Introducing: Influencer Labs

At Flip.to, we’re big believers in taking hospitality marketing to a new frontier. We share in celebrating experiences from travelers around the world, and work with folks truly passionate about providing top notch service at incredible destinations.

Somewhere, travel marketing got away from all of that, at the expense of hotels and travelers alike. So we set out to make things right.

Polished product aside, we knew this wouldn’t be a project we’d undertake alone. Nope. This would be an all-hands call with the goal of threading together perspectives from the best in the hospitality industry (and beyond) into a new fabric that defines great marketing.

That’s a pretty lofty task. So where did we start? Naturally, we called a few friends.

INFLUENCER LABS WERE BORN

Orlando Influencer Lab agenda

The idea for the labs was pretty simple. Invite some of the brightest minds in the local community to share their thoughts, spark the conversation, and then let it meander wherever our thought-leaders take it.

Ultimately we landed on very small, by-invitation events held with industry insiders on how to move travel forward—the type of honest conversation that can only happen in an intimate group of smart folks.

From broad topics in marketing, to a “mission to Mars” Elon Musk-style discussion, the groundwork was laid.

THE PILOTS: WHERE CONVERSATION TO MOVE TRAVEL FORWARD ALL BEGAN

Next up was to get the labs off the ground. To do so, we narrowed down three cities from coast-to-coast to be our experiments. And to fuel great conversation, we hosted dinner & compelling dialog with top minds in travel.

Influencer Lab: Orlando

The Alfond Inn

The good company:

  • Maurice Arbelaez, Corporate Director of Sales & Marketing, Vista Cay Resort by Millenium
  • Susan Keaveney, Marketing Director, The Shores Resort & Spa
  • Tony Aslanian, Director of Sales & Marketing, BENCHMARK, A Global Hospitality Company
  • Kit McClelland, Director of Sales and Marketing, Caribe Royale All Suite Hotel and Convention Center
  • Jessica Purslow, Area Director of Sales, TravelClick

Hosted by:

  • Richard Dunbar, Director of Partnerships, Flip.to
  • Diane Van Leunen, Director of Marketing, Flip.to

The biggest takeaways:

  • An all-Central-Florida cast and crew, this inaugural lab is where it all started. (In our hometown, no less.) Our influencers honed in on what matters most—beyond technology, marketing, and everything else—hospitality.
  • Hoteliers consistently go above and beyond when a guest is on property to exceed expectations. Now it’s time to take that same passion everywhere else: like your marketing, digital experiences, communication before and after the stay, and more.
  • Why? Sparking conversations and building relationships is at its heart what this industry is all about. So make sure that no matter how you’re interacting with your guest, that’s the intent that shows through.

Influencer Lab: Myrtle Beach

Travinia Italian Kitchen

The good company:

  • Alex Husner, CMO, Condo-World
  • Pete DiMaio, Director of Client Success, Fuel Travel
  • Matt Klugman, DOSM, Vacation Myrtle Beach Resorts
  • Patrick Norton, VP of Sales & Marketing, Brittain Resorts & Hotels
  • Josh Williams, Digital Marketing Director, Visibility and Conversions
  • Jacob Smith, Marketing Manager, Sandy Beach Resort
  • Jay McLaurin, Market Manager, Expedia

Hosted by:

  • Richard Dunbar, Director of Partnerships, Flip.to
  • Stuart Butler, COO, Fuel Travel

The biggest takeaways:

  • In Myrtle Beach, the market knows that to win travelers, you must first win them for the destination. After all, if you’re bidding for someone that wants to head to say, New York, and you’re in Myrtle Beach, they’re not likely booking your property anytime soon.
  • Taking this to heart, Myrtle Beach has become the example of “a rising tide lifts all boats,” working collaboratively from the ground up. And it’s been a win-win-win: for the destination, for their properties, and for the travelers.
  • The takeaway? Working together matters—and even promotes healthy competition—thanks to a healthy market.

Influencer Lab: Seattle

Edgewater Hotel

The good company:

  • Andrew Assante, Vice President Business Development, VR Cinematic​
  • Meredith Mara, Vice President, Sales, Coastal Hotel Group
  • Lindley Ferris, Vice President Marketing and Account Services, GCommerce
  • Frances Somers, Senior Marketing Manager, Content & Voice, Amazon Restaurants
  • Brent Lindberg, Principal and Founder, Fuseneo
  • Jenny Bullock, Senior Marketing Manager, Strategic Partnerships, Expedia, Inc.

