4 Happiness Hacks For That Post-Travel Let Down

Tips on handling those returning-to-the-office blues.  by Tedd Evers

Conferences, vacations – any time out of the office, away from it all – are great times to reflect and learn ways you can be a better person, at home and at work.  But returning to the office can quickly sap that post-travel glow. If you’re like me, planning the next holiday break to a new destination is a great antidote – and for that, we’ve got you covered.  Unfortunately though, we still have to get back on track until we can getaway again.

Here’s to heel-clicking happiness, maybe just not in the middle of the street. photo: Andre Hunter

Putting Happiness Into Practice

All too often, the demands of our work quickly erase that kumbaya feeling you get after a vacation or listening to inspiring speakers at a conference.  As a result, important changes don’t happen because they require a ton of time or effort – like reading a book or completing some time-intensive soul-searching exercises.

Meaningful change though, is often the result of the cumulative effect of consistent, daily effort.  Like my high school Coach Stroker liked to say “get a little bit better, every day.” (It’s also a core team value here at TripTuner).

In the end it’s up to us to “be the change we want to see in the world” as Mohandas Gandhi once famously said.  Fortunately, there are a few quick hacks you can do today – right now – that are scientifically proven to improve your happiness.

Allow me to follow speaker Erik Qualman’s lead and “post it forward” by sharing a few happiness hacks for home and work from U.S. Travel’s recent ESTO conference in Austin.

  1. Work in 20 minute sprints.

Erik shared how focusing on a single task is critical in our always-on connected world of endless feeds.  He suggested a 20-20-20 rule: breaking the work day into 20 minute segments, taking 20 second breaks after each one to stand up and focus on an object 20 feet away.

The American Optometric Association recommends it as a proven way to reduce eye strain from peering into monitors all day.  As you can imagine, this can get repetitive over a full day, so for a more nuanced approach check out the Pomodoro Technique developed by Frances Cirillo, another easy to implement productivity method.

  1. Walk in nature, unplugged. 

This was part of a number of suggestions shared by Neil Pasricha, author of The Book of Awesome.  To be more precise, his R/X was for 20 minutes of brisk walking in nature – without your phone (that may be the hardest part for some).  Like many of these suggestions there’s science behind “forest bathing” – namely the phytoncides that trees give off lower the level of cortisol, a stress hormone.

  1. Write thank you notes.  To Yourself.

Another one from Pasricha – he talked about the power of gratitude and empathy in helping us get out of emotional ruts.  Thanking others should be frequent and routine (yes, I’m assuming the best of you, that you were raised properly). But we tend to be our own worst critics, so spending time each day to reflect and simply write down your thoughts and what you’re thankful for will go a long way.  Got writer’s block? According to Neil, even reviewing your past notes has proven to be beneficial.

  1. Read for Fun.

OK so citing a Lifehacker article within this happiness hack is sooo meta, but it does show how reading before bed has been proven to lower stress levels and get better sleep.  As Pasricha points out, literary fiction is best and even better if it’s an actual physical book – the glare from screens can interfere with sleep patterns. 

Bring on the phytoncides! photo: Aslan Can

Workplace Happiness, Delivered

Happiness is not just about your well-being — it’s also the right way to do business.  When we’re happier as individuals, we do better work and are more likely to succeed.

Just ask Tony Hseih, Founder & CEO of Zappos.  I read his book, Delivering Happiness after hearing him speak at a DC Tech Week conference 9 years ago when I was in the planning phase of TripTuner.

Happiness is a core value at Zappos.  It’s earned them a well-deserved reputation for amazing customer service – a direct result of their focus on building personal emotional connections with customers.

Creating customer empathy and establishing an emotional connection with your customers is a critical task for today’s digital marketers, as we’ve discussed before.  Developing a strategy for that at work may take some time, but it can start with you. Today.

Clap Along Now

Now that you’ve got 4 quick ways to do it, you can clap along and sing, “I’m Happy” all day!

Just don’t do it a) on your unplugged nature walk b) while you’re reading or writing or c) without headphones on – your colleague may be deep into a 20 minute work session!

