Phocuswright 2015: Empowering Travelers in a Post-Mobile World

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Every November, the leading minds in digital travel marketing gather for The Phocuswright Conference and Travel Innovation Summit. This year was the biggest conference yet with more than 1,700 attendees and 62 travel technology companies in attendance. The conference theme – I, Traveler – was all about the traveler and embracing a post-mobile world.

With nearly nine in 10 travelers owning a smartphone and one in two owning at least three devices (phone, tablet, and PC), mobile first is obvious but customer first is a must. Companies are looking to empower travelers throughout the stages of the traveler’s journey by providing useful planning tools that put them in control, as well as more personalized and authentic content. Travel companies will continue to consolidate, use data to personalize user experience and curate social content to inspire visitors.


During The Travel Innovation Summit, 43 companies demonstrated their innovations over two days and were judged by a panel of 16 Dragons. The six award-winning companies revealed some key trends in travel, including empowering the traveler with tools that put them in control throughout their traveler’s journey.

  • Tansler (an anagram of “rentals”) which is kind of like a mashup of Airbnb and Ebay where renters pick multiple properties, name their price and hosts compete for the booking.
  • Travefy is a travel planning platform with tools to collaborate on trip details, build rich itineraries, and collect shared expenses.
  • Trekkable is similar to TripAdvisor but for those with mobility challenges. Trekkable captures user ratings of properties through the lens of accessibility.
  • Tripchamp is an open platform for all types of sellers of air and hotel content to target various travelers, but with improved UX and pricing compared to OEMs.
  • Proxce is a proximity identity manager that uses Bluetooth Smart (iBeacons/Eddystone) and Geofence to identify guests in real time and enable auto check-ins and keyless entries at hotels.
  • Revinate helps hotels deliver personalized experiences that create valuable relationships and lifelong customers by uniting disparate guest data sources in a single rich profile.

You can find a full recap of all demonstrations on Robert Cole’s blog.  


The Facebook/Instagram workshop talked about how social media platforms are empowering travel companies to make travel personalized again with campaigns utilizing custom audiences, look-a-likes, intent signals, and ad sequencing. Facebook was positioned as a place for personal connection while Instagram was positioned as a source for daily inspiration. Some key stats on the value of these platforms include:

  • Mobile purchases are increasing and are expected to keep increasing. Facebook reported a 34% increase in frequency of mobile purchases and expect another 30% increase in December 2015.
  • Visit Myrtle Beach used Facebook carousel ads to target custom audiences and look-a-likes in order to grow web traffic and foot traffic. The campaign resulted in over 6 million people reached, a 55% conversion rate to partner sites, and a 63% lower cost per conversion than other campaign channels. Ascedia has also seen some great results using carousel ads for our clients.
  • Las Vegas Visitor and Convention Bureau doubled down on a tourism campaign with Facebook and experienced a 24 point lift in ad recall from mobile video ads on Instagram. In total, there were 11.8 million video views at a cost of $0.02 per video view. 


The Olapic workshop shared examples of how visual marketing strategies are growing bookings. More than 480 million photos are shared each day between Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest and we know that the majority of travelers trust User Generated Content (UGC) more than brand-created content. Travel organizations have an opportunity to curate UGC to inspire others, as well as create their own campaigns. Olpaic shared three steps to success with visual marketing campaigns:

  1. Stay on brand and be consistent
  2. Be concept-driven
  3. Be well-crafted (remember to have a focal point, utilize the rule of thirds and remember the importance of good lighting)


Consolidation in the travel industry was a big theme at Phocuswright. With Expedia’s purchase of Oribitz, Travelocity and Home Away, TripAdvisor’s exclusive instant booking partnership with Priceline, and Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood, smaller travel companies are concerned with how they’ll compete. Even the large companies are concerned with Google’s intentions in the travel market as it showed off its new destination experience (although Google insists that it does not intend to become an OTA). Providing authentic, unique and personalized experiences will become even more important for smaller companies in order to remain competitive.

You can check out more highlights from the conference, including the official recap, videos and photos here. Next year’s Phocuswright Conference will be held November 15-17, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. Hope to see you there!

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