Surprise! More tolerant destinations receive more visitors!

Surprise! More tolerant destinations receive more visitors!

Reuters reported this week that ‘The Legalization of Same-Sex Marriages is Expected to Fuel the Growth of the Travel Industry’. Ensuring equal rights for LGBT people and the positive impact this is having on tourism growth and spending is being most keenly felt in the United States, but other destinations are set to benefit from this boom too.  But what does this have to do with Gen C? 

As lawmakers in the US and elsewhere are quickly discovering, discriminating against people based on their sexuality is quickly going out of fashion. The connected generation simply isn’t bothered. Fuelled by the power of social media to denounce discrimination and show a different side of life to those who live under more repressive political regimes, Gen C is likely to look more kindly on destinations that breathe tolerance and diversity. In the case of LGBT travellers, LoAnn Halden, Media Relations Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) explains:

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“As acceptance of LGBT rights increases people feel more comfortable being open when they are traveling and more destinations are getting on the bandwagon to market to gay travelers,” Halden explained.  Worldwide’.

Key West in Florida, San Francisco, New York and Provincetown in Massachusetts, which have long welcomed gay tourists, are being joined by new cities, regions and countries.

“The number of people marketing openly has also increased,” Halden added in an interview. “Now we are seeing places like Door County, Wisconsin, marketing to the LGBT community. In South America we are seeing more smaller regional destinations.”

A movement that is gaining traction

The comments caught my eye because they very much echo the principal reasoning that went into a report that I produced with IGLTA in 2012. The UN World Tourism Organization Global Report on LGBT Tourism was the first report ever to be published by a UN agency about the subject. It’s good to see that this is a subject that the wider travel and tourism industry is waking up to, not just in the US but further afield. As I explained at the time:UNWTO Global Report on LGBT Tourism

“The granting of marriage rights for same-sex couples has produced a whole new market segment  and providers in both source countries and destinations have been keen to develop new products  and services to respond to this. It has been observed that when marriage rights are approved, many of the first couples to ‘tie the knot’ are older, consolidated couples who will have different leisure interests to younger, single travellers (until now, arguably the most visible segment in LGBT travel marketing). Similar opportunities are arising to attract gay couples who are increasingly travelling with their own, legally-adopted children.”

As well as making ‘tying the knot’ easier from a legal standpoint, I argued that the act of approving equality legislation gives a massive boost to the brand too:

“Beyond the economic benefits, the approval of legislation in favour of equality for same-sex couples sends a powerful brand image of tolerance, respect, progress and open-mindedness, resulting in an increase in LGBT visitors, among others.”

The IGLTA, which this year celebrates its 31st Annual Global Convention from 8-10 May in Madrid is an important business network that brings some of the world’s biggest names in travel and tourism to learn more about how to work with the LGBT market, and create the right connections in the industry.

You can find a copy of the UNWTO Global Report on LGBT Tourism here, and get more information from www.unwto.org and www.iglta.org 

The Rise of Generation C and its Implications for Customer Service

The Rise of Generation C and its Implications for Customer Service

Generation C (for Connected) is the name given to digital natives, the people who feel comfortable in the digital world, own lots of mobile devices, and tend to use at least two at once. Members of Generation C are better informed and more demanding, increasingly mobile, ubiquitously connected, and amazingly social. And they desire to be in control of their own lives.

Because their ranks are growing rapidly, the implications of Generation C on customer service are enormous. Trends include:

  • Channels are a thing of the past. Channels have always been an internal construct, but with Generation C, channels are meaningless. Generation C moves seamlessly from device to device, and they expect you to do the same. A conversation with customer service started in chat may move to Facebook and then to a phone call. Your customer service organization needs to provide a consistent experience across all channels and must be able to transition smoothly between them.
  • Bad news travels fast: In the good old days, an unhappy customer would tell ten friends. Today, a disgruntled customer won’t hesitate to tweet about a bad experience to her million (or more) followers. Keeping customers happy – especially the ones that influence large communities – is more important than ever.
  • Consumer in control: You are no longer the only one broadcasting messages about your brand. Generation C is having conversations about your brand that you cannot control – all over social media.

With Generation C, you need to know what’s going on at all times and be ready to move quickly to protect or enhance your brand. And you’ve got to convert all the information available to you – from outside and inside the enterprise – into purchases and transactions.

By Dennis DeGregor from The Business Value Exchange blog (15 September 2013) read more

My take:

That brands have lost control over what’s being said about them is nothing new… it’s a trend that was born with social networks. So today, just as smart individuals work hard to manage their online appearance to people they don’t know, or potentially wish to impress, so must smart businesses – just on a much larger scale.

