Takeaways from DTIC2014: “Life is Always in Beta”

Takeaways from DTIC2014: “Life is Always in Beta”

After spending the last two days with leading DMOs from across Europe at DTIC20014 in Barcelona, two things have never been more clear to me:

(1) “Life is always in Beta.” WOW – just wow! It’s my favorite quote from the conference by Goteborg & Co. So simple and especially true in this fast moving digital age. Its about changing a little at a time, and assessing how the change impacts the your user. If we make changes incrementally, we benefit the user and maximize our returns by spending more efficiently. So don’t spend all your budget in a first release, as there’s always more you can do and things you can improve. This philosophy applies to all aspects of digital work –- from building a destination website to launching citywide Wi-Fi.

(2) Travel is an ongoing connection. Over the two days, we heard many DMOs talk about how they are engaging with travelers – whether on their websites, though email, social media or in-market. It’s great to hear so many cool, new and innovative ways that Destinations are interacting with travelers. While I have always been a person that loves to travel, even I was blown away at how many of these destinations are positioning “what to do” in their destinations. From biking tours, art tours, historical tours, culinary tours to “eating with a local”– it’s all about making a memorable experience for the traveler. I apparently need to take a few months off and just travel through Europe. J

In addition to these overarching themes, my top takeaways were:

Mobile, mobile, mobile. It’s so important to DMOs now and into the future that they’re developing strategies and tactics around mobile tourism. Travelers no longer want to be just tourists. They want to become part of the fabric of the city they’re visiting. More and more they want interactive advice and recommendations about the city as they explore it using their mobile device. It’s not enough for destinations to just engage travelers prior to a trip. You need to message them in market, for the market.

It’s interesting to learn that Africa leads the way in many things mobile – much out of necessity. Even though the majority has phones, less then half of those are smart phones. Yet a year ago in Kenya, you could pay for items such as a Coke using your phone and ultimately use airtime as a commodity!   So cool how the world works to apply technology for the level of need in the environment.

Story Telling is the new black. It’s the new way of speaking to travelers. Pictures are truly worth a thousand words. People are inspired by what they see. Photo content and ability to show your destination through pictures and stories are what sets destinations apart. Pictures should tell a story that literally takes you on a custom journey to your destination.

Disruptive technology is a game changer. The right technology can realign the market landscape — quickly. Especially when there is an unmet need from an emerging or evolving market. Take AirBnB, for example. It redefined the travel experience for some segments of the market. (The verdict is out on the longevity of the impact.) Did you know this company that has turned travel on its head was started just 6 years ago? It all began when they bought air mattresses and rented out space at their place in SFO during a conference. They built a site to rent the space called “Air Bed and Breakfast.” Crazy how out of necessity comes a total game changer. It’s now set a new model for a larger market of “peer-to-peer” accommodations that is now being adopted by other segments as well such as dining, and destination services.

Benchmarking is King: Conferences like DTIC succeed because DMOs want to benchmark against each other. DMOs realize that they need to look outside their own walls and see how they compare, how their journeys and websites compare to each other. Big data is another way to help them benchmark, and its all coming together. We work with over 100 destinations worldwide to help DMOs see how they stack up against their competition, so they can not just see how they did in the past, but also predict travel demand for the future.

Overall it was a great conference. I learned so much about the journeys that many DMOs go on and about the amazing job they do keeping their sites and apps relevant and up to date! I learned in some places we want to live like a local and in others we want to travel like a local but live like a tourist! Destinations are dynamic and unique, so sharing is important because no two are alike. The common bond they all have is passion for their unique destinations and an enthusiasm to share it with others!

On a closing note, I’ve added a few experiences and/or places to my bucket list as a result of this conference. Specifically, Cape Town, The Northern Lights and Stockholm are now #5-7.
So, here I come.