In this time of global crisis and uncertainty, we put the call out to leaders, CEOs, strategists and consultants to sit down and tell us, in their own words, what is going on and what is going to happen next in this vital global industry.
Ten years ago the concept of user-generated content (UGC) was hardly a blip on the radar for most tourism marketers. Today, it is an essential part of the marketing mix and arguably far more powerful than it's advertising cousin.
Dan Holowack was well ahead of the curve when it came to comprehending the pending importance of UGC in tourism. He is a futurist who saw the inevitable and predicted the powerful role that user-generated content would play in the tourism consumer’s buyer decision process.
Dan is a champion of UGC, peer-validated information and stories and, now more than ever, sees a ‘new normal’ emerging that will change the way we build, run, manage, deliver and capitalize on tourism.
“As we are moving through this crisis, we have to recognize that the changes we're seeing will change our futures forever,” says Dan. “In many ways, it is going to accelerate change and perhaps even compress the amount of change that we would have seen over the next 3-5 years into the next year or 18 months. I think that consumer expectations are rapidly changing through this.”
“...we have to recognize that the changes we're seeing
will change our futures forever”
He sees that in a very short time the consumer has come to demand much, much more from digital. “We've been sheltering in our homes, and we've been online, we've been communicating with businesses a lot more through Instagram and direct messaging. We've been watching more and more content online.” Now more than ever, we expect everything -- every service or product, every experience, every outing and every kind of entertainment -- to start with a digital experience.
The consumer is us, and yes, we are going to demand more from our content from here on in, tourism included.
Discretionary travel is just that, available for use at the discretion of the user. And we will certainly be more discerning about where and when we travel. The images and stories that inspire us to travel, and of course the systems, safety and security we ‘discern’ in those destinations, will all be part of that decision process. And you can bet UGC, peer validation, user reviews and real, compelling local content will play a huge part in both inspiring us and assuaging the concerns of the reemerging public.
Dan believes the current challenges are already creating a unifying force in the industry. “Destinations that have already placed a high priority on engaging stakeholders and have already built pathways which they are now leveraging to have a dramatic and positive outcome in their local communities; It’s the future of tourism.”
As we come out of this crisis, visitors will seek authentic peer-validated content to help them make travel decisions. They will look for destinations where tourism and daily life are clearly integrated and symbiotic… and Dan is hard at work helping it make that happen for progressive destinations.
post-script: We have all had a realization at some point in the middle of this crisis that we, personally could have been more digital whether it was on our first ‘big’ video conference call or while trying to move a misbehaving shared Google Doc to a new file. The technology that is powering our ability to shop from home, to video conference, to check local outlets for inventory and hours, to navigate safe passage, to effortlessly communicate in real time with our friends, family and peers… that technology has been sitting in place for nearly 10 years. For the people I've been talking to around the world these past six weeks, leaders and trailblazers, there really is a shared, simmering guilt over the fact that we haven’t embraced, leveraged or championed it to the BEST of our abilities or its capabilities. So let’s get on with it!
David Peacock, May 8/2020