Each year, our team meets with hundreds of travel trade buyers. We take time to visit them in their offices, learn about the challenges they face and gather insight on the products, services and themes their customers crave. We’ve also worked with a number of destination marketing organizations, museums, attractions, hotels and other suppliers to gather valuable market research, develop incredible training programs and build strategies to capitalize on upcoming buyer needs.
It’s time to take a look at what you might expect to see in 2019 that will impact visitors and change how we do business.
Let’s see The Predictions…
Over the last few years we’ve seen major commercial and real estate developments that have brought countless new hotels, attractions and activities online throughout North America. Travelers have more options than ever before.
A great example of this can be found in New York City. The city has added about 8,000 rooms since 2014. In NYC & Company’s most recent Hotel Occupancy, ADR & Room Demand report, they point out a 5.1% increase in year over year demand and average daily rates that have fallen more than 11% since 2014.
We’ve also seen a number of attractions pop up over the last few years that are built to satisfy a very specific consumer interest and many that rely on flashy interactive elements. If the digital age, twitter, instagram and facebook have taught us anything it’s that trends are more short-lived than ever before; what was cool and amazing this morning has been replaced by something fun and exciting this afternoon. The same holds true for digital experiences - attractions spend years developing digital experiences that will be surpassed by app & game developers before the holiday season is over.
The travel and tourism industry is one of the world’s largest, generating over 7.6 trillion in direct, indirect and induced economic impact in 2016. Silicon Valley has taken notice.
In the last 18-24 months, we’ve seen companies like Expedia, GetYourGuide, FareHarbor, Musement, Redeam, Peek, Klook, withlocals, Airbnb Experiences, and others raise hundreds of millions of dollars in capital to disrupt the travel industry.
In much the same way that Uber & Lyft changed the way people hail cabs, many of these platforms are on a mission to bridge the gap between consumer and those in-destination experiences they crave.
Industry insiders can expect to see more options to manage distribution channels, inventory, pricing strategies, sales online, and much more.
Coming Conflict & Innovation
What makes a great guide? Does someone with a profound understanding of an area and great passion for the product need to have a license to share their interest with visitors? Where’s the line between services offered by passionate locals and those offered by the places people want to visit on tour?
We’ve seen stories about theme park season pass holders who offer their time to share insight, tips and park shortcuts with consumers. Should museum members be allowed to offer tours that compete with those led by museum staff? There was even a healthy, somewhat heated panel discussion at a recent conference between leaders from traditional sightseeing companies and tech platforms that connect consumers with passionate locals.
Cities and experience providers will be tasked with making room for innovation while also ensuring that the content provided to consumers is accurate, safe and meets a certain standard.
We think this will work itself out in much the same way local taxi and livery commissions have had to adapt to accommodate popular ride share programs.
Capacity & Crowd Control
It is quickly becoming a hot debate as more destinations are feeling the impact of growing numbers of tourists. The US National Park System announced some pretty drastic admission fee increases this year; local condo development and feedback from new area residents forced the Ultra Music Festival out of downtown Miami and Barcelona’s residents launched major protests against crowds of tourists.
All of this has led to many destinations talking about placing limits on the number of tourists that visit each year. While some critics argue that putting a cap on the number of tourists will hurt local economies, others argue that we are quickly destroying natural environments and overcrowding cities. The age old question remains then, what is this balance?
Recently, some of the biggest destinations have begun implementing a cap on tourist numbers and only time will tell if this is the way of future travel. Click here to about 8 destinations that have put a cap on visits.
In a recent Forbes article, Steve Denning asked, “Why storytelling?” To which he responded “Simple: nothing else works.”
When it comes to inspiring visitors to change their behavior or try a new product, they’re most captivated by great stories. It’s really the only thing that works. Travel buyers’ eyes glaze over when looking at slides; they aren’t reading all of the information you’ve written for them and reasons don’t make people change.
Those who can present their product, destination or service with a compelling story will land the sale. Those who rely on bells & whistles without providing context will fall short of their goals.
Renewed Focused on Core Skills Training
During more challenging economic times, companies tend to focus on specialized training and development programs that meet immediate business challenges pushing those that challenge employees to improve their core communication, critical thought, collaborative and creative skills to the side.
Recent articles in Forbes, Business Weekly and by the American Management Association all point to a growing focus on developing and cultivating fundamentals skills like teamwork, writing for business, problem solving and ingenuity as keys to employee retention, customer satisfaction, company morale and increased productivity.
See also: 2018 Predictions
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About the Author…
Stephen Ekstrom is a well-recognized tourism marketing expert whose influence reaches millions of travelers every year. He's been profiled by the New York Times and appeared on CBS, NBC and NY1. He is a fixture in the travel trade and has served as a board member, expert panelist, committee chair, mentor and program facilitator. Fire Starter Brands, founded by Ekstrom in 2010, manages a network of nearly 5,500 opted-in global travel trade buyers, advising, teaching and assisting smart travel industry suppliers and destination marketers. Stephen currently lives in South Florida with his two dogs, Match & Rudy.