What Pokémon GO means for marketing: CIM

pokemon_10_2211dd8d49adf154a386294fb279204b-nbcnews-ux-320-320The augmented reality game is one of the stories of the summer, but it’s more than a passing fad.What connects a recent spate of local news stories about suspicious-looking teens being apprehended by the police, a stampede in New York’s Central Park, churches reimagined as ‘gyms’, a dead body discovered in a river, and a spike in the trade of online accounts?

It’s Pokémon GO, of course – the location-based, augmented reality (AR) game taugust_wk_2_2016_pokemon_go_exchangehat re-boots the original 1990s Nintendo Game Boy brand for the mobile age. Launched in early July, and an instant hit worldwide, Pokémon GO has generated innumerable news stories, and opinions ranging from proclamations that it is the best game ever to scaremongering safety warnings. Pokémon GO could be decried as nothing more than a classic news story for medialand’s ‘silly season’. But its success could prove more insightful for marketers than other recent summer crazes, such as 2012’s Gangnam Style dance and viral videos, or even 2014’s Ice Bucket Challenge (which has actually gone on to provide funds for some valuable scientific research). Before dismissing the game as a passing fad, consider the following:

AR becomes a reality

Until now, perhaps the biggest story about AR in the minds of the public has been one about an expensive failure – Google Glass. Useful applications of AR tech, such as Volkswagen’s app for car mechanics, have mostly remained under the public radar. Pokémon GO has changed this. Within a couple of weeks of release, 75 million people have downloaded the app worldwide, 20 million of whom are active users – and all without a big-budget ad campaign. The uptake has been unprecedented. In the short term it’s likely that imitators will stake their claim for a share of the new AR gaming market, but the cultural impact might be much greater: the use of AR – for example, in educational and lifestyle settings – might suddenly make sense to consumers, and that potential will drive further innovation and funding. Pokémon GO might come to be seen as AR’s tipping point.

Next-level freemium

Pokémon GO is free-to-play. Niantic, the developers, have literally given it away. OK, so this is hardly a novel strategy – Candy Crush Saga made a success of a freemium model in 2012 – but Pokémon is surely the most high-profile example of its kind to date. The value proposition of such a big hit is clear, but when it comes to monetization the game is again pushing boundaries. The freemium model, where users can download the game for free and then choose to make in-app purchases to fuel additional gameplay, will only drive so much revenue. Ads will bring more. Sponsored locations, however, where local businesses can pay to become real-world destinations for virtual-world gameplay, could also provide a huge opportunity. It’s a game-changer.

High street brands

Small businesses have already leapt at the chance to join in the fun, setting themselves up as ‘Pokéstops’ to attract the virtual monsters and in turn drive customer traffic in stores and restaurants. It’s cheap and perhaps effective in the short term, but after the ‘Pokébuzz’ volume drops, we might find that the high street has found in AR a way to reinvigorate itself. What is certain is that the big brands have already taken note. At the end of July, McDonald’s in Japan became the first brand to sign a sponsored location deal in which its restaurants will become PokéStop and Pokémon ‘gym’ sites. If the deal shows itself to have legs, similar brand tie-ups are likely to become a familiar part of the marketing mix in the coming years.

Tried, tested and fun

Of course, sceptics will say all this is just a fad – we’ll witness a Pokémon Christmas with Santa delivering all kinds of ancillary branded merchandise… and then consumers will move on to the next big thing. Perhaps. Meanwhile, everyone can argue whether this really does signal the often-predicted dissolving of the divide between real and virtual worlds, or that in getting players outdoors Pokémon has finally made gaming a healthy pastime. For marketers, however, there is a simple underlying truth about the game’s success that should not be forgotten. The principles of Pokémon GO have been tried and tested over centuries. It’s part treasure hunt, part I-Spy, part orienteering. What’s more, the ROI for users is undeniable. It’s free! It’s fun! And if you can make something free and fun, then you’re onto a winner.

Martin Bewick, Chartered Institute of Marketing

Industry data defies predictions of post-Brexit gloom | Travel Weekly

Image result for union jackUK Holidaymakers appear unfazed by post-referendum gloom, confounding economists’ forecasts with outbound bookings up year on year since the vote on June 23.

