The Importance of Agility

Agility is the one word that will define effective sales and marketing in 2015. Specifically, the ability of an organization to rapidly interpret, adapt, and respond to customer demands and changes in the travel industry.

With today’s ever-evolving channels of distribution, changing demographics, and the continued emergence of new destinations, sales and marketing executives must be prepared to interpret these changes and move quickly to adapt. Agility is essential to improve revenues and to increase ADRs and bottom line growth.

Travelers continue to learn about destinations in new ways, and hotels are opening everywhere across the globe in response to their demands.

Major companies like Hilton, IHG, and Starwood are introducing new brands based on in-depth market research and opening properties in unlikely locations. Take for example the number of new hotels recently opened or planned in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Marriott is opening and investing heavily in Africa. Hyatt is extending benefits like complimentary Wi-Fi across all its brands. Niche companies, like Kimpton, are being acquired by larger and financially stronger companies. In Asia, Shangri La is rebranding Traders Hotels and introducing new concepts like Jen Hotels.

In the airline industry, the trend continues with the introduction of new aircraft, new destinations, and new in-flight services. Jet Blue routinely puts a destination on the map every time it launches a new route. Companies, like Delta, have completely reinvented themselves and are once again strong players in the industry.

Luxury travel advisors working with the affluent tell me that business is buoyant, and they are busy. Events like ILTM are full of new products and travel advisors eager to learn of new experiences to entice their clients.

A deeper understanding of the role technology plays and how social media influences decision-making is essential. Today’s savvy consumer increasingly buys everything via a mobile device. Increased online engagement means more messaging and more marketing noise to navigate. There is an opportunity to create a path for travelers tailored to their particular lifestyle and touchpoints.

Who could have imagined ten years ago that Trip Advisor would become one of the first places a consumer visits when selecting a hotel or destination? How will Airbnb and HomeAway effect hoteliers, and what impact will they have on rates in the mid-scale and budget sectors? Are we ready for whatever comes next?

Yet there needs to be a balance—not everything has moved online. For example, lifestyle publications are still relevant resources, in fact they seem to have increased the readership of their print editions. People still like to sit and enjoy great writing and superb photography in a thick glossy publication. What has changed is the process. First, the reader is introduced to a new destination, while reading their favorite title. Next their daydream becomes more of a reality as they visit a website to gather more information and engage on social media outlets—seeking advice and reviews from friends—before ever contacting a hotel, airline, or travel advisor.

All this activity means that the consumer faces more choices, options, and products than ever before. The agile sales and marketing executive will need to understand this process better and interpret all this activity to ensure their products and services continue to meet the new mindset of today’s traveler.
How you differentiate your product in today’s marketplace is essential. Are you up to the challenge?