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The Existential Crisis Facing Travel Trade

Where does this leave you moving forward?

Recently I wrote about the dramatic change occurring in the tour operator space with the surprising merger between Apple Leisure Group and The Mark Travel Corporation. You can read more about that here.

This week I want to talk about another seismic shift occurring. This one is within the travel trades.

Today, everywhere we look, legacy brands are crumbling and it’s frankly hard to watch. Recently, Sears announced it is closing its last store in Chicago. For someone that grew up with this iconic brand, watching this slow, painful death spiral is a bit surreal.

But Sears is not the only victim in this new world order. The entire retail landscape is a disaster and seems destined to have single brand categories… Dicks Sporting Goods is really the last man standing after another lifelong staple Sports Authority vanished. Toys “R” Us anyone? Who knows what stores will be left at the end of this year?

And one doesn’t have to look at just retail to recognize the massive amount of disruption going on. Consider the impact Uber and Airbnb have made in their respective verticals. And then, of course, there is the massive amount of disruption that has transformed the world of media.

Print, radio, TV all at one point dominated and controlled the dissemination of news and entertainment. Investing in these channels was a guarantee you would hit your target and grab their attention. It’s not the Mad Men era anymore. Today’s media world has splintered into a thousand different shreds and it continues to fracture making it harder and harder to get the attention of the end user. And not only has the general media world been turned upside down, so have the trades.

Not too long ago, three companies dominated the B2B travel trade space, but this is a much different world. Without getting into specifics, let’s just agree it they have all seen better days.

The last few months in particular, has seen a lot of long time personnel leaving the ranks and along with them a lot of long-term relationships. With those longstanding leaders gone now, it begs the question… what’s next for the Travel Trades. Frankly, none of these changes lend themselves to improvements, investments or attention to YOUR needs or priorities, do they?

But beyond the shifts in personnel, the way we consume content has changed. Print no longer is as important as it once was. It now shares the stage with video, audio, and interactive storytelling.

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Somewhere along the lines in the last 15 years as print declined, the Big 3 ( I just made that up ;)) each decided that they would offset those losses by launching new product and platforms to become the Swiss army knives of B2B travel, leveraging the relationships they had grown. Soon came training, webinars, seminars, trade shows, virtual trade shows, awards and anything else they could muster up with a marketing slogan. Ultimately the offerings became indistinguishable to each other and many times within each portfolio.

I personally watched one of those ‘leaders’ follow this same old playbook for 8 years, and yes, it’s about as demoralizing as you can imagine. But what got lost in translation was that just because they had the ‘eyeballs’ didn’t necessarily translate into an ability to execute and deliver on goals that weren’t Ad related. They essentially turned training into another ad unit.

Somewhere along the way the “registered and graduates” metrics be came the entire story. But is it really, and if we believe so… when the hell did we become that naïve? Training is simply an element of a broader sales activation strategy, not the entirety of it.

The world has moved on and the traditional media organizations no longer carry the weight and importance they once did… across the board. I mean more people today get their news from social media alone than the nightly news, newspapers, morning shows combined. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying the travel trade publishers don’t have a role…but that role is much different in 2018.

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So, what does this mean for you?

Many reading this post have been silently venting their frustrations for years, and trying to pull back … but as the song goes, breaking up is hard to do, don’t trust me — trust a real expert on the matter… take a listen.

I understand this is a relationship game… and it’s because of the strong relationships that many continued to invest long after they probably should have walked away. I get it. In fact, I wrote about it too. But now, with so many of these relationships gone… are there solid business reasons for hanging on with products they themselves are pulling back from supporting?

Look, as the world becomes more and more complex, training will continue to increase in importance not decrease and mobile Sales Enablement is proving itself a true antibiotic for what ails stand- alone eLearning. But this isn’t what the old platforms are serving up, it’s the same long, boring reading exercise.

From the conversations I’ve been having, sadly many of you don’t have a Plan B. Many have used the word TRAPPED. You are not. You own the content and the database. Frankly the content isn’t even worth saving or building off at this point. At TravPRO we have a whole level of inspiration for telling your story and sales intelligence. And the databases you at one time thought was helpful is desperately in need a good cleaning to put it politely. So, what are you trapped into… nothing… you have just been made to feel you are trapped.

The time to take action is now and its easier and less painful than you think or have come to experience. You just need a partner that does what you need extremely well and has an interest in both your needs and priorities. I invite you to take a few minutes to visit our site, take a look at our blog to see what we have gotten very good at, and discover for yourself the value we can bring to your B2B strategy, domestic or global.

There’s a lot of time left in 2018, and plenty of opportunity to make a good year great. Or turn an under performing channel around. But that can only happen by one, understanding the game has changed and two, a new way of operating is needed. Its easier than you think, we designed it that way — ask any of our clients.

Reach out: jcooper@travpromobile.com

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