Why are we on holidays all the time?

The Australian lifestyle is morphing. Migration out of the suburbs and into inner-city culture is rampant as the great Australian dream of owning a house-with-a-yard (and 2.5 kids and a dog) becomes more and more out of reach. Rising interest rates and property prices have presented challenges to the attainment of the family home and the desire to own property is consequently starting to wear thin.

Home may still be a cornerstone of Australian life – but what people define as “home” is rapidly changing. People in Australia’s capitals have new priorities. Shiny new apartments mean less rooms to furnish and clean and less gardening, which in turn means more leisure time and budget, translating into a rapid increase in itchy feet and subsequent holiday plans.

Frequent overseas travel has become more attainable and more economically viable. Many households feature two adults in full-time work with evenings spent planning the next big trip.

Bad news for Bunnings is good news for destinations. More people are travelling than ever before.  Tourism expenditure by Australians is growing faster than overall consumer spending, indicating the rising priority of holiday-making for Australians.

Fiona Collis from IPSOS Research calls this new group of residents and traveller Affluent Urbanites. A set of people whose attitudes and aspirations are focused on the city’s litany of pleasures.

“For Affluent Urbanites, living near the city is a distinct lifestyle statement. Locations boasting iconic features whether cultural, epicurean or natural, are all highly attractive to them. They like to walk to and from schools, shops and cafes. Being able to walk to places within the community creates a very tangible feeling of belonging to the neighbourhood. Affluent Urbanites also cherish being surrounded by people with similar interests and values” Collis says.

The addiction to urbanism also manifests in a desire to live like a local abroad and to shack up in Airbnb’s and other similar accommodation in other towns, cities and ports around the world too.

Apps like Trip Hobo are an extension of the Share Economy that lets travelers share their itineraries and pass on tips for living like a local.

The outlook for continued growth in Australian travel is fantastic, particularly for those destinations and experiences that are able to showcase the kind of enriching, deep and transformative experiences consumers are looking for as they grow tired of spending on material possessions.

How to travel well on an aeroplane

We all love to travel, but how best to prepare and arrive fresh and ready to go rather than looking like we’ve been through the ringer? To find out more, we caught up with Charlotte Dodson from TravelWell and Ali Lalak from Cloud Nine to understand how they’re adding value to the long haul travel environment.

TravelWell, the nifty, now award-winning inflight health app is taking off, bringing, yoga and meditation to travellers in their seat. In a similar vein, Australian start-up Cloud Nine is gaining traction with their luxury travel packs designed to pamper passengers during their long flight.

As people travel more frequently, and become more aware of the stress it induces – a whole raft of health-related products are being checked in.

“Airlines are simply doing what any well-run business does, they’re reading the marketplace and reacting to it,” says Charlotte. “From adding yoga and meditation apps like ours to entertainment programming, to airports offering yoga rooms, salad and juice bars, there’s a health movement around travel that’s growing in scale.” says Charlotte.

It’s not just the passengers who stand to benefit from all this health focused activity.  The travel industry at large could be the ultimate winner, with more people travelling as the downsides of travel stress further dissipate.

Cloud Nine Global agrees. The exciting new Australian travel brand started by two sisters who long lived on opposite sides of the world from each other, was created to improve the travel experience rather than just talking about it.

“Our trips back and forth were getting more difficult the more we travelled, and we were inspired to find a way to make the experience of travel more convenient, luxurious and (most importantly) fun for ourselves and our fellow travellers. Our goal was to find a way to arrive at our destination feeling rested, glowing – and ready for an Aperol spritz,” says Ali Lalak.

“We aim to make the experience of travel not just easier, but truly enjoyable”, says.  Cloud Nine Global offers beautifully curated travel packs that are both practical and luxurious.

Jason Charles Hill drone photography in Peru's Huascaran National park

One Day that Changed my Opinion on Influencers

As I slumped onto a rock on the side of a Peruvian mountain, looking out at the valley below, trying to suck in every available molecule of oxygen from the thin air, one question bounced around my pulsating brain: why don’t more social media influencers lounge by pools? This is hard work!

Hiking to Laguna 69, one of the many incredible glacial lakes in Peru’s Huascaran National Park with heavy cameras and lenses strapped to your back is no mean feat. It was here that I found myself chaperoning four amazingly talented social media influencers on a trip through the Andes, an experience that completely changed my understanding and respect of influencers forever.

My travelling companions were Jason Hill, Emilie Ristevski, Matt Cherubino and Annie Tarasova, together with their mountain of gear. These four were intrepid explorers, heading up, down and around mountains, valleys and deserts the world over, capturing images of some of the most awe-inspiring vistas on the planet.