‘Keeping customers happy – especially the ones that influence large communities – is more important than ever’. Indeed, these days it’s vital to reach out to these people (especially bloggers) and charm them, making them an essential part of the conversation about your destination. Every business and destination has to assume that it’s serving not only the individual on the other side of the counter, but potentially millions of that individual’s followers too. So keeping customers happy, and dealing with complaints across a wide range of channels in real time will take smart management and real effort. It’s also a 24/7 job; savvy hotels are already conversing with their own guests who tweet comments from their bed after check-in.

‘Your call is being held in a queue and will be answered shortly’  

This links nicely to the other assertion, that ‘channels are a thing of the past’. It’s true – the Gen C customer will have ever-less

Taken at 21:45 on 3 January 2014

Taken at 21:45 on 3 January 2014

respect for fusty opening hours of helplines or bureaucratic hurdles in claiming refunds or making complaints. Gen C is the first generation to have grown up permanently-connected, and so is much more comfortable with the idea of sharing what was previously regarded as personal data online. This means that customer conversations will increasingly take place through Twitter, Facebook or other social networks.

A good start on this road has been made by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, already famous for its social media marketing campaigns. Today the airline uses both Twitter and Facebook to chat directly with its customers about specific issues (via private messages), whether on flight prices, lost baggage or quirky requests, always promising to respond to questions within one hour. It offers this service 24 hours 7 days a week and in 10 languages. This helps to demonstrate how social media has helped remove the traditional limitations to customer service (basing a call centre in each region or country, limited opening hours per time zone).

As one commentator put it in response to the above article, the need to switch seamlessly across all channels becomes even more vital if Gen C form the largest part of your client base. So how long will it be before submitting baggage claims by post or phoning to book a flight will be regarded rather like paying for something by cheque – as a rather long-winded and quaint thing of the past?

What’s your take? What implications will the rise of Gen C have on customer service for businesses in the travel and tourism industry?

How to Attract the Millennial Hotel Guest

How to Attract the Millennial Hotel Guest

“Millennials,” the group covering those with birth years ranging from 1977 to 1995 and presents a dynamic opportunity for hotels to attract and retain a booming market that already represents one third of all hotel guests.

The two biggest questions for hotels are: How do you market to Gen Y? And, once you get them through the lobby doors, how do you meet or exceed their expectations?

When it comes to marketing strategies, Millenials are far more likely to take hotel advice from their peers than from traditional marketing channels. Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are essential to capturing this demographic.

Does your hotel have a Facebook page and a Twitter handle? If not, you’re missing an opportunity to market to Gen Y. More likely than any other demographic to Tweet from check-in to check-out, encourage Gen Y guests to connect with you during their stay and share their travel experience with their circle of friends. When guests log-on to the hotel Wi-Fi, your splash screen should prominently feature your social media channels.

So what does Gen Y really want in a hotel? According to consultants “Y Partnership” this new generation of travelers expects:

  • Free Internet
  • Casual food available 24 hours
  • Self-service check-in/out
  • Hotels with individual personality and a distinctive ‘sense of place’
  • Multi-use lobbies that encourage guests to socialise

Read the full article from Skift.com here

My take:

So many accommodation providers still see Wifi as a lucrative revenue stream as opposed to a necessary free service. As the Skift article explains, tech-dependent young travellers won’t just expect Wifi for free, they’ll expect it to work seamlessly throughout the hotel on multiple devices at the same time. It’s surprising how many hotel and hostel chains still haven’t cottonned onto this fact yet. Avoid leaving your guests sitting in the street outside local coffee shops after dark, surfing off free wifi by offering it in-house and make up the revenue elsewhere in the bar or café.

You can also avoid competing with local eateries offering free wifi at all hours by offering your own ‘casual food’ 24 hours. This doesn’t mean employing a Michelin-starred chef throughout the night, it just means having casual snacks available when travellers who have the late-night munchies actually want them.

This ties in neatly with the use of social spaces. Chains like Generator Hostels and Meininger Hotels have understood this trend well and are applying it with imaginative effect, providing large open spaces for guests to play pool, computer games, strum a guitar or chat. Gen C might be connected 24/7 but that doesn’t mean they want to hide out in their hotel room!

Of all the recommendations, I think it’s the need to offer a ‘sense of place’ that is driving the most fascinating changes in hotel management and marketing in recent years. For decades, driven by the demands of the US hotel guest seeking familiarity in foreign climes, hotel chains went on a relentless march of installing the same plastic interiors and identikit menus. Today, hostels best placed to attract the young authentic experience-seeking traveller will offer local food, local music, art, drama, crafts and a whole host of other means of connecting the traveller to the destination before he/she’s even stepped out of the front door.

