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Show 73 – World Travel Market 2018

Recorded at the World Travel Market, 2018, we partnered up with some of the exhibitors and delegates to get a flavour of what was being discussed at the event. Our guests were:

  1. Mark McVay, Chairman, UKinbound
  2. Dr. Kevin Ashbridge, VP for Global Travel & Leisure Solutions, SDL
  3. Hon. Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism, Jamaica Tourist Board
  4. Richard Fraiman, Chief Executive, Good Hotel Guide
  5. José Luis Egas Ramirez, Undersecretary of Markets, Investments and International Relations, Ministry of Tourism of Ecuador

UKinbound

Our first guest was UKinbound‘s Chairman, Mark McVay

Mark McVay

with UKinbound’s Mark McVay

Mark explained that UKinbound is the trade association dealing exclusively with inbound tourism. They have 400 members and look after their interests by trying to get trading conditions that help them to develop their businesses. Part of their work is their advocacy but also part of it is bringing the various members together as they represent tour operators, attractions, service providers,  marketing and transportation, as well as destination management companies.

UKinbound Business Barometer

Mark said that the barometer is something UKinbound carry out every two months, where they go to their members and ask them to give feedback on the current trading conditions.

The latest findings showed a surge in growth from the Chinese market, which Mark said is growing at a faster rate than the North American market, although he added that the North American market is a very established.  He said that whilst it is encouraging that the UK is getting around about 530,000 visitors from China, it’s a very small percentage of the number of Chinese visitors going to mainland Europe and to the Schengen area, where they are getting 2.5 million. There is therefore a huge disparity and it shows that there’s still a lot of work to do, but that there is a huge growth still to be made within that market.

Overall visit numbers to the UK

Mark said that last year was a record year. There were 39 million visitors to the UK and they spent £24.5bn, which puts inbound tourism as about the fifth or sixth largest export organization.

Language Skills Campaign

Mark talked about UKinbounds language skills campaign.  He said that a lot of their tour operators in particular rely on European nationals to be able to provide language skills within their job within the markets that they work in. With the inbound market, they are having to speak Spanish, French, German and in fact a range of different languages.  However, they found that because of Brexit, an awful lot of those people were actually going back to their home countries, with approximately 130,000 EU nationals having gone back from the UK in the last 18 months.  It was highlighting that there was a huge lack of language skills in the UK.  He thinks that the Brits are essentially quite lazy when it comes to languages and said that when they go abroad, they really expect people to be able to speak English to them.

UKinbound commissioned Canterbury Christ Church University to carry out research looking at what language training teaching there was both in schools and universities and in particularly those universities that run a tourism or hospitality course, and Mark said that basically, it was non-existent, which he added was quite horrifying to see.  UKinbound then presented the findings at a campaign launch at the House of Commons in the summer, where he said that the Minister did accept there were problems, but also said that they recognise those problems and they were in fact going to be investing in language training at all levels from schools and universities.  They hope that by 2023, approx. 70% of students will be taking languages.

Brexit

Mark said that as far as UKinbound is concerned, the key issues around Brexit are about access, the border controls and the welcome that visitors receive when they arrive in the UK. He said that in the recent budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond did talk about widening the range of countries that are going to be able to use the e-passport gates, which for Mark is a great thing, and providing that is still open to the European countries as well, that’s also going to be very good going forward.

SDL

Our second guest was Dr. Kevin Ashbridge, VP for Global Travel and Leisure Solutions, SDL.

Interview starts at 8min20s

Dr Kevin Ashbridge

with Dr Kevin Ashbridge

Kevin is currently developing AI led solutions for the transportation, leisure and hospitality sectors and his presentation at World Travel Market’s Travel Forward Product Showcase was on the topic of ‘The day your content doesn’t need you anymore’.

The key theme of his presentation was that travel business should really be thinking about handing over certain parts of their content chain to machines.  He said that the type of content that travel companies create falls into two main camps:

  1. Information, i.e., hotel room descriptions, rental car specifications, etc.
  2. Inspiration, i.e. the glossy brochures etc.

He explained that technology is catching up in the area of creating information, which is a very costly exercise, creating hundreds of thousands of hotel descriptions, for example, in multiple languages. Kevin believes that this type of content can now be created by machines, which can do an equally good job for a fraction of the cost.

