Presented in partnership with Expedia Group Media Solutions and Destination Marketing Podcast. Leaders from our industry will judge the entries. Submissions are open until June 28, 2021. A nominal application fee $99 per entry. Email [email protected] for more information.
When Satisfi Labs was born in New York City in the summer of 2016, its first customers were a trio of big names: The NY Mets, the US Open Tennis Championships, and Macy’s.
In 2020, when a mid-pandemic opportunity arose in travel and tourism, CEO and co-founder Don White took it on and The Travel Vertical wanted to know more.
Satisfi Labs and Experience Columbus partnered to create an AI platform for a virtual assistant across chat to provide automated, on-demand answers 24/7 for locals and visitors.
Sarah Townes, VP Marketing at Experience Columbus said, “This AI solution has built-in capabilities to promote and influence event ticket sales for any occasion, which will be vital once events and gatherings return to the city. We will also continue to evaluate how we can use it to amplify specific tactics, as we did in December with our local holiday gift guide.”
Available on web chat, Facebook Messenger, and Alexa Flash Briefing, the capability supported Experience Columbus Gift Guide campaign over the holidays. Going forward, it can be used to promote conventions and events and in-market ticket sales.
Q: We love to hear about the latest cool tools for digital destination marketing. What does Satisfi Labs do and what problem does it solve for a DMO?
A: Satisfi Labs is a conversational AI platform that creates Interactive Answer Engines that power unique search experiences for DMOs using conversational AI and knowledge management technology. We help DMOs provide automated and on-demand answers for locals, leisure visitors, and work travelers so they can access all the information needed to experience any city with ease. These answers include intent categories for frequently asked questions, ways to support local businesses, transportation information, tourism experience data, neighborhood info, and most importantly at the moment, COVID-related health & safety questions.
Q: In travel and tourism, you’ve launched the Interactive Answer Engine with Experience Columbus. Can you describe what their specific need was?
A: We launched the Interactive Answer Engine in summer 2020 with the intention of setting up the City of Columbus for long-term success, as our technology aims to provide visitors with access to real-time answers to their most pressing questions. They needed to find a solution with the ability to equip visitors with all the information to seamlessly navigate and experience all that Columbus has to offer. Making this information readily available on mobile allows Columbus to communicate in an approachable, easy way.
We want our guests to feel in full control of their experience when they come to Columbus. Satisfi Labs has allowed us to provide a seamless integration which gives us a direct and engaging connection with our visitors.” — Sarah Townes, VP of Marketing, Experience Columbus
Q: You use the description “dynamic.” Is your virtual assistant different from a chatbot? In what ways?
A: Experience Columbus’ virtual assistant is built from learnings across Satisfi Labs’ network of tourism, venue, event, and local attraction clients. We’ve handled over 2 million questions across our tourism verticals which gives us the deep knowledge base to allow destinations to provide assistance with 24/7 updates on trip planning at every stage of the journey. The Interactive Answer Engine isn’t transactional but rather conversational. The combination of our use of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and knowledge management allows us to handle a much larger breadth of inquires compared to chatbots.
Q: Is this both a planning tool and an in-market tool for visitors?
A: The virtual assistant is both a planning and in-market tool employing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) resource used by most destinations across the country, that instantly and dynamically surfaces information about events, restaurants, hotels, and things to do directly in a chat experience. It helps tourists plan their Columbus experience ahead of traveling by supporting the influx of questions leading up to multi-day conventions, events, concerts, and festivals for those traveling for leisure and business. Once visitors arrive at Columbus, the conversational assistant can provide location-based answers to help them locate attractions, food and beverage options, and shopping closest to their current location at any given time.
Q: As travel returns, how do you see applications for those visiting friends and relatives and for local residents, too?
A: The virtual assistant is helping every step of the journey from the moment visitors step off the plane, train, or out of their vehicle. This can be to discover which hotel is closest or what nearby restaurants are open to grab dinner. When travel does return, travelers will still be curious as to what safety precautions certain destinations are implementing, they will be able to ask and receive real-time answers through the virtual assistant. As state and federal restrictions evolve and change throughout the year, local businesses will have to revisit and revise their own operating procedures, which visitors can have the most up-to-date information about through our answer engine.
