On September 25 and 26, 2014, members of Manitoba's tourism industry gathered to learn, share and recognize the significant role they all play in promoting tourism in the province and creating experiences that sets visitors' hearts racing. The 2014 Manitoba Tourism Conference was presented in part by Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, Delta Winnipeg and Freeman AV.
The 2014 Manitoba Tourism Conference featured a line-up of engaging speakers and events, including:
- Keynote presentation from Olympic gold medallist and host of The Amazing Race Canada, Jon Montgomery
- Plenary Session on Canada's 150th Anniversary in 2017
- Reception and tour of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights
- Presentation on digital trends changing consumer behaviour by Kyle Lacy
- An overview on how to manage your online reputation with TripAdvisor's Andrew Wiens
- A summary of Travel Manitoba's 2014 campaign results and 2015 marketing plan and partnership opportunities
- The 16th Annual Manitoba Tourism Awards Gala Luncheon
The conference opened with a burst of energy and enthusiasm thanks to keynote speaker, Jon Montgomery, Manitoba native, Canadian Olympic gold medal winner and host of The Amazing Race Canada. Jon spoke passionately about Dreaming Big: Living Bigger. He regaled the audience with amusing tales of the challenges he faced and conquered as the small kid with big dreams. "I didn't know that what I was shooting for was impossible - so I believed I could achieve it" became a constant theme throughout his pursuit of excellence. His pride in showing off his home province during the most recent season of The Amazing Race Canada was evident, as was his appreciation of the industry that helps to make Manitoba such a warm and welcoming place for visitors.
"Jon Montgomery's story was inspiring and can be applied to so many aspects of life," said one conference participant on our post-conference survey. While another added, "It's always fun and easy to listen to someone who is passionate about what he does. It felt like he was talking to us like he would to a friend."
In addition to sharing his story, Jon auctioned off an autographed beer pitcher in honour of his impromptu post-Olympic celebration with proceeds donated to KidSportTM. Three hundred dollars was raised to help get more kids playing sports.
2017 might sound like it's a long way away, but for those of us in the tourism business, the planning needs to start now. There is a lot to celebrate - Canada's 150th anniversary, the Year of Youth Travel and the 2017 Canada Summer Games happening in Winnipeg. Speakers shed some light on the planning that is already taking place and to get the industry thinking about ways in which they can contribute to the development of the 2017 action plans.
Ready or Not. Here They Come.
With a dual goal of strengthening Canadian pride and identity along with growing tourism revenues for Canada, Gloria Loree, Executive Director, Global Marketing, Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), shared the CTC's priority of capturing the youth market and appealing to their unique and experiential travel ideals. The CTC is focusing on getting the attention of Canadian youth and showing them how they can experience their own personal
trip of a lifetime here at home.
Hubert Mesman, Co-Chair, 2017 Canada Summer Games, discussed the importance of major events to promote tourism in Manitoba. Mesman stated "These games are Canada's largest sporting event, attracting over 5,000 athletes. This provides not only the immediate economic benefits of visitors to the province, but a tremendous legacy for years afterwards." While planning is still in the initial stages, Mesman offered some ideas about the potential events that may take shape including a "sport caravan" that will relay the history of sport and the Canada Summer Games throughout the country, along with cultural celebrations that will align with Canada's 150th anniversary celebrations.
A presentation by Claudette Leclerc, Executive Director of the Manitoba Museum, offered a historical review of the 1967 Centennial celebration and legacy projects as a starting point to spur ideas and get industry thinking about the ways it can shape the 150th Anniversary celebration in 2017. http://2017startsnow.ca/ was introduced as a cross-country planning collaboration to help get the ball rolling.
Closing off the day was an interactive plenary session to assist the tourism industry in brainstorming and creating a strategy designed to assist with the 150th celebrations in Manitoba. Facilitated by Lloyd Fridfinnson of Probe Research, delegates were asked to share their ideas of what Manitoba should highlight and focus on for the 2017 celebrations using five pillars as inspiration: commemoration, celebration, education, legacy and hosting.
"We have lots of work to do as a community to prepare for Canada 150th in 2017 (and Manitoba's 150th in 2020). We have a committed and creative tourism industry who are keen to work together," read one comment in our post-conference survey. Another comment echoed this thought: "I also valued the workshop about Canada's 150th birthday. I feel as though it's very important to hear everyone's opinions and ideas and this was a perfect opportunity to do so. We are now all aware of what others have in mind for 2017 and it would be wonderful if there was a follow up session. If we all work together in having a common goal/theme - this celebration could really be spectacular."
The enthusiasm demonstrated and inventive ideas suggested by our tourism partners prove that we are off to a good start. 2017 is coming and Manitoba will be ready for it!
Conference attendees were treated to a reception at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights followed by tours of three of the galleries. Museum guides led visitors from the subterranean depths of the museum, up several floors of glowing alabaster ramps to discover and be inspired by the thought-provoking interactive content that is showcasing human rights around the world in a way that has never been done before.
Stuart Murray, CEO of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, welcomed guests as ambassadors for the province. He recognized the tourism industry's ability to bring people from all around the world to see Winnipeg and Manitoba, and continued by thanking everyone in attendance for "doing such an amazing job of being champions of this museum."
Day two of the Conference opened with a presentation from Kyle Lacy about the biggest trends that are impacting consumer behaviour. Lacy, Director of Global Content and Research from Exact Target Marketing Cloud, enlightened the crowd with an energetic and informative session full of amusing anecdotes and current examples of organizations that are leading the pack in using these trends to their best advantage.
"Well done to Travel Manitoba for booking an engaging, forward-thinking speaker who cited relevant examples and not just theories. Even though we may be in a smaller market, we don't need to think small in terms of the customer experience and/or embracing what technology can do for us or our businesses," said Deborah Bowers, Director of Marketing & Communications for Folklorama.