Industry analyst GfK reported summer 2016 bookings in July up 1% on last year, and season-to-date bookings up 5%. But it’s not just last-minute bookings that were up, as July saw a 14% year-on-year rise in bookings for this winter.

Summer 2017 bookings were also up 10% on a year ago, although the numbers are small. The rise in bookings came alongside surges in inbound visitor numbers and domestic trips, which have been widely attributed to the fall in the pound. The Tourism Alliance reported an 11% increase in UK domestic trips in July and an 18% rise in international visitors.

Yet outbound travellers seem undeterred up to now, despite reports of exchange rates as low as €1 to £1 at airport foreign exchange bureaux. GfK data shows family bookings up 14% on July 2015 last month, with mainland Spain, the Canary Islands, Balearic Islands, Cyprus and Rhodes enjoying the biggest growth.

Office for National Statistics figures confirmed the pre-vote trend, with holiday departures for the six months to June up 5% on last year and departures over the past 12 months up 7%.

The booking and departure figures were in sharp contrast to a World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) forecast that UK holiday departures could drop 3% by the end of the year as a result of Brexit and a weaker pound.

WTTC president and chief executive David Scowsill said: “These are top-line projections. This summer, people probably made their commitment to travel. We’ll see in the autumn whether the exchange rate has more of an impact.”

Source: Industry data defies predictions of p… | Travel Weekly

FlightGlobal combines with Diio and FlightStats to create a powerhouse in air travel data analytics – Reed Business Information

Source: FlightGlobal combines with Diio and FlightStats to create a powerhouse in air travel data analytics – Reed Business Information

FlightGlobal, a leading aviation information group, today announces the acquisition of two pioneering US businesses that will help create a powerhouse in data analytics for the global air travel sector.  Diio LLC, a leading provider of airline market intelligence tools, and FlightStats Inc., a pioneer in flight data services, will now sit alongside FlightGlobal’s existing portfolio of fleet, aircraft finance and schedules data services.

With these latest transactions, FlightGlobal emerges with a world-class air travel data and analytics capability, building on the acquisition of the Innovata airline schedules business in 2014. Diio and FlightStats already work closely with FlightGlobal as long-standing commercial partners and significant users of the group’s schedules data.

Diio LLC, headquartered near Washington DC, provides a portfolio of online intelligence tools for the global air transport and travel industry, both under its own brand and those of its partners. The company’s flagship Diio Mi service brings together schedules, fares and traffic data into a single online market intelligence toolset, used extensively by airlines and airports principally in North America. In cooperation with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), Diio powers such products as IATA PaxIS, ARC DataXpert Market Intelligence and IATA/ARC Direct Data Solutions (DDS). Diio also hosts the SRS Analyser schedules analysis tool, developed for international markets in cooperation with FlightGlobal and IATA.

FlightStats Inc., based in Portland, Oregon, is a pioneer in making real-time global flight data available to power services and decision-support tools for many of the world’s leading airlines, travel agencies, mobile app developers and online services. Its cutting-edge technology combines vast volumes of data from over 400 sources, including live aircraft tracking, to build an evolving picture of the status of flight arrivals and departures across the airline system. The company is already actively working with FlightGlobal on ways to help clients improve workflow processes around flight disruptions and to gain insights into the cause of delays.

Christopher Flook, who heads the FlightGlobal business as RBI Managing Director, says: “With the talent, technology and resources we have now assembled, FlightGlobal is well-placed to help the air travel sector take the next significant step forward in managing, integrating and analysing its data. We already worked well together as standalone businesses, but coming together as a single group now allows us greater ability to combine our data and experience to deliver huge value for our customers.”

David Hoppin, Diio CEO, says: “Diio was founded fifteen years ago with the vision that we could combine fast database technology and expert user-interface design to make it easy for airline decision-makers to assemble facts in time to inform the decision at hand. The company’s uninterrupted growth since 2001 confirmed the vision. Now, as part of the FlightGlobal family, we can leverage best-in-class data assets and the resources of a much larger organisation to go after exciting growth opportunities in all parts of the world.”

