3 unique travel ideas from Skift Global Forum

Change Take

Two information-rich days in New York, hundreds of ideas. Here’s a quick rundown of the three subtopics that caught our attention.

Matthew Parsons

This week, industry leaders took the stage in New York at the Skift Global Forum to share their insights on travel and discuss emerging trends.

The agenda includes candid conversations with CEOs about how their businesses have fared post-pandemic, plenty of talk about the rise of blended travel and the future of work, and insightful commentary on dealing with the ongoing labor crisis.

But among the industry soundbites that more than 700 attendees heard from the main stage and another 800 online, there were also some alternative topics, from the psychology of marketing to how to run a business. Here is the summary.

Just make it up as you go

Frederic Lalonde, the energetic CEO of Hopper, explained how he likes to create new products. The secret is to be brave and experiment, even if it means losing. When asked which of his products were losing “a lot of money,” he said it was something new they were trying. “It explodes in front of us every year,” he said.

But some features that are being tested throughout the year may prove to be hits, like the hotel’s new cancellation policy.

“The focus is that you test it as a small group. You spend a lot of money on a few people. You identify what you did well and then you scale. If you do it the other way around, it’s bad,” Lalonde told the audience. “We have such a subset of users who interact with us. We test and try to understand something. It’s so wild, I don’t understand what we’re doing here at all.”

Lalonde, who also co-founded the startup, said the recent flash sale caught him by surprise. He was selling “loot boxes” — treasure chests with a mystery gift, such as a voucher — for between $3 and $14 as part of a promotion in Puerto Rico.

“We sold more loot boxes than flights that day,” he said. “People would come to me with this data and I would say, ‘This is wrong, this is impossible.’

Find out what else Lalonde had to say here.

Get into the minds of guests

After the pandemic, online marketing continues to be a hot topic. One executive even called effective marketing a drug. But one speaker wants to tear up the rule book. For destinations like Africa, he wanted to know why the further away from reality the advertised experience is, the more expensive it is.

Dr. Mordecai Ogada, a conservationist, environmentalist and co-author of The Big Conservation Lie, questioned why the tourism industry markets Africa in such a way that it looks like a scene from the movie Out of Africa.

“What exactly do we sell and where does it come from?” he said. “If you look at our tourism experiences, you’ll see that they come from places that were just over a hundred years ago… the hunting, the beautiful wildlife, the landscapes.”

But humans live in harmony with wildlife, he argued.

“In all the tourism stuff, especially safari tourism, you don’t see African people in a peaceful context with wildlife, but it’s quite common,” he said. “And you don’t see violence when we try to evict people from wilderness areas to make way for tourism. How real is what we sell? That the tourism industry can still sell images taken hundreds of years ago, themes that are actually based on Tarzan, is a testament to the power of marketing.”

The lesson for all marketers is to make sure they’re selling an image of what exists, and called for new standards and definitions, and “including black people in underserved positions.”

“And there are very few African Americans in marketing, they just don’t see themselves. Almost all tourists from America are white. We have to challenge the media’s role in this narrative,” he added.

All aboard

Management styles and etiquette came up unexpectedly frequently over the course of two days.

Josh D’Amaro, head of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, spoke about the need for leaders to stay grounded and connected with all of their employees.

He said he spends as much time as possible in the parks when not in meetings. “I will walk around every corner of that park, or cruise ship, or store. And I will talk to anyone who comes my way, whether it’s a cast member selling balloons on Main Street,” he said.

“From an industry perspective, it’s important for us as leaders to do this. Show up, make sure you’re there, not someone in the office pushing a couple of buttons. When you do that as a senior leader, you know what comes next. Everyone follows. Then you have 170,000 actors who see their leaders, trust them, know who they are, what they represent.”

Find out what else D’Amaro had to say.

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