. Managing Director & Vice President of International Markets, Boon Sian Chai declared that the business has moved from being a transaction platform to a content AND transaction platform with 80% of it now UGC. Simply from recognising that this is how audiences interact with the world.
The questions for other brands include, how are your consumers engaging with content? What’s inspiring and enticing them? And how can you encourage and empower them to share their experiences that will perfectly showcase what you have to offer?
GIVE, DON’T TAKE
Overtourism is a problem on all six continents. Its impact ranges from housing shortages to economic dependency, fewer resources that serve locals to irreversible impacts on nature. More and more of the travel community seem to be seeking to remedy this and instead contribute towards a more responsible future ahead.
Remembering that your customers are temporary citizens is key. While behavioural campaigns are one part of the solution, it’s the responsibility of all us in travel to also work with local authorities and citizens to ensure that our businesses are giving back and contributing to community long-term. Destinations are increasingly looking at investment into local shareholders and stakeholders, while social and environmental commitments are also being made in the sporting events and tourism arena.
For example, the International Olympic Committee has launched initiatives to positively contribute towards Paris’ health, education and welfare with over 1,000 projects that will support and promote the local economy beyond Paris 2024. In other words, truly responsible, regenerative tourism that bolsters infrastructure for tourists and citizens alike, so all benefit in the long run – not just those passing through.
Granting communities a voice can in turn help them prosper even further – some destinations, such as Bruges, have been conducting resident research to get under the skin of how tourism is impacting them, and then inviting them to take part in ideation generation to better manage it going forwards. Empowering them in the process!
Of course, an insights roundup wouldn’t be complete without AI, and certainly right now, its value cannot be overlooked when it comes to bolstering and simplifying the customer journey and service.
The aforementioned Trip.com shared their advances with TripGenie, an AI assistant that excels at deciphering intricate user request words and assists audiences with bookings rearrangements, removing any potential stress or hefty customer service call queues and allowing for flex and fluidity. On top, it can compile comprehensive travel itineraries with suggestions and accompanying booking links all through a simple voice or text prompt.
As AI’s ability to learn core customer search patterns, concerns, and interests evolves, it will continue to make the journey increasingly seamless and effective in the long run.
AI has arrived, the question is how to use it to enhance your own customer experience and bolster exploration, personalisation and flexibility?
Another hot topic widely discussed among businesses revolved around how to think outside of the box and serving audiences on a more holistic and cultural level.
Take Greece turning its focus on its lesser-known destinations for example, developing plans to highlight its ‘hidden gems’ including Evros, its smaller islands, and parts of the Peloponnese. Visit Florida is going past the theme parks with its “Beyond the Expected”campaign, whisking tourists on culinary adventures, showcasing the state’s rich and vast array of multicultural cuisines.
Closer to home, when Olympics 2024 kicks off in Paris, the city will simultaneously celebrate 150 Years of Impressionism. This will see them host a plethora of cultural and artistic activities that tourists can revel in around the Games for a truly cultural immersion.
REMEMBER TO GROW THE APPLE TREE
The simple analogy is this – you can’t keep selling apples, if you don’t care for the apple tree.
The past few years have seen, arguably by necessity, a hard focus on performance marketing: buy now, book today and click here. Selling apples.
But as the good times blossom, and as the punters return in ever-greater numbers, the budget available for investing in marketing should also grow. And this *should* be giving more brands and destinations the opportunity to invest in genuine, long-term, brand-building activity (alongside the short-term performance comms). Grow the apple tree.
Selling apples is functional, growing the tree is emotional and if you want repeat bookers and visitors it’s important to do both!