3 Unique travel insights from the Skift Global Forum

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Two information-packed days in New York City, hundreds of ideas. Here’s a rundown of the three sub-themes that caught our eye.

Matthew Parsons

Industry leaders took the stage in New York City for the Skift Global Forum this week, sharing their views on travel and discussing new trends.

On the agenda, candid conversations with CEOs about how their businesses are faring from the pandemic, plenty of discussion on the rise of blended travel and the future of work, and smart commentary on dealing with the ongoing labor crisis .

But among the industry voices that more than 700 in-person attendees heard from the main stage and another 800 online, there were also some alternative topics, from the psychology of marketing to how to run a business. Here is a summary.

Just Make It Up As You Go

Frederic Lalonde, the energetic CEO of Hopper, revealed how he likes to build new products. The secret is to be brave and experiment – ​​even if it means making a loss. When asked which of its products were losing “a ton of money,” he replied that it was something new they were trying. “It blows up in our face every year,” he said.

But some features that are being tested for a year may prove to be hits – like the hotel’s new cancellation policy.

“The trick is to try it with a small group. You spend a lot of money on some people. You realize what you did well, then you scale. If you do it the other way around, it’s bad,” Lalonde told the audience. “We have this subset of users that engage with us. We are testing and trying to figure things out. It’s so wild, I actually don’t understand what we’re doing here.”

Lalonde, who is also a co-founder of the startup, said a recent sale surprised him. It sold “loot boxes” — treasure boxes with a mystery gift, such as a coupon — for $3 to $14 as part of a promotion in Puerto Rico.

“We sold more loot boxes than flights that day,” he said. “People would come to me with this data, and I would say ‘this is wrong, this is not possible’.”

Find out what else Lalonde had to say here.

Getting into the minds of the guests

Coming out of the pandemic, online marketing continues to be a hot topic. Performance marketing was even described as a panacea by one executive. But one speaker wants to tear up the rule book. For destinations like Africa, he wanted to know why it was that the further away from reality the promoted experience is, the more expensive it costs.

Dr. Mordecai Ogada, conservationist, environmentalist and co-author of The Big Conservation Lie, asked why the travel industry marketed Africa in a way that made the destination look like a scene from the movie Out of Africa.

“What exactly are we selling and where does it come from?” he said. “If you go through our tourism experiences, they come from a place a little over a hundred years ago … the hunting, the beautiful wildlife, the scenery.”

But humans live in harmony with wildlife, he argued.

“Around all tourism material, especially safari tourism, you don’t see African people in a peaceful context with wildlife, yet it’s quite common,” he said. “And you don’t see the violence when we try to clear people from wildlife areas to make way for tourism. How real is what we are selling? It is a testament to the power of marketing that the tourism industry can still sell images that are taken from hundreds of years ago, themes that are largely based on Tarzan.”

A lesson for all marketers is to make sure they sell images of what exists and demand new standards and definitions, and “including people of color in non-subjugated positions.”

“And there are so few African Americans in marketing, they just don’t see themselves. Almost all the tourists who see from America are white. We must challenge the media’s role in this narrative,” he added.

All aboard

Management styles and etiquette, unexpectedly, appeared frequently over the two days.

Josh D’Amaro, president of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, spoke about the need for executives to stay grounded and stay in touch with all of their employees.

He said he spends as much time as possible in parks when not on dates. “I’ll walk every corner of that park, or cruise ship, or store. And I’ll talk to anyone who crosses my path, whether it’s a cast member who’s on Main Street selling balloons,” he said.

“From an industry perspective, as leaders it’s important that we all do this. Show up, make sure you’re there, not someone in the office pushing some buttons. When you do that as a senior leader, you know what happens next. Everyone follows. What happens then is you have 170,000 cast members who see their leaders, trust their leaders, know who they are, what they stand for.”

Find out what else D’Amaro had to say here.

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