5 years ago

Travel companies are STILL living in the dark ages – stuck in a paper world

NB: This is a viewpoint by Tine Thygesen, CEO of Everplaces.

I recently went to a traditional consumer travel show, Herning Travel Show in Denmark, to see how travel companies today share information and promote their destinations.

The event covered five halls and included all the major destinations, airlines and travel companies in Northern Europe. Many had spent small fortunes on their stands, which did look impressive.

But when it came to thinking creatively about marketing, I was disappointed, there was practically no digital touch to any of the exhibitors marketing materials.

The goal for having a stand is to meet people, look them in the eyes, build a connection and get them to select you when they finally book their next travel in some months time.

A highly competitive situation, so I was surprised everyone opted for same traditional paper brochures, since they are notoriously ineffective in the long term effect.

Despite that fact that 34% of people now book travel from their mobile, and 40% use their mobiles to find information, no one was pushing visitors to download an app.

All the exhibitors had a wealth of physical brochures, all beautiful colorful materials which would be a great marketing if it wasn’t because most people throw them away before they ever read them.

A big advantage to digital marketing over physical marketing is longevity

Once a potential costumer has downloaded information about you and your offerings onto their phone they can find you again. This small detail is crucial because:

  • With such similar offerings, it’s hard for the costumer to remember who offered what. This is both after a big trade show and after browsing the web
  • Most people will book months after they’ve met you. By then they’ve forgotten who had the deal or the destination, maybe even your company name
  • People loose brochures, or throw them away, but
  • Up to 80% of people never delete an app once its on their phone

Digital marketing trumps when it comes to flexibility and cost savings

Instead of producing expensive brochures that become outdated, or fail to hit the sweet spot, an app is flexible. The app can be updated with new content to keep it up to date, or have the contents replaced if the existing content isn’t effective.

This allows the marketing manager to test different material and different segments. Long term it offers serious financial savings for printing, because an app can be distributed over and over again.

As an alternative to big catalogues (which people are loath to carry around) I’d suggest a tiny little brochure in the shape of an app which encourages people to download the app in their own time. You’re much more likely they will take this tiny brochure than a big catalogue, yet it allows you to present as much information.

Once you have an app on people’s phone, you have the first foot in the door to start building a connection.

Looking at the piles of paper brochures at the trade show I couldn’t help think how much rainforest we could have saved, and how much better results the travel companies would have got if they’d promoted downloads of branded apps with information and offers instead. After allm, many apps only cost four figures to produce.

You don’t get many brochures for that!

NB: This is a viewpoint by Tine Thygesen, CEO of Everplaces.

NB2: Magazine pile image via Shutterstock.

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About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are the views and opinions of the author and do not reflect or represent the views of his employer, tnooz, its writers, or partners.



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  1. Michael Hios

    I think the way to success is via metered transition.

    In my experience with a Tour Operator, the larger number of Travel Agents and consumers still seem to want paper. By creating both printed and digital versions, both can be satisfied.

    The transition to digital can be massaged along by creating greater value via enhanced, more timely, and interactive content with the electronic media, as is done in other industries.

    Realistically, we may still be a generation away from having digital as the preferred medium.

  2. Bob

    I agree that paper is pretty outdated. I go to shows where everyone flies in. How many people want to pay overage charges on their bags to get that junk home?
    I like the concept and if I thought someone would download a marketing app onto their phone I might make the investment.

    I personally would never download a marketing app on my phone. I just don’t think anyone would stand at your booth and download your app.

    Anyone ever do this with success?

  3. Lindsay Young

    We recently optimised the core pages of our site (landing page with search box, destination pages, tour pages, checkout, and contact) and we’ve found that doing so has been a worthwhile investment. Before optimising, a growing amount of traffic was coming from mobile, and we were seeing an uptick in mobile bookings. Now that we’ve optimised, the booking numbers are growing even more.

    That being said, we’re a day tour operator. I think it may be a little more challenging for other types of businesses, but not out of the question, that’s for sure.

    We also just launched a series of destination apps (http://www.urbanadventures.com/urban_adventures_apps) that feature content generated by our local teams on the ground, as well as visuals for the start points of our tours and a booking capability. These serve as an extension of our product offering, and compliment what we do quite well (they don’t feature any places we visit on our tours, so as not to give away the farm). While they’re not exactly a brochure for our products, they function as a type of advertising/brand positioning by showing users the excellent level of local knowledge we possess, and thus instilling some trust in the brand and interest to explore our products further.

    I think the future will vary, though – there will always be people who prefer paper brochures – let’s face it, they’re fun to curl up with and flick through. On thing in particular, for me at least, is that I don’t like how I usually can’t make notes on digital brochures/guidebooks – that’s something I think people like to do with paper brochures, and might miss if the digital version doesn’t have that functionality.

  4. Steve Aves

    Paper still “rules.” It requires no electricity, no special device, no upgraded operating system, and any age can view it. Paper can be shared easily and quickly with the people you want to go on the trip with AND you can share it at the same time.

    For the supplier, you don’t have the added cost of producing multiple “apps.” Don’t have to put up with Apple’s gatekeepers, don’t have to worry about compatibility.

  5. David Urmann

    Interesting article. I think its mostly the face-to-face value one gets from attending a travel show. If looking for b2b partners just finding several that you will actually work with has a lot of value.

    “Most people will book months after they’ve met you. By then they’ve forgotten who had the deal or the destination, maybe even your company name.”