Five Future States of Content

In his presentation, Kevin talked about ‘The Five Future States of Content’, explaining how a business’ content will operate in the near future.  Content will:

  1. be able to create itself by using machine learning and artificial intelligence
  2. be eminently agile in that creation, responding to external input
  3. become searchable by machines
  4. be secure in the way that it creates itself
  5. become your best salesperson.

For certain content types, such as inventory descriptions, it is quite possible for a machine to write a hotel description from its component parts, i.e., concierge service, minibars, free WiFi service – a machine can, quite straightforwardly, combine those facts to create a human language sentence, which Kevin said is what sites like Expedia, booking.com and TripAdvisor do – creating inventory content in as automated a way as possible. He explained that this is moving from using templates, into using neural machines and neural based artificial intelligence.

The difference though, will be that you are asking the machine to ultimately create a piece of content in a way that resonates with an individual consumer and therefore you require the smartness and intelligence of deep learning, in order to deliver something that resonates in that way. Kevin said that it you use a template, you’re really just delivering the same content over and over again and if something changes, that may change the template, but there’s no change in the tone of voice.  However, the personality will come in the combination of the information and the inspiration. He said that no one ever looks at a hotel description alone and makes a decision based on that. They’ll look at the images, videos and social proof, and these are all key factors in understanding what the consumer is trying to buy.  The machine can then be used to create the textual description that supports that purchase.

As an example, Kevin said that if you go to a hotel for a business trip you may need fast WiFi, a business centre or concierge to suggest things in the area to take your business clients to.   However, if you are going for pleasure with your family, then you may want to check if there is a daily maid service in the room, WiFi for the iPad but perhaps more specific things like whether they serve children’s food in the restaurant – something a business traveller would never ask.  Therefore, you’re trying to create a piece of content that properly describes the hotel to that particular individual – even when that person going on business or pleasure may be the same person, but on different trips.  He said that machines can not only carry out a task like create a description, but they can create that description in multiple ways to ultimately deliver a relevant experience to the customer.

With regards to being agile in the creation, Kevin explained that most larger travel businesses have three departments – content, translation and web delivery.  These three departments often work to different KPIs, to their own agendas, with their own bosses!  Kevin believes they should all be serving the same customers but that they’re all really doing it in a different way, with different emphases on where they apply value to the end content delivery. However, he said that if you put content at the heart of the process, rather than the business silos, you start to enter a world where the whole business becomes more agile. By using machine learning and artificial intelligence, the machine not only creates the content, but also translates it immediately, and then decides the delivery platform or mechanism for that content


Jamaica Tourist Board

Interview starts at 22.15

Our third interview took us to the stand of Jamaica Tourist Board, where we were joined by their Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett.

Hon. Edmund Bartlett

with Hon. Edmund Bartlett

Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre

Edmund shared news of the launch and aims of the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre, which is based at the University of the West Indies in Montego Bay, Jamaica. He explained that the centre has been developed in response to the high level of vulnerability of many tourism dependent economies of the world and the reality that global shocks, both genus and exogenous, are going to be a reality and that the capacity of countries to deal with them varies in terms of the resources that they have available as well as the knowledge base from which they come.

Edmund said that tourism today is the largest industry in the world and has 10% of world GDP, employs one in ten of all the workers that the world, with 800 billion dollars of foreign direct investment last year and had 1.2 billion people travelling across borders, who spent 1.3 trillion dollars in the process.

He explained that 79 countries of the world have Tourism dependence of 10% or more GDP and  in fact, the Caribbean, in particular, has a higher level of dependence at over 40% on tourism. He said that we need to to recognise that this power house of tourism also has vulnerabilities, because it is susceptible to all sorts of shocks.  In the last 50 years, tourism grew every year, unlike all other industries, except for three periods:

  1. Sars pandemic
  2. 9/11 terrorist attack in New York, which disrupted growth as airlines were flying all over the place empty
  3. the great economic recession in the mid 1980’s

However, he said we can also now add climatic conditions, which are now a big preoccupation with hurricanes getting more intensive and earthquakes happening more frequently, destroying communities, plus man-made disruptions such as terrorism, cyber crimes, political disruptions and financial disruptions.  All these disruptions are key factors that are going to determine the level of peace and stability in the world and whether or not certain countries can even exist.

Edmund said that we have to build capacity across the globe to be able to respond to these disruptions.  We need to identify them, know when they are approaching you and then build mitigation against them.  Then you need the ability to manage them when they actually hit you, and finally to recover and recover well, to the point of resilience to build better, so that whatever comes afterwards, you’ll be able to withstand.

