15 Destination Marketing Trends to Watch in 2015


Working with my colleagues at TOPOSOPHY – Europe’s hottest new destination marketing agency – I’ve put together this easy-to-digest report on what top travel trends we can look forward to this year. Whether you work in the tourism sector or not, I’m sure you’ll find something in there to inspire and educate…

Will the Apple Watch break new ground where other tech wearables have failed to do so? Will this be the year when we see Airbnb take the leap and merge with a major online travel agent? Will we ever reach ‘peak selfie’?

Download your free copy of the report and discover our top 15 travel trends for 2015…

Want to know more about TOPOSOPHY? Find out here.




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29 Reasons Millennials Make The Best Travellers


With a mixture of humour and home-truths, this article from the Suzy Strutner in The Huffington Post outlines what Millennial travellers are supposedly all about. Does your company cater for Millennials, or you are a Millennial traveller yourself? If so, does the list make sense to you? Which of these sounds the most plausible, and which is the most implausible? Answers in the comments section please!

It’s no secret that younger travellers can teach older folk a thing or two about traveling well. Checking into airports on apps, sharing tips online, and extending trips at the last second, they share an idea of “getting away” that’s spunkier and snappier than that of earlier generations.

Granted, some stereotypes about millennials might apply to older travellers, too, but by and large, those teen-to-thirtysomething-year-olds have a leg up when it comes to building the ultimate adventure:IMG_7974

1. They’re looking to learn something from their trips.

2. They make quick decisions.

3. They can walk long distances.

4. They’re comfortable mixing business with pleasure.

5. They travel to pursue their own interests (like food, wine, or outdoor adventuring) more than other generations do.

6. They’re Internet masterminds.

7. They’re open to switching between different hotel and airline brands.

8. They take advantage of complimentary room service.

9. They travel for the purpose of bonding with friends more commonly than older travelers.

10. They’re comfortable booking trips on the go.

11. They get to study abroad.

12. They aren’t afraid to extend business trips into personal getaways.

13. They aren’t yet bitter toward budget airlines.Tiger Air homepage 'Getting there is as affordable as getting around'

14. They want to travel more than older generations do.

15. They’re more willing to sit next to the bathroom on a plane (if it means a price break, of course).

16. They’re also more willing to stand up during a flight (for a reduced fare, duhh).

17. They’re in their backpacking prime.

18. They have enough energy to experience a city in the evening, at midnight AND during those early dawn hours where it’s just them, the rising sun, and the guy who makes burritos at the food cart.

19. The majority of them have never written a bad review online.

20. They’re spontaneous.

21. They’re typically more willing to stay in hostels, motels and campsites, which makes travel insanely cheap.

22. They don’t need fancy meals to be happy, but they’re willing to splurge.

23. They’re social, which logically means they should make more friends on the road, which means they should amass more new friends to visit in different countries.

24. Many of them are seeing the world’s wonders for the first time, generating an unmatched essence of thrill and awe.

25. They think travel is a more important part of the “American dream” than secure retirement.

26. They’re new to their careers, meaning it’s not so daunting to “drop everything.”

27. They can qualify for those epic 35-and-under tours.

28. They have a crazy high tolerance for alcoholic beverages, providing the bandwidth to sample every international cocktail imaginable.

29. They use apps to meet people when they travel alone (please use caution though, you crazy millennials).

6 Ways Airbnb Changed Hospitality and the Vacation Rental Industry

Airbnb August 2014

Hotel chains and industry associations might be lobbying to regulate sites like Airbnb out of Airbnb August 2014existence, but you can’t deny that the site has forced change upon the industry. Like flying with low-cost airlines –another model that disrupted the status quo and forced incumbents to change their practices the site wouldn’t exist if people weren’t comfortable with using it.

Originally published by Skift last week, this article lists the ways in which Airbnb has shaken up the hospitality industry. As I discuss below, there are lessons to be learned for consumers and traditional accommodation providers. Read on to see my take on Skift’s analysis of the sharing economy giant.

Article starts:

Sharing economy companies have truly changed how we visit destinations, how we stay there, and how we move around.

Services such as Uber and Airbnb have taken the best of the web, mobile, and social to create travel products that allow people to find rides or places to stay with an ease that was previously unheard of. Their success has shown the errors of regulation in some areas, as well as demonstrated that hubris and a disregard for local laws isn’t the hinderance to success that one would assume.