    I dont think this has to be true. Many of the suppliers we have met at shows we started giving bookings the next day. If it took us months to deliver the first one we are not going to be a key long term partner.

  6. Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

    So let’s start by questioning the numbers:

    “Despite that fact that 34% of people now book travel from their mobile, and 40% use their mobiles to find information, no one was pushing visitors to download an app.” One I can partially believe. The other is just wrong. What empirical data do you have for this?

    Please justify your numbers


    • Tine Thygesen

      These are from IBT World travel Monitor 2011

      “World Travel Monitor revealed. More than 40% of smart phone owners already use their devices to get destination information, and 34% of business travellers / 26% of leisure travellers use them to make booking changes during their trip”

      So valid empirical data.

      • Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

        I beg to differ.

        Making a change to a reservation on an airline is actually impossible via a mobile service in most cases it is also largely impossible by OTA web site. So these numbers cannot be true. Survey data is not valid empirical data. I am sure people will now rain down fire and brimstone on my head but I can assure you that the numbers are far smaller than this. Assigning too much early value to mobile interaction would be foolhardy. Average mobile app usage is 1 minute. (Forgive me i cannot find the exact reference but I believe it to be a valid source). If people would like to see empirical evidence of what Apps get downloaded – there are such sites as http://www.appanniecom which shows that in most cases direct travel (as opposed to train tickets and maps) are largely MIA in terms of downloading.

        I believe that mobile has a place and will become more and more important. However the cost of roaming mobile data is a huge impediment. 4G deployment is in its infancy. Wifi login on free hotspots takes a long time and carries a very high degree of risk (transmitting credit cardnumbers in the clear is not a good idea). There are just many different and complex issues confronting the execution of mobile services. Over time we will get there. Tablets are coming on strong – but in reality tablets are used most frequently in non-roaming environments and using conventional web browsers. Thus the definition of mobile is becoming blurred.

        Mobile faces a large number of challenges. There is a reason that there are few travel apps at all in any top 10 listing anywhere in the world. And those numbers do not change over time. Thus one needs to dig into why.

        I want to encourage mobile use, it is going to be a very big “thing” – but please can we be realistic as to today’s actual usage of mobile services.



  7. Sam Daams

    To be honest, the real problem is consumer travel shows… Now there is a concept that is stuck in the dark ages.

    However, if you have committed the money to attending (for whatever reason), there is a time and a place for everything, and a consumer travel show is not really the ideal place to get people to download your app. How often have you seen folks walk by a stand, read some poster encouraging them to download their app, stop, pull out their phone, and then go to the trouble of downloading the app. Then compare with how easy it is for that same person to grab a brochure – or the real aim, start a conversation with an actual human being, which still wins over an app 🙂

    Browsing a website – great place to try and get them to download your app, though I agree with Jeremy that that’s really only half the story. App downloads are the equivalent of web site hits in 1990. Totally worthless, and easy to inflate in any number of ways. At least one of the top travel apps in Apple’s store got there with help from Mechanical Turk for example. Now they actually deserve it, but still, getting downloads in itself is worthless.

    Last but not least, I’ve been in debates in travel companies for at least 7 or 8 years where the topic of dropping the brochure has come up. We’ve experimented with it, but we still see that people want a paper brochure. Why not give it to them, in addition to a responsive web site and a FB page and whatever else becomes popular enough to justify the spend on it?

    And you actually do get a lot of brochures for the same price as a good app 🙂

  8. Jeremy

    Good points overall but with apps…hmmmm, you’re only telling half the story.. You say “up to 80% of ppl never delete an app one it’s on their phone,” but how many actually use the app regularly. Very few actually….


    • Tine Thygesen

      That is very true, getting your app onto someones phone is only half the battle. But that does mean however that you’re half way, which is a lot further than you’d be with paper.

      The beauty of getting to this step is that people will be able to find you again, because they can go through their apps on their phone. The travel industry is largely transactional, and consumers often forget the name of that hotel/ travel agency/ tour company etc. Having an app on their phone is the first step to make it easy to find you again on their next trip. So I’d argue it’s worth it even if you dont end up on their front screen.


  9. Dan Tallarico

    This is true – unfortunately, it seems like there’s a ton of moving parts to each travel site and the costs add up fast. How is a conventions and visitors bureau site, who’s revenue comes primarily from hotel booking, going to justify these initial investments in hightech solutions? Not to mention they have to compete with Yelp if they want to be the go-to source for visiting information.

    It’s tough out there! The startup I’m at is attending a “tourism marketing convention” in Harrisburg soon and we’re excited to get our new technology in front of this audience. We really want to help them out of this dark age and provide a better online service for their community.

    • Jason

      Great article.

      Tourism businesses are only slowly connecting with Tourism specific software to run their back office also. Everyday here at TourWriter.com meet Inbound Tour Operators who waste hours building itinerary documentation using software like Microsoft Word or Excel.

      When clients change dates or hotels amendments take an age. We believe the time spent on admin should be better spent on increasing sales. There is a better way. Save time, save money!

      The industry is slowly catching up.

      Some are racing ahead faster than others.

    • Tine Thygesen

      I think the key is not to try to get all the parts of the website onto mobile, but chose a few suitable parts. That’s why I think a mobile brochure is a good places to start. It’s both simple and inexpensive if you use a software like ours.

      the journey of mobile has just begun, and the key for marketeers to get slowly familiar with it if you ask me.



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