Hosted by:

  • Diane Van Leunen, Director of Marketing, Flip.to
  • Raul Vega, Senior Director of Sales, Flip.to

The biggest takeaways:

  • Looking beyond our industry is a must. As shown by the diverse set of backgrounds who joined us at this lab, our industry should constantly be looking outward for ideas on better serving travelers.
  • So, where do you start? Consider that no matter the path-to-purchase, in every industry it’s all about anticipating the needs of people, and better serving the personal needs of those people at every step along the way. And at the end of the day, people want to be inspired, not sold to.
Influencer Lab: Seattle, hosted at the famed Edgewater Hotel
Influencer Lab: Seattle, hosted at the famed Edgewater Hotel

2019: TAKING INFLUENCER LABS WORLDWIDE

It was obvious from the pilot labs that something was sticking. And we knew that it was time to take this type of conversation to a larger scale.

So, back to boldly taking hospitality to a brand new frontier… 2019 has a ton in store, with labs lined up across the country and around the globe. In fact, the first few are already taking shape:

  • Influencer Lab: Montego Bay
  • Influencer Lab: Denver
  • Influencer Lab: Maho Beach

Be on the lookout for more to come from each of these regions, with lots of opportunity to join the conversation. Collaboration and bringing new ideas to light are musts in order to set a new course and move travel forward, together.

New watchlist: Reimagined marketing that’s traveler-first

We’ve made our rounds on everything from revenue management to marketing and beyond. After picking up a few things along the way, we’re happy to share them with you.

Join hosts Stuart Butler and Richard Dunbar as we talk relationship-building, infusing real hospitality into your marketing, and inspiring every traveler’s journey to your property in four webisodes.

Stay up-to-date with more videos in the series, sent right to your inbox.




We’ll share these thought-starters straight to your inbox, once weekly. What’s that look like?

Webisode 1:  Fueling great storytelling

Set your marketing apart by providing real value to your audience. We’ll share how this mindset nurtures long-term relationships with your travelers that keeps them coming back.

Webisode 2: Fundamentals first

Tune into the importance of infusing the same hospitality you show on property into to your marketing strategy, nailing the basics and growing from there.

Webisode 3: Getting better every day
How to level up your marketing by caring for your brand and your guests.

Webisode 4: Nurture lasting relationships

In our final webisode, we talk strategies to create memorable experiences that keep your guests coming back again and again.

At Flip.to and Fuel, we work hard to help travel brands around the world level up their marketing. Tune in below, and join us in the conversation—as we tackle challenges in travel together.

Four get-yourself-thinking tenets of marketing from travel pros

If there’s one thing we learned from Hacktoberfest, it’s that you really can’t go wrong with great product & brats.

A few special guests came by to leave their stamp on the creative process, and though the event has come to a close, here’s some of what’s stuck with us:


Jason Holic, VP of Digital Marketing at Experience Kissimmee

Understand your traveler’s intent

Jason got a firsthand look at the early stages of our creative process. A longtime destination marketer, he gave his take on the importance of understanding a traveler’s intent in order to connect with them.

“One of the challenges we have is recognizing what the intent of the visitor is on their customer journey.

Are they just looking for inspiration? Are they committed to the destination? Where do we fall on their journey? Do they already know they’re coming to Central Florida or are they in that in-between stage? Or do they just want to know what else there is to do or where to stay? That’s the challenge: figuring out where they are on that path.

As destination marketers, we really need to figure out their place in that journey and also what their level of intent is in order to serve up the content that is most likely going to resonate with them further down that path until they ultimately convert and visit us.”

 

Zach Stovall, Travel photographer, videographer & writer at Zach Stovall Photography

Tell a better brand story

Zach brought his 15+ years of experience in visual storytelling to the mix. On top of being unofficially awarded “Most Authentic Lederhosen,” he shared examples of compelling imagery that helps properties tell a better story.

“[Hotels] need to keep their own stories in mind so they can connect with the appropriate guest for them.

A good story is cohesive, has a solid start, weaves through the whole story process, keeps the reader or the viewer engaged, all the way to the end. It’s all about setting the scene and making it dramatic.

I think it’s important that resorts and hotels use that in all of their marketing.

When they use people to support their marketing, then they can speak more to their ideal guest and they can interact with your brand.”

 

Dr. Dan Spellman, Course Director – Digital Marketing & Personal Leadership at Full Sail University

Start with your “Why”

Dr. Dan shared a historical on how hospitality has changed digitally over the last two decades along with some real-world challenges hoteliers face—and tied all of it back to why. (It’s not his first rodeo here at Flip.to.)

