This week, I was fortunate enough to attend The World Travel Market in London. What is the World Travel Market? It is a massive event for the travel industry. It was in theory a B2B event but there was plenty of things for consumers to enjoy. There were huge stands for each country with plenty of amusements. For example, we played with a virtual reality kit in Korea to promote the the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics. It was on the virtual Ski slopes of PyeongChang that I realised that I shall not be good enough to make the cut. Even for the Irish skiing team. I failed to get off the ground. I could sense the mockery from the virtual crowd.
I eased the heartache with some chocolate from Ecuador. It did the trick.
Anyway, I went to plenty of talks in the two days that I attended. I thoroughly enjoyed them all. It is always so interesting and crucial to attend things like these. They can open your eyes and I found many of the talks very inspiring. What is not inspiring about passionate leaders of industry talking about what they love?
One of the best talks was about the state of travel startups. I am involved with a few travel startups and took some valuable tips from it. So, what travel startups (or any startup) can learn from the World Travel Market?
- Be Wary of Destination Marketing Organisations or linking with other organisations.
Linking up with a DMO may be awfully tempting very early in your growth but be wary. DMO's are great, don't get me wrong, but it depends on what your startup's mission statement is. Is your mission to disrupt the industry or fix it? If your startup's aim is to disrupt the industry, you really need to analyse who you are linking with. This organisation could be the exact type of operation that you want to disrupt, linking with them could create a conflict of interest and they could stop you from being as disruptive as your startup needs to be.
I was in talks with a very well known travel brand about creating a podcast for them, but they thought the topics on my travel podcast were too extreme or edgy for their audience, which is completely understandable but it defeated the purpose of my mission statement, to create an absolutely mental travel podcast. So, if I went ahead with this organisation, I would have ended up creating a vanilla/middle of the road podcast that no one is happy with!
Cheap plug time: The great people at World Travel Guide have been stupid enough to let me create a mental travel podcast which shall be online very soon. Keep yo' ears peeled.
- Early Funding May Be An Issue
Again, early funding for your startup sounds amazing! However, Alex Bainbridge of Tour CMS made a great point at the talk that getting funding too early can actually be a hindrance to your progress. In the early stages of Tour CMS, Alex worked 2-3 days in the travel industry to keep the company afloat and the rest of the time on Tour CMS. This meant that he could work on his own project but while still being very involved in the industry. It could be easy to get funding and just work on your startup. Maintain your knowledge and experience of the industry that you are attempting to conquer. Early funding can lead to you isolating yourself, working just on your project and ignoring the dramatically changing landscape outside. Keep evolving, baby!
- Identify Who You Are Fighting For
Hailo is fighting for the cabbies, Tour CMS was fighting for local tour operators and Braveheart was fighting for Scotland. You need to discover who's life you will make better. If you find this market, get them to champion for you. If you fight for them, they will fight alongside.
Many moons ago, I was in a semi-successful band. We managed to even make it into the Irish top 20. How great am I? Anyway, bragging was not the point of this point. Always good to slip it in though. The point is, we knew who we were fighting for. We were not the best band on the planet, far from it, but we created a community around the band. The band was very much "their" band as well. We achieved this by regularly interacting with our audience. Hang around before and after shows and thanking those foolish enough to purchase our merchandise. I am making this sound a little cold, we were extremely grateful for everyone who attended a gig or bought anything, this is more a theory. We didn't calculate all this beforehand. ANYWAY, because we built up a strong relationship with our fan base, they wanted us to succeed more and when the time came that we released our single, they were fighting for us!
- Industry Experience Not Necessarily Crucial
The startup panel also allowed questions from the audience. One young man asked a question regarding his travel startup. He has founded a travel startup but doesn't actually have any experience in the industry. Honestly, originally I thought that was a stupid question and this chap is destined to fail. However, David Llewellyn of Hailo made a great point. David came from Skyscanner to Hailo. Two very different industries. David felt that this was his advantage as he could come to the industry with a fresh pair of eyes and apply skills acquired from a very different brand. However, it is crucial to know how to build a business! You can't just come in blind to the industry AND to business and it be a success. Luck, like that, doesn't exist.
- Be Open To Change
Don't get stuck in your ways. Kevin May of Tnooz recommended that startups should put a process in place with regular reviews. Sit down with everyone involved and check every month, two months or even weekly. It is vital to make sure you are constantly checking that you are heading in the right direction. It can be very easy to get swamped in your own stuff and realise that you are not where you need to be.
So, there you have it. Hopefully you find this article somewhat as useful as I found the World Travel Market. Any other tips to recommend me?
If you want any digital marketing advice, feel free to pop me an email to Brian@BrianTellsStories.com.