Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Anna Veith Retires. Thank You For All The Great Moments You Have Given Us

Last Saturday Olympic champion and overall World Cup winner Anna Veith announced her retirement from professional skiing. She has won everything there is to win in skiing.
The 30-year-old officially put an end to a career that included 15 World Cup wins, three world titles, and three Olympic medals, including women's Super-G gold at Sochi 2014. Some former Alpine Ski stars paid their own tribute to the Austrian skier.
"I have lived my childhood dream and now is the right time for me to take a step back (...) I am delighted to be able to end my career in a happy and successful place", said Anna Veith, who currently holds the title as Austria’s most successful ski racer.
"Until now I was able to call ski racing my job. I have never done anything else or loved anything as much. The smell of fresh snow. Early mornings spent on the glacier. The Team. These are all things I will miss dearly. I don’t know what’s next yet, but I look forward to finding out", she said.


Sunday, May 24, 2020

Relive Hirscher Outstanding Victory at 2015 Garmisch Giant Slalom

Marcel Hirscher’s runs were all anyone could talk about after the 2015 Giant Slalom race on the Kandahar. After dominating the first run and clocking a time 1.99 seconds faster than everyone else’s, Hirscher was far from done for the day. He entered the second run as if the massive gap didn’t exist, attacking every turn of the rutty course and won his 30th World Cup race with a massive 3.28 seconds advantage. The 3.28 seconds margin turned out to be the third biggest in World Cup history, the first two belong to the legendary Ingemar Stenmark. Marcel Hirscher won the race in front of Felix Neureuther and Benjamin Raich.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

COVID-19 and Ski Resorts (V). Lessons from Mad Men

In my marketing classes at university, my students really like it when I use videos from TV-shows (from South Park to Yes Minister) as teaching resources.
Now, during the COVID-19 lockdown, I am re-watching one of my favorites, Mad Men, looking for inspiration for my next article and I was really surprised by how relevant this series actually is for what I’m currently working on.
Mad Men is an American period drama television series created by Matthew Weiner. Mad Men is set in '60 America at the fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, New York City. The series' main character is advertising Creative Director Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm).

In the last episode of the first season, we find one of the greatest pitches ever shown on TV.
"In Greek, ‘nostalgia’ literally means ‘the pain from an old wound (...) This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again", Don Draper: (Mad Men S1: E13).

Having our customers at the center of our destination marketing strategy requires an understanding of the main phases of the Tourist Life Cycle – from the beginning of the inspiration process until after the return.
The life cycle of the tourist trip consists of three phases.
  • Before the trip. This is the inspiration phase, but also the decision and purchase phase. Tourists look for information about the places they would like to go to. In this phase, destination marketing teams are the key to easing the start of the process keeping the consumer inspired to choose our destination.
  • During the trip. This is the experiential moment by nature. It runs from the moment the physical journey begins until the moment one returns to one’s usual place of residence. Tourists’ perception of a destination is made up of all the services consumed and each of the experiences. To a great extent, this is what determines the final degree of satisfaction related to the trip.
  • After the trip. This phase is becoming increasingly important. Communication with tourists must be maintained in order to get their opinion on the trip.
I wrote in my previous article that, under the current circumstances, we must focus our efforts on the inspiration phase of the customer journey. People are dreaming about their future trips to our ski resorts (#dreamnowtravellater) so we must keep them inspired with good memories. It is time to keep our guests emotionally linked to our destinations.
And in the 21st century, social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram have entirely changed the way marketers reach their audiences. If you’re a social media marketing professional, you’re well aware that selecting a social media platform is all about understanding where your audience is and which one is the most impactful platform to achieve your destination goals.
Instagram is now an integral part of the social media landscape. It is the fastest growing platform in the history of social media.

"Instagram marketing is no longer something to consider — it’s just something to do. It comes with the job now. Those who understand this are no longer asking themselves WHY they should do it, but rather HOW they should do it correctly in order to get the results they want", Iconosquore. Instagram Marketing Trends & Benchmarks Report 2019.

Instagram is a visual platform where people come to share moments, find passions, and most importantly, get inspired.
Instagram is producing higher engagement rates for destinations compared to Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.
Instagram is the new "Carousel", a time machine taking our customers to a place where they want to go again and our prescriptors/influencers are the ones to help us play the show.
Nich-Influencers in the 10k-100k follower range offers the best combination of engagement and broad reach, that exceed influencers with higher followers. When choosing to collaborate with this influencer segment, you are looking also for the quality of interactions.

Why Nich-influencers?
  • Cost-efficient: Nich-influencers come at a much lower cost.
  • Better than word of mouth: Consumers have higher chances of listening to recommendations from this kind of influencers than an average person.
  • More authentic: They are seen as more credible sources in the eyes of followers, compared to other sources.
  • Higher engagement rate: Due to their niche focus, these influencers tend to have higher engagement rates on their posts.
So, gather your team of influencers, and keep your guests on the loop. Because the "show must go on"...

The Ski Racing Podcast: 2020 Season Review Part 1

Thursday, April 9, 2020

COVID-19 and Ski Resorts (IV). The Road to Recovery

The 2020 outbreak of COVID-19 has produced the longest shutdown of tourism on record (and we don't know how long it will last).
The Tourism sector, and ski resorts particularly, are severely affected by the current Corona crisis, and the global spread of the pandemic is going to impose a significant dampening effect on the rate of recovery.