FlightStats founders, Chairman Jeff Kennedy and CEO Tod Hutchinson, said: “As a standalone company we’ve invested heavily in a modern data management platform that enables us to acquire, process and deliver data at huge scale and speed. With the additional resources that the FlightGlobal group now brings, we’re excited about the ability to move faster still and to combine data in new and innovative ways to solve high value problems for the industry. Together we’re well-positioned to be a critical hub in the travel ecosystem.”

FlightGlobal, headquartered in London, is the aviation arm of Reed Business Information, which itself sits within the Risk & Business Analytics business area of RELX Group.

Travel Compositor completes its next round of funding

TravelC have announced a €1 Million funding round with Caixa Capital Risk, and with it the integration of hotel booking management provider Hotelerum.

TravelC have created a unique set of unique booking engines that are licensed and branded for Online Travel Agents, Tour Operators, Travel Agents, Destination Marketing Organizations and Hotel Groups. The platform has already been has been sold to more than 70 companies across 25 countries.

The product enables the creation of multi-product, multi-destination itineraries through a patented dynamic packaging engine.

TravelC LogoTravelC is based in Palma de Majorca. The company was started in September 2014 with founders Manuel Aragonés and Vicente Rosselló who both have vast experience in the tourism and technology sectors. In 2015 Travel C won the Emprendedor XXI award for the like best Spanish start-up.

This funding enables TravelC to strengthen market deployment in the United States and consolidate the commercial actions in Europe whilst developing new product and content features.

As part of this transaction TravelC will integrate Hotelerum which was founded in 2010 within the accelerator Inspirit. Hotelerum provides an integral part of the overall TravelC solution by providing contracted hotels to be entered into the platform plus expanding TravelC’s value proposition and addressable markets. The former owners of Hotelerum are also now shareholders of TravelC.

http://www.travelcompositor.com/

The Travel Marketing Store is assisting  TravelC with its go-to-market activities and has already established a highly experienced and well connected business development team on their behalf.

View their entry in The Travel Marketing Directory

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Selling to China via ‘social travel marketplace’, Singapore News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

A team of five Singaporeans has created an online platform for small travel service providers here and worldwide to sell directly to Chinese travellers.

It is led by Internet pioneer and serial entrepreneur Wong Toon King, 49; and former chief executive of financial solutions company Melioris Mak Chee Wah, 48.

They unveiled their plans last month for Wegogo, a “social travel marketplace” on social media platform WeChat.

Businesses can go to Wegogo to sign up for a free account, which will create a microsite on WeChat for them. They can then list their company information, products, contacts and promotions on it.

Upon registration, a QR code that links to the microsite will be generated, which they can use for their marketing collateral.

More than 3,000 providers both here and abroad have signed up thus far, including Raintr33 Hotel Singapore.

EMPOWER AND ENABLE

The Chinese don’t have Facebook or Instagram. What we want to do is empower (operators) to have the ability to talk to them socially. The next step is to enable the commerce.

WEGOGO CHAIRMAN WONG TOON KING, on the “social travel marketplace”.

The platform allows travel operators to tap into the Chinese travel market through WeChat – the most popular messaging app in China – without needing to invest heftily in marketing or IT, said Ms Reene Ho-Phang, 46, Wegogo’s strategic adviser.

She is also managing director of travel marketing and representation firm BrandStory. Also in the team are Mr Yue Yew Hoong, 48, and Mr Richard Tan Boon Piew, 48.

Wegogo chairman’s, Mr Wong, added: “The Chinese don’t have Facebook or Instagram. What we want to do is empower (operators) to have the ability to talk to them socially. The next step is to enable the commerce.”

WeChat supports payments and money transfer. It also has a micro-blogging function where users can post photos and video and share articles.

For a start, the team will highlight operators that offer “authentic local experiences” – for instance, a chilli crab-cooking lesson or home-dining service – through videos focused on people behind the business.

“We have seen a shift in Chinese traveller profiles from sightseeing and only visiting iconic attractions, to engaging in experience-seeking journeys across the world to learn different cultures and to immerse themselves locally,” said Mr Mak.

The team has ambitious plans to cater to the needs and wants of this burgeoning group of travellers.