“I was inspired by Simon Sinek’s book, “Start With Why.” I focused on this when talking to hoteliers about their business.

Why are you in the hospitality business? What drives you? What is your motivation when you come to work?

We also looked at our personal why. For me, it was digital media. Things are constantly changing and improving from a digital marketing standpoint.

We would discuss this approach with everyone from top level staff to services. We all wanted the same thing: to serve the guest. And the way each and every hotel does that is different.”

 

Christina Leake, Social Media Director at Westgate Resorts

Unveil experiences

Christina and the team chatted all things travel marketing, from guest storytelling to content marketing, and from the big picture down to the day-to-day application.

“When I first arrived, we were very real estate focused, using a lot of room and interior shots that weren’t resonating with the audience. Almost immediately, we decided to flip the switch to marketing around the experiential—what people are doing while they are on property, around the area, and in the city they are visiting.

By doing that, our audiences have grown exponentially. Our click through rate and revenue have increased as well. Being able to highlight the experiences helps us not only sell the place—it helps us sell the story.”

 


Behind really great product is a lot of collaboration, dynamic teamwork, and, of course, a bit of fun.

And this meeting of the minds was just the start. We’re excited to unveil more in the coming weeks, so be sure to follow us for the big reveal.

Fuel Webisodes_Blog_Banner

Best of the web: Our favorite headlines from September

We’re halfway through September, which means—besides the fact that we’re jamming to Earth, Wind and Fire more than usual—we’re at the tail end of peak season for those of our hospitality friends and customers with especially busy summers.

With everyone’s full schedules in mind, we combed through this summer’s marketing headlines to give you the tl;dr (too-long-didn’t-read) on everything from new regulations, to the ROI of social media.


Technology trends in the hotel industry: Spotlight on Jordan Hollander

From a thought leader on trailblazing hospitality tech: We love a good conversation with hospitality’s movers and shakers, and this chat with Hotel Tech Report’s Jordan Hollander is especially great. Hollander sat down with Digital Intent to talk industry challenges in their Disruptors podcast. He touched on why, at times, innovation can be difficult to navigate within hotel organizations. To help, he also shared some key examples of how to move quickly and overcome hurdles.

Plus, he made some nice mentions for a lot of the folks we call friends—like ALICE App, Highgate Hotels, Travel Tripper, and more.

TL;DR: Hollander identified some of hospitality’s challenges, like slowness to adapt and digitize. His team built Hotel Tech Report to help hotels to incorporate tech into their operation and help innovative vendors to gain market share.

Harvard Business Review's What You Need to Know about California's New Data Privacy Law

On data, privacy & relationship-building: This spring, marketers around the world focused a lot of energy on compliance for the European Union’s GDPR, elevating the urgency of protecting customer data and relationship-focused marketing.

Now, all eyes are on California’s new data protection law that brings this topic to the US. Harvard Business Review passed along the need-to-know details on the law and what it means for marketers moving forward. (Bonus material: You can find a few more great takes on this topic here, here and here.)

TL;DR: As data protection laws arrive stateside, taking great care of guests’ data is even more critical. Marketing and communication that’s focused on building relationships with travelers and nurturing them along the way isn’t just a best practice—it’s where marketing is ultimately headed.

The ROI of Social Media Infographic from HospitalityNet

On social by the numbers: Social media is, of course, one of the most powerful tools for marketers when harnessed correctly, but measuring impact can be challenging at times—so HospitalityNet stepped up to give us the essential stats on tracking ROI. According to CMO’s, they’re spending 12% of their budgets on social, with that number expected to rise to 20% in the next 5 years. That’s a large chunk of hard-earned marketing dollars, so understanding the value, and how social ties back to a business impact is critical.

At Flip.to, we’ve found that using these channels to let travelers introduce properties and destinations to new audiences is one of the most authentic ways to use social (and we work hard to make sure those interactions are super trackable as well).

TL;DR: Many marketers look at social engagement (likes and comments), but find it challenging to track the sales impact. Only 20% of CMOs say they’ve quantified the business impact (with marketing agencies reporting similarly). So if you’re scratching your head to put numbers to those conversions, you’re not alone.

Destination Think! Sparking genuine word-of-mouth is always a best practice

On marketing your destination by word-of-mouth: Destination Think! not only delved into the importance of truly organic word-of-mouth in marketing, but also strategies for sparking it. They also noted the importance of tourism advocacy, as well as using stories and community to forge lasting relationships with travelers.