Stay Tuned.

Tedd

Customer Empathy and Other Less-Obvious Travel Trends

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Recently, in the hallowed conference halls of Twickenham Stadium – the world’s largest rugby venue – I had the privilege of moderating a panel at the Digital Travel Summit discussing what trends will transform the travel industry over the next 5 years, and how companies may capitalize on them (spoiler alert: check the title).  I was joined by Finnbar Cornwall, Travel Industry Head at Google and Kamil Jagodzinski, the Chief Customer Officer of Kiwi.com.  The $125M richer Kiwi.com.  

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Tedd, Finnbar and Kamil choppin’ it up at DTS London (IRL we’re less pixelated). Cheers Hollie Jeffries for the photo!

Nearly every conference in any industry has such sessions – so much so that they’ve become cliché.  But as some wise person told me years ago “clichés get that way for a reason,” and given what seems like the ever-quickening pace of transformational technological and societal change, it’s easy to see why “future-proofing” one’s business or indeed one’s self is so popular.

Human over Machine (for now)

Rather than move down a familiar checklist of the latest technical terms du jour (blockchain, AI, voice, AR/VR, etc) we took a different approach with this panel.  Technology is still a tool, a means to an end – and leading a discussion with technology tends to be a referendum on its merits. We wanted to focus on the broader trends that impact traveler behavior, whether they be the result of or a reaction to, new innovations.

Since one of the main themes of this conference was “Creating a Customer-Centric Journey,” we shared our thoughts on how each stage of the traditional travel booking process might change in the next 5 years.  It was done first from a traveler’s perspective, with plenty of insights for how we as travel marketers may adapt to this changing landscape.

Now, on to the main points.  Sorry, no numeric list here. It’s all about the context (and hopefully as a result for you, the Benjamins).

No Plan, No Problem

We began at the inspiration and planning phase of travel, and Kamil got us started by stating that “travel planning as we know it will disappear,” if it hasn’t already.  It’s already possible for someone to show up in a destination with little forethought and no hotel for the night – a niche that Hotel Tonight cleverly carved out for itself years ago.

Finnbar added that the increasing availability of Augmented Reality will eliminate the need to read up on an attraction, when apps like Google Lens let you point your camera and read about the story of an historic building for example.

If there’s no planning phase, “will this mean the disappearance of the booking window?” I asked, since it’s a key part of timing campaigns, offers and default search dates.

Yes and no.  As distribution, real-time pricing and merchandising capabilities continue to evolve, Kamil saw an opportunity to drive more last-minute group bookings – and perhaps the return of a last-minute distressed inventory model.

We’ve seen that model years ago with the likes of Priceline and Site59 (shameless shout out to my former squad).  But as Kamil pointed out, “Low Cost Carriers have trained travelers to book as early as possible to get the lowest airfare.”  So in that sense, booking windows will still be there if only driven by price.

So while planning the details of one’s trip may be easily put off till when you’re already there (perhaps that’s why so many trip planning startups have failed?) the actual booking – particularly for price-sensitive travelers – will likely require some forethought in order to obtain the lowest airfares.

Inspiration is Everywhere

What about the spark that starts the travel planning process?  Traditionally, the inspiration phase of the booking process has received little if only skeptical, attention (apart from a few startups who’ve tried) – mainly because it was not seen as a big enough problem (doesn’t everyone have places they want to visit?) and that it didn’t make sense to invest in since it was so many steps away from the actual booking.   This latter point makes a lot of sense given how much shopping around is done before making a purchase – Expedia states that some travelers visit up to 160 sites before booking!

But the sheer amount of choice confronting today’s travelers continues to grow (which is why I started TripTuner, to help travelers narrow down the options).  So as a brand or destination you can’t simply sit back and expect travelers to think of you, no matter how popular you are – just see how much Las Vegas advertises, for example.

Sphere is the New Funnel

It’s time to think outside the funnel, y’all!