It’s therefore in that context that Edmund said the centre was born – the need for a single repository from which we can have satellite institutions all over the world focusing on data building information, providing opportunities for technical support and best practices, as well as to provide communication arrangements to enable people to know and to see and to hear about what is happening, so that they can take evasive action and move quickly and save lives.

The centre will be established in Jamaica and officially launched on 31st January 2019.

They already we have a number of partners involved including:

In addition, there are regional groups such as the Mediterranean Tourism Forum, which is looking at issues relating to sustainability and development within the Mediterranean area specifically but also in Africa and parts of Europe and The International Tourism Investment Conference, plus a number of universities.

Edmund summarised it as a confluence of academia, technical knowledge, technology and communication skills bringing a force that will be able to offer support and assistance to countries.

Global Tourism Crisis Barometer

Edmund said that they are working on the following:

  • An academic compendium by published lecturers and academics on various matters to do with crisis management, resilience and the impact on countries.
  • A toolkit – another compendium of best practices and guides to countries as to how to build their own capacity to withstand these disruptions
  • A barometer, which he thinks will be a game changer!  Here, they are looking to measure resilience and to determine where countries fall in what they call the resilience indices.  A resilience measure will help communities to decide on many things:
  1. help markets to decide and tourist individuals to decide where to go or when to go
  2. help investors to determine where to invest and how to invest
  3. inform capital market on risk and other kinds of arrangements and where do they put their money
  4. enable countries that are in need of support to build resilience., to have a platform and to have a response that they can give to donor agencies and multilateral partners and to support their call for greater assistance.

Edmund acknowledged that it will take time to develop the barometer, because, first of all, you have to build credibility.  You also have to come up with measures that are acceptable – what parameters are you using, how are you going to determine the level of, for example, measuring the strength and tencility of buildings, their the ability to withstand hurricanes and winds, the kind of furnishings that are used in building the houses and the health facilities and the level of security that is there against diseases and so on.

Good Hotel Guide

Interview starts at 35min8s

Our next guest was Richard Fraiman, Chief Executive of the Good Hotel Guide, who spoke to us about the launch of their update for 2019.

Richard explained that hotels do not pay to be in the guide, they can only be included on merit alone. He said that the Guide has an army of reviewers all around the country, which they pull together and then send a questionnaire to each hotels in early January, asking their opinions of what’s happening at the hotel and what’s going on.  That information is then collated, and then the reviews are rewritten to provide an expert curated review of each of the 860 hotels that are in the guide, so that it’s ready to launch in October.

Good Hotel Guide vs other review sites

Richard sees the Good Hotel Guide offering something very different from online review sites such as TripAdvisor.  10-15 years ago, the Good Hotel Guide was an exclusively print driven organisation, selling in excess of 30,000-35000 books, but over time, published travel guides have declined in sale and so about 10 years ago they decided to put the content onto the Internet and we launched their website.  However, Richard said they still have our fierce independence, reiterating the point that hotels can only be in the guide based on merit alone.  However, if a hotel wants to be fully reflected on the Guide’s website, they pay an annual subscription fee, which Richard said is now the lion’s share of revenues of the company.

Richard added that whilst he sees sites like TripAdvisor as necessary, he doesn’t think they are sufficient.  He explained that TripAdvisor puts up all of its reviews without really editing them or thinking about what people are saying and so is open to collusion. However, the Good Hotel Guide will not put up a review on its site until it has been read by its editors and reviewed, and then then they put their one single expert curated review up in the print guide and on the website. It’s therefore a very different approach compared to TripAdvisor, and Richard said that if you’re thinking about going to stay at a lovely hotel you, you might of course use TripAdvisor, but you may want a strong second opinion or maybe the Good Hotel Guide is where you come to first and then after you’ve read their expert curated review, maybe you’ll go to TripAdvisor then. he therefore sees the Guide as a supplementary source or possibly an originating source.

Marketing

The company has invested heavily in Search Engine Optimisation, making sure that if people are searching online for great hotels in the UK and Ireland, whether it be a country house hotel in the New Forest or a seaside hotel in Cornwall, the the Guide will be at the top of Google answering those queries and showing the hotels that are coming up there.