Three elements will be decisive in the process of recovery of tourist demand in general and in ski resorts in particular:
  • Fear management and confidence-building
Risk and fear may alter tourists' travel plans, influence their choice of destinations and, in some cases, lead them to decide not to travel. How countries and destinations manage the crisis and get out of it will be a fundamental element in their recovery process.
The speed and strength of the recovery will depend on the perception of risk, and the guarantees that destinations can offer to visitors.
Mature markets may adopt a more cautious approach to travel, looking for safe destinations. Proximity and moving within a socio-culturally similar geographical space can be decisive elements in increasing the sense of security for these markets.
The worst-case scenario for recovery would be that COVID-19 was perceived by people like an open crisis with governments that do not control the outbreak.
Closed borders and restrictions to tourism will be still in place until is completely safe to travel again.

  • The Economy
Safety and security represent only a part of the bundle of issues producing weak travel demand. Coronavirus is a global economic catastrophe. Figures from countries around the world show we are seeing a massive surge in unemployment, unprecedented in historical terms.
Current uncertainty defies all efforts to forecast where the economy may go in the future.
High unemployment rates and people's fear of losing their jobs lead to lower consumption, starting a cycle that will lead to an economic depression. Concerns about the economy falling consumer confidence and consumer concerns about not having enough money to travel. Reticences to spend will slow recovery long after the direct crisis ends.
After more than three weeks of severe restrictions due to the Corona crisis, surveys are beginning to show a declining mood in society, with more people expecting a very negative or negative economic development in the future.
As a consequence, more people will limit their consumption after the crisis. This would particularly affect travel, shopping, restaurants and cafes, and the purchase of luxury goods. In addition to consumption, the possibility/desire to go on vacation this summer also decreases as uncertainty about the future increases. For people who still want to go on vacation, most of them will choose to travel within their own country.
But we can be optimistic. The good news for ski resorts is skiing tourism has shown in previous situations that it is more resilient to the crisis than other sectors in the tourism industry. Travel is related to income and the family income of skiers is higher on average than that of other tourism models.
  • Self-reward. The desire to travel
The coronavirus lockdown and mass quarantines are typified to be long periods of hardship and strict modification of normal behavior patterns. Evidence shows that a sharp period of restriction results in an increased desire to travel. Travel is considered a core necessity by a large share of the western population and a fundamental part of their way of life. Tourists are mainly motivated by the desire to escape, to "get away from it all". One of the key characteristics of the XXI century tourists is their need to escape from everyday routines and issues in a bid to achieve some form of fulfillment. The current trend of tourist experiences include some degree of escapism, and many people would express the need to travel away as the main reason for taking a holiday.
Skiing Tourism provides an opportunity for the population who are seeking self-fulfillment and excitement through participating in physically and mentally stimulating activities while traveling to breathtaking mountainous areas. For passionate skiers travel to ski resorts to ski is the ultimate form of self-reward or self-indulgence.

Walking the road to recovery will require a complex roadbook full of recommendations.

  • Focus in local and regional markets
Restrictions to travel will be in place for a long time. So, local and regional markets (drive distance source markets) will rebound faster once the crisis ends. The rate of recovery will be in direct proportion to the extent and magnitude of privation that has been felt by the population.
Long haul markets will not recover for at least a year, and there is great uncertainty in how airlines are going to face this crisis and how it is going to affect our way of traveling.
Based on current developments, and notwithstanding the high level of ongoing uncertainty regarding the pandemic, IATA estimates that industry-wide RPKs (Revenue Passenger Kilometers) will contract by almost 40% in 2020, with the decline broad-based across all regions. The rebound in air travel after COVID-19 is expected to take longer than the recovery seen in previous crises due to the unprecedented travel restrictions around the world and the global recession which has been triggered as businesses and borders are closed.

  • Inspire
We must focus our efforts on the inspiration phase of the customer journey. People are dreaming (#dreamnowtravellater) so keep them inspired with good memories. It is time to keep our clients emotionally linked to our destinations. With people isolated and plenty of time to surf the internet, social media offers a tremendous opportunity to attract and keep on the loop a significant share of this pent-up demand. Markets are not yet receptive to promotional campaigns but that will change immediately once the outbreak passes. Ski Resorts must be prepared with inspiring promotional campaigns ready to be launched in short notice.
  • B2C
The answer to the crisis is Personalization. Guests demand a customer journey more personalized, emotional, on a one-to-one level. Restrictions to travel encourage individual travel. Transactions will be more impulsive and instantaneous, and for these times Business-to-consumer marketing will be key. B2C marketing refers to the tactics and strategies in which a destination promotes its products and services to individual customers. B2C marketing efforts will tend to focus on building trust and inspiring desire, and rely strongly on the power of emotion and shared values. The biggest challenge for ski resorts B2C marketers is reaching and engaging their customers and understand how to break through all the noise to reach them. And also establishing an emotional connection with your customers means more work and a bigger investment in personal terms. The easier the planning and booking process for the customer is, the better. It must require lower levels of investment for them in terms of time and money. And we must add to the equation flexibility, to pay and cancel.

I am writing this from Tirol. Tourism is very important for Austria, and ski resorts a fundamental part of Tirol's economy. Businesses are suffering and friends have already lost their jobs. It is no wonder there is despair in local businesses and companies especially taking into account that more than 80 percent of the Tourism business in Tirol are family businesses.
But there is room for hope. On Tuesday the most extreme measures of the quarantine were lowered: a breath of freedom on the way back to normality in Tirol. You can go for a walk in the fresh air and leave the limits of your municipality of residence. The city of Innsbruck reopened its parks and gardens. Definitely a first step on the long road to recovery.