Travel And Tour World – What are your views on the current state of innovation in the travel industry?
Because the majority of travel stakeholders are small businesses with limited budgets and resources, the pace of innovation has been slower than it is in many other industries. An easy and powerful way for travel and tourism to catch up is to learn what is inspiring their customers to do and buy things, and to answer those needs in creative new ways. What I do in my presentations is show audiences which trends are motivating people to buy goods, services and travel. Then I offer compelling examples of innovative things that businesses in other industries are doing to attract these same customers. Finally, I help attendees come up with their own effective ideas to attract visitors, strengthen loyalty, and increase sales.
Travel And Tour World – Why is a top global trends expert who works with consumer-oriented business of all kinds focusing so much on the travel industry?
What many people don’t know is that I have deep roots in travel and tourism. I started my career writing 10 of the top selling Frommer’s travel books – including their iconic guide to Europe. For the past 15 years, as the Executive Director of the Avant-Guide Institute, I have worked with numerous travel-related companies and destinations and become even more intimately familiar with all aspects of the industry. Because I speak the language of travel, I am uniquely able to describe major social trends to travel professionals in ways that are especially meaningful to them.
Travel And Tour World: A decade passed since you started addressing business and tourism events as a professional keynote speaker. What is the most striking change in the travel sector in recent times?
At my presentations I help tourism stakeholders understand why people travel. Then I work with audiences to come up with specific answers to those needs and desires in order to attract more visitors and make more money. On one level, the reason people travel, especially for leisure, is because they want to see the world. But once you dig deeper, you start to see that the things that motivate people to travel actually changes with culture and time. In the USA and Europe, for example, leisure travelers have been gravitating towards more unique, personal and “meaningful” experiences, as opposed to generic activities that are usually associated with mass tourism. It is also important for travel professionals to understand the swift changes that are taking place in the way travelers think and communicate. Technology is rapidly changing the way we exchange ideas and information and, while many of these advanced tools are simply passing fads, others are transforming the way we interact with one another, do business, and travel. Industry professionals need to know how to take advantage of these changes to serve their customers relevantly and effectively.
Travel And Tour World: Can you speak about some of the most important trends in the global travel industry and your take on them?
In my presentations, I focus on drawing the tourism audiences outside their comfort zones by showing them amazing examples of how other industries are effectively attracting the same customers. When we look at business from your customers’ perspective, we can easily see that the kinds of experiences that people look for in travel are similar to what they are looking for in other parts of their lives. That’s because consumer trends are not specific to any one industry. People are looking for the same trends to be answered in every part of their lives – from the cars they drive and the clothes they wear to the travel decisions they make. It’s about lifestyle. So, for example, major trends that the travel industry must now embrace include customizing and personalizing experiences by using mobile technology, helping customers build close relationships with those they are traveling with and the places they are visiting, offering greater transparency, facilitating conversations on social media, and making travel as simple and enjoyable as possible.
Travel And Tour World: What do you think is the primary reason for your success as a keynote speaker? What makes for a successful event?
Anyone who has been to a conference knows that a remarkable keynote speaker often makes a successful event. The secret is in being informational, beneficial, motivational and entertaining. I am often complimented on my ability to explain complex concepts in easy-to-understand ways. At the same time, I realize that being entertaining is crucial for keeping the audience’s attention – which is why I wear a headset mic, walk around the stage, and keep them laughing. Being entertaining is crucial. At the same time, offering real-world tools and strategies that audience members can take back to their office and immediately act upon is priceless.
Travel And Tour World: Your presentations often attract standing-room-only crowds at conferences and business events. How do you prepare yourself for a premier travel event like World Travel Market or EIBTM?
Because each audience is different, I have never given the same presentation twice. My staff does quite a lot of work prior to each presentation so that my talk is very specific to each event. We employ the full resources of the Avant-Guide Institute to create completely up-to-date and inspiring presentations. We start by canvassing our huge global network of over 9000 Trend Spotters to spotlight the latest and most innovative business and consumer trends, along with specific ways in which audience members can take advantage of them. For the UNWTO I showed the audience how to benefit from social trends in global tourism. At the Ensemble Travel Group Conference, I helped travel agents understand what is driving retail travel, and profit from it. At International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM), I helped tourism stakeholders see how companies from other industries are attracting high-net-worth individuals, and how they could apply that knowledge to their own businesses. And at the Caribbean Tourism Organization State of the Industry Conference, my keynote focused on how to lure American and European visitors.