Additionally, during this COVID time, the adoption of digital communication technologies has been accelerated for consumers who might have resisted in the past. Now that digital communication is becoming more common, consumers will be looking for cities to provide more smart city solutions. We see this technology as being a necessity in the future as consumer habits have evolved.
Jingle Bells, Emotion Sells:
Christmas adverts are huge in the U.K., and have been for 100 years beginning with Coca-Cola and a Santa poster.
Competition is fierce and budgets run high as legacy brands look to capture the heart and soul of the nation. Think Super Bowl television commercials in the U.S. and then some.
Pure, utter emotional connections — from sentimental nostalgia to a touch of dry British humour, sweet grandpas with an uncanny resemblance to Santa, and beloved puppies — are typically in the mix.
This year, everyone is curious to see how major retailers will aim for the wallet this season while consumers endure a global pandemic. So, researchers used Affectiva AI facial coding technology to reveal which ad made the greatest emotional impact on 3,002 consumers.
Marketing research company Kantar says the algorithms pointed to “The Letter” for Coca-Cola as the winner, beating off 20 other adverts. Created by Wieden+Kennedy London, the hope-filled ad is directed by Oscar-winner Taika Waititi (music by composer Alex Baranowski) to relate the story of a father’s unremitting love for his daughter and an epic journey to make her holiday wish come true.
|“In a year when the world needs holiday cheer more than ever, Coca-Cola is celebrating the gift of presence – over presents – through a seasonal campaign launching in 90-plus countries including the United States.”|
In addition to paid distribution, the five million YouTube views in three weeks.
Care to see what came in second place? “From Our Family to Yours” by Disney+ with all proceeds donated to Make-A-Wish foundation.
The ad that consumers found less effective, although it addressed both Covid-19 and diversity, failed to properly integrate the brand with the messaging. “The Show Must Go On” for Amazon features a real-life French ballet dancer Taïs Vinolo.
Roll Up Your Sleeves, Britain: Queen Elizabeth II is 94 and Prince Philip is 99. The royals have said they’ll get in the queue and “let it be known” to the public when they get their jabs. Approval came on Dec. 2, as Britain was the first Western nation to license a fully tested coronavirus vaccine, this one from Pfizer-BioNTech, with inoculations starting Dec. 8, 2020.
In Coventry, the first recipient was grandmother Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week. Keenan said, “I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19, it’s the best early birthday present I could wish for because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the New Year after being on my own for most of the year.” She receives her second dose in three weeks with full immunity expected a week afterwards.
We kid you not…William Shakespeare, 81, from Warwickshire (home of the other William Shakespeare) was the second person to receive the vaccine, calling it “Groundbreaking, I think.” Within the Twittersphere, reactions go along these lines:
Pigs Don’t Fly: A new ruling from the Department of Transportation: Cats, turtles, pigs, peacocks and other animals are not allowed in the cabin as emotional support pets with or without a doctor’s note. The agency says leniency “eroded the public trust in legitimate service animals.” Travel Weekly observes, “The new rule will force passengers with emotional-support animals to check them into the cargo hold — and pay a pet fee — or leave them at home. The agency estimated airlines will gain up to $59.6 million a year in pet fees.” (Lilou works at SFO, but this therapy pig doesn’t fly.)
Moving Mountains: “China and Nepal have announced that Mount Everest is a bit taller than it used to be,” is an attention-getting headline. In two independent surveys of the tallest peak on earth, the two countries which share its base have concluded and certified that the correct measurement is 29,032 feet (8,848.86 metres) a gain of 0.86 of a metre or 2.82 feet. The point of contention had been, reports the BBC, whether or not to include summit snow and a quest to determine whether a major earthquake in 2015 had caused settlement.
The Future of Travel Trade Events: Register for a free leadership panel conversation on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020 at 1 p.m. ET. Hear from Will Seccombe, president, Connect Travel n conversation with: Malcolm Smith, IPW General Manager, U.S. Travel Association; Peter Pantuso, president & CEO, American Bus Association; Carylann Assante, CEO, Student & Youth Travel Association.
