Inside the ‘lab of the future’ at Embark Beyond: Travel Weekly | Tech US News

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Jamie Biesiada

Jamie Biesiada

NASSAU — “The Great Experiment.” That’s what Embark Beyond founder Jack Ezon called Embark Immersion, a first-of-its-kind event for the New York-based agency.

“This is no ordinary trade show,” Ezon said. Instead, the event, which he called a “laboratory of the future” for the travel industry, was meant to bring together more than 300 suppliers and advisors to brainstorm ways to improve the customer experience.

“It’s a relationship and a partnership, and we all need to do it together,” Ezon said.

The immersion was held here at the Baha Mar campus. The three-day event divided attendees into different teams each day. Teams moved around workrooms to brainstorm ideas around bigger themes: emotional impact, elevating the customer journey and selling in a disconnected world.

The groups were tasked with trying to brainstorm how to communicate customer preferences, remove friction in the customer journey, and find new ways to connect and sell in the new world of travel that has emerged. They did it in themed rooms, such as the Science Lab (with beakers and test tubes on the tables) and the Innovation Room (where attendees sat in light cubes and had their own workspaces).

Here’s a look inside some of those break rooms on the day of the emotional impact.

In the Innovation Lab, we were given a 14 page customer profile for “Salvatore and Jennifer Smith”. He also gave us a QR code to review the profile and rank the importance of the information when planning his trip. I was joined by a mix of travel advisors and vendor representatives.

The Science Lab, a breakout room at Embark Immersion.

The Science Lab, a breakout room at Embark Immersion. Photo credit: Melanie Nashan

Looking at the profile myself, the first thing I thought was how shocking it was that they had been married for over 25 years.

Based on the information given, they seemed like opposites: He likes to ride a bike and run. She likes to paint and needlepoint. He likes active and adventure travel. She prefers shopping in Florence and relaxing on the beach. He wants to explore new places and see how the locals live, while she is more interested in finding hidden shops and buying jewelry.

But I’m not a travel advisor. In fact, one counsel in the room called the profile “a gold mine,” the kind of document he strives for with his own clients.

But to the topic at hand: communicating preferences to suppliers. She said she would never send a full document like that to a hotelier. Instead, you would focus on sharing important things like what customers don’t like.

The information given probably seemed like too much to some in the room and too little to others, said Julie Danziger, an Embark fellow who led the discussion.

By a show of hands, some in the room felt that all the information was important. Some felt it was too much; one hotelier said he would have preferred less information, but with a more intense focus on things like tastes, food and drink preferences and allergies, the latter was a must.

A DMC representative said that they would like to share all the information given to their customers so that they don’t waste time making an irrelevant itinerary.

Find communication solutions

Later, in the Science Lab, our group would discuss how information could be more effectively communicated between advisors and providers. Some suggested a questionnaire specific to the destination, time of year, and other travel details. Some suggested a “moodboard,” with images that could transcend language barriers.

The biggest challenge, most agreed, would be to integrate systems between advisors and providers to share information.

But Embark Immersion wasn’t meant to solve the industry’s problems in three days. The aim was to debate them and talk about possible solutions.

Interested attendees were also asked to join committees that would continue to address issues after the event ended and continue the conversation. I look forward to hearing what they come up with.

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