In 2014, the Chinese made 109 million trips abroad, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation estimated. It predicts that this figure will hit 200 million by 2020.

Singapore, too, has been impacted by the growth. It welcomed 2.1 million Chinese visitors last year, up 22 per cent from the year before.

In future, the team hopes to build an artificial intelligence-based system that tracks online activities of Chinese consumers – what they search for, post and buy – to get a picture of what they want when planning trips.

The team will then match the consumers to the relevant travel service providers. Over time, the goal is to allow businesses to tailor products to match these needs.

“It’s a big idea and it takes time to evolve,” said Mr Wong, who led a group of private investors to back the venture with an angel funding of $500,000.

The idea for the start-up was inspired by the huge potential of the China market, said Mr Mak.

Ms Corina Chong, director of Raintr33 Hotel which opened in December 2014, said: “We all acknowledge that China is a huge market that we can’t ignore. For a relatively new hotel, we’ve reached the stage where we want to look at bigger markets like China. Wegogo gives us an avenue to do that.”

Source: Selling to China via ‘social travel marketplace’, Singapore News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

Online paid search and display ad marketing spend down in travel

A major analysis of the leading websites in the US has painted an interesting picture of some significant changes taking place in online travel.

Web audience metrics provider SimilarWeb examined five categories in the industry – airlines, cruise, accommodation, intermediaries and review/recommendations – to try and understand what is happening around areas such as digital marketing, traffic flows and device usage.

Before the individual sector results, here are some of the overarching findings from the study:

  • Mobile market share has grown year-on-year overall, although some sectors have seen a slight fall.
  • Decrease in spend on paid search, as well as display ads.
  • General fall in social media traffic to travel websites.

SW accomm 8

For each of the sectors under examination, SimilarWeb looked at the top 25 brands in each from an overall traffic perspective.

Accommodation

The top 25 websites account for just over half (54%) of all traffic in the sector, although their combined traffic has decreased by 18% between March 2015 and March 2016.

SW accomm 1

SW accomm 2

Airlines

SW accomm 3

Intermediaries

SW accomm 4

Cruise

SW accomm 5

Review/recommendation sites

SW accomm 6

SW accomm 7

Source: Online paid search and display ad marketing spend down in travel

Under Brexit cloud, travel leaders share experiences of Asia – WIT

The timing of the first WIT Europe in London held last week could not have happened at a more poignant time in the city’s history and travel industry leaders, while grappling with uncertainty, agreed there couldn’t be a better time than now to seize the Asia opportunity.

Every speaker expressed their dismay at the UK decision to leave the EU, with the consensus that the implications will be felt globally, including Asia.

Kenny-Jacobs-photo-websiteKenny Jacobs, chief marketing officer of Ryanair, who had to cancel his appearance at the event citing “having to deal with the fallout of Brexit”, sent this message, “Ryanair, as with all airlines, are disappointed with the referendum result. For the next few months it’s business as usual as Europe and Britain will go on their holidays. After the summer we could be facing a long period of uncertainty as UK politics is in turmoil and the new UK government will have to negotiate the exit with the EU, the single biggest issue for the entire travel business will be maintaining the single market. “If the UK stays in the single market then things should continue as normal and the UK will stay part of open skies, if the UK leaves the single market then we have a lot of complications”.

“We are hopeful and we expect both sides will find a way to maintain the free movement of people. But while the is uncertainty and currency fluctuations businesses including ourselves will be slow to make additional investments in the UK. We have 50 new aircraft joining our fleet next year and we now don’t expect to deploy any of these in the UK market at this stage, instead we will focus on markets that are part of the single market like Italy, Spain and Germany.

“This is not the end of the world but it is a period of unprecedented uncertainty. The UK will be in recession and the UK consumer will travel less and spend less, that is a certainty. On the flip side, a weaker pound will mean Europeans travel to the UK more as their euro goes further and they may want to say goodbye to a wonderful country and fantastic people before Boris and Nigel pull up the drawbridge”.

Hugo Burge

Hugo Burge: “Our mission remains to open our world.”

