What a shift toward first-party data means for destination marketers

As the subject of online privacy makes daily headlines in news outlets around the world, destination marketers are taking note. Consumers are more aware of their online privacy, and the oft poor marketing tactics that threaten it.

Big tech companies like Google are committing to the strategy, declaring its intention to send third-party cookies the way of Flash.

In doing so, the tech giant is putting privacy first—though without completely leaving publishers and other advertisers out in the cold.

As marketers in the destination space ourselves, we’ve long been talking about marketing practices that needed to change, specifically in travel. Not in an effort to make marketing harder, but to make it better. Better for the traveler and better for business.

We’re happy to say that destination marketers are leaning in, with the privacy-first approaches centered on first-party data. We spoke to growth innovator and longtime destination marketer Scott Schult for his take.

As Scott shares and Google demonstrates, putting your audience and your community front-and-center is the core of a great marketing plan. Having better conversations with these people—as real people—and earning their trust is a well-regarded, privacy-first approach.

That turns into more meaningful insight which builds stronger business—so long as you protect your audience.

As our audience, we’re putting you first, too. We’d love to hear about the first-party data strategy your destination uses at zstovall@flip.to.

Hacktoberfest: What happens when design is in your DNA

Thursday's Hacktoberfeast potluck

It’s a wrap—our inaugural Hacktoberfest is in the books.

This all-hands-on-deck hackathon-style event brought our teams together to create an all new feature for the platform, from end-to-end, that reimagines how to tell the visual narrative of a travel brand.

A few special guests joined along the way to collaborate, and after three days of hard work, group think and great food, the project started taking shape.

Here’s a one-minute look at what happened:


The week in review

A huge thank you to all of our Hacktoberfest guests!

Throughout the week, there was lots of fun to be had with our team members near and far. From daily “Hackachat” check-in’s, to Thursday’s “Hacktoberfeast” potluck, there was no shortage of Gemütlichkeit—and outstanding teamwork along the way.

Among our top highlights? Visits from a few special guests who share our passion for hospitality and lederhosen.

They brought their expertise in destination marketing, visual storytelling and all things digital, while putting their stamp on the creative process.

A huge “danke schön” to Zach Stovall, Jason Holic, Christina Leake and Dan Spellman for stopping by!

Starting (and ending) with our why

Hacktoberfest: hard work, group think and German-style celebration

Hacktoberfest was more than trying our hand at pronouncing German words and getting to break out the Flip.to robot. These three days were a chance to hone all of our team’s talents in one place, putting our heads together to trailblaze travel marketing. As Zach commented during his time with us, the more creative minds coming together, the more incredible the outcome.

At Flip.to, design is in our DNA. We know that great marketing isn’t just about having a polished final product—it’s about innovation and solving real challenges for travel marketers to help them do what they do even better.

Hacktoberfest brought this to the forefront. In the following weeks, look for more about the event and what’s coming to the platform soon.

2018 Hospitality Technology Study, uniting hotelier and vendor technology perspectives, now available worldwide

Fuel Travel, StayNTouch and Flip.to examine technology trends to better align suppliers with industry wants and needs

ORLANDO, FL — July 19, 2018 — Fuel Travel, StayNTouch and Flip.to have partnered to launch a new study that examines perspectives from hoteliers and suppliers on industry technology. First debuted exclusively for attendees of the HITEC Hospitality Technology Show in June, the results are now being distributed globally.

The study surveyed hoteliers and suppliers to learn how the industry can improve from a technology perspective, with key takeaways for readers from both groups:

  • For hospitality decision-makers, the results provide guidance on the latest technology trends, as well as opportunities to invest valuable resources for growth.
  • For suppliers, the study informs ideas on the most pressing technology issues facing the hotel industry today.

With data surveyed from 358 respondents—all responsible for purchasing or selling technology in hospitality—the study is unique from other research in that it goes beyond standard reporting to identify similarities and differences in priorities for where the industry and travel technology should be headed.

Overall, the results showed many positive indicators that hoteliers and suppliers are closely aligned.

Take, for instance, considerations for a new PMS. The factors which were “most important” for respondents from both groups fell in sync, with ease of use and seamless integration topping the list. In fact, the need for improved integration between existing products garnered a strong consensus from respondents. Guest experience was also a top priority.

Frewoini Golla, Director of Marketing for StayNTouch noted why findings like this are so critical for industry growth. “Better understanding where priorities lie helps vendors stay in tune with the challenges our customers are responsible for, and how we can serve their needs while topping their goals.”

Other areas where the study reported similarities and differences include factors influencing marketing spend, perspectives on new and emerging technology, and the process for considering new technology purchases.

Stuart Butler, Chief Operating Officer of Fuel Travel said of the results, “As vendors of this space, our eyes are fixed on the trajectory of travel technology and marketing, so having a better understanding of the wants and needs of those in the front-lines of hospitality really helps us all get better together.”