It’s no secret to anyone that technology has changed the world of business, including the business of tourism. In fact, technology has changed just about everything in today’s modern-day life. And it’s still changing…quickly. These changes are being reflected in the way consumers make their purchase decisions, and it’s important for the tourism industry to recognize and understand these trends so they can make sure their business is in-line with their customers’ needs.
Added conference delegate Deborah, "He reinforced what most business leaders know: using technology to learn about your customers and to ultimately, understand them and engage with them is critical. His presentation reinforced some existing marketing strategies but also helped me to think about potential future marketing touch points like more customer personalization."
A few highlights from Kyle's presentation:
Moments Matter: "It's about that one moment in time, and taking advantage of it." Every touch point and every connection is an opportunity to deliver a seamless brand experience to delight your customers.
Connected Consumer: With the steady increase in mobile phone usage globally, consumers have the ability to obtain information to assist with their purchase decisions in any place, at any time. In fact, smartphone usage has only reached 30% of the total market. The consumer is only going to become even more connected in years to come. Every business is a mobile business.
The eCommerce Effect/Affect: Same-day delivery dropped off by a drone to your front door? Email a picture of the unknown bolt that just broke off your bike and have a replacement part send to you within 24 hours? Think this is the stuff of science fiction? Think again. eCommerce is changing at a rapid pace and is going to continue to change the face of retail as we know it.
Content Personalization: "Forty-one percent of consumers buy more from brands that send personalized emails based on past buying behaviours." Guided selling (helping potential buyers purchase the product that best meets their needs) and using predictive intelligence (suggesting products a customer would like to buy based on the items they have purchased in the past) are the most effective approach to personalized content.
Collaborative Economy: A new framework becoming increasingly popular among the most powerful companies on the planet, it is a model where creation, ownership and access are shared between people and corporations. In sectors like goods, food, services, transportation, space and money, the collaborative economy is shaping a new version of commerce that is changing how we do business.
Social Intelligence: "Social media is turning from lead generation to service." It is becoming even more important for organizations to embrace social media, integrate the data they collect from social channels with traditional data and share this information throughout the entire organization. It is more than social media. It is about listening to your client.
Humanizing Optimization: "Your ability to build an experience for your client is your only job." Build messaging strategy around the individual from every touch point - from the very first contact to the follow-up after the sale.
In the eagerly anticipated session of this year's conference, Andrew Wiens, TripAdvisor's International DMO Manager, shared research, insights and an in-depth exploration of TripAdvisor for Business and the best ways for the tourism industry to get the most out of its services.
Research indicates that 93% of global travellers and 96% of hotels say that an individual's booking decisions are impacted by online reviews. The fact is, online reviews have become an important aspect of the tourism industry and customers are using them to decide where to stay on vacation, and what types of activities to do while they are here. Whether you are an accommodations provider, a restaurant, an attraction or an event, Wiens provided these tips on how to best manage reviews and improve your online presence:
Take Control - "Own" your property listing. Go to www.tripadvisor.com/owners. In only a few quick minutes this allows you to maintain your own listing, engage with your customers, and add pictures.
Embrace Feedback - Customers are going to review your product whether or not you want to acknowledge it. Better to embrace it, and make it work to your benefit. Research shows that more reviews lead to higher ratings and the vast majority of TripAdvisor reviews are positive. In fact, in a review of almost 1.3 million reviews, more than 70% had a rating of 4 or 5. The average rating among all these reviews was 4.12 (on a 5 point scale).
Encourage Feedback - Sign up and use Review Express. This will notify you of reviews as they are added to your listing, will help to organize management responses, and can also be used to ask guests to review your property after they've checked out. Interesting fact: people are more likely to provide an honest and detailed review to a third party rather than the provider themselves.
Speak Up - Respond to reviews. Whether positive or negative, it is vitally important to respond to your reviews. In fact, it is even more important to respond to negative reviews than it is to positive ones. Seventy-seven percent believe that a response from management shows it cares more about its guests. Eighty-seven percent say an appropriate management response to a bad review improves their impression of the hotel. "Customers don't need you to fix the problem necessarily; they just need to see that you tried."
Paint your Picture - Use pictures and videos to show people exactly what your property offers. Don't worry: pictures don't have to be professional quality, they just have to be in focus. Good quality photos and videos can easily be taken on your mobile phone and uploaded in just a few clicks!
Sing Your Praises - Become your biggest advocate! Just won an award? Promote it. Just added free WiFi to all your rooms? Talk about it. Just launched a new menu? Share the news (and an image of a few of the new menu items!)
What's in it for you? TripAdvisor's research shows that if you can increase your rating by one point (on a 5-point scale), you can raise your rates by up to 11.2% and maintain current booking/visitor levels.
Here are TripAdvisor's 3 best ways to improve your rating:
1) Quality of reviews - you want to ensure your listing matches your product. "Tell people what you actually are." Don't claim to be the very best hotel in the universe, or you are bound to have disappointed guests followed by negative reviews. But if you are the best kid-friendly hotel in Brandon, say that. This will make sure that guest expectations are realistic, and the reviews that follow will be legitimate and positive.
2) Recent reviews - Try to encourage as many guests as you can to write a review. Reviews can be added up to one year after the guest's stay. For seasonal properties and attractions, use the off season to contact guests that stayed or visited in the busy times and ask them to submit a review.
3) Quantity - the more reviews you have, the faster your rankings will adjust. Use Review Express to increase your review success. Properties that use this free service regularly see a 33% increase in reviews.
For more detailed information and more tips on how to improve your TripAdvisor rating, view the complete presentation here.