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What You Missed in Toronto

Last week, we attended the Hotel Association of Canada conference in Toronto, which conveniently coincided with the Canadian Tourism Marketing Summit and Online-Revealed Canada; a veritable grand-slam of all things hospitality, travel, tourism, and digital.

We were there to learn about the full breadth of business issues that our hotel and tourism clients face (ie. not just their digital marketing problems), thus allowing us to build digital strategies that are holistic and comprehensive. Of course, we learned a lot about the digital world as well.

Among the notable speakers were Nikki Germany, Head of Travel at Google Canada, and Steve Irvine, Sr. Business Leader at Facebook Canada.

Travel is Social

If there was a single message that could be boiled down, it was that travel is a social experience. And it just so happens that the way the web has evolved fits extremely well within the context of the travel experience. When we meet new friends along the way, it’s a way to stay connected. If we’re rafting the Zambezi River, it’s a way to make our friends at home jealous.

What we Know About Guests

Guests do Their Research

According to Google, guests conduct, on average, 9 separate online research sessions and visit an average of 19 different sites before making a buying decision. In light of this information, the ability to make an immediate impact, paired with consistency of information and identity across third-parties, is now more important than ever.

Guests Expect a Seamless Experience

According to Google, the Travel Cycle consists of Dreaming, Researching, Booking, Experiencing, and Sharing. In our clients’ Analytics data, we are seeing the massive impact of usability across these five stages. The user experience must be considered and deliberately tailored to suit the growing diversity of devices. Failing at this is the digital equivalent of giving your guest the wrong room key; it’s just easier when it works the first time.

Guests are Social

According to Irvine, travellers have always relied on the advice of friends and family to arrange travel plans. Moreover, guests have been terrific brand ambassadors for destinations and properties globally. He used the example of his envy of a friend that played the Old Course at St. Andrews, in Scotland. He complained of the barrage of posts, pictures and tweets. The point is, if you create unique experiences people will find a way to share them with their friends.

Irvine posited that people share for 1 of 4 reasons:

  • To make life easier: With inconsequential facts, Tweeting is easier than texting all of your friends individually.
  • To build relationships: We seek community and we’re able to define a group by our shared experiences and interests
  • To help others: We want to make our friends’ lives better: ie. “Eat at [this restaurant], you will love it.”
  • To craft our identities: We want people to see us a certain way and social networks are a perfect platform, sometimes too perfect. Innovative brands are manipulating this desire by allowing people to share (better put, brag) about their travel experiences. The Old Course is a great example of this.

One thing we know for sure, Canadians are among the top consumers of digital content in the world, and with the expansion of tablets and mobile devices running on increasingly fast mobile networks, this is not going to change any time soon. The brands that enable users to seamlessly share their experiences through their respective networks will win in the long run.