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A smart and symbolic move: easyJet launches a dedicated homepage in Chinese

A smart and symbolic move: easyJet launches a dedicated homepage in Chinese

Yesterday easyJet caused quite a stir among the global travel easyJet Chinese homepageindustry by launching a dedicated homepage in Chinese. Even the Prime Minister had something to say about it during his visit to the country.

easyJet already has dedicated home pages for customers booking their European travel from Brazil, Russia and the US and according to the airline the move to provide a booking engine in Chinese was prompted by a 25% rise in bookings from China during 2012.

For me, this move is a smart one. Destinations and providers of tourism products and services from the tiniest mountain village to the great capital city across Europe have been scrambling to attract the fêted ‘high-spending Chinese traveller’. However there are so many basic ways in which destinations are falling short and providing signage and service in Chinese has so far been one of them. By providing a booking engine in their native language the airline is making a clear statement that it is open for business for the Chinese traveller in Europe (and now beyond). The move has also brought the company into line with VisitBritain’s China Welcome programme.

The move is also symbolic. The easyJet brand has long been identified with the savvy independent traveller. While easyJet flights are also bookable by travel agents through Amadeus’s distribution system (a move made largely to capture the business market), the budget carrier has traditionally been associated with independent travellers looking to compose their holiday their way, as opposed to being subject to tour operator charter flights or the legacy carriers (those currently bringing Chinese visitors long-haul to Europe and, until now, presumably providing the bulk of European internal flights). If increasing numbers of Chinese travellers have been booking with easyJet it’s because they too are increasingly prepared to compose their trip their way, travelling independently or in small groups.

easyJet A319For Gen C Travellers and upscale independent travellers of all ages, easyJet is a fascinating brand to watch, given its role in stirring up the airline industry since its launch over 15 years ago and given the way it currently projects itself to the independent traveller. Just take a look at the hotels, cities, experiences and products reviewed in the company’s in-flight magazine.

As Chinese visitors make repeat visits to Europe, looking to broaden their horizons from the obligatory dash around eight countries in one week, they are showing an increasing propensity to branch out and use previously unfamiliar services, brands and routes. This interesting report ‘Chinese Tourists in Europe from 2017′ by the mega travel company Tui helps to explain this concept.

In future posts I’ll be discussing some of the commentary about young Chinese travellers and sorting the fluff from the substance as the travel industry races to attract the Chinese yuan!

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‘Connected, curating, community focussed’ – why you should be keeping an eye on where Gen C are travelling…

‘Connected, curating, community focussed’ – why you should be keeping an eye on where Gen C are travelling…

Welcome to the first post of my first-ever blog, an initiative aimed at helping my colleagues in the global travel and tourism industry to understand Generation C – the connected generation – and their travel habits, today and tomorrow.

Sounds like an ambitious plan, right? With legions of bloggers, social media experts, tourism strategists and global consultants out there, what can I be expected to offer the world’s destination management organisations (DMOs), corporations and industry associations?

Firstly, I wouldn’t have started this initiative if I didn’t think it might be a useful resource for industry colleagues to consult, dip into or share. Almost every tourism conference you attend these days features a session on technology, trends, the ‘visitor experience’ being at the heart of the customer journey and of course the keys to making social media work for your brand. It’s all relevant stuff, and I will aim to use this blog partly to share some useful insight on those issues. However destinations need to plan ahead.

Secondly, even if short-sighted political expediency occasionally gets in the way, it’s essential to have at least one eye on where tomorrow’s visitors are going to come from and what they’re likely to expect. Those visitors are today known as Gen C -the connected generation- and they, together with today’s high-spending young traveller are the subject of this blog. Sir Albert hotel, Amsterdam

As you can see, the blog is work in progress (though I’ve already put up some useful resources), and I aim for it to be a great place to come for ideas and best practices. These are often best explained first-hand, so I’ll be inviting a range of industry colleagues (from a broad a spectrum of sectors and backgrounds as possible) to share their insight into Gen C and what DMOs can usefully do to catch their imagination and customer loyalty, often on a limited budget.

I’ll leave you with this quote by Benjamin Disraeli, stencilled on to the side of the Sir Albert boutique hotel in Amsterdam (click on the image to view a larger version) It’s not the best photo but a) I took it with my trusty Samsung Galaxy R, and b) you’re looking at typical Amsterdam ‘Tupperware weather’. I spotted the stencil on my way to my Dutch course this morning and immediately wondered whether for today’s traveller, it might be more appropriate to replace the verb ‘see’ with ‘experience’. Chew on that…

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