Travel brands ‘should employ interns’ to plot the technological marketing future

Traditional travel brands should hire a team of interns to advise them how to evolve in a world where customer demands and expectations are rapidly increasing.

Simon Ferguson, the Northern European boss of tech firm Travelport, said a culture of traditional thinking could be holding back the development of truly personalised and experiential marketing strategies.

He told Mumbrella’s Travel Marketing Summit today that travel marketers must be the iPhones of the current age, and not the once-ubiquitous, and now-defunct, Nokia 3310s.

Responding to a question over how the generally conservative and traditional Australian travel market can adapt, Ferguson said the answer could lie externally.

“The bizarre thing in travel companies is some of the people working as travel consultants for example are using technology which they would never dream of using in a consumer environment, so I think some of it is the culture and people in those businesses,” he said.

“If you look at the likes of Hopper and Airbnb they are taking a very different approach, and often it’s outsiders who disrupt easier. That’s just a reality.

“There is a lot of traditional practice, and some people will never adapt, but the great thing is you don’t have to do everything. Work out what works for you.”

He urged brands to “let the outside in and experiment”.

“This is where I would use interns. The first thing I would do if I was running a transactional retail travel brand is get 15 interns in and say ‘You guys tell me what is the best way to interface here’.

“If the mindset and the willingness to evolve is in the businesses themselves, they can and will evolve. That cultural shift is probably the most fundamental thing.”

He added: “There was nothing wrong with the Nokia, but it didn’t evolve, and travel marketing has to evolve. We have to be iPhones rather the Nokia 3310s in the experiential world that we find ourselves in.”

Ferguson said the “great thing” is that marketing generally is evolving, with the increasingly close relationship between marketing and technology paving the way for innovative strategies.

“This is a great opportunity for us marketeers to take control of some of these technology trends and be custodians of the new experiential world,” he said.

“But we will have to do some things differently. Typically in travel we have been used to a world of single points of engagement and we are now in a multi-engagement environment. That is going to challenge us.

“We need to move from the traditional broadcast mentality, which has been at the heart of so much marketing, towards true engagement.

“We will have to move from a world of a large amount of static databases to machine learning and predictive analytics and from just traditional media to embracing the new gatekeepers – the messaging platforms and the Airbnbs of the world.”


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