Volume: 8 Issue No: 3
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
The economic recovery for the Travel Industry is slowly inching its way back. According to Dr. Suzanne Cook from the U.S. Travel Association, "The economy has turned the corner and uncertainty rules the day." To be sure, we are in for a bit of a longer ride on the roller coaster; however, according to several speakers at the recent U.S. Travel Industry Outlook Forum, positive signs for a long, slow climb are at work.
Interestingly enough, the conference was held in Las Vegas. I was hard-pressed to find the recession on the Strip. There were people and lines everywhere. When I asked my cab driver en route to the hotel for his pulse on the economy, he said "We are busy, it's Tuesday and I have been going nonstop all day." He did mention that while the city is busy, people are being more cautious about their spending while in town.
According to Peter Yesawich, CEO of The Y Partnership in Orlando, Florida, "Social values and technology are the two most pervasive forces affecting consumers today. People still have high anxiety over economic uncertainty."
The latest Travel Horizon Survey findings authored by The Y Partnership indicate that interest in travel for the next six months is positive, while at the same time concern about affordability has also climbed.
As travel marketers, success in today's ever-changing market is predicated on the necessity to be nimble. Being nimble involves flexibility to adjust, readjust and change directions quickly based on forces affecting consumers. It also means being able to cut through the clutter to do what's most important and execute strategic and tactical initiatives.
As we look towards 2011, those organizations with the ability to stay close to the pulse of customers, that understand the nuanced changes, and are disciplined to nimbly execute their ever-changing strategy, will continue to prosper. Hold on; the bumpy ride is not over yet!
The Opportunity Guy
The Necessity to be Nimble
Last week, while at the annual Outlook Forum in Las Vegas, the most compelling comment I heard came as an aside in the introductory remarks of Rossi Ralenkotter, President & CEO of the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. He said, "Over the past 24 months, we have made changes six times to our strategy." He said, "Keeping the pulse of the 'new consumer' was essential in the ever-changing market due to the economic landscape and uncertainty."
Imagine having 148,000 rooms to fill nightly or as Rossi explained, "We have to take a city with the population of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and turn it over every three days to keep the city full on a year-round basis." To most people, the numbers are daunting just thinking about them.
The LVCVA has launched three different sets of commercials over the past two years in order to influence, motivate, cajole and entice visitors back to Vegas. The only way they could be effective was to be nimble and keep a close pulse check on the pervasive feelings and underlying forces affecting consumers.
The first promotion launched by LVCVA was called "Crazy Times." It featured a post office where wild and weird things started to happen. It was an acknowledgement to consumers that crazy times call for crazy actions, like a trip to Vegas. The Crazy Times commercial also got a cease-and-desist notification from the U.S. Postal service to stop running the ads. I guess the LVCVA didn't take the pulse of the post office before running the ad!
The second promotion was entitled "What's Your Excuse?" After again checking on the pulse and feelings of consumers, LVCVA realized that people were feeling guilty about taking a vacation when friends and family were losing jobs, facing foreclosure or unemployed. Vegas's "What's your Excuse?" provided consumers with the rationalization or justification to go to Vegas and escape.
Most recently, the mood with consumers has shifted again. While we are far from out of the woods of economic uncertainty, people are exhaling, cautiously spending and realizing that staycations (vacations close to home) are not all that exciting. Vegas is now back with its super successful "What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas" campaign. Whether it appeals to the "Let's just get away," Take me away," or "Let me go play and live out my fantasy" consumers, it is a telltale sign for the mass market mindset.
On a related note, I happened to be reading Arnie Weissmann's column, Editor in Chief for Travel Weekly, "The world reflected in three conversations." One of the conversations was with Julius Robinson, VP Global Sales for Marriott Corporation. He recounted how in 2010, Marriott Corporation appointed international presidents on each continent. As a result he said, "A president can be much more nimble than in the past; everything doesn't have to roll up to Mother Marriott."
