Chris Pomeroy, Director Global Strategies of MMGY Global and Secretary of Travel Consul will be guest speaker at the opening of the Tic Tac Digital Transformation and Innovation conference in Tenerife. In this pre-conference interview he shares his vision.
Tic Tac: In one word, what is digital transformation for you?
Pomeroy: In a word? I would say that it is a leap... but not just any leap, rather a quantum leap that takes us to another plane. The word transformation is misleading as it implies a gradual, almost evolutionary, process. When transformation has digital as a prefix the whole process of technological change is accelerated. Digital transformation is the third and definitive step in the metamorphosis of an industry and follows on from the phases of consideration and adaptation. Imagine you are contemplating the sea from a ship, wondering what the underwater world would be like (consideration); you put on the wet suit, mask and oxygen (adaptation) and finally you step overboard and into the water (transformation). Digital transformation is the step that changes our perspective from viewing technology from the outside-in to looking from the inside-out. The transformation is from looking at technology through the lens of our business needs to looking at our business through technology. In consideration of and adaptation to technology, we have used digital tools to do the same old things in a new, more efficient way. After a digital transformation, we can start considering digital technology not as a provider of “solutions” to our problems but as a source of new opportunities. By taking digital technology as the starting point for innovation we can create totally new business models and products. Digital transformation also involves a leap from using the problem-solving logic of the left hemisphere of the brain to the creativity of the right hemisphere.
Tic Tac: At what point do you think the Tourism sector is at in relation to digital transformation?
Pomeroy: With the obvious exception of tech companies born from and for digital, I would say that the traditional tourism sector is just coming out of the adaptation phase and starting to feel totally comfortable with digital technology. The travel industry has been faster than others at on-boarding digital and has already lost the initial the fear of technology and started to focus more on the opportunities and less on the threats. Tourism is an industry built on emotions (after all we sell dreams), and any psychologist will tell us that fear acts like a cork in a bottle preventing all other emotions from flowing out. Until we stop fearing technology we cannot release power of the other emotions that allow us to dream, create or innovate. Three of the very first sectors to be digitally transformed were communication, finance and distribution and all three have a strong influence tourism marketing.
As soon as a company sees a more efficient and profitable way of working, it adopts it without hesitation and there is no doubt that digital provides clear economic benefits for tourism businesses. Let’s not forget however that our industry sells personal enrichment to real people and the emotional needs that individuals aim to satisfy with a trip are deeply rooted in human Psyche and therefore slower to evolve. That said, technology is already changing traveler attitudes and behaviour and digital transformation will inevitably affect the tourism product itself and not only its promotion and distribution.
Tic Tac: How do you see the evolution of Tourism in 2030?
Pomeroy: Like all industries that have been transformed by digitalisation, there will be services and therefore businesses that become redundant. This is a process of natural selection that will only affect those unable or unwilling to undertake their own digital transformation in time. There will be far greater direct interaction between the end consumer and the product. The use of traditional intermediaries has already become an option and not an obligation and intermediary businesses must be very clear about their value for today’s digitally savvy traveler if they hope to remain relevant. The players will change, and I am willing to bet that several of the top fifty travel companies in 2030 have not yet been founded, but UNWTO, WTTC, World bank and all international indicators agree that the global tourism industry will continue to grow and grow.
Tourism is an industry and as such it must be managed. This sounds obvious, but the future of the tourism industry will depend on the management skills of political and industry leaders. Hopefully, by 2030 we will have learned to control this monster of an industry we have created. Those of us who are have been working for years in tourism marketing are already doing a bit of soul searching as we consider our direct and indirect responsibility for some of the problems that today are starting to affect not only our industry but entire populations of the destinations we have "sold" and indeed the planet as a whole. Digital transformation could and should play a key role in correcting the current model. The responsible use of blockchain, biometrics, big data, robotics, and the technologies that will be invented by 2030 will increase our ability to manage our industry and significantly improve the sustainability and safety of tourism. This will, in turn, improve the profitability of the tourism industry. Information is power and if it is concentrated in the hands of just a few players or used irresponsibly, far from solving today’s issues, it could actually aggravate the problems that many destinations are just beginning to experience. I am however optimistic and trust the digital natives of Generation Z who are already today beginning to reject some of the attitudes of the Generation X and even the Millennials and who will be responsible for managing the sector in 2030.
Tic Tac: Is the new digital traveler more consequent with their choice of destination?
Pomeroy: First we should differentiate between the digital traveler and the new digital traveler. The digital traveler is the same old traveler who is now empowered by new technology; think “50 year old with an Iphone”. The new digital traveler is the generation of digital natives who never knew and cannot imagine travel without digital. We have seen how Millennials have dominated travel by pure demographic logic, by their willingness to travel and by their expectations that travel providers should adapt to their needs and values. But the Millennials, that for some still represent the "new" travellers, are but a bridging generation. They are the last ones whose christening photos were on Kodak negatives and we must be prepared for the new generation of 100% digital travellers that are on hard on their heels. So far, the so-called Generation Z is most associated with the concept of ego-tourism. The selfie is illustrative of these priorities, “Me in the foreground and the destination as a cool background”. However, we must be careful not to trivialise or underestimate our new travellers simply because they have a passion for self-portraits (this is more to do with stage of life than life values). These new travellers will have more destination and product options than ever before, more information at their disposal for making their choice more power to express their opinion, influence and transform our industry. All this will undoubtedly make them more demanding and more consequent with their choice of destination. As a result, destinations will need to be more consequent with their decision regarding sustainable development and safeguarding their authenticity.
Tic Tac: What would you say to companies that are not yet in the process of being digitalised?
Pomeroy: If you are reading this on a digital device, I rest my case and don’t need to explain why you should start your digital transformation as soon as possible. I would say that if instead of feeling obliged to start your digital transformation for fear of being left behind, you do so with the hope of finding new customers who will respect and protect your destination or product and of creating new and original ways to satisfy them, your chances of success will be far greater. Don’t go crazy either, technology is at the service of our industry and not the other way around so never forget that your first priority should be the protection of your product’s authenticity.
📅 10 de Octubre
📍 Recinto Ferial de Sant, Tenerife
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency member of Travel Consul