Around The World in a Day: Key Outtakes from the 2016 Mumbrella Travel Marketing Summit
Strategy Manager and 2016 Carat Scholarship winner, Ben Thomas, recently attended the Mumbrella Travel Marketing Summit. Below, he 'unpacks' his three key takeouts for travel brands (and the marketers behind them) moving into the future.
I like to travel. If I didn’t have to pay rent, bills or parking fines, I’d do a lot more of it.
Chronic wanderlust sufferers - myself included - are pretty spoiled for choice. Our consideration set is huge; we can literally go anywhere in the world (annual leave permitting). So, with an abundance of choice and competition, how do travel businesses and marketers ensure their product is their first preference for travel intenders?
To find out, I attended the Mumbrella Travel Marketing Summit last week in Sydney. In a day of full of engaging and insightful speakers, ranging from Tourism Australia CMO Lisa Ronson to Intrepid Travel MD James Thornton, three key trends emerged:
The Rise (and Rise) of Virtual Reality
If I had a dollar for every time I heard the words ‘virtual reality’ throughout the day, I’d be travelling business class from here on out.
VR was easily the most talked about and hotly-debated trend at the summit, with the majority of speakers heralding it as the next big opportunity in destination and travel marketing. The experiential nature of travel lends itself perfectly to immersive tech like VR and 360 video. The ability to allow would-be travelers to ‘try’ a trip before buying is hugely effective in creating a deep emotional connection with a destination, translating to a far greater propensity to book.
What tempered my excitement on slightly was considering the other client sectors I work on and the clear advantage an industry like travel has in terms of VR applications, over something like FMCG for example. Think about the kind of collateral at your disposal to sell San Sebastian compared to a block of cheese, however delicious.
There is also the question around VR’s effectiveness in its current stage of infancy. True VR (think the full headset experience) is still niche and inaccessible for the majority of people, so until it reaches critical mass, it obviously needs to be part of a broader communications strategy to achieve necessary reach.
I also echo the thoughts of Tourism Australia’s CMO Lisa Ronson, when she said that VR itself won’t create an experience for travel intenders - the content needs to be compelling and immersive enough to do the VR experience justice.
The Creative Customer
You only need to turn to your Instagram or Facebook feeds to see the amount of user generated content shared by travelers, so much so that some people actually refuse to check their Facebook during the deadly months of June to August – the brutal height of Melbourne winter and European summer.
And while UGC might be met with trepidation by some marketers due to the potential loss of quality control over their brand, Jesse Desjardins, Global Manager of Social Content for Tourism Australia, put it to the summit that travel customers are actually far more creative than we give them credit for.
He emphasized that travel marketers should start seeing their customers as content co-creators, and no let ego or fear get in the way getting the best possible content. That doesn’t, however, mean that marketers should hand over the reins completely to their consumers.
Rather, we should create comms strategies and creative messaging that starts the story of a destination, but provides a platform for customers to finish it.
Keeping with Tradition
While VR, digital, and social-dominated discussions were highlighted as key channels in the complex and fragmented decision-making process for travel, the importance of tried-and-tested traditional channels was also a talking point.
As a panelist, Carat AUNZ CEO, Simon Ryan, encouraged media agencies to ‘get out of the bubble and really understand the decision-making process’. We, as media strategists and buyers, often run the risk of getting caught up in our own digitally-obsessed world, without really interrogating and understanding the critical role of traditional media in the travel decision-making process.
This doesn’t mean travel marketers can rest on their ‘traditional media laurels’; they need to evolve how they use traditional media at critical points of the journey.
Adam Elliot, Seven Network’s Director of Sales, discussed the role of TV as one of the biggest drivers of consideration the travel category. He emphasized the ongoing importance of content and programming integration in more traditional channels, such as linear TV.
All in all, the summit was an eye-opening experience and well-worth the trip. The lineup of panelists was impressive and provided an invaluable breadth of perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing the travel industry. I left with a head full of new ideas and one eye planted firmly on my annual leave calculator.