Hugo Burge, CEO of Momondo Group, said there were too many uncertainties currently to predict the future but called on the industry to be positive and work together to ensure travel’s interests were heard by those in power. Short-term, because of the devaluing of the pound, companies like his are gaining but it is clear they are more concerned with long-term impact and what this could mean for the European Tech Alliance of which it is part.

He said that Momondo’s DNA Journey Youtube video, which has gained more than 120 million views and released in June, could also not have happened at a more poignant time. “Our mission remains to open our world,” he said.

He said, as a geographer, he was blown away by the sheer size and scope of Asia’s potential and that the group would be expanding the cheapflights brand in the region. “It’s a name that works,” he said. “While Europe remains our main focus, the group is now ready to expand beyond and grow in Asia.”

Bobby Healy, CTO of Dublin-based the CarTrawler, while saying Brexit meant opportunities for Dublin – which is positioned as a tech hub and already there are talks by companies in London to move there – said it wasn’t good for travel in general.

Speaking about CarTrawler’s experiences in Asia, he said its focus has been on China, where it’s seeing 180% growth and the mainland is now among its top 14 markets. He admits China is tough to penetrate and private equity-run companies are disadvantaged in that it cannot make the necessary investments necessary to make a dent.

Bobby Healy:

Bobby Healy: “We should have got product and market first before we entered Asia.”

“Create a start-up and get the cash to run,” he advised the audience of close to 100 who turned up to learn about the Asia growth story at the Tate Modern.

To enter China, CarTrawler bought Finland-based Cabforce in 2015 to acquire the necessary technology for the market.

On hindsight, he said of CarTrawler’s Asia strategy, “We should have got product and the market right first before we entered Asia. Our other mistake is not investing enough.”

On Skyscanner’s part, Andy Sleigh, who ran the APAC region out of Singapore for two years before returning to Edinburgh, said between 2013 and 2015, Skyscanner saw rapid growth in average APAC Unique Monthly Visitors and is projecting £30m revenues by 2016.

It’s been hair-raising ride and Asia today is a total turf war, with Sleigh likening it to the TV series, Game of Thrones. He advised companies against spending money on marketing when you do not have the right product and user trust.

Andy Sleigh:

Andy Sleigh: “It’s a commitment that pays you back in spades.”

Japan is one market it’s had good success. Said Sleigh, “Japan is the third largest travel market in the world, with 2015 bookings estimated to rise to $71 billion. The establishment of Skyscanner Japan provides both partners in the joint venture (with Yahoo Japan) an opportunity to accelerate their growth in this important market and offers millions of consumers comprehensive travel options for free. Visitors to Skyscanner’s Japanese site grew 40% in 2014,” said Sleigh.

For China, it bought Youbibi and its founder Steven Pang now runs Skyscanner’s China operations. “Getting the right people is key,” he said, with Healy agreeing. Healy said he had been advised to hire only Chinese women and “you cannot run a business in China by hiring people who look like me”.

Sleigh advised against “seagull management” – “where you fly in, s… on everyone and fly out”.

Skyscanner ran “Immersion” programmes where visiting executives from head office would be given truly immersive experiences in Asia markets.

Leading a team in Asia is all in. “It’s a huge commitment that pays you back in spades. It’s personal hypergrowth, long hours, huge amount of travel. But you make great friends and have unbeatable experiences.

“The Asia travel tech community is incredibly friendly, we need more European businesses to take the plunge.” 

Source: Under Brexit cloud, travel leaders share experiences of Asia – WIT

The Boomers Will Dominate Travel for 20 Years | TravelPulse Marketing Author Brent Green:

Millennials are getting more and more attention in the media, and arebabyboomerso no doubt a rising force in the travel industry.

But Brent Green, an expert on marketing to the baby boom generation and author of Generation Reinvention and Marketing to Leading Edge Baby Boomers, says that the baby boom generation will continue to be the main driving force in the travel industry for the next two decades.“For the next 20 years,” said Green, “baby boomers are without question the financial force behind leisure travel.

”What Green calls the “sweetest of the sweet spot” in that market is the market segment he identifies as “leading edge baby boomers,” those born between 1946 and 1955. In 2016 they are between 61 and 70 years of age.