As booking technology advances (e.g. reserve tables natively in Instagram, or book travel via chat on Facebook) the gap between inspiration and booking has shrunk tremendously.  Our panelists agreed that all you need is a few seconds on Instagram before you’re searching for flights.   What this means for brands is that you now have to think more holistically about where you are targeting travelers and remove whatever friction there is to booking along that path.  The traditional funnel has morphed into what I call the “Booking Sphere” – where it’s radius is the booking path and its surface are the various touchpoints – what I call “moments of inspiration” – leading to that booking.  Inspiration is everywhere, and savvy marketers would be wise to think of those use cases rather than over-investing in crafting clever personas.

R.I.P. Trip Planning 

Much of the inspiration happening on Instagram and other channels revolves around unique or authentic experiences.  The panel largely agreed that a sea change in travel planning behavior was facilitated by the ever-expanding amount of experiential content indexed by search engines, created by bloggers, influencers and other content marketers.  But trying to aggregate it or shoehorn the planning experience into an externally imposed, proprietary process can be considered a fool’s gold.   

The online travel landscape is littered with the carcasses of many trip planning startups over the past 10 years (the latest of which being Utrip), yet still some seek to solve the problem that everybody purports to have…with a solution they’ll never adopt.  I’ve personally felt that only Google would be able to construct a “one-stop shop” travel planning app, but even their Trips product will be sunset in August.

As more tours and activities product becomes bookable online, it will be interesting to see if a more commercially-driven “planning” product – less an itinerary builder, more of a customized, collection of bookable elements – will emerge.  As I stated in the panel, however, my vote is for the scientific principle of entropy – of things tending towards disorder.  

While there’s been some consolidation in online travel on a macro level, the larger trend will continue to be towards disorder and more specifically fragmentation – of the “types” of trips, booking sources, inventory providers and information sources.  In such a state, with technical barriers removed by the growth of the app/API economy, the only viable one-stop shop will be those brands that are: 

  1. used on a daily basis
  2. for which you already have a profile or login and most importantly, 
  3. whom you trust with your data.  

Which is why all of us on the panel felt that the main disruptive force in travel would be global players that meet those three critical criteria. 

Privacy Killed the Personalization Star

Personalization is a perennial conference topic because it’s an evolving, elusive goal.  For the online travel industry, it’s particularly difficult because the average person will only travel once or twice a year (for leisure at least).  So you can have all the machine learning and AI you want, but for true 1-1 personalization it will take a while to build up a truly complete picture of an individual’s behavior, let alone preferences.  In the absence of the frequent, nuanced conversations that a traditional travel advisor would have, it’s just damn difficult to really get a sense for traveler preferences.  

Personalization is also hard because there’s a myopia within the travel industry that results from some institutional navel-gazing.  We tend to divide each booking or trip into a given segment – corporate, leisure, family, romance – in a very rigid, binary fashion. We don’t look at travel more broadly as some of the disruptive players like Uber do: it’s whenever you leave your home.  I mean, when is the last time you saw an ad at your gas/petrol station from a destination that’s just a full tank away?

Asia’s “SuperApps” don’t seem to suffer from that problem.  They allow consumers to purchase travel along with many other goods.  With daily use, they’re able to get a much fuller picture of consumer behavior.  In addition, they are not bound by many privacy constraints such as those imposed by the GDPR.  All of us on the panel thought that this gave them a distinct advantage over western companies when it comes to personalization, brand awareness and ability to impact the entire customer booking journey.

It remains to be seen how much privacy consumers will be willing to give up in order to have companies “know us better.”  Starting with the Cambridge Analytica / Facebook debacle and other data breaches of privacy, there is a very real consumer backlash taking place.  Paradoxically however, there are also studies saying how willing consumers are to give up some privacy in order to obtain some benefit.

The way forward will require transparency though, and user control.  Companies can’t necessarily assume they have permission to use particular data on a customer.  It needs to be obvious and permission-based. 

empathy

Empathy is the path to future success. Thanks Annie Sprat for the beautiful photo.