Facebook Jail: When retailers are locked out of advertising on their business page — in the holiday run-up mid-pandemic, no less. It’s a nightmare for small business owners, the ones that Facebook loves to claim they’re helping. In fact, reports Bloomberg, “CEO Mark Zuckerberg mentioned small businesses three times in his prepared Congressional testimony defending Facebook’s market dominance this summer, saying he was proud that the company was becoming a lifeline for mom-and-pops during Covid-19.” What’s going on? Reporter Sarah Frier writes, “Facebook has recently been using more artificial intelligence to moderate content that goes against its rules, because human beings simply cannot look at all the problems more than 3 billion people make.”
Too Cool for School: Break dancing is getting status as an official Olympic competition starting with Paris games in 2024. Mind you, we never had the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, now scheduled 23 July to 8 August 2021.
Some athletes aren’t happy. Squash has been lobbying hard, unsuccessfully, for decades—even with support from tennis star Roger Federer, to no avail. NB: At least editors will have a few more years to decide if the newly recognized “sport” is one word or two.
The Mouse That Roared: Newton, Mass.-headquartered Sonesta International Hotels Corporation announced the addition of 102 properties to its global hotel portfolio. All are owned by Service Properties Trust and previously under management by Marriott.
Related: Alarm Bells, Hotel Shakeups (The Travel Vertical, 9/29/2020)
- Dallas, TX – Sonesta Simply Suites Dallas Galleria; Sonesta Simply Suites Dallas Las Colinas
- Denver, CO – Sonesta Denver Downtown
- Las Vegas, NV – Sonesta Simply Suites Las Vegas Convention Center
- Los Angeles, CA – Sonesta Los Angeles Airport LAX
- Milwaukee, WI – Sonesta Milwaukee West Wauwatosa
- Portland, OR – Royal Sonesta Portland Downtown
- San Juan, Puerto Rico – Royal Sonesta San Juan Puerto Rico Resort
- Seattle, WA – The Alexis Royal Sonesta Hotel Seattle
- Toronto, Canada – The Yorkville Royal Sonesta Hotel
- Washington D.C. – Royal Sonesta Washington DC Dupont Circle
Sonesta will be introduced in over a dozen new North American cities, including:
Sonesta’s expansion also includes an extended presence in a number of key U.S. cities and states:
- Atlanta – seven new hotels for a total of 12 in Greater Atlanta
- Chicago – seven new hotels for a total of 12 in Chicago area.
- Detroit – four new hotels for a total of six in Greater Detroit
- Florida – six new properties for a total of nine
- Houston – four new Sonesta Simply Suites for a total of seven
- Texas – a new total of 19 hotels in the state
California Crackdown: A series of warnings followed within 24 hours by strict Covid-related lockdowns came as a surprise to Californians last weekend. As a result, much of the state of 40 million — most populous in the nation — is under strict stay-at-home orders through at least Jan. 4, 2021. Hotels, bars, wineries, hair salons, barber shops, museums, movie theaters, playgrounds, amusement parks and indoor recreation facilities are closed. Restaurants are closed except for takeaway and delivery. Retail, such as groceries, is restricted to 20% capacity. Travel is prohibited other than essential travel.
Aloha, Hawaii: Applications are now open for 50 out-of-state US applicants in a new remote work program, “Movers and Shakas,” to last at least one month in Oahu.
Here’s the catch: Each person must volunteer for a nonprofit that matches their skillset. If the Oahu pilot succeeds, organizers say similar initiatives that cover the round-trip airfare may pop up on other islands. Hotel stays are discounted but not complimentary.
Ace, the Pittsburgh Adventure Dog: A talking dog that loves exploring Pittsburgh with silent pet parents is successfully getting the message through for this pet-friendly destination. Ace, who is corny and loves puns, gets excited about road trips shared with followers in a video series on the Visit Pittsburgh YouTube channel.
