2017 Travel Industry Conferences Recap

Marketing Manager
Published 11/28/17
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Skift Global Forum, Phocuswright, Marketing Outlook Forum and ESTO

Miles team members recently attended some of the industry’s top events and brought back highlights on the topics and trends discussed. We wanted to share a few takeaways from these conferences that will likely play a role in the travel and tourism industry as we move into 2018.

Skift Global Forum

The “TED of travel” and one of the most creative business gatherings in the global travel industry, Skift’s Global Forum focuses on the future of the travel industry and the industry leaders creating and defining the way. Miles’ Vice President of New Business Development/Creative Director Elena Prostova attended and highlighted two key themes that drove conversation at the event and throughout the industry.

A State of Permanxiety: To discuss the current state of anxiety existing in the world today, the term “Permanxiety” was introduced and became a main focus at this year’s event. This state is caused by the constant concerns facing the world (such as terror attacks, natural disasters and culture wars) and is affecting destinations around the globe. We can’t ignore what’s happening in the world, but finding a balance between honesty and positivity is crucial in making travelers feel at ease—honesty to acknowledge what is going on in the world, while still being optimistic about what destinations can offer. As tourism marketers, it’s important to consider what travelers are facing and understand what the industry’s role needs to be — which is also a focus in Skift’s magazine this year. 

Outlook on Travel: On a lighter note, we were reminded again of how amazing travel is. There is a constant strive for success that creates an exciting platform for innovation across the industry. With a 30-40% profit margin, travel is definitely an attractive industry, with Chinese markets holding great opportunity. While success there can be difficult, it’s necessary for any major brand to have a Chinese strategy as it will hold a great stake in the future of travel. Looking at technology, AI and VR are actively gaining investments and are sure to make a greater impact in the industry in the near future. We’ll also be on the lookout for two new disruptive technologies that Bonnie Simi, President of Jet Blue Technology Ventures, predicted will be introduced in the years to come: hybrid-electric planes in the short-haul airline market and blockchain.

The Phocuswright Conference

Chris Adams, Head of Research and Insights at Miles, attended The Phocuswright Conference, one of the leading conferences for online technology companies and travel agencies. The conference and its Innovation Summit both discuss what’s new in technology and give startups the opportunity to share their platform’s ideas and technologies. Chris shared three primary takeaways from the conference:

Digitization of Destinations: A whole new group of “big data” travel sites are emerging and collecting a wide range of data about destinations. This new trend focuses on getting detailed information on destinations, attractions, accommodations, physical attributes and more, to offer a collective look at a destination. As more of these sites pop up, it will be important for DMOs to remain the main source of information on their destination by providing travelers with easy access to updated content they need and want. An example of this was one of the winners at the Innovation Summit, Beach-Inspector.com, which is focused on gathering this type of information as it relates to beach destinations.

Online Revolution in Activities, Tours and Attractions: As the third-largest component of the U.S. travel market, online pricing, availability and booking connectivity is rapidly extending across these avenues. This represents a great opportunity to provide travelers with readily available information to use when planning travel. Redeam was the overall Innovation Summit winner at the conference, showcasing their process of digitizing ticketing for tours and attractions.

The Rise of Voice and Artificial Intelligence: AI continues to reach new levels of sophistication and practical reality, but voice intelligence is also emerging as a whole new user interface and is something to look out for. Another winner at the Innovation Summit, Mezi brings AI to the industry as the next-generation way to assist with planning travel. 

TTRA Marketing Outlook Forum

Marketing Outlook Forum (MOF) focuses on the outlook for travel from economic and travel industry standpoints, sharing insights and knowledge to prepare for 2018. The two points below that Miles’ Chris Adams took away from the sessions are sure to have a strong influence on what we do and see next year, and the years to come. 

Tourism in an Uncertain World: MOF also had discussions themed around the state of uncertainty we’re seeing as a result of risks concerning the world. With this being a common theme across several events, it emphasizes how important it is for destinations to have crisis communication plans and “Plan B” strategies in place that will help alleviate some uncertainty in case of an unplanned event. 

Experiences vs. Things: The long-term outlook for travel is very strong, despite the current time of uncertainty. The Economist Magazine’s Mike Jakeman discussed the global shift in consumer spending, noting the decades-long trend of consumers valuing experiences over things. He predicted travel and tourism’s share of the global economy will continue to rise in upcoming years.

U.S. Travel's ESTO

We had a group of Miles team members attend U.S. Travel’s ESTO, and Miles’ Vice President of New Business Development Angie Briggs shared a few insights that the DMO-focused event offered.

Tourism Trails: More and more DMOs are emerging with tourism trails focused on particular activities or attractions in the area. Successful trails offer many benefits for destinations including reinforcing the brand, driving media attention and creating emotional attachments with visitors. These trails work to raise awareness and connect unique things in your destination, focusing on everything from food and drinks to art and music.

Over vs. Under Tourism: One trend that is likely to be discussed in planning for 2018 is “over” versus “under” tourism. Residents are pushing back and tolerating less when it comes to the number of tourists visiting, causing some destinations to question whether they’ve had too much tourism. National parks, in particular, have seen a major growth in visitors, which has led to overcrowding and an increase in traffic and pollution in certain areas. While visitors should be encouraged to visit national parks, determining the best way to manage this increase and prevent it from getting out of hand will be essential. On the other side, high tourist destinations are developing strategies to move some attention off of the major cities/areas and increase visitation to less-popular locations. Developing strategies to highlight unique areas will better immerse visitors in a destination’s local experiences and off-the-beaten-path locations.