Here’s how Airbnb made things better:

Transactions are safer and easier: Amounts are kept by the service until a stay is complete and all parties are satisfied. Prior to Airbnb, getting a vacation home or short-term rental involved payments that were fraught with red flags: Western Union money transfers to a guy in central Florida, a cashier’s check left at a bodega, all the money upfront for an unseen beach house on the Jersey shore.

At Airbnb users are given a level of comfort and security by being able to pay for transactions with credit cards, having amounts set aside until the trip is complete, and being able to dispute charges or request refunds. It’s not perfect, but it’s closer to a hotel-like experience than what existed before it came on the scene.

Feedback is transparent: Vacation rental sites were really just modern classifieds before Airbnb emerged. An owner or real estate agent would buy space, post their listing and the space was theirs. There was no easy way for guests to leave comments or share experiences, and no way for future guests to get advice from previous ones. And God knows how long ago those photos were taken.

But since hosts do not own their listing page on Airbnb, guests can rate and review without fear. Hosts can review back, knowing that bad guests will be called out by other hosts. That’s the advantage of Airbnb’s model: take a cut of the transaction rather than sell space.

Discovery is easy: Searching on Airbnb is like Booking.com or Starwood. You see rooms, locations, prices, amenities, and so on upfront. Sorting is an ease, and there is original content from local experts explain destinations. Since guests are often looking at lodging outside of city centers, the big maps tell you right where you’ll be. Guests can read about hosts and see previous guest reviews to determine if they’re staying with someone who knows what she’s doing, or just some dude trying to dump his crappy studio on some poor tourist for the weekend.

Pictures are nice: Looking at pictures on some old-school sites results in a “what were you thinking?” moment. Airbnb still offers to send professionals to your house to photograph the place in many markets. Genius. There’s a reason why users spend more time on Airbnb than any other travel booking site: It’s half travel planner, half real estate porn. Want to see the inside of a cool Venice, California bungalow? A Paris pied-à-terre? Go to Airbnb. It’s a Pinterest with direct booking.

The flip side is also true. When a host can’t be bothered to take a good picture, they may not be bothered to clean the sheets or empty the fridge. Or they are truly scary.

Cities are bigger: While we reject Airbnb’s characterization of what their typical hosts are like, we agree completely with their arguments for how they’ve made cities bigger. New York’s most popular neighborhoods are not the ones with the most hotels; Harlem has one good hotel, but 1,000 Airbnb listings. A simple search on Airbnb by neighborhood in other markets tells the same story.

This tells us a lot about how people like to travel now. They don’t always want to be stuck in a central district with other tourists (although many do, because that also means better transport and services) and they’re seeking out alternatives.

Rentals are safe: We’ve ignored the stories about Airbnb orgies, call-girls, and destruction because they’re so fringe as to be not worth covering. The Airbnb squatter? Fascinating but rare. If you’re a user or a host you can almost always rely on the review system to alert you of bad actors and you can pick and choose based on the criteria that’s important to you.

We pay for the Associated Press, Reuters, and news feeds from papers across the U.S. and can tell you that there’s not a day goes by when there’s not a crime at some hotel — murder, child trafficking, Crystal Meth production. But it’s a rarity at Airbnb. This will likely not last for ever — the social graph can only protect you so far once you become wildly popular — but it has worked so far.


My take:

My interest in this subject is overwhelmingly driven by what consumers get from the experience, and why they are using sites like Airbnb in ever-greater numbers. When easyJet launched in 1995 offering flights for just £1, people said it couldn’t be trusted and started to strongly question where the flaws were. Still, like online shopping and other game-changing models of the internet age, consumers used it, liked what they got, and went back for more.

Crucially, their decision wasn’t always motivated by low-prices (though that’s central to the premise). Flexibility, a fresh approach to customer service and airlines projecting themselves as another part of consumers’ lifestyle brand mix were also important. Today, consumers (especially Millennials) are displaying similar motivations and patterns of behaviour. They are discovering a brand and a way of consuming that fits with their lifestyle and values.

