The calibre of speakers at this year’s Travel Marketing Conference was first-rate (and yes, we were on the bill…).

If you didn’t make it, to rub shoulders with the cream of the travel marketing crop, then here are our 5 takeaways.

 1.    Dealing with entitled consumers: Your biggest challenge yet

Jan Richards, Head of Insight at Dublin Airport, said that customer expectations are now growing exponentially. Consumers are looking specifically for disruptive brands meaning airlines, for example, can’t just be very fast- the whole experience of booking has to be effortless and considered. And Christopher Baldwin, Head of Marketing (Northern Europe) at Selligent added that people expect the same level of personalization, experience and service regardless of product or channel.

2.    All about experiences

Our lovely client Virgin Holidays took to the stage to explore how they learn from and then optimize their customers’ experiences. They’ve created their own ‘Holidaylab’ panel- a beta club comprising of 8,000 users, and are also constantly rolling out feedback surveys to their guests, even interviewing people on location in their resorts.

3. VR is game-changing for travel brands

AI is increasing the demand from consumers to experience before buying. Paul Stephen of Sagitarrius Agency said that the top eight hotel firms in the world can now get you into the exact room you’re booking at the point of sale. This is the next level of VR and for the travel industry- where you are selling experiences often in far-flung locations- this has huge potential. 

You can hear Paul’s colleague Josh Whiten feature in our podcast ‘Call on me’ here. 

4.    Don’t run before you can walk

Yes we should be embracing new tech developments, but don’t get distracted by shiny new toys. For example, you need to get live chat right first, before you start using chat bots. We’ve been saying this for a while, for example in our podcast with BrightonSEO organizer Kelvin Newman, below:

5.    Magic making

Give your customers something magical and memorable. OtherLevels’ CEO Brendan Kane said “Don’t just give customers a “here’s a 10% off drinks voucher” but be able to use geo-location services to welcome people into your hotel/resort with “Hello Mr Smith” for that “wow/magic” feeling”. Customers now want to connect emotionally and have real, authentic experiences. Increasing that level of uber-personalization has the power to make it the most memorable experience ever for customers.

And of course the biggest takeaway of all was how digital marketers everywhere are forgetting to report on one vital thing. Phone calls!