The bottom line? The importance of authentically reaching audiences on social can’t be overstated—building trust instead of simply trying to shout over an already noisy conversation. (We’ve said it before, and we’ll said it again!) Letting your travelers spread the word about your destination organically on a massive scale is the best way to reach new audiences.

TL;DR: Letting your travelers be the storytellers for your destination powerfully sparks word-of-mouth marketing and relationships with new audiences. Community-building wins out over clickbait every time. Your marketing should have a CTA that is directly relevant and captivating to the reader.


What news caught your eye this summer, and what do you think is next on the horizon? Drop us a line, and we’ll feature it next time.

Cardinal rules: how marketing got off track and a new era ushered in change

Conversations on marketing and data are no longer confined within the walls of brands alone. As headlines around the world show, now more than ever the general public wants to know that brands are trustworthy, especially when it comes to how their personal information is being used.

To really get better, it’s important to understand why these events came to be in the first place. As we see it, they’re in large part (long overdue) fixes to spammy marketing practices, fake news, clickbait, and the like, that have people fed-up. And so change is happening.

Now we’re setting out to help travel marketers adapt. Below, I discuss a short history of how we landed here, plus the first step–being a good steward of customer data, and thus a better marketer:

 

There are some wins in all of this, too.

While immediate changes in how we market day-to-day might change, the truth is that these changes will also help us build our most engaged audience. And that means building stronger relationships with our travelers and customers, too.

Subscribe below if you want to stay up-to-date with more videos in the series, including a deeper dive into opt-in strategies and segmentation. Plus, we love collaborating with movers and shakers in the industry to make travel better.

Stay up-to-date with more videos in the series, sent right to your inbox.



Opt in (to better marketing): the real intent of GDPR

There’s only days left until the May 25th deadline for GDPR compliance. Since our primer last month, we’ve continued to put a lot of thought into the regulation, its role in the marketing landscape, and traveler-focused approaches.

That’s also meant making observations on how marketers the world around are handling it, too. Today, we got a fresh face on camera—Max, one of our front-end developers—to share some of our thoughts about one of the more rigorous aspects of GDPR compliance: opt-in and consents.

 

The bottom line: the intent of GDPR is to make us all better marketers. Steer clear of less-than-stellar methods that don’t treat your travelers’ data with care. A good rule? Practice the same hospitality your property or brand provides during their visit in the digital world, too.

By shifting not only your marketing strategy but also your approach to handling traveler interactions online, you’ll build a more engaged audience than ever before—and that’s a great thing.

Want to talk about leveling up your marketing and starting better conversations with travelers (before or beyond May 25)? Give us a shout.

We’re excited to become better marketers together!

Integrating local experiences to differentiate your hotel

At Flip.to, we’re constantly working with people in the industry that inspire us. Here’s a special post from our friend Nancy Huang, Marketing Director at Travel Tripper. Join us for more on experiential marketing during our webinar on May 3!

With travel inherently rooted in destinations, it’s vital for hospitality companies to provide customers with high-quality local offerings. In recent years, there has been an even stronger push for hotels to deliver more authentic and integrated experiences, perhaps due to the preferences of the Millennial generation and the advent of the social media age. Today’s travelers want more than just a place to stay; they want to truly connect with the destination. Hotels can satisfy this need by integrating local products and activities into their amenities and offerings.

Organizing local activities

In addition to local products, hotels can also arrange for activities that allow guests to experience the destination in a way that goes beyond what’s typically found in tourist guides. Airbnb is currently experimenting with a new product, Experiences, which allows local residents to sell their own guided tours, similar to the way hosts offer up places to stay.

Guests can book such experiences as city tours, food and drink tastings, hikes, and bike excursions, which are only made available to them after they complete a booking on the site. Currently Airbnb’s experiences are only offered in San Francisco and Paris, but if things go well the company may expand the product to other cities.

Generator Hostels, part of a new breed of boutique hostel, offers its own events in the eight European cities where it has properties. Guests can take part in a group tapas tour in Barcelona, play petanque in Paris, sample whiskeys in Dublin, and much more. Each of the design-forward “poshtels” reflects its local culture and history. The branch in Berlin’s hip Mitte neighborhood, for example, celebrates the area’s thriving art scene. Generator also provides high-quality content in comprehensive guides of each of its markets, and even facilitates opportunities for guests to meet local residents.

Crafting your own unique offerings

When brainstorming ways to integrate local experiences into your own hotel’s special offers, amenities and packages, make sure to cater to a wide range of interest areas. Local food and products are always good places to start, and they’re easy to source and offer to guests.