Richard Dunbar, Director of Partnerships at Flip.to echoed this sentiment. “It’s really important that we focus on helping our customers and all of the industry move the needle. The results of this survey have opened up a really compelling dialogue to grow the industry, today.”

To get your free copy of 2018 Hospitality Technology Study, download it here.


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!

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!

JAPEX 2017: tackling tough challenges in the Caribbean

At the moment I’m writing this article, I’ve just returned from the JAPEX conference in Jamaica. Now, I’ve traveled to the Caribbean islands a number of times, both for work and fun. The hospitality, the people, the energy are fantastic (as we’ve shared ourselves first hand.)

But this trip was different.

Javier Morales, Co-founder at Social Caddie, talks to the audience at JAPEX 2017.

Not in the way you’d think. The hospitality was still top notch. The people? As friendly and welcoming as ever. And the speakers and attendees at JAPEX were all incredibly insightful.

But it was also grounded.

What I took away from JAPEX went well beyond the usual micro-level discussions that typically embody an event like this. It was the broad spectrum: an impressive (and sometimes sobering) macro-level look at challenges in the Caribbean that took the stage—from competing on a global scale to the recent hurricanes and more.

Working together to compete globally

Over the last several years, the Caribbean has excelled at marketing itself as a highly accessible, dream destination. And this is a good thing. My fellow panelist at the event, and Co-founder at Social Caddie, Javier Morales chimed in nicely as to why:

“It’s important for the Caribbean to be identified as a region. Organizations like the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association have been created as a major resource for all the islands. By pooling their resources, coming together as region helps them all have access to information and programs to succeed as a whole.”

This has helped introduce more travelers to the region, raising awareness on the global level up against other warm climate destinations. But it poses a unique dichotomy: the need to make known that the Caribbean is more than the sum of its parts.

A recent example? Hurricanes Irma and Maria—both which have come and gone, leaving effects that will linger for years.

Not surprisingly, that poses a problem for the unaffected islands as well as the entire region. Some destinations in the region won’t be visitor-ready in the foreseeable future, and the perception is that the Caribbean isn’t quite as attractive for that dream vacation it’s known and loved for.

Except that it is.

The Caribbean is comprised of more than 30 destinations with thousands of islands totaling over 95k square miles, making it an eclectic mix of unique and independent travel locales. In fact, CHTA partners with 1,000 hotels and allied members plus 32 National Hotel Associations to help shape the future of tourism in the region.

You can’t minimize the devastation for some of the island nations. But it remains a small percentage of the total area—with tourism in many of the areas continuing to grow. (And the others working diligently to bounce back.)

Putting out in force that in spite of the storms, the nations of the Caribbean are open for business is a must. Javier had a few more adds on the steps every island nation can take:

“Nearly every island has a tourism board or association to help market their destination. Islands should showcase their unique features to stand out in the group. Destinations and their hotels can work together to highlight these features and compete against other global destinations.”

Diversifying your marketing—at the regional, destination, and hotel levels

Another challenge that surfaced is one that’s more relatable for us mainlanders: OTA dependency. The core of this issue is a tough one to overcome.

The United States is a key feeder market for the region as a whole, and in the US we love to drive. It’s as much a part of our culture as baseball and BBQs. So when we visit our friends in the South, there’s more to the travel planning process. This is an arena where OTAs excel, making it incredibly easy to book an entire trip in one sitting.

We know dependency on any one channel can be risky. And while OTAs help put heads in beds, they don’t help in the long term to build relationships with your travelers to keep them coming back again and again.

Diversifying where and how you’re winning business is the first step to becoming less dependant on any single channel. The goal? Reach new travelers, and reach them in a better way.

Javier offered a few tips to start:

“The online world has changed and small destinations and hotels can now compete with the big guys. A well-developed website, strong SEO plan and social media strategy can help brands of all sizes get their fair share of the market.”

Another way? Advocacy. Arguably one of the most compelling ways to make an introduction, advocacy lets travelers to your region or hotel deliver an authentic perspective to a like-minded audience—by the thousands.

Rather than relying on the consumer to discover your marketing (or vice versa), those who’ve lived the experience are sharing the most memorable aspects with people they know. Trust comes built in, so the message is delivered clearly and effectively.

Writing the stories of the Caribbean

Not only is advocacy a remarkable tool for telling the story, (rather the stories,) of every Caribbean destination, it piggybacks on what the market is doing as a whole: inspiring new travelers by giving those who visit an opportunity to share their dream vacation—and those best equipped to do just that are arriving on the islands by the hour.

Pro tips: kickstarting a career in the travel industry

When I first joined the hotel marketing world, I was given empowering and inspiring advice from coworkers and friends. Those words of wisdom helped me confidently dive head first into the industry. Now I’d like to pay it forward.