This demographic, says Green, is “where the opportunities are” for travel agents and tour operators. Quoting AARP, Green says that the 50-plus demographic, which includes five years below the baby boomer age group, is a $120 billion-a-year market. AARP says that 97 percent of that group expect to travel domestically on at least one trip this year, and at least 45 percent anticipate taking some type of international trip.Green also referred to a study done by British Airways, which found that the generation boborn between 1946 and 1961 have a newfound interest in seeing the world as they enter into retirement, though not everyone’s prepared for long-haul travel.

“There is a strong propensity and desire to travel and see the world,’ said Green, “a lot of pent-up demand. But it is a surprisingly small percentage that have gone overseas and view that opportunity as a realistic next step.”

The leading edge boomer generation “feels under-satisfied with the amount of travel they’ve done up to now,” said Green, and the generation has a strong propensity to travel, though some of them are feeling they are not going to be able to afford it, which may or may not be accurate.

According to Green, the “silent generation,” those born from 1925 to 1945, have dominated the industry for the last 10 years as retirees, but now they are moving into their twilight years and their travel interests are waning. Baby boomers are now entering retirement and are becoming a more powerful force than ever.

Not only are they reaching their heavy travel years, the generation also has a particularly pronounced propensity for travel. The generation is also a large demographic and is in control of a lot of wealth and discretionary income. In addition, that demographic has been a trend setter for its whole life. All of these factors converge to make the market a veritable gold mine for the travel industry.

“The leading edge boomers set up a lot of the trends that became mainstream,” said Green. It was the generation that was in college during the Vietnam War and led the protest against it. It was the generation that championed women’s rights and the generation in which women entered the workplace in larger numbers than ever before.

And it was a generation that pushed the frontiers of travel, with hitchhiking in America and backpacking in Europe during their youth. Now as they reach retirement age, they are eager to get back to traveling, though in a more catered manner than when they were young.

The later baby boomers, aged 52-61, are less of a force in the travel industry now because “they are still actively in their careers, some in the peak demands of their careers, still dealing with college kids or with caregiving of their parents. They will age into the travel sweet spot within 10 years.”

Leading edge baby boomers, between 61 and 70, “are prime time for travel right now,” said Green. “And they have the economic capability of higher end travel. Many are retired, semi retired or within a few years of retirement.”

For those travel agents and tour operators who want to maximize the opportunity presented by the entrance of the leading edge baby boomers into the retiree travel market, Green presents several overarching themes that can help travel marketers target that sweet spot.

1. Creative Experiences. “Leading edge baby boomers are looking for something outside of cookie cutter travel experiences,” said Green. “They want immersive activities. They don’t want to just eat pasta, they want to make it. They don’t want to just make it, they want to see where the wheat is grown that makes the pasta. That’s immersive experience and creative experience. Travel companies that get it and are at the leading edge are doing it already.”

2. Authenticity. “They value experiences that are as close to being culturally consistent with where we’ve travelled as possible,” said Green. “You don’t want to go to McDonald’s in Paris. If you think about why people like to get off the beaten path, it is that they are searching for authentic experiences. They want to see the horse-drawn wagon hauling milk or whatever. They want to travel to destinations that are not over travelled.”

3 Focus on Health and Wellness. “People who fit profile of heavy travellers also tend to be people who are very interested in managing their health and wellness,” said Green. “They travel actively. They rent bicycles and go on a 40-mile day trip. They hike 10 miles in Paris. They want to eat well but don’t want to eat globs of cholesterol. They want a healthier diet.”

4. Community and Family. “They value travel that gives them a sense of community, whether it be a university affiliation, an age affiliation or their families. The leading edge boomers are heavily motivated to travel with their children and grandchildren.” Family travel is a market that will continue to grow.

5. Personal Development. “The leading edge boomers desire to have travel enrich them by increasing their depth of understanding of history, culture or what is involved in a place that makes it significant in history,” said Green.

6. Sustainability and Eco Responsibility. Boomers, as well as other generations, are increasingly concerned with environmental responsibility. An important part of this motivation is the desire to be involved in philanthropy or giving back. “They want to tie the travel experience to doing something meaningful to help others. It may include simply travel with philanthropic organization. Or it may be something like going to Peru to build houses or going to Everest but helping to clean up the trails below. Even if it is a superficial level of contribution, if added to the travel experience it can inspire people who don’t have time to give back if they can combine it with a great vacation.”

