Just as the rise of the internet shook up the travel industry 20 years ago, it’s now being disrupted by a new generation of travelers who expect personalized, tech-enabled experiences on demand. In order to deliver these must-haves and remain competitive, modern travel orgs need to expand their workforce strategies to attract elite marketing and UX candidates with specialized experience.
1. Curation and personalization
Travelers are increasingly rejecting the clichés and stresses of traditional tourism in lieu of low-key, authentic adventures curated to their interests.
As a result, travel companies are creating personalized content experiences that help customers plan smarter. Samantha Stevenson, Aquent’s managing director of travel and hospitality, has seen an uptick in these kind of projects, “Expedia is building up a blog where readers can search by destination, interests, or occasions, and then find a post that tells them exactly what to do and where to go. The blog creates an experience before you even book your trip.”
Key roles: In order to create authentic, expertly-curated content, seek out content marketers that have a proven passion for travel and plenty of stamped pages in their passports. UX researchers will also be essential, as they can interface with customers to understand what personal touches they want from a blog or ad experience, and then use those insights to guide the design process.
2. Instagram tourism
Instagram has turned into a highly influential travel marketing tool among millennials. A 2016 study conducted by Expedia and Foresight Factory found that 42 percent of respondents in the 19–36 age bracket are influenced by photos on social media when choosing their destinations.
Instagram also provides a great avenue for user-generated content, with some companies leveraging user feeds to create gorgeous digital experiences. In October of 2017, Scotland’s National Tourism Board brought its followers’ feeds to life with its pop-up shop, the #ScotSpirit Instagram Travel Agency. Inside, floor-to-ceiling screens displayed hundreds of Instagram photos featuring Scotland’s most picturesque locales. Visitors could then choose their favorites and get custom itineraries based on those images.
Key roles: Don’t delegate social media duties to an intern. Hire seasoned social media marketers whose personal feeds double as travelogues. And to ensure a seamless and stylish user-generated content experience, seek out UX engineers that know the Instagram API inside and out — including its recent updates that impact UGC.
3. Immersive video
While Instagram allows prospective travelers to preview authentic global experiences, Stevenson highlights the strong demand for more immersive tourism content. “We’re living in the age of the virtual traveler. Customers want to know and see what’s happening at their destinations in real time,” she explains. “There’s a movement towards virtual sites and video experiences, where a ski resort could show you the current weather conditions by broadcasting from the chair lift.”
Many companies are using innovative videography to show off destinations and properties like never before. Tourism pioneer Thomas Cook saw a 190 percent increase in bookings following its “Try Before You Fly” in-store VR experience, which took customers on “taster” tours through Egypt, Greece, and Singapore.
Key roles: Be sure to include content strategists in your search, as they can gather data on your target travel topic in order to craft compelling stories for your videos. Experience designers will also make sure your VR environments feel real, interactive, and on-brand.
4. Bot-powered service
When a traveler has an issue or emergency, they expect help on demand — not just during normal business hours. If they don’t get it, they’ll likely take their business elsewhere. According to Conversocial’s 2017 Airline Benchmark Report, 57 percent of travelers indicated that they would stop doing business with a brand due to a poor digital customer service experience.
AI-based chatbots can be a reliable and cost-effective way to serve up instant gratification. Bots can also handle other services like booking, upselling, giving travel tips and directions, flight tracking, and more. In 2016, travel search engine Hipmunk launched its bot, Hello Hipmunk, for Skype, Facebook Messenger, and Slack. Hello Hipmunk can book flights and hotels, offer advice on the best time to fly from Dallas to Madrid, or field vague requests like, “Help me plan a romantic getaway in Paris.”
Key roles: Product marketers will define when, where, and how your chatbots will position your products and services. Conversational UX designers will make sure your bots can carry on a conversation and pick up on the nuances of human language.
The new travel industry is social, interactive, automated, and artisanally crafted. Your UX and marketing hires should feel right at home in that world. By seeking out candidates with specialized experience and subject matter expertise, you won’t just be rising to meet the latest trends head on — you’ll be carving out your niche as an industry leader and innovator in the years to come.