So I tapped the shoulders of coworkers, friends, partners, and mentors to share what they’ve learned along the way and what advice they have for newcomers in the travel industry.

Get the scoop on what they had to say below:

Patrick Grimes
Travel Sales & Marketing Veteran


Patrick has worn many hats in this industry, chiefly because others are quick to recognize his talent and initiative. Patrick’s advice comes from years of dedication to the industry and, of course, really hard (but smart) work.

Sweat every day. Literally or figuratively. Continue to move. When you don’t, you will struggle. Be in the sun. Get and stay uncomfortable.

Dream then do. Stay “creatively focused.” An idea is good but don’t let it wander into an infinite ether. What’s the first thing you need to do to action the idea, then what’s the second? Move forward with what’s worthy of your time and talents.

Go with your gut. Don’t ever second guess yourself and wonder, “Is this right?” Your accomplishments will be the sum of your instinct, ambition, and actions. Do it, then assess and learn.

Shelby Cunningham — Business Development Manager


Shelby is an industry vet who truly practices what she preaches. She promotes and embraces the philosophy that partnerships are give and take, never hesitating to lend a helping hand when needed.

I would give myself a twist on one of my favorite travel quotes—‘voyage, travel, and change of place impart vigor’—and recommend that I truly embrace all the passion that this industry holds—within each company vision, within the people who bring travel to life for others, and within each conference, partnership, and new friendship found.

This passion, this ‘vigor,’ this energy is what propels my commitment to continuing to grow and learn as a person, a fellow industry employee, and a participant in travel itself.

Chris Kane — Account Director of Leisure Sales
Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin


Chris’s advice on networking should be heeded, not just because it’s correct, but because it’s coming from an expert. There are networkers in this industry, and then there’s Chris Kane. But don’t watch him work a room…you should be networking instead!

For those just starting out—try to intern whenever possible. It’s a great way to get your foot in the door, learn a new skill set and of course hopefully lead to a paying job. Companies like to hire from within and what a better way to put yourself out there as a candidate.

NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK! You never know what doors can open by networking and getting to know your travel industry peers. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know that gets you up in the travel industry ladder that much faster.

Avoid burning bridges with travel industry peers, bosses, and executives. You never know in your next steps down the career path whom you could be working with/for!

Find a mentor whenever possible. Their career experience and insight can be a huge asset to your own development, plus free first-hand education.

Wade Lindquist — Vice President of Sales


I met Wade at the ROC conference in New Orleans and became quick friends! He’s been in the industry for over 15 years and has a wealth of experience in hospitality sales and marketing.

If I knew back in the early 2000’s what I know today I would have:

1. Gone to college with an emphasis in hospitality.

2. Started helping hotels realize that they can directly market and compete against the OTA’s much earlier in my career—and might have been able to put a dent in their reliance on OTA’s several years earlier.

However, I could not be happier to be where I am today. I’m more passionate than ever about what I do and the industry I am blessed to be able to call my home!

Lola Feiger — Digital Marketing


ALICE & Flip.to always find each other in the same room at the industry’s biggest hospitality events. And when you’re in a room full of incredible talent, you meet great people—and that’s where we met Lola.

It would have been helpful to know early on that it’s good to experiment at the start to find your highest performing channel, but then you should narrow your focus quickly. Channels we focused a lot of resources on, like social media and paid social, wound up not being very useful for us, as hotel decision makers don’t spend a lot of time there.

I’d also tell newcomers that if they’re considering outsourcing their PR to professionals, they should direct the PR team’s attention primarily to getting mainstream consumer press and industry event speaking invitations, since running press releases and publishing in the hotel trades can be easily done on your own.

Sam Trotter — Corporate Brand Strategist
Charlestowne Hotels


When he’s not writing for HNN or working on marketing campaigns for Charlestowne Hotels, he’s welcoming newcomers to the industry with a beer and friendly conversations.

For your long term career having a big name matters often times more than your experience. I come from a family of small businesses and have always been too entrepreneurial for that type of environment, but missing that recognizable brand held me back from positions I was more than qualified for earlier on in my career.

I would recommend camping out at Google/Salesforce/Amazon/etc. until someone agrees to hire you!

Scott Robbins — Director of Sales & Marketing
The LA Hotel Downtown


Scott has spent the last 15 years mastering the world of sales and marketing at independent and branded properties. He’s sharp, persistent, and always answers his phone!

Working for a branded property (Marriott, Hilton) can give an individual wonderful experience in sales 101, but when it comes to marketing, that area tends to elude sales folks in the beginning of their careers since the branded properties have departments and dedicated folks that focus solely on the marketing side of the business.

The biggest exposure to the marketing arena is working for an independent property whereas one will have to manage the marketing side without the assistance of a Global office or individuals dedicated to the different facets of marketing such as social media, print/digital advertising, geo-fencing, etc.