Many people have an impression of influencers reflective of the most obvious but very narrow slice of social media users – that they are on big money, highlighting extravagant free luxury suites or unboxing free sneakers. But influencers come in many shapes and sizes, and it’s the skill of the destination marketer to align goals with an influencer’s strengths, aesthetic, skill in content creation and following.

Far from spoiled brats demanding first class everything, the carefully selected influencers were exceptionally collaborative every step of the planning process, working alongside us to research an itinerary that would appeal to their audience and capture the incredible natural highlights of Peru. They knew their abilities and wanted to push their limits to capture the right shots. They suggested travelling to Laguna 69, one of the more remote lakes in the National Park, due to its incredible turquoise colour and glacial surroundings.

Embarking at 5am from Huaraz, a city high in the Andes, we wound our way up precarious mountain paths until we reached Llanganuco, a lake lower down the range. We were already 4000 metres above sea level and looking out from the lake, we were already sitting high over the clouds above the adjacent range on the other side of the valley. This was where our ascent would begin!

From here, it was a fairly flat first few kilometres, wandering past clear streams that ran through green meadows, punctuated by the odd cow or Incan hut. The air was cool without being cold, and with my heart rate climbing, I could feel only the slightest sniff of altitude sickness. After about 30 minutes the flat meadow turned into a gradual slope and then a switchback-filled mountain climb, as we continued the ascent.

The switchbacks were gruelling and with every step I had to fight the urge to collapse. It was a hard-fought battle between my brain, gravity, growing altitude sickness and my general lack of physical fitness. Through all this pain, the social media influencers pushed on. They too were feeling the pain, and at various times, each would fall back, occasionally joining me at the back of the pack, but all four powered on, dedicated to getting the best content for the project.

Around 4.5 kilometres, or two-ish hours into the hike, I had taken a battering. The influencers, and our insane guide Eddie (who quite believably claimed to be able to run the trek in 45 minutes), were all tiny specs in my blurred vision and I was struggling. I found a spot on the side of a hill to rest. Unfortunately this would be the end of my ascent. I sat for a few minutes, attempting garbled Spanish at passers-by who were handling the altitude far better than I, before I began my slow, long and arduous descent.

The same could not be said of my intrepid photographer friends, who, despite having equally serious altitude sickness and health concerns, fought their way to the peak. These weren’t precious influencers who reviewed first-class flights. These were true adventurers who were driven to share their experiences with their community of like-minded followers. And the results show.

Days later, when we were down around sea-level, the content creators started to share the images they captured on the mountain and the feedback from their followers was immediate and telling. While each photo drew in thousands of likes, the comments pointed to a following that was engaged in the destination, with many people noting these content creators served as inspiration for their next trips. The followers had indeed been tangibly influenced.

Finding the right influencers for any content project is key; those willing to go over and above for their followers, whose core brand values are consistent with the key messages you are wanting to drive home. Finding them takes tenacity and patient analysis, but it all pays off. Let the itinerary be guided and shaped by them and the results from highly engaged followers will come.

How can Augmented Reality enhance travel?

Augmented reality (AR) has emerged in recent years as a vital marketing tool. It allows destinations to change the way people perceive the environment, and it allows richer decision-making tools for those planning where to go next. Medium last year reported a whopping 84% of consumers said they would be interested in using VR and AR for travel experiences.

While the UX will continue to evolve, Augmented Reality will be most valuable to hospitality and travel.

This week Gate 7 caught up with augmented reality artist Charles Clapshaw in Bondi to gain some insights into how big companies are currently using AR.

“For AR you have to think a little bit in the future, because some big changes are going to happen in terms of the technology we are walking around with in our pockets,” says Charles.

“In the future AR ‘portals’ will allow us to explore and share environments much more spatially. To virtually walk around in them and understand proximity, depth and height through them. We will be able to click on objects to buy the whole holiday from within an immersive AR environment and it will become much more cinematic and seamless than what we are seeing in the market today.”

AR is so useful to travel and hospitality businesses, precisely because airlines, hotels, museums and resorts are selling a physical environment to visitors. AR means that almost any environment you can think of, can be enhanced with an AR layering. AR will provide the portal that transports you to the deeper, 3d world, and this is scalable as it’s accessed through smart phones.

As he explains Augmented Reality can scale faster than virtual reality because it leaves behind the “nerd-ville” factor of wearing a headset.

“Every year Virtual Reality is missing its audience estimates because no one wants to be the person in the corner of the gallery with the headset on,” Charles says.

Instead he believes that AR will be embraced by the new generation of user who grew up playing Pokemon Go and are happy to don a pair of sunglasses to add AR’s benefits to their world.

