MRS Travel, Tourism & Hospitality

Last week, MRS hosted a unique event that, for me, was one of the best market research events I’ve attended during my admittedly short time working in marketing for the research industry. This may be biased as I do consider myself a travel guru (or maybe just rather obsessed), but either way the event was very well done.

With more than 200 destination management organisations in England alone, the UK is highly dependent on tourism. One in 11 jobs are linked to this sector and £85 billion was spent on tourism in England alone last year- 75 percent of that was from GB residents. With these stats, it’s easy to see why market researchers are well needed in this sector.

However despite this easily identified need I was very surprised to hear this particular MRS event hadn’t taken place for about 25 years. Hint, hint, MRS!

The majority of the day consisted of engaging presentations showcasing case studies from travel, tourism and hospitality clients alongside their partnered research company.

Three key takeaways from the changing holiday behaviours

Three key takeaways from the changing holiday behaviours

We started with Sharon Orrell from VisitEngland and Jim Eccleston from TNS introducing us to the complexity of this sector and how English tourism markets have changed, requiring new and different measures through developing survey techniques. Next, popular travel myths were busted by Lesley Dusart from Exterion Media and Helen Rose from the7Stars, where the findings from a survey of 11,000 Brits revealed the main reason we take a holiday is to ‘escape everyday life.’ However, it’s important to note that this doesn’t mean we’re escaping technology – a striking 70 percent of Brits admitted to checking messages and updating social while on holiday, making WIFI a key player in holiday decision making.

A few key themes emerged throughout the day. Overall, there was a lot of discussion over the customer experience journey – which makes sense given the sector. BA and eDigitalResearch told the story of their launch of Pulse, which used research to pinpoint key moments in the customer experience journey by sending real-time surveys to customers. Pulse allows BA to understand what really matters in building loyalty and satisfaction – and then focus in on strategy around these moments to fix any hiccups immediately. BA’s Debra Walmsley noted “satisfaction scores are often higher when a problem is addressed quickly, than if there was no problem at all.”

Through all of the survey talk, one of the most memorable conversations revolved around the importance of what you do with the survey after it is completed. If a survey is not fully embedded internally, it is pointless. “Make it a way of working, not a survey.” BA places the voice of the customer at the heart of the business and gives its employees a 360 degree view of the consumer, which is presented in a leadership meeting every month.

Samantha Horsman from The Wellcome Collection and Caroline Bates from Opinion Leader also specified the importance of including staff in the customer journey: “Train your staff to be ethnographers” and involve front line staff to improve the visitor experience.

In the end, a key theme that emerged was a simple word – agility – meaning it’s vital to gather customer feedback, but also just as important to respond to it as soon as possible. Samantha Horsman of Wellcome Collection described agility as starting with an end goal, but also bracing for the unexpected by preparing to be agile in the middle.

Personally, I really enjoyed the presentations at the end of the day where we moved to talking about the branding of destinations. Nick Cooper, head of insights & analytics EMEA at Landor, made it clear that destinations need to create a sense of belonging so that there is a human relationship. “It’s mine and I know how to experience it.”

But most importantly, the best of all takeaways came from InSites Consulting and TUI UK, “When your eyes are only looking at the organisation, your a**e is facing the customer.”

The travel, tourism and hospitality sector is certainly one for market researchers. Clients WANT to tell us about their experiences – they put it all in TripAdvisor. Our challenge is helping them to tell us. That, market researchers, is where you come in.