How is Technology Changing the Travel Experience?

by Abi King

Posted on 03-23-2018

Wel­come back to our ongo­ing series of con­ver­sa­tions between influ­en­tial blog­gers from a range of fields, and experts from Adobe. These unique encoun­ters offer insight into how end con­sumers feel about dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, includ­ing how and when tar­get­ing is effec­tive, what makes for an appeal­ing cam­paign, and how mar­ket­ing affects whether these all-impor­tant influ­encers spread the word about spe­cif­ic prod­ucts and platforms.

Our fea­tured blog­ger is Abi King (AK). In 2007, after five and a half years as a hos­pi­tal doc­tor, Abi decid­ed to fol­low her dream of becom­ing a writer, and Inside the Trav­el Lab was born. This lux­u­ry trav­el blog is described as one of the best trav­el blogs in the world by Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Trav­eller and Lone­ly Plan­et. She’s s an award-win­ning jour­nal­ist and pho­tog­ra­ph­er whose work has appeared in Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Trav­eller, Lone­ly Plan­et, the BBC, Red, CNN and more.

She spoke to John Wat­ton (JW), senior direc­tor of mar­ket­ing for Adobe in Europe. John has more than twen­ty years’ expe­ri­ence in enter­prise tech­nol­o­gy, SaaS and eCom­merce mar­ket­ing. He’s a reg­u­lar speak­er and blog­ger on dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, and a mem­ber of the IDM B2B Mar­ket­ing Coun­cil and Busi­ness Mar­ket­ing Col­lec­tive Exec­u­tive Coun­cil. Fol­low him @jwatton.

AK: My name is Abi­gail King. I’m the founder of Inside the Trav­el Lab, one of the lead­ing trav­el blogs in the world. I’m here in Lon­don at Adobe’s offices to have a behind the scenes look at dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing. And here today I’m here with John Wat­ton. John, hello.

JW: Hi Abi how you doing?

AK: Very well thanks. Thanks so much for tak­ing the time to talk to me today.

JW: You’re welcome.

AK: Today we’re going to talk about expe­ri­ence busi­ness­es. This is the term I’ve heard a lot about, but before I get to that can you tell me what do you do for Adobe?

JW: Sure, well I’m the senior direc­tor of mar­ket­ing in Europe. Put quite sim­ply, I help Adobe real­ly con­nect with our cus­tomers here, and con­vey a lot of what we’re doing around expe­ri­ence busi­ness, so hope­ful­ly I’ll have a lot to say about that with you.

AK: Okay, so would you say then that an expe­ri­ence busi­ness, if I was book­ing a hotel, it’s not just a hotel stay it’s how I book the hotel?

JW: Yes exact­ly. So I think it’s mov­ing from that, trans­ac­tion­al way of think­ing, that your role is to opti­mise the pur­chas­ing of a hotel stay, or a flight, mak­ing sure that hotel stay itself or the flight is amaz­ing, and that’s it. I think con­sumers are more demand­ing now, they expect stuff before the trip, so before the hotel stay, espe­cial­ly for the mil­len­ni­al gen­er­a­tion, it’s all about the experience.

Almost the least impor­tant thing about their hotel stay is the hotel itself. It’s every­thing they can do around it—it’s an enabler, to allow them to have a great city stay, safari or a cruise, or what­ev­er it is. It’s fair to say [that] it’s think­ing about those things that you wouldn’t think about, so mak­ing those expe­ri­ences aware to the trav­eller before they go, so they can plan their trip and max­imise their time there.

It’s beyond just giv­ing the great expe­ri­ence when you’re buy­ing things. It’s about try­ing to think before the trip and actu­al­ly, then, extend­ing after­wards, because of course we all want to share our trips. We want to post on social media. So how do you enable that as a trav­el com­pa­ny, and make sure that you’re giv­ing the best expe­ri­ence for your con­sumer and they want to come back and hope­ful­ly book more with your company?

The top five things to think about becom­ing an expe­ri­ence busi­ness, I think the first thing is con­tent. Real­ly build­ing rich infor­ma­tion around the des­ti­na­tion, the trip, all that infor­ma­tion, I think that it goes with­out say­ing but it’s not just about the trans­ac­tion. I think con­sumers are very demand­ing, they want more than just a great price, they want to under­stand what they’re going to get—that’s the first thing.