Within the leading edge baby boomer demographic, there are many opportunities for development, such as increasing multigenerational travel opportunities; celebration vacations, recognizing rites of passage; solo vacations, 40 percent of the generation is now unmarried; girlfriend getaways, more women are traveling with other women; dating vacations, single people want to meet other single people; and spirituality, as people get older they get more interested in spiritual matters.

Another important trend for travel professionals to note is the growing demand for professional travel services. “The boomers can afford more catered travel,” said Green, “and appreciate professional support. They want someone to help plan their trip so they don’t have to worry about anything but showing up.”

Source: Marketing Author Brent Green: The Boomers Will Dominate Travel for 20 Years | TravelPulse

WEGOGO connects travel hosts with Chinese travellers on WeChat

A Singapore and Shanghai-based travel startup has created a business platform on WeChat to enable global tours operators and travel hosts to connect with mobile-savvy Chinese consumers.

Founded in January last year, WEGOGO has launched its services to businesses in Gili Islands and Singapore so far. It is slated to launch in China by the third quarter. Described as a “social discovery AI (artificial intelligence) travel platform for sophisticated Chinese travellers,” WEGOGO focuses on the use of AI to match users with relevant travel hosts, marketing their services directly to them. It uses contextual cues (such as a user’s search history) to model their unique ‘digital imprint’. This information can then help to predict what type of ‘experience’ a traveller is likely looking for. By doing so, WEGOGO hopes to connect smaller tour operators with the booming Chinese outbound travel market (with 200 million outbound travellers predicted by 2020).

“We’re trying to build a platform for understanding the Chinese traveller… anyone (an operator, a guide) should be able to tap into this and make yourself more relevant,” said Wong Toon King (TK), chairman of WEGOGO. It is an attempt to “level the playing field” between smaller operators and bigger players, as strategic advisor Reene Ho-Phang highlighted the reality that many local hosts do not have “the muscle and technology to aim at a global market”.

WEGOGO is backed by a group of private investors led by Wong, who is the managing director of FarSight Capital, and has provided the startup with US$500,000 in angel funding.

WEGOGO Platform | Startup | WIT

WEGOGO will not solely rely on AI to identify what users want. To address the shift in Chinese traveller preferences from being ‘destination-centric’ to ‘experiential tourism’, it will create video content to engage consumers on an emotional level.

Richard Tan Boon Piew, co-founder and COO, emphasised the importance of using storytelling to encourage consumers to go out and discover these unique places.

“We need to go in and find the story to tell… different operators can express their love for that they do. We’re trying to find gems, we don’t need a laundry list of operators.”

WEGOGO also has a “Pathfinders Programme” where bloggers and influencers share their experiences on the platform.

Registration is straightforward and free for travel hosts. Then they are issued a QR code that directs consumers to their micro-site.

Travel hosts can also take charge of their own marketing and promotions on WEGOGO, communicate with prospective customers directly, and conduct all payments online via WePay.

Therefore, virtually every stage of travel (with the exception of ‘experiencing’) can occur within the realm of WeChat.

WEGOGO earns a service fee from providers, but the initial sign up is free. They also use sponsored content.

One critical consideration is how WEGOGO plans to provide quality assurance and a sense of security for its customers, especially as the number of businesses on the platform increases.

Ho-Phang suggests that it can largely be left up to the operators who sign on to WEGOGO, as they are able to share tips and important information with customers before they travel. “This is their area [of expertise]…so they can inform travellers what to look out for.”

Mak believes that the existence of a rating and review system can help customers make their choices. “We can also give some providers WEGOGO verification,” Tan added.

While there are over 630 million users on WeChat (and counting) in China, one potential stumbling block could be how aware international travel hosts are of the social networking app in the first place, as WeChat has struggled in its efforts to go global.

Wong remains optimistic that hosts will readily adopt WeChat once they understand the benefits of WEGOGO for their business.

Source: WEGOGO connects travel hosts with Chinese travellers on WeChat