It’s important to note that while higher quality local products can be more expensive than generic equivalents, they are worth it for the elevated experience, and can actually lower shipping costs since they’re transported from nearby. These products can be sold in the hotel’s gift shop, or offered complimentary as trial size toiletries or snacks in guest rooms.

When it comes to crafting local experiences, find ways to allow your guests to experience the destination as residents would. For example, instead of a typical guided city tour, craft a run or bike tour that takes guests through your city’s most scenic parks and walkways.

Another route is to create social experiences in which guests can meet and interact with local residents. Generator Hostels frequently hosts art and music events featuring local DJs, musicians, artists, and more. Roger Smith in New York City, which displays local art throughout the hotel, frequently hosts art talks and discussions that are open for guests and the public. Also consider the benefits of incorporating social media influencers into these local experiences, as they can bring an added layer of promotion and PR to the event.

All destinations are unique, so take advantage of your property’s neighboring community and everything it has to offer. Take time to fully explore the surrounding area’s history and culture, and come up with creative methods to commemorate them.

Incorporating local products

As farm-to-table dining has become increasingly praised for quite some time, hotels have also been adopting sustainable, environmentally friendly practices for their food and beverage offerings. Travelers are keen to sample local cuisine, and if ingredients come from nearby farms or the hotel’s own rooftop garden, then they will be all the more impressed.

And it’s not just smaller, boutique properties that are hopping on the culinary bandwagon. Even chain hotels are attempting to appeal to business travelers with discerning culinary tastes. Hyatt, for example, requires all of its restaurants to feature at least five local ingredients in their menu offerings. Drink lists are also being upgraded, with hotels across the globe offering beers brewed on-site.

Provenance Hotels does a particularly good job of telling a location-based story through the hotel experience. In addition to designing each hotel around a unique local theme and decorating its properties with locally produced art, Provenance offers its guests an array of local products so they can learn about the businesses flourishing in nearby areas. In Portland’s Hotel Lucia, for example, guests can sample local hand-harvested salt and handcrafted olive oil, as well as Bee Local honey, which is produced on the hotel’s own roof.

GDPR: A primer for everyone in travel

GDPR. It’s a regulation that, in just over a month, will have a huge impact for marketers everywhere. While building compliance into our platform, we’ve gotten a ton of questions as to why it’s important, and how we’re handling the shift.

To help, we’re raising awareness industry-wide with a primer on how it affects all of us in travel:

 

To go further, we’re sharing what else we’ve learned.

For one thing, there’s the possibility that your existing marketing database is at risk. Legal counsel or insurance providers may stop use without proof that it’s in compliance. In the short-term, this potentially invaluable asset is where your focus should be.

If you’d like information about de-risking your database, get in touch with us here. We’ll share a usable fix to segment existing audiences, while kicking off a marketing campaign that’s a win for everyone involved.

In the meantime, check out AdWeek’s full take and let us know how you’re preparing for the long-term.

Set to go beyond data, we see it as a way to get into personal conversations that are expected and wanted by your travelers—leveling up all of us as travel marketers.

60 days in: How Tourism Australia won the Super Bowl

It’s been 60 days since the Philadelphia Eagles upset the New England Patriots at Super Bowl LII.

If you’re anything like me, though, what stuck with you wasn’t the game. I’m talking commercials—and the storytelling of brands who shelled out millions of dollars for their moment in the advertising spotlight.

And this year, thanks to Tourism Australia, destination marketing took center stage. Since the drop of the newest Dundee movie campaign, we’ve all been waiting in anticipation for what’s next for the brand.

Today, we speak to why it worked, the impact of Australia’s faux-film so far, and what the future looks like. Take a look!

 

For more on the Dundee campaign and its long-term impact for travel marketing in Australia, check out what the Drum and NewsComAu had to say, and be sure to tune in to the Why Australia video series.

Plus, let us know what you thought and be sure to follow along with Allison Schult, Hunter and me, here—we’d love to connect with you!

Audiences and influencers: the good, the bad and the fake

Reaching & inspiring quality audiences has always been a cornerstone of any effective travel marketing strategy. But now, more than ever, there are more factors to consider—from demographic, to conversion, to even the realness of the audience (all thanks to bots and “follower factories”).

Plus once found, how do you find and speak to those audiences in meaningful ways? Today, we cover this and more with our take on understanding your target audience and sparking authentic conversations.

 

For more on reaching real audiences, check out tnooz, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal for their takes, or reach out to me—I can’t wait to hear from you!