“Rather than us just looking at a flat website on a screen you will be able to enter a 3D world and experience the beach or the forest you are about to visit.

“The largest relevancy to travel and tourism is that AR is going to be at one with communicating the benefits of more three dimensional offerings. They will seductive environments that you can’t resist entering,” Charles says.

On a very practical level, AR will enable us to travel better. Last year, Travelport worked with easyJet to build an AR app that helps travellers to work out if their carry-on bag will fit in the overhead cabins. At the airport too, by connecting AR with Google Maps, this technology will provide easy to follow digital signage.

“When you get off a plane in a strange airport in the middle of the night, the AR app will help you to find your gate with handy arrows pointing out how to get there,” Charles says.

The full extent of opportunities for the travel industry with AR is still up in the air, but it’s clear that it will have a use and impact on every stage of the travel cycle.

Sustainable Tourism is the Untamed Frontier of Luxury Travel

The term “sustainable” is bandied so frequently around in tourism circles, that it is easy to connection with the real meaning behind the sustainability movement. The word is used in so many different ways, from a throw-away synonym for “environmentally-friendly”, to using in a hole in the ground for a bathroom, or sleuthing through a phrase book to learn “soy milk” in Portuguese. Sustainability doesn’t mean sacrificing the pleasures that make travel special, and it certainly doesn’t fly in direct opposition to the idea of luxury travel.

Sustainability in travel is about keeping destinations and communities thriving and beautiful for future generations. It is an understanding that you are a small part in the long story of a place or a people, and that should be preserved long after you are gone.It is about rewarding those businesses who understand the fragility of the intrinsic attraction of the destination and do everything in their power to protect that, channelling the demand itself toward preservation.

Take Machu Picchu, for example. In the century since its “rediscovery”, the citadel has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site and opened up to tourists from all over the world. But very quickly up to 5,000 tourists a day were visiting an archaeological site that was only designed to house a few hundred Incan aristocrats. In 2017, the Peruvian government implemented restrictions to limit the number of visiting tourists and enforced a framework to ensure that Machu Picchu will exist for centuries to come. At the core of sustainable travel is a well measured, balanced approach to secure preservation, longevity, the retention of authenticity and ensure benefits flow back to the local community.

Sustainable doesn’t have to mean basic. Down the mountain from Machu Picchu, the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel is an example of sustainable tourism at its most luxurious. The hotel is built into the mountainous “cloud forest”, and is modelled after ancient Incan villages. The spa specialises in traditional health and wellness treatments, and the restaurant serves outstanding Peruvian specialties created with locally-sourced, organic ingredients. Water is recycled and cleaned before it is let back into the river system, and every soap, detergent and shampoo is made from local natural ingredients. Guests can take nature walks with local guides who proudly exhibit the wild beauty of Peru’s rainforest.

While that may not sound particularly ground-breaking, these small changes minimise the hotel’s footprint on the surrounding environment, maximise its investment in the local community. It is all presented in a unique and luxurious way.

Increasingly, travellers are demanding sustainable environments on their holidays, and are willing to pay more for these. Today’s luxury holiday experiences simply must be created through a sustainability lense. Travellers want to sleep easy in the knowledge that their holiday money is working to help the locals and to preserve the very cultures and environments that have attracted them in the first place, for many generations to come.

Narrowcasting: The Future of PR Placements

If you were to visit any travel media website, the most popular format of article doesn’t answer the question “where should I go?” or “what should I see?”, but some form of “what should I do?” For the modern traveller, the driving force has shifted from ticking off a bucketlist item, to using travel as a form of self expression and a new environment in which to engage in their passions and interests.

The impetus is clear; Successful travel marketing requires storytelling about how travellers can get involved in the activities that they love.

While broadcast and syndicated print media continues to offer huge reach and readership numbers, which do have impact (and look fantastic in reports), but often the message can be quite generic, to cater to such broad markets. Contradicting established logic, placing stories in small, niche, and specialised media is where the future of travel PR is heading. Why? Because the energy to drive action is far more potent the more targeted the story can be. Narrowcasting is where the conversion lies.

Mass awareness broadcasting has certainly not become irrelevant, and still has an important place in the media cycle. In the initial phases of a brand breaking the local market, creating mass awareness drives incredible momentum for a brand in the public eye. But narrowcasting gives us the opportunity to move a consumer along the funnel from thinking “what can I do in this destination?”, to “how can I do what I love in this destination?”