Cesar awards

At their recent 2019 launch, the Good Hotel Guide gave out 10 Cesar Awards (named after César Ritz, founder of the Ritz Hotel), for hoteliers showing excellence in their field. Some of the winners included the following (with Richard’s comments below):

Kinloch Lodge, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Kinloch Lodge

embedded from the Good Hotel Guide

Lord and Lady MacDonald’s former hunting lodge , it has glorious Loch views from bedrooms, which are filled with antiques and ancestral portraits. The chef, Marcello Tully, creates a delectable menu showcasing the best of local ingredients and a ghillie, which is a Scottish guide, organises fishing foraging and wild walks.

The Nare, Carne Beach, Veryan-in-roseland, Cornwall, England

The Nair

embedded from The Good Hotel Guide

Winner of the English Seaside Hotel of the Year.  It has been privately owned by the same family for three decades and provides a perfect mix of family friendliness and luxury through the elegant rooms. A beautiful hotel that has two restaurants, subtropical gardens with outdoor pool and looks over a calm beach, which is just just heavenly.

Restaurant James Sommerin, the Esplanade, Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, Wales

Restaurant James Sommerin

embedded from The Good Hotel Guide

It has amazing sea views, contemporary design and acclaimed Michelin starred cooking. You can dine on crab, lobster, smoked venison and stay in one of their nine bedrooms, five of which have have great sea views.

Gregans Castle Hotel, Ballyvaughan, Ireland

Gregans Castle Hotel

embedded from The Good Hotel Guide

Simon Haden and Frederieke McMurray’s Georgian country house has views across the Burren to Galway Bay. It’s elegant, antique filled and has amazing interiors with modern art and fresh flowers and even a friendly cat might be curled up on one of the armchairs there!

Impact of Brexit and Current Occupancy Rates

The Good Hotel Guide recently researched their hoteliers about their performance over the last year vs prior year:

  • 97% said that business was either good or fair vs the prior year
  • 60% said that they’d seen an increase in foreign guests
  • 2:1 said that the depreciation of the pound had in fact helped them, which Richard said possibly explains some of that foreign guest interest.
  • 10:1 said that Brexit had hindered vs helped their staff recruitment and retention efforts, which is what they’re most worried about.
  • 90% said that they had an occupancy rate in excess of 50%
  • Over half of the hotels said they had an occupancy rate which was greater than 70%
  • 80% said that their occupancy rate was better this year than it was last year

Ecuador

Interview starts at 44min42s

Our final guest was José Luis Egas Ramirez, who is Undersecretary of Markets Investments and International Relations from the Ministry of Tourism of Ecuador.

José Luis Egas Ramirez

with José Luis Egas Ramirez

José talked to us about what visitors to Ecuador can expect to find from the destination they describe as being ‘the country in the middle of the world’.  He said that despite it being a very small country, covering around 283000 square kilometres, it has four different worlds.  You can have breakfast at the beach and then drive four hours and hike up to the Andes and go into Quito, which is 2800 meters above sea level. You can have lunch there and then at night head to the jungle and the Amazon basin, which makes Ecuador a unique place to visit. José added that of course, they also have the Galapagos Islands, which this year celebrated 40 years as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

José acknowledged that Ecuador is not as well recognised as other destinations in the region and that they need to do more to communicate about their country and what they have there.  For example, Quito was the first UNESCO cultural World Heritage site. José said it the largest historic city in the whole of Latin America.  Founded in mid 1500s, it’s been conserved well and so there are still many monuments, churches and monasteries from that time.

José said that Ecuador now has better connections to the country. They have a new law that allows any airline to fly to Ecuador and they are working with the  airports too – he said Quito International Airport is one of the best airports in the entire region.  The Ecuadorian Government is also promoting Ecuador as a ‘Love Destination’ and they have a new campaign called ‘Ecuador is love’, which includes packages that allow people to visit Ecuador and get married, which you can do in the mountains or at historical monuments.

Leading Green Destination

The World Travel Awards has awarded Ecuador as the leading Green Destination of the world for five consecutive years and José said it’s because of the way they conserve the natural parks that they have.  There are 17 parks in the country and the Galapagos Islands is one example – a very large national park that has a maximum amount of 250,000 passengers that can travel there per year, and who can only visit 5% percent of the island. He said they have similar rules with the the Jungle and Amazon basin and are very proud to conserve the nature as it is now as a heritage for the new generation.

<END>

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