I believe that any sales professional looking to make hospitality a career, should venture and learn the basics of marketing at the start of their journey or at least understand how important marketing is to the sales engine of any hotel.

Do you have a marketing tip you’d like to share? We’re alway looking to spread the word to newcomers! Send us your advice to hello@flip.to.

Flip.to and Fuel partner to uncover hotel website essentials in new 2017 study

It’s safe to say in 2017 that the importance of a well-designed and well-maintained hotel website cannot be overstated. A quick Google search will reveal ample research and data to validate that the website is arguably one of the most important weapons in a hotel marketers arsenal.

So much so, that it can be both informative and overwhelming all at once.

That’s why Flip.to teamed up with Fuel, an industry leader in hotel marketing, to reach out to thousands of travelers to better understand what it is about the hotel website experience that matters most. Because in the end, nothing trumps empirical data when it comes to managing precious marketing dollars. (And your website is not worth the gamble.)

Key insights you’ll gain:

  • First impressions matter. The travel buyer is willing to spend time searching but would prefer not to. The study reveals what those search patterns are and how the crafty marketer is addressing them.
  • Which sources are the most influential in the travel decision-making process?
  • What elements of the hotel website are the most important to the guest?
  • Are loyalty programs important and what program benefits matter most?
  • How important is price when shopping and, more importantly, how can hotels address this without giving away the house?

Click through to download the full summary of the findings here:

Download here

Plus, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to reach out to us at hello@flip.to with your ideas on the study—or anything travel marketing related!

Favorites from the Flip.to blog: Our top picks from 2016

2016 was an exciting twelve months here at Flip.to. We jumped headfirst into video and launched some amazing product. Here on the blog, we shared some interesting musings, too. As this year comes to a close, take a look back at a selection of just some of our favorites.

Stories that inspire: Our favorite guest moments, a favorite Flip.to story from 2016

Stories that inspire: Our favorite guest moments

This monthly series featuring guest stories from hotels worldwide has become a regular favorite for our readers. We’ve fallen in love with these stories (and it seems you have, too)! We could pick any of a number of posts, but we’ll go back to August featuring the sights of summer.

See August’s Top Picks

Flip.to on the road: CHIEF Conference, a favorite Flip.to story from 2016

Flip.to on the road: CHIEF Conference

The CHIEF Conference set on the pristine sands of the Caribbean was one of the highlight-worthy moments of 2016. It was a mix of great insights and great people. Read on as Ed shares his “Flip.to superlatives” after meeting some incredible industry leaders.

Meet the industry’s best

Introducing: Photo Explorer, a favorite Flip.to story from 2016

Introducing: Photo Explorer (our first video!)

It’s been a big year for us in video. We’ve covered it a few times on our blog, but there’s something special about the first.

Look back at Photo Explorer

The hotelier’s essentials for big name competition, a favorite Flip.to story from 2016

The hotelier’s essentials for big name competition

We ❤ our friends. So when they have a chance to sit in on our blog, it’s something special. Jason Winberg joined to share a bit of his knowledge on finding the right tools to let hoteliers compete.

Open up the tool box

The election, the social media echo chamber, a favorite Flip.to story from 2016

The election, the social media echo chamber and what it means for hotels

Authenticity matters, as does relevancy and truth in advertising. When this was made relevant in the going-ons outside of the hospitality industry, the President weighed in.

Cast your opinion

Canning spam, a favorite Flip.to story from 2016

Canning spam: Relevancy, graymail, and the path to better communication for hotels

Unwanted email is something everyone can relate to. That’s why Richard Dunbar took this deep dive into defining spam, and helping hotels unearth better communication with their guests.

Learn how to can spam

Winning at experiential travel, a favorite Flip.to story from 2016

Winning at experiential travel: combining data and storytelling to compel your guests

This piece was originally featured on the blog of our friends at NAVIS. We’re both passionate about data, stories and how they come together to make a big impact for hotels.

Read on

Spark worldwide conversations with the excitement of travel, a favorite Flip.to story from 2016

Watch now: Spark worldwide conversations with the excitement of travel

When you strike up compelling conversations with your guests across their entire guest journey, it means a richer experience for your guests, and a growing team of advocates for your hotel. Watch more in another video favorite from 2016.

Play now

Flat Ricky’s HITEC debut, a favorite Flip.to story from 2016

Flip.to on the road: Flat Ricky’s HITEC debut

One Ricky just wasn’t enough, so Flat Ricky made his first appearance at HITEC 2016. We soon found out that he had a taste for the bayou nightlife, and the case of #MissingFlatRicky was born…

Meet Flat Ricky

What were your favorite stories from 2016? Drop us a note to let us know. In the meantime, enjoy the final hours as this year comes to a close. We look forward to kicking off 2017 in full force!