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November 13, 2007

Mr Cool at WTM

Travel companies wanting to know how to cash in on the next big thing will be able to find the answer at World Travel Market - from a man dubbed ‘the ultimate guru of cool’ by CNN.

Global trends consultant Daniel Levine will be the guest speaker at the prestigious Captains of Industry Lunch on Monday and also taking a free seminar presentation on Tuesday (12.30 - 13.30, North Gallery Rooms 6/7, Level 2, ‘Tomorrow Today - the five cultural trends that will propel tourism into the next decade’. Levine is the founder of the Avant-Guide Institute in New York and will be giving World Travel Market delegates his ground-breaking take on how businesses can make the most in the major cultural shifts happening today.

"The secret to businesses making more money, in whatever sector, is being more innovative in the way they respond to cultural trends," explained Levine.

"We are part of the most time-deprived generation in history. It’s very rare to take a step back and look at the way culture is heading, but by doing this you have a better chance of engaging with your customers."

He told guests at the Captains of Industry Lunch:"it is critically important to your business that you take a step back and take stock of where we are going as a culture. And if you want to attract more customers and make more money, it is imperative that you understand key social trends and brainstorm ways in which you can harness them to your advantage.

"One of the most powerful things a brand, product or service can do to get an edge on competitors and make more money is to respond to burgeoning cultural trends in innovative new ways. Emerging trends create specific demands from customers, and opportunities for smart travel marketers. Think about this: Just 18 months ago, being "carbon-neutral" wasn\'t even on most business leaders radar screens. Then companies started promoting their "earth-friendliness" and found it to be vastly rewarding both economically and from a public relations perspective. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. It was only in February of this year that Silverjet, a new all-business-class airline that flies between New York and London, started promoting itself as the world\'s first carbon-neutral airline by requiring its passengers to buy carbon-offset credits for its flights. The amount of publicity and goodwill Silverjet has received for this initiative is unprecedented.

"Today, businesspeople are falling all over themselves trying to understand and offset their companys\' carbon footprints and promote "greenness" to their customers. What happened? In just a few short months, the social trend of being "green" has tipped. It moved from the province of a few wacky "tree-huggers" to the very center of the mainstream.

"From a marketing perspective, promoting your company\'s environmental friendliness is proving to be good business. Why?

"Simply because your customers are demanding it. There is "market pull" for business of all kinds to be addressing this trend. And that is the whole point: For businesspeople, the best thing about recognizing trends and harnessing them to your advantage is that you don\'t have to do any work to create demand. The trend is the demand. It\'s already there just waiting to be creatively answered by you. Your job is simply to recognize what these trends are and create interesting answers to them.

"The second reason you must respond to major social trends is because your customers are expecting you to it. Think about it: Customers see these same trends being catered to in most other aspects of their lives and they are expecting them to be fulfilled in the travel space. They are expecting them to be fulfilled by you. And, if not you, then by somebody else.

"Business and culture do not operate in a vacuum; it is all interconnected."

Targeted Segmentation

"The travel industry knows the benefits of targeting the gay market, and continues to have a lot of success in this sector. Imagine if we could achieve that same phenomenal success with other major demographics. Perhaps the largest untapped demographic for mainstream business is the broad category of ‘women.’

Girl Power!

"Sure there are already lots of products and services specifically created for women, but what has happened up to now is only the tip of the iceberg and poised for exponential growth.

"Here\'s a telling example: Faced with dwindling profits, Preem, the Swedish chain of petrol stations, repositioned themselves earlier this year to cater specifically to women. That\'s right, a petrol station for women. What did they do? For starters, they redesigned their forecourts in a colorful orange motif and fitted them with stylish, curvaceous pumps. Then they re-imagined the convenience store with women in mind and stocked it with healthy foods, like fruit and salads, as well as baby food and other needs for children. Perhaps most importantly, they created clean, well-lit bathrooms, complete with oversized mirrors. And you don\'t have to get a key hanging on a wooden chain to gain access to it. The stunning result is tons of press and a 30% increase in turnover.