Making cities bigger

What also stands out from Skift’s article is a reminder that Airbnb has ‘made cities bigger’ in the sense that the focus of tourism activity has widened to the suburbs as consumers opt for lower prices on the outskirts, and an opportunity to discover outlying districts where hotels might be scarce but the way of life is a genuine reflection of the destination. For consumers seeking authenticity, a chance to meet local people and consume-local, again Airbnb offers this in spade-loads. While the site definitely takes a hefty slice of commission from service (accommodation) providers, the money renters receive invariably goes to help with household costs, rather than into the pockets of large corporations, as this article in El País about its impact on those renting rooms in Barcelona described last month.

A happy medium

While sites like Airbnb have clearly taken root, it is important not to get caught up in the hype or overlook their flaws. The site might be slick and professional, but renters are amateur businesspeople, some of whom like those on the High Street, aren’t very good. Sharing economy sites, local authorities responsible for hotel taxation and traditional accommodation providers are still yet to find a happy balance and an adequate regulatory means of protecting consumers. For the time being however, consumers – with Millennial travellers leading the way- will continue to use services like this in ever-greater numbers knowing that ultimately they have the power to denounce poor service when things go wrong.

Defining Millennials

Source: http://henriksenlearning.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/leading-the-millennials/

In order to make products and services appeal to specific groups of consumers, marketers frequently classify consumer groups according to certain characteristics, of which age is a common denominator with labels applied to different generations. Assuming that people start to make independent consumer decisions once they reach their late teenage years as they start to acquire some degree of financial independence, ‘Millennials’ are currently the youngest generation of independent consumers.

Among the first to use the term ‘Millennials’ were William Strauss and Neil Howe, whose 1991 book, Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069, was widely recognized for its contribution to the analysis of cohort differences in U.S. history and their potential impact on the future. In Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, published in 2000, Strauss and Howe focused on those born in or after 1982.

Today the Oxford Dictionary neatly describes Millennials as ‘those people reaching young adulthood around the year 2000’ while resource site LiveScience offers the following, more detailed explanation:What is Gen C?

‘The term Millennials generally refers to the generation of people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. Perhaps the most commonly used birth range for this group is 1982-2000. The Millennial Generation is also known as Generation Y, because it comes after Generation X — those people between the early 1960s and the 1980s. It has also been called the Peter Pan or Boomerang Generation because of the propensity of some to move back in with their parents, perhaps due to economic constraints, and a growing tendency to delay some of the typical adulthood rites of passage like marriage or starting a career’

Descriptions of their behaviour or the phenomena of their time (the predominance of the Internet in daily life, the global economic crisis, the election of President Obama) are never far away when defining Millennials. The Urban Dictionary is much more searing (and funny) when it comes to describing Millennials’ personality traits. Some contest that the ‘Millennial’ is dead as a concept – you can check out more about that theory and my response to it here.

The diagram above takes in the widest definition of the Millennial generation in terms of birth years and ‘consuming years’. These children of Generation X and the grandchildren of the post-WWII generation are already starting to have their own children, and already the labels ‘Gen Z’, followed by ‘Gen Alpha’ are being tentatively applied to these consumer groups of the future.

Travel products and services for the Millennial generation

In the context of travel and tourism, ‘youth travel’ has traditionally been applied to the industry that has built up around the needs of the younger traveller, however it’s not a clear concept to grasp for those looking to cater to a specific generation of consumers who have such game-changing characteristics as this one. For this reason ‘Millennials’ and ‘Gen C’ serve as a particularly useful label for the current generation of young travellers.

Besides, the products and services that have built up to serve young consumers are now being avidly consumed by older generations too, raising questions over the term ‘youth travel’ as an effective label for travel products aimed at this consumer group.

A generation that’s changing the rules of the game

One thing is for certain, and that is that the Millennial a generation comfortable with disrupting the norm. Being the first generation to have grown up in the era of ‘internet everywhere’, Millennials are highly connected, technologically advanced and globally conscious and far more open to trying out new products and concepts than their parents or grandparents ever were.

This is partly why the sharing economy – a phenomenon which is tearing up the rule book for traditional tourism providers in particular – is flourishing as Millennial consumers flock to benefit from the value and convenience it offers for accessing a whole range of products and services.

Travel, tourism and the Millennial generation: learn more

In future posts I’ll be discussing the approaches that travel brands have made towards targeting the Millennial consumer and asking how effective they are at appealing to the masses of Millennial consumers out there.