Day 1 Highlights – 2010 Association of Travel Marketing Executives Conference

One sure sign of a travel industry resurgence is growing conference attendance. While group meetings represent a critically important sector for the travel industry, there may be no more important litmus test of the travel industry than travel marketers spending money to attend their own industry conference.

Hyatt Regency Cambridge

The Hyatt Regency Cambridge hosted the 2010 Association of Travel Marketing Executives Conference June 15-16, 2010

I am happy to report that attendance at the 2010 Association of Travel Marketing Executives Travel Marketing Conference exceeded the 2009 count by 50%. If travel marketers are spending money and traveling, that is a very good sign.

“The New Now & The New Next” aptly describes the agenda, covering social media, digital advertising, and new developments in the search and user generated content.

ATME Chairman Joel Chusid welcomed the audience, set the stage and wasted no time in getting straight into the program.

Forrester Research Vice President Henry Harteveldt provided his typical tsunami of insightful and statistically based observations and predictions:

  • Europe will undergo huge social change due to austerity programs – fewer vacations, later retirement
  • In the US, 2010 is the first year when Baby Boomers turn 65. A huge demographic shift is coming
  • Leisure travelers say value, reliability & past experience are equally important to price
  • Era of new frugality is named “neoFrugal chic.” Savings is a point of pride. Every purchase is highly researched. Travel is a reward, not an entitlement. However, seeing upturn in people willing to pay more on products that save them time & hassle
  • US audiences reported spending almost as much time online as watching TV in 2009
  • Mobile will become the most important gateway for travel marketers in the next 3-4 years. Mobile currently represents 5% of online travel marketing budgets
  • More than 9,300 iPhone travel apps. 6% of total iPhone Apps. 1 in 10 iPhone users have downloaded a travel app.
  • 72% of leisure travelers engaged in social media – same statistic in US & Europe
  • 58% of travelers have Facebook accounts. Fastest growing aspect of Facebook is mobile
  • 57% of US leisure travelers use general search engines like google to research travel online. 1 in 5 travelers are “booking baffled” when online
  • 32% travelers follow / fan companies to get deals. Interested in a social media strategy? Remember one word – greed. People want deals.
  • Splinternet means people will use different technologies & devices to connect, but expect same service & quality standards
  • 52% of travelers don’t have a brand in mind when they start to research their vacation. Only 3 in 10 travelers say they’re loyal to a travel company
  • Data is Everything
  • Brand Marketing is functioning a lot like a Roman Orgy. Disciplines no longer black & white – lots of overlap

Susan Black Black & Wright Group Partner (later affectionately referred to as “The Ubiquitous Susan Black”) was up next to describe “Who is Making Money from Social Media?”:

  • 4 in 10 wake up to their social circles to get news and information
  • 56% check Facebook or social media sites several times a day
  • Social media isn’t about broadcasting – it’s about honesty, responsiveness, conversation & transparancy
  • People like doing business with people they know. They LOVE doing business with people they trust
  • 4 E’s of social media: Educate, Excite, Engage & Evangelize
  • Search engines striving to produce results that are relevant & authentic. Social media provides both
  • 81% of marketers have extended reach of e-mail by incorporating social media
  • 55,000+ people “Like” Travelocity – providing Facebook fans special offers (example $150 off )
  • Expedia has 1/5 Facebook fans of Travelocity – Does not get social media (I would say Expedia’s ownership of social media savvy TripAdvisor helps balance this out)
  • 4 in 10 people recommend products on social media sites, 46% recommend on Facebook, 44% on Twitter
  • Stacy Small (@EliteTravelGal), Roger Smith Hotel (@RSHotel), Southwest (@SouthwestAir), Sandals (@sandals), Jetsetter (@JetSetter) “get” social media.

Gary Leopold, CEO of ISM took the stage to discuss “What’s Next in Digital Advertising”:

  • Per Pugh Research, consumers are exposed to 7,000 advertising messages every day (500 per waking hour)
  • The future of marketing is NOT all Digital. Integration of paid, owned & earned media is a new challenge for travel marketers
  • 5 billion phones compared with only 1 billion computers in the world. We are going mobile
  • Do you know who the Mayor of your business is?
  • The future of marketing is being generous. Greed is not good in consumers mind anymore
  • The future of marketing is telling great stories. Leverage content.
  • The Future of marketing is service – Can no longer rely on Operations & HR to provide service
  • Have moved from Selling Travel to Selling Experience; from Selling Destinations to Selling Journeys
  • My interest is in the future. I’m going to spend the rest of my life there

The heavy hitters, with site traffic providing the street cred to back it up, then took the stage to share “5 things we don’t know about them” (Full disclosure – there were a lot more than 5 things people did not know about each)

    Rob Torres, Head of Travel, Google:

