3 Unique Travel Insights from Skift Global Forum

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Two informative days in New York, hundreds of ideas. Here is a summary of the three sub-themes that caught our eye.

Matthew Parsons

Industry leaders took the stage for the Skift Global Forum in New York this week to share their views on travel and discuss new trends.

There’s candid conversations with CEOs about how their businesses are emerging from the pandemic, plenty of talk about the growth and future of business in mixed travel, and clever commentary about grappling with the ongoing labor crisis.

But among the industry best things heard by over 700 in-person attendees from the main stage and over 800 online attendees, a few alternative themes emerged as well, from marketing psychology to how to run a business. Here is a summary.

Just Do It As You Go

Hopper’s energetic CEO, Frederic Lalonde, has revealed how much he loves to create new products. The secret is to be brave and experiment – even if it means losing. When asked which of their products had lost “a ton of money”, he said it was something new they tried. “It explodes in our face every year,” he said.

However, some features that have been tested over a year may be a hit, like the new hotel cancellation policy.

The trick is that you test with a small group. You spend a lot of money on a few people. You figure out what you do well, then you scale. If you do the opposite, that’s bad,” Lalonde told the audience. “We have this subset of users interacting with us. We’re testing and trying to figure things out. It’s so wild that I don’t really understand what we’re doing here.”

Lalonde, who is also the co-founder of the startup, said he was surprised by a recent flash sale. As part of its Puerto Rico promotion, it sold “loot boxes,” which are treasure chests with a mysterious gift, like a coupon for $3 to $14.

“We sold more loot boxes than flights that day,” he said. “People came to me with this data and I was like, ‘This is wrong, this is not possible.'”

Find out what else Lalonde has to say here.

Entering the Minds of Guests

Coming out of the pandemic, online marketing remains a hot topic. Performance marketing has even been described as a drug by one executive. But one speaker wants to tear up the rulebook. For destinations like Africa, he wanted to know why the more the experience promoted was from reality, the higher the cost.

Environmentalist, ecologist, and co-author of The Big Conservation Lie, Dr. Mordecai Ogada questioned why the travel industry marketed Africa to make the destination look like a scene from the movie “Out of Africa.”

“What exactly are we selling and where does it come from?” said. “If you examine our tourism experiences, they come from a little over a hundred years old… hunting, beautiful wildlife, landscapes.”

But he argued that humans live in harmony with wildlife.

“Around all the tourism material, especially safari tourism, you don’t see Africans in a peaceful context with wildlife, but it’s pretty common,” he said. “And you don’t see violence when we try to remove people from wildlife areas to make room for tourism. How real is what we are selling? It’s a testament to the power of marketing that the tourism industry is still able to sell images taken from hundreds of years ago, with themes mostly based on Tarzan.”

A lesson for all marketers is to make sure they sell images of what exists and call for new standards and definitions and “include Black people in non-submissive positions.”

“There are so few African Americans in marketing that they just don’t see themselves. Almost all tourists from America are white. We must challenge the role of the media in this narrative.”

Everyone on the Boat

Management styles and etiquette were, unexpectedly, frequently discussed over the course of two days.

Josh D’Amaro, president of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, spoke of the need for leaders to protect their land and stay in touch with all their employees.

He said that when he’s not at meetings, he spends as much time as possible in the parks. “I’ll go around every corner of that park, cruise ship, or store. And I’ll talk to anyone who gets in my way, whether it’s a player selling balloons on the main street,” he said.

“From an industry perspective, it’s important that we all do this as leaders. Show up, make sure you’re there, not someone who’s in the office pushing a few buttons. When you do this as a senior leader, you know what happens next. Everyone follows. Then there are 170,000 cast members who see their leaders, who trust their leaders, who know who they represent.”

Find out what else D’Amaro has to say here.

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