I think the sec­ond thing, behind the scenes, is you can only do this if you have great data, so you need to get a good view of the cus­tomer. And most brands that we talk with in the trav­el indus­try are try­ing to get that sin­gle cus­tomer view, so that they can bet­ter under­stand the customer.

I think we all, as con­sumers, know we don’t want to be bom­bard­ed with rub­bish. We want things that are rel­e­vant to us. Brands are on that jour­ney to get­ting the data right. I think tech­nol­o­gy is amaz­ing, it does won­der­ful things, but it’s not the be all and end all, and I can say that, work­ing for a tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­ny. It’s often about the cul­ture and the approach, and what we hear from a lot of trav­el brands that have been suc­cess­ful, it’s about bring­ing all the func­tions in the busi­ness togeth­er and hav­ing a sin­gle com­pa­ny approach.

Because this touch­es every­thing. Of course. It’s the out­bound mar­ket­ing, it’s the first touch you have with a cus­tomer, it’s the inbound cus­tomer call, the inbound ser­vice, it’s the web expe­ri­ence, it’s the app expe­ri­ence. It’s the expe­ri­ence of the check-in desk or at the hotel lob­by, or what­ev­er it is, it takes a cul­ture and approach. The fourth thing, I think, is then, with that in place, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

So, you have the amaz­ing abil­i­ty to com­mu­ni­cate with con­sumers in a myr­i­ad of ways, but hold back, think about the expe­ri­ence, and do things in a respon­si­ble and mea­sured way. Because you can be com­mu­ni­cat­ing with cus­tomers on a minute-by-minute basis, that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do, so think about that.

And then, ulti­mate­ly, it’s about think­ing about those moments that con­sumers inter­act with your brand across all touch points and think­ing about that jour­ney, and build­ing some­thing that takes peo­ple through that jour­ney metaphor­i­cal­ly, not just in the trav­el trip itself.

So, Abi, at Adobe we talk a lot about expe­ri­ence busi­ness, but from your per­spec­tive, being a con­sumer and a blog­ger out there in the trav­el world, how do you see this man­i­fest­ing? Is it some­thing that we’re kid­ding our­selves about? Is this res­onat­ing? Is it a term that means some­thing to you and you see?

AK: I think it’s a real­ly inter­est­ing idea to learn about the term expe­ri­ence business.

JW: Yes.

AK: Because par­tic­u­lar­ly in trav­el, trav­el is all about the expe­ri­ence and so if you can add into that, as you’re say­ing, that some com­pa­nies do, then I think that can be a real­ly pow­er­ful thing. I think it is some­thing that a lot of com­pa­nies for­get, par­tic­u­lar­ly a lot of air­lines, I sup­pose, that there is an entire expe­ri­ence. I had a baby just over a year ago and the first flight fly­ing as a fam­i­ly was quite a daunt­ing thing, even though I have tak­en hun­dreds and prob­a­bly thou­sands now of flights.

That first time I had a real­ly good expe­ri­ence, but the expe­ri­ence side of it, which was from the get-go, I think they even sent an email when I booked it, say­ing some peo­ple find this wor­ry­ing, fly­ing with chil­dren, but don’t wor­ry it doesn’t need to be.

JW: Yes.

AK: This is what we’ve got on hand for you, and actu­al­ly they did fol­low that through with all the staff at check-in and on the flight, the peo­ple came to us espe­cial­ly, and said, “Oh is this your first time fly­ing with a child?” and “This is how we’ll help you, this is what to watch out for.” I thought that was a real­ly good use, and some­thing that I wish more companies—I feel there’s a gap, that oth­er com­pa­nies could real­ly work on that kind of experience.

JW: Yes and often, I mean, we talk about data under­pin­ning a great expe­ri­ence, so I guess in that instance they had some sim­ple data about you they could use, right, so it, kind of match­es up. And you know, as a trav­eller your­self, how impor­tant is, you know, the, kind of, before the trip ver­sus on the trip? Because an air­line, right, so you’re on the plane and they look after you well, and that’s great, but there they were try­ing to do some­thing ahead of time, and maybe they looked back after­wards and said, you know, did you have a great trip and all that kind of stuff.

Do you think that’s becom­ing more and more impor­tant to trav­ellers now, and to con­sumers, that kind of pre-trip thing?