  • Four key internet trends: Mobile, Social, Local & Personal
  • New Credo of Google is Mobile First
  • 1 out of every 6 minutes spent online is on a social network
  • 19% of tweets comment on a brand
  • The web is local. 1 in 5 Google desktop searches are related to location
  • Hotel Price Ads Beta – Making searching for hotels much easier – can enter dates & availability, link to book. Available to 10% of users. Prices do not impact PageRank
  • integrating maps & Google Street View
  • Google Sitelinks – Provides sub-categories for direct linking into most relevant aspect of Ads
  • Google Search Funnels – looks at keywords & where customer visited upstream BEFORE visiting site
  • On average, over 20 sites are visited before people book their travel (Note: official Google stat specifies that this takes place across 9 isolated sessions.)
  • Google Goggles – Mobile application turns a picture into a query – Returns information about product & translates
  • Innovate – Test – Measure
    Krista Pappas – Global Head of Business Development, Bing:

  • Interesting Microsoft considers “Scale” 100 Million users – Facebook got there in 9 months. iPod 3 years
  • 25% of clicks are “back”; 42% need refinement, 50% of time spent on long queries – Bing attacking these issues
  • Visual search plays a big part of the future. Very important for destinations & hotels
  • Bing has a million Facebook followers
  • Bing connecting through social media – used Ryan Seacrest example – 1 tweet = 40,000 site visitors
  • Know people searching for travel are starting with maps, but still learning about commercial intent
    Christine Petersen – CMO, TripAdvisor:

  • TripAdvisor is largest travel site in the world; Bigger than parent Expedia. Also it is larger than Travelocity, Orbitz & Priceline Combined
  • New Facebook Trip Friends App: Wisdom of crowds is great, but wisdom of friends is better
  • Facebook is the social graph
  • TripAdvisor is most popular travel App on iPhoneTrip. Mobile site gets 1 million visits per month
  • Offering free business listings to hotels threatened by Gulf oil spill
  • In Fall, TripAdvisor will be testing integrated content project with major European hotel chain to monitor reviews
  • TripAdvisor Office has a Kegerator (with its own Facebook page)

The closing session, moderated by John Peters VP, Tripology/Rand McNally with the topic of Social Media – Who’s Doing it Right?

    Roseanne Landay Director, Strategy & Business Development, Pleasant Holidays:

  • Pleasant Holidays claims highest ROI in social media – Roseanne is only one in company working on social media, with no other dollars invested
  • Using Social Media for Speed – last minute travel deals achieved over $500 Thousand in sales over six months
  • Social Media Best Practices: Listen, Engage, Monitor, Nurture, Share, Measure
  • Social media also helps Pleasant Holidays maintain contact with customer, keep them from leaving to other competitors or booking channels
    Meredith Hanrahan CMO, Cheapflights US:

  • Cheapflights launching Zugu, a new meta-search experience
  • Cheapflights for baragin hunters; launching new brand Zugu for need driven buyers
  • Ran “What the Hell is Zugu?” contest. Prize is a Round the World Trip. Drove visitors to site from Twitter & Facebook with clues in search
  • Zugu UK social media program led to 20% increase in followers, 50 million PR impressions
    Michael Dalesandro CEO, WhereIveBeen:

  • Where I’ve Been has 9.5MM members, social media site for travel
  • $15,000 total marketing spend has yielded 9.5 Million visitors
  • Focus on 3 things, open, social, relevant
  • Twitter campaign recap: 18 tweets drove more than 600K followers
    Rick Seaney CEO, FareCompare:

  • Time, Money, Site Links & Speed – Requirements uccess for all online travel media cos
  • Best part of social media is marketers can use it to package different aspects to make interesting
  • New Google Timeliness feature makes continuous messaging a necessity – otherwise you disappear.
  • FareCompare has 180 twitter accounts
  • Best day of week and time to search airfares is Tuesdays at 3:00pm
  • Best day of the week to fly is Wednesday
  • FareCompare has “elves” who respond to questions he doesn’t have time to answer
  • Favorite airlines in social media are @southwestair & @jetblue. If you have an issue & tweet, you will probably get an answer

The most humorous (nauseating?) sections were the food analogies. Henry Harteveldt compared traditional marketing with Bacon, and new marketing as the newly evolved (mutated?) varietals of Bacon Chocolate Bars, Bacon Muffins, Bacon Lattes, Bacon Lip Balm and Bacon-tinis. I have to admit that I may have become a bit woozy during this portion of his talk, but did revive just in time to hear him state “Just because you can get chocolate covered bacon, doesn’t mean you should.”

Gary Leopold later commented that “A good marketing & media plan is like a well made stew.”

I can only pray that some audience member did not retain the most important idea shared on Day 1 of the conference as having something to do with chocolate bacon stew…

Here is a link to the recap of the presentations from Day 2 of the ATME Conference.

About Robert Cole

Robert Cole is the founder of RockCheetah, a hotel marketing strategy and travel technology consulting practice. He also authors the Views from a Corner Suite Blog and publishes the Travel Quote of the Day. Robert speaks regularly at major travel industry conferences, authors articles for leading travel industry publications, advises travel-related startups and the equity investment community. He is an evangelist for the global travel industry.