LVCVA and the Marriott Corporation are behemoths in the travel arena, and in both cases they have engineered their organizations to the necessity to be nimble. For both companies, the need to uncover what is really going on with consumers and then position their destination, products, services or experiences to move the buying process along is essential.
In discussing the LVCVA example with a few colleagues at the Outlook Forum, several felt that Vegas had beaucoup bucks to keep a check on the pulse of consumers. They said they couldn't relate; needless to say, they missed the point.
In smaller organizations, the necessity to be nimble is even greater since in many cases resources are more limited. However, smaller companies have an advantage relative to their size, so being nimble should be easier. All organizations, regardless of size, must be able to plug into the pulse of the market and their customers to gain insights, ideas and an understanding that will lead to impacting the buying decision of consumers.
The necessity to be nimble is not just an idea but a pervasive way of acting within the culture of a company. It's about cutting through the clutter, understanding what's really going on with customers and being able to executive strategies and tactics that will generate results.
If your organization has not re-engineered itself to become nimble in this economic environment, it's not too late. But it will require not just changing your business activities, but also engineering a cultural transformation. You and you organization must become nimble to survive and prosper!
The Outlook Forum's Crystal Ball 2011
On October 26th& 27th, industry marketing executives gathered for U.S. Travel Association's Outlook Forum in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event included presentations by industry experts on the pulse, trends and future of the Travel Industry. The following is Dr. Susan Cook's Top Ten list for next year's predictions and pulse of the Travel Industry:
- The economy turns the corner and "uncertainty" rules the day.
- It's the consumer, stupid; consumers' confidence is still in a funk, travel intentions are inching up.
- Travel is finally getting off the bottom, increases in domestic leisure visits +2.8%, domestic business visits +4.2%, international visitors + 8%, domestic spending + 7.2% (all figures over 2009).
- Leisure Travel intentions up for the next six months; opportunities exist to entice 49 million "not sures" to travel. Average number of trips planned by active travelers is three annually.
- Business travel climbing by the seat of its pants. Transient business trips up; the rest are a mixed bag.
- Positive signs for the hotel industry: 2010 gains outpace 2009 declines, rev par positive, but a lot of ground to recover.
- Air travel: Believe it or not, satisfaction is up (you have to be kidding!)
- International enplanements growing; domestic keeping the planes full, full, full! International visitors coming back to the U.S., Japan, Brazil, South Korea, Australia and Italy, all with double-digit increases in 2010.
- Doing more with less, Tourism Offices' budgets challenged. In this travel environment, "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu!" Brand building is made complicated by changing media landscape (especially social).
- 2011 will be better, improving but not great; a long, slow climb.
Two people have recently appeared on my radar screen as experts who are in touch with the pulse of consumers, the Web and social media. The first person is Danah Boyd, whose views on key issues like on-line privacy and social media are followed closely by tech companies and policy makers. According to an article in The Boston Globe, Boyd, 32, has become a go-to source for companies (from Google on down), government agencies and academics. She takes the on-line pulse of young people and dives deep into what they think and feel about the use of social media. Last July, according to Fortune magazine, she was named one of its "10 Smartest People in Tech." You can find her blog at www.danah.org.
The second expert to watch is Lane Sutton, a social media guru just 13 years of age. Lane says "The Internet is a place to meet, learn, act, react and transact." An eighth grader from Framingham, Massachusetts, he runs www.kidcriticusa.com, where he reviews restaurants, movies, gadgets and books. According to The Boston Globe, he was recently a speaker at Podcamp, an event held at Microsoft's New England Research Center. According to Sutton, "He helps small businesses and companies create their on-line Web presence and build their brand." He says in The Globe, "Social media is growing and I'm growing up with it."
Since kids today are playing an increasing role in influencing the decision-making process for family vacations, understanding the actions and reactions of a 13-year-old social media guru may provide great insights. You can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/kidcriticusa.com
For additional information and to check The Opportunity Guy's availability, call Joe Veneto at (617) 786-9096 or e-mail him at Joe@OpportunityGuy.com.
For a complete listing of presentations and seminars, go to www.opportunityguy.com/speaking.htm.
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