Narrowcasting does exactly that; targeting PR placements to environments where audiences are engaged, informed, and most importantly, ready to buy. If the name doesn’t give it away, it is the opposite of broadcasting; moving away from mass-reach, low-impact PR placements to targeting small segments of the population who are hungry for content that relates to their lives. It’s putting away the drag net and getting out the spear-gun.

In July 2018, the California’s Pacific Coast Highway was reopened to the public after months of repairs following a devastating landslide in 2017. To celebrate the reopening, Visit California hosted a “Dream Drive”, with over 80 historic vehicles driving in convoy along a 200 kilometre stretch of the coast.

One of the drivers invited for this trip was Australian V8 Supercars legend, Craig Lowndes, who had recently announced his retirement from the sport. Aside from the broad newsworthiness of the reopening of the highway, Lowndes’ participation meant that there was keen interest in the event from both sporting and motoring media, delivering the key messaging directly to audiences where it would have the most impact.

Gate 7 was able to lock in coverage for the event in titles as broad as Fox Sports, to niche non-travel publications such as SpeedCafe, and RedBook. Further, a partnership with Channel 10’s motor-sport program RPM, secured nearly 10-minutes of niche, passion-focused television coverage directly to enthusiasts who would look to drive the iconic stretch of coastline; far more coverage than we could have hoped to garner through traditional wide media distribution.

In this new status quo, where there’s a more balanced focus between mass reach and narrowcast placements, the challenge of measurement and ROI becomes a lot more complex than measurements of reach and readership. How do we weight the increased impact of more targeted placements? In digital publications, understanding engagement levels through analytics that point to page-dwell times, bounce rates, and comments is already commonplace, but of course quantifying these sentiments in print presents a more difficult challenge.

It’s not an easy challenge. Together with our clients, we are looking for ways to correlate specific brand messages to the level of context in the publications where placements are achieved. Travel PR, after all, is the art of leveraging media relationships to build a public image, which drives tourism to a destination or product, not simply to accrue large reach numbers for the sake of hitting quotas or besting previous goals.

Why Millennials want Travel Agents

Dani Tuffield, Director of Travel Trade at Gate 7, talks to us about the evolving demands of the traveller, and those travel industry professionals who are adapting with the times.

Technology has opened up a myriad of new booking channels for travellers, and while many may think this will lead to the inevitable demise of the travel agent, Dani disagrees; instead, it’s about harnessing the best of the technology to allow the travel agent to focus on using their experience for the things that matter. “Millennials are seeing how fragmented the booking landscape is and it can be overwhelming and confusing. Because they are feeling time-poor, they can see value in seeking out an expert to help plan their holidays,” Dani says.

“It really isn’t about sightseeing any more. Travel today is about experiencing the authentic nature of a destination,” says Dani.

“The new traveller is looking for an experience that makes them feel like they are living either like a local, or getting an intimate understanding of the history and culture that attracted them in the first place”.

Millennials is a broad term applied to both Gen Y and Gen Z, the difference being mainly found in the tech they were raised on.

“Generation Y grew-up on personal computers, cell phones, and using video game systems, while Generation Z has grown up on tablets, smartphones, and using apps,” Dani explains.

Millennials all very tech savvy, but have come to see high value in working with a travel guru who gives them the right tools to expertly curate and understand their destination.

“They don’t want generic information any more – they don’t want the shouty man model of advertising, serving up 40 cheap flights to them in an email,” Dani explains.

In the future Dani says it will be all about the bespoke holidays to cater to an individual’s interests, motivations and passions. Consumer dollars will be won by operators who can adapt from the generic and cater to the niche, offering a high level of customer service that’s personalised, real time and responsive.

Gate 7’s work with new travel providers from airlines and OTA’s, to the up-and-coming package operators like Luxury Escapes and niche adventuring touring like G-Adventures has shown that those who act fast to service the new model of consumer will profit.

Another industry development reflecting this trend towards personalisation is the rise of the mobile, at-home travel agent. These agents have typically spent years in a bricks and mortar retail environment where they’ve built up a loyal clientele who they understand really well. They are now able to have the flexibility to run their household and own family, while they customise and deliver very tailored holiday experiences they know will suit their long time client.

It’s tailored, personalised content rather than generic offers that will win. Millennials want to deal with someone who is an expert on both the destination, and on them. They value an agent who could say: “I know that you are really into pop culture so I’ve put together this map that shows you where your favourite stars are located on the Hollywood Walk of Fame”. Or “I know that you are obsessed with the Oscars, so  I have booked you a night at the Roosevelt Hotel because that’s where the Oscars used to be held’. This is the kind of tailored service that will result in above average budget expenditures, according to Dani.

