Tourism marketing should marry big data with human touch: industry experts

Picken: taking customisation aspect of data and matching with the appropriate travel consultant on a social platform

Instead of investing in a mobile app, travel agents, destination marketers and other travel providers should take advantage of big data and focus on targeted digital marketing, urged panelists at the Travolution Forum Asia yesterday.

Sojern, a company providing data-driven travel marketing for brands, registered 50 per cent of desktop bookings made by users who had seen related ads on a mobile device, said Katy Gallagher, its sales director, APAC.

She emphasised the importance of reaching out to customers with “high travel intent” – users who are ready to book or searching for related products or destinations – rather than casting too general a net with, for example, print advertisements.

To help streamline their marketing campaigns, brands must focus on their core customers and know which platforms capture their eyeballs, said AppNexus managing director & vice president Sonal Patel.

Picken: taking customisation aspect of data and matching with the appropriate travel consultant on a social platform

For example, 47 per cent of Thai travellers engage in social media – such as Facebook and Instagram – while 41 per cent of Chinese travellers use WeChat while on a trip, revealed Amadeus vice president & general council Asia Pacific, Jackson Pek.

Gallagher added that for marketing across multiple media, a brand must “develop clear strategies that will work for each platform”.

This is where big data is important, as it will help companies build a profile of their customers. Patel opined that small- and medium-sized companies are in a better position to mine and analyse these “data nuggets” in order to craft customised digital ads.

Kenny Picken, president & group managing director of Traveltek, added that this is where travel agents’ experience is critical, as they can contribute “expert opinions” in their outreach that can enhance the customer experience.

This expert advice can be integrated into a “conversational user interface for more personalisation (that can help companies) take back ownership of customers”, said Saxon Booth, senior business development manager of Dragon Trail.

Some tour operators, however, feel an inertia in the industry that prevents them from adopting digital solutions. Aye Kyaw, managing director of Myanmar-based agency Rubyland Tourism Services, lamented that many small-, medium- and even micro-sized operators in his country are facing “a lot of problems surviving in the tech age”.

“It would help if we could get more education and training programmes, from both government and associations like PATA, to help us integrate technology into our businesses,” Kyaw said.

– reporting live from PATA Travel Mart 2017, Macau

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