AK: I think con­sumers are start­ing to become a lot more dis­cern­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly with things like air­lines, where per­haps it used to be peo­ple would look at price points and routes, but now peo­ple do make a big choice about their expe­ri­ence, about how they’re treat­ed. And I think that pre-trip thing can be huge. Either you have a fre­quent trav­eller who likes, prob­a­bly, infor­ma­tion to be to the point and not bom­bard­ed, but I think because peo­ple who work in trav­el and dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing per­haps trav­el so often that they can for­get how daunt­ing it is actu­al­ly for a lot of peo­ple when they travel.

And that if you make it a good expe­ri­ence, if you help them pre-trip with advice or infor­ma­tion, peo­ple are more like­ly to trav­el, nev­er mind with that brand, just full stop, they’ll trav­el again.

JW: Yes, I heard one hotel say that the expe­ri­ence used to be about mak­ing sure that the check-in line at the hotel desk was short and quick, and peo­ple-based inter­ac­tions were pleas­ant. They’re say­ing now it’s more about the dig­i­tal expe­ri­ence, right, so peo­ple don’t expect to check-in any more, they expect to check-in, or some peo­ple, on an app.

In fact, I’m going on a trip tomor­row and I’ve got the hotel ask­ing me to check-in now, and so when I get there I can go straight to my room and pick up a card. Do you see con­sumers embrac­ing dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy like that or is it still a small per­cent­age? Maybe it’s just us dig­i­tal mar­keters, right, we’re liv­ing in this bub­ble, but do you see tech­nol­o­gy being used like that. Mobile apps, we talk a lot about it, is that a big thing for consumers?

AK: I think when it comes to whether con­sumers are going to move total­ly dig­i­tal­ly or not, I think there’s still a real­ly big age divide.

JW: Yes, okay.

AK: And I think the younger gen­er­a­tion ful­ly expect every­thing to be on their mobile phone and are quick­ly irri­tat­ed if they have to go in any oth­er way.

JW: Yes, I’d rather not talk to any­body, that’s my ulti­mate experience—not talk to anyone!

AK: Exact­ly that. We’d rather, you know, the super­mar­ket you see younger peo­ple going into the self-ser­vice check­out and every­thing like that. And then you have a look at my parent’s gen­er­a­tion, still, even at this, decades into the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion, still much pre­fer speak­ing to some­body and that’s the same with air­lines, hotels things like that. I think the chal­lenge for today’s com­pa­ny is to remem­ber that there are dif­fer­ent points, that you still need to be able to react to the old-fash­ioned way, and move dig­i­tal­ly and be on that phone or the watch or the glass­es, whatever.

JW: Yes and I think the trick is real­ly to get that human ele­ment into dig­i­tal, and that’s what we’re all striv­ing to do. Because I think it’s been the belief that this is like a nev­er end­ing march to dehu­man­ised expe­ri­ences. Actu­al­ly, I think tech­nol­o­gy can do a lot of things, like your trav­el expe­ri­ence with your newborn—they used data then to actu­al­ly make it a much more human expe­ri­ence, because they knew about you and they informed the staff and so on. Do you see that? I mean, are you hope­ful for tech­nol­o­gy in trav­el, do you see it as a human­is­ing thing or a dehu­man­is­ing thing?

AK: I’m always very opti­mistic about every­thing but par­tic­u­lar­ly about the use of dig­i­tal media in trav­el. There is poten­tial for things to go wrong, but there is the poten­tial for things to go very well.

And I think you’re absolute­ly right that the human com­po­nent is crit­i­cal to that success.

JW: Yes.

AK: I think that links in when we wor­ry about how much per­son­al­i­sa­tion is too much or is creepy, or whether it could be real­ly use­ful, like the exam­ple of fly­ing with a new­born. The human touch is real­ly, would I be hap­py if this was being done to my moth­er, to my part­ner, to my child? And that’s prob­a­bly a test, that human touch is the test that makes things help­ful, and good, and valuable.

JW: So are you hope­ful for the future?

AK: I’m hope­ful with a bit of cyn­i­cism thrown in.

JW: Come on.

AK: With sus­pi­cion! Thank you so much for talk­ing to me today that was real­ly inter­est­ing, and I learnt a lot of new things.

JW: Thank you.

AK: And thank you very much for tun­ing in and watch­ing today. And just remem­ber this is one of a six part series you can find the rest at Adobe’s Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Blog Europe at Thanks for join­ing us.

Topics: Digital Transformation, CX, Desktop, digital, mobile, Travel, UK, UK Exclusive, Digital EMEA