"Preem is a harbinger of products and services that are quickly emerging for women; everything from beverages and food items, to insurance and banking products, and, yes travel options. Of course, I realize that the travel sector has a long history catering to women, especially female business travellers.

"Hotels in particular have had a lot of success with this. But what we\'re seeing is the emergence of a major social trend that goes far beyond offering women-only floors. If I ran an airline or a destination marketing organization, or a car-rental agency, I would take a close look at the female demographic and think of creative ways to cater specifically to them - not least of all because women make the overwhelming majority of travel decisions and purchases.

Information Society

"We are all familiar with websites that let consumers easily compare a wide variety of products and services. I\'m talking about websites like TripAdvisor, which encourages customers to upload comments and photos, and FareCast, which does a pretty good job unmasking our dynamic pricing strategies.

"From the travel providers\' perspective, these sites have ushered in a kind of "tyranny of transparency" that has our made customers much more savvy and price-conscious.

"One woman said to me recently that she thinks the travel industry brought this transparency tyranny upon themselves by divulging the secrets of the inner workings of hotel and airline distribution. But, as much as providers might dislike it, the Democratization of Information is not a trend that is particular to the travel industry. It is a major international social trend that is affecting almost every industrial sector, and one that will only grow larger in the coming years.

"To prove to you that the travel industry is not alone when it comes to this tyranny of transparency, I want to tell you about a company called FruCall (frucall.com) that works like an online comparison site from your mobile phone. When you are in a store you call FruCall\'s freephone number, enter any product barcode, and FruCall scours the Web and tells you the best prices it can find for that product. There are at least 6 sites like this. Do you think sites like FruCall are worrying retailers? You bet they are.

"In New York there is a real-estate website called StreetEasy (StreetEasy.com). It is a real estate aggregator that invites users to plug-in a number of parameters, like area, price, size, number of bathrooms, monthly taxes and the like. Then it shows you every house on the market that fits your criteria. Estate agents in New York do not have access to better or more complete information than this. And there are at least a half-dozen sites like this in New York alone. Do you think StreetEasy is worrying to estate agents? You bet it is.

"So, what are travel providers supposed to do to address this huge and growing trend?

"First off, to deal with the rise and ubiquity of sites like TripAdvisor, you are simply going to have to improve facilities and services to increase good reviews. Short term pain, but long term profit. Think of it as a challenge.

"Second, you should endeavor to make blogs your friends. Familiarize yourself with all the blogs that cover you and your industry and regularly feed them tidbits to chew on. Finally, think about giving your customers the tools to create content about you, like cameras, or a place on the Web for them to write about you. Encourage them with competitions. Ultimately, the Democratization of Information trend is about control. Consumers want and expect to have more control. And travel providers, rightly, don\'t want to relinquish control of their marketing to their customers. The savvy travel marketer needs to find a creative way to share control with their customers.

Turn Trends into Action

"So, what do you do next? First, I would challenge you to choose one of these three trends and brainstorm a new business concept, an entirely new venture, or a new brand based on this trend.

"What could you do to create a new product or service that addresses greening, women or transparency? Could you add something new specifically for women to something you already do?

"I would also encourage you to look at your marketing materials and see how you can insert the language of consumers who are already living theses trends. Show them you get it, show them you know what they’re excited about.

"And, finally", said Levine, "I would look at innovative ideas that other companies from outside the travel industry have developed for inspiration. If you have the time tomorrow, I would encourage you to come to my one-hour General Session presentation, where I will go more into depth about these and other trends, and offer some exciting and inspirational examples of how captains of industry from other fields have embraced these trends to win more customers and dramatically increase revenues.

"The travel industry as a whole hasn\'t done nearly as much as many other industrial sectors to recognize and embrace the most potent cultural trends; it\'s a timely challenge that is now offering you terrific opportunities."


For further information on the above, key concepts and themes during World Travel Market, exhibitor activity and events, please refer to www.wtmlondon.com or contact the World Travel Market Press Office on +44 (0) 1580 201178

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