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Reaching the new travel consumer

08cellphone.jpgI’m off to keynote Tourism Alberta — and will speak to some 200+ tourism marketing professionals on trends within the sector.

Alberta, located in Canada, has an extremely hot economy — globally, it stands as the home of the 2nd largest provable oil reserves in the world, just after Saudi Arabia. Most of this is tied up in the ‘tar sands,’ which costs quite a bit more than traditional oil reserves to bring to market. Hence,there is a flood of infrastructure investment and other spending going on.

Needless to say, even thought it’s a hot economy, the economic ‘correction’ (and certainly volatility in the price of oil), as well as other issues, is providing for a bit of a challenge in the tourism sector.

What am I doing at the conference? Notes the brochure: “ Jim will speak to the fact that travel product innovations occur today at such a pace that simply keeping up can be a challenge. A furious pace of technological innovation continues unabated, with the rapid emergence of new technologies that change the way the travel consumer plans theirtravels. The Web continues to make massive inroads into tourism planning and business model change. It’s a fast paced world — and that’s whyleading edge organizations are focused on staying ahead of the trends that are impacting the high-velocity economy of today. Join international futurist, trends and innovation expert Jim Carroll as he puts into perspective how the world of tourism is changing — and how organizations are innovating in order to keep up with it!”


What I am talking about? Quite a few trends:

  • the new tourist is faster: 1/3 of all leisure travel is now last minute, and the average time for planning a trip is down to 15 days
  • the new tourist is connected: 86% of all North American’s now travel with a cell phone. They have expectations of finding data-heavy local tourism portals when they walk off a cruise ship looking for something to do.
  • the new tourist is influenced differently: 79% of travelers trust reviews by other tourists over advertisements. Social network tourism sites and stalwarts like TripAdvisor continue to have the biggest impact on tourism decisions.
  • the new tourism family is no longer nuclear: A grab bag of observations … only 1 in 4 of the population live in heterosexual, two-parent families …. .one in three people now live alone ……urban Americans remain single for more than half of their adult lives, a radical shift…
  • the new tourism product is faster to market: WhereI’veBeen started as a Facebook application that allowed people to post where they’ve travelled to. It exploded to 2 million users in a matter of weeks.
  • the new tourism product is being rapidly redefined: Online tourist mashups that allow people to combine online maps with travel schedules, destination information, and social networks are redefining the concept of trip planning.
  • the new tourism marketing is viral: Budget Rent A Car, Southwest Airlines and Sheraton Hotels are examples of 3 companies that are using blogs and Internet video to establish leading edge marketing campaigns.
  • the new tourist is, well, different a grab bag of trends: we’re seeing a lot more shorter term “pressure relievers,” themed holidays, adventure, health or well-being vacations, “authenticity” as a new trend, and the “unplugged” vacation. Not to mention an “old” trend from 2007 which involves “debaucherism” as the new travel trend.

My key message? As a tourism marketing professional, you must keep ahead of these trends….build your experiential capital by working with new methods of reaching the market ….. understand that the market is becoming faster, more global, and more challenging.

Bottom line — innovate!

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