“The opportunity for travel agents who understand both the customer and the destination is huge. Take the US for example; most Australian and New Zealand travellers go over to the US for three weeks and at the moment most travel agents get involved with only about three days of that. The incremental opportunity for travel agents, without having to increase their client base, is about 19 days per trip. Imagine if they could realise even a fraction of that”.

A lot of the developments in the travel industry at the moment are driven by new technologies that are moving towards allowing agents to incorporate these personal data points to tailor holidays for the individual.

But agents can also pick up an awful lot of this deeper destination information at Gate 7 training, events and webinars. Through these forums, we provide the industry with detailed information that can help them to customise with insider tips.

“Travel agents will continue to thrive in the future they understand that travel is not just about getting away anymore; it’s about people, connection and experience. It is about helping us grow as humans and learning to become more of who we are.”

Matthew Cherubino shoots Huarcaran from Huaraz, Peru

Get Vocal, Get Local

Social media is such a powerful and revolutionary marketing tool. It allows brands to talk directly with consumers in unfiltered ways utilising a huge range of content types and styles, as well as listen to their real time feedback.

Australian and New Zealand audiences are globally ranked as some of the earliest adopters of new technology and social media platforms. Combined with their larrikin sense of humour and high levels of education, this makes social a primary medium for international brands catering to the market. Launching a local Australian and New Zealand social media presence can be a minefield. Here are five tips from the Gate 7 social team.

1. Think Global, Act Local

In Australia and New Zealand, social media users are easily turned off by content that is cookie-cut for international audiences. Preference is shown to brands that make the effort to localise their content, voice and design to cater to local tastes and needs.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean that everything needs to be created from scratch for the local market. Before you rush headlong into preparations for a brand new social media page built from the ground up, it may be more efficient, cost effective, and impactful to leverage key elements from the global page.

Since 2012, Facebook has offered a very powerful, but often overlooked feature, known as the Facebook Global Page. For a large portion of big-name brands, products and destinations, the platform allows pages to segment out sub-sections of their audience into individually-managed regional pages to give a more unique local flavour to content, while still accessing the resources of the global page.

2. Authentic Content

In the social media landscape, authenticity is king; Users are interacting with brands on a personal level and what they see must ring true and deeply reflect the key brand values that attracted them to follow. The strongest content strategy is focussed on bringing your strengths to life in your brand’s authentic tone of voice.

The same evaluation that you would have made of your brand’s values for public relations and marketing purposes will fit into a social context, with slight adjustments to be made to your voice, as you’ll be speaking directly to consumers over social media. Set out your “visual narrative” and define the general aesthetic, personality and tone of voice. These are the foundations of the content plan.

Create structure around your messaging pillars; what are the USPs you want to bring to life, the key messages you want to share with your audience? Create structure around your content plan that will see you deliver these messages in a considered and consistent manner.

3. Measure Twice, Post Once

Establishing a set of KPI’s and measures and frequently checking in with these will give you the opportunity to learn what’s resonating best and adjust your content accordingly. This is a two way conversation, so you need to be listening to what your audience is coming back to you with.

The huge number of tools available to marketers on social media platforms mean that there is no one-size-fits-all, guaranteed strategy home-run for your brand. The ever-evolving algorithms that rule the roost of Facebook and Instagram also force marketers to continually experiment with their content strategies to maximise results. .

4. Build Community. Boost Engagement. Rinse. Repeat.

Upon launch, your focus should be on building up an audience of fans and followers. Put budget into background ads that will spread your content to a broad audience that you can refine down to people interested in your product or service.

Once the foundation of your community has been achieved and the initial growth surge has subsided, moving to create highly engaging content, responding to followers and fans with comments and sharing similar content will push up your engagement rate. A higher engagement rate then boosts your positioning in most social media platforms’ algorithms, and in turn leads to a higher growth rate with followers.

5. Bring All Your Friends to the Party

The best part of social media is that it is inherently interconnected, both for the average user and for commercial pages. As a brand you can directly interact with other brands, public figures and influencers, and leverage their social capital, audiences and content creation skills to boost your brand’s own profile.

Engaging with an aligned brand or commercial partner can be a very beneficial way to expose your message to a like minded audience. Consumer competitions, activations and sponsored posts in partnership with known and trusted local brands can facilitate you becoming a part of the conversation with that community and expand your reach and following in the process.

Working in partnership with influencers who are appropriately selected for their like minded audience and their skillful content creation is another impactful way to make a splash on social media. A great many influencers will go the extra mile to produce incredible content for a brand that appeals to their interests, and they have a loyal following which gives them great sway.
A final, and far less expensive method of leveraging other pages’ reach is to simply interact with similar pages, with comments, likes and shares, effectively tapping into the conversations others are having with your target community.