Tell Me If You Still Care

Building empathy with consumers was a recurring theme throughout the conference, and echoed by our panelists.  Connecting with today’s consumers – and those of the future – is not just a technical solution, but rather more about one’s brand and company values.   Recent studies cited by Wunderman show that 89% of consumers are loyal to brands that share their values, and 56% are more loyal to brands that “get me” and show a deep understanding of their priorities and preferences.

Finnbar also mentioned how Google creates empathy by creating tools that assist today’s curious but impatient travelers.  As he put it, “we’re in an age of assistance.” For Kiwi.com, it’s by showing travelers a wider range of flight options so they can more easily find the best deal.  Regardless of what type of business you run, both cases provide a clear direction on how to establish empathy: through an intentional, externally focused examination of consumer behavior.  As Steve Jobs said “you’ve got to start with the customer experience, and work your way back to the technology.” I can’t think of a better way to future-proof any business.

Stay tuned.

What Country Has the Most Romantic Travelers? A Taste Lab Top 10 Infographic

Chances are when you put “romance”, “Russia” and “travel” in the same sentence, it’s likely to conjure visions of cold war intrigue and clandestine encounters.  In today’s politically charged environment these words can evoke stronger reactions, even flat-out controversy. But as much as we’d like to craft a clever click-baity title, amplify a viral meme or shill for a few predictable yucks, we’re not going there.  We keep it real at TripTuner, so let’s let the data tell it.

Our Taste Lab provides unique first-party data on nuanced traveler preferences collected across millions of inputs across our platform.  Last year, we shocked some by showing how South Koreans are the most relaxation-seeking travelers (not exactly what we’d associate with Gangnam style, but hey).  Now, just in time for Valentine’s Day we’re curious about which country is the most amorous when it comes to travel.  Care to guess?

TT Taste Lab Vday 2019

Well, surprise!  Our data shows that of the 10 largest outbound tourism markets, Russians are searching for more romance than family travel options.  Wait…Russia?

DA! It makes TOTAL sense. Who can forget the adorable Boris and Natasha from Rocky & Bullwinkle?  The ended-too-early “next Hamilton” Broadway play Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, or the longing croons of the Red Army Choir singing Daft Punk’s Get Lucky?  Not to mention the dramatic aspirational travel words of a dying Captain Vasili Borodin in the Hunt for Red October?

OK I may have violated the previous pledge about the yucks.

Rounding out the top 10 in second place is…

#2 South Korea: we’ve seen how they’re relaxation-seeking.  If you’re going to chill, might as well be with your bae, right?

#3 is France, naturellement.

#4 Germany and  

#5 Italy.  That’s amore, no surprise there.

China, the UK and Canada come in #6, #7 and #8 respectively.  And then you have the US and Australia picking up the rear, focusing more on family trips.

Overall, it’s an interesting set of results and just another taste of what our partners get with TripTuner.  What type of traveler preference data would you like to see? Leave us a comment and we’ll consider it for our next report.

Until next time, stay tuned – and as much as like data, we don’t recommend mixing metrics with romance.  It’s like a martini without a good Russian vodka. Do svidaniya, darling!

couple on sand dallin-hassard-1259896-unsplash

image: dallin hassard 

3 Timing Hacks for Travel & Work

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Understanding natural rhythms can make for a smoother journey, but it can also make us more productive and happier at home or the office.  As New York Times bestselling author Daniel Pink points out in his latest book “When,” there’s an ideal time for everything.  Here are 3 takeaways from his recent talk at the Startup Grind event in Washington, DC.

Savvy travelers like you understand the importance of timing.  If it’s evening rush hour in London, don’t try to take a leisurely stroll down Oxford Street: it’ll be packed elbow-to-elbow with fast walkers.  If you’re planning a summer getaway in Europe, June is a little less frenetic since schools are not out yet.  If you get up to watch the sunrise, you’ll have the hotel pool to yourself (but please don’t hoard the lounge chairs).

What if you’re cajoling the almighty gate agent for an upgrade? Or asking your boss for a raise? Knowing the optimal time to do so can help your chances. Continue reading