Qatar Airways has announced the launch of its second new U.S. destination since the onset of the pandemic — Seattle. The airline is launching a frequent flyer partnership with Alaska Airlines and is joining Oneworld Alliance in March 2021. Four weekly flights to Seattle increases Qatar Airways’ U.S. network to 59 weekly flights to 11 destinations in the U.S., more than they operated pre-Covid.
The Hartford Courant: Connecticut’s largest newspaper and the oldest continuously published newspaper in the entire country, is closing its physical newsroom in Broad Street at year-end. Chicago-based Tribune Publishing Company has already closed newsrooms at its news offices in for The Allentown Morning Call (PA), The Capital in Annapolis, The Orlando Sentinel, and the New York Daily News.
COVID Relief NOW Coalition: More than 300 major public and private sector groups have come together and released a new 30-sec. ad, “Economic Relief Can’t Wait,” imploring Congress to pass additional COVID economic relief. The ad is running across digital platforms: Twitter, YouTube, Google, connected TVs and other online sites. A urgent appeal letter was sent to Congress as well.
“Bottom line: the travel and tourism sector is projected to lose 4.5 million jobs by the end of the year, and the longer Washington waits to act on another relief round, more of those will be gone permanently,” said U.S. Travel Association President & CEO Roger Dow.
Steering committee members for the coalition include:
- American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA)
- International Franchise Association
- National Association of Counties (NAC)
- National Conference for State Legislatures (NCSL)
- National Governors Association (NGA)
- National League of Cities
- National Restaurant Association
- National Retail Federation
- U.S. Conference of Mayors
- U.S. Travel Association
- Society of Independent Show Organizers
- International Council of Shopping Centers
- Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA)
- American Gaming Association
- American Apparel & Footwear Association
- Small Business Entrepreneurship (SBE) Council
- American Society of Association Executives (ASAE)
- Go LIVE Together
Only three months to go in the countdown to the 21st Annual eTourism Summit. Get a head start by meeting a couple of participating vendors with cool tools for DMOs to know about.
Relic, a full-service advertising agency based in Provo, Utah, has a new turnkey podcast program for destinations. They host, produce, edit, and publish for destinations who simply must only “show up” and answer questions.
Adam Stoker, president & CEO at Relic says, “It’s called the Destination Marketing Podcast Network. We’re partnering in creating podcasts for destinations that work as travel guides for visitors. The idea is to provide content in the preferred method of consumption for travelers, especially younger travelers, and it’s thriving.”
So far, the new podcast program has featured DMOs:
- Beaufort, South Carolina
- Laredo, Texas
- Sevier County, Utah
Here’s a series of eight episodes produced with Visit Beaufort.
Crant is a creative machine learning company focused on helping companies in travel and tourism to achieve digital transformation.
Based in Coral Gables, Florida, Alvaro Meléndez, co-founder & CEO, is midway through producing 40 days of its Creative Quarantine Series featuring 40 topics with 40 experts to share ideas, inspiration and practical tips with our community to help businesses manage Covid recovery faster.
“The brand is one of the biggest assets a company can have, a strong brand can make a big difference. Yet there is so much content, channels and noise out there that only the most useful brands are being rewarded with people’s time and attention. Data and machine learning can be the best allies of a useful brand.” – Crant
Ask Alvaro how it works, beginning with a data-driven brand audit and brand definition to see AI and computer vision in action to determine whether the message your visuals express aligns as they should. You’ll be impressed!
#eTS20: Three months away on the eve of our 21st birthday, the longtime tagline, “See Tomorrow,” rings truer than ever.
We’ll be live in Las Vegas and virtual across North America for “21 Days to Focus on Winning in 2021.” Stay tuned for more details in The Travel Vertical, apply for an eSTY Award and check out the hybrid registration options—including the all-new Community Pass.
Follow the Money, Follow the Hygiene
Ad Age has delved into the figures and, according to Pathmatics, for the first 10 days of July, spending from top advertisers has dropped 19% for Facebook and 9% for Twitter compared to the same period in 2019.
Brands shifting their spending away from Facebook, who big names which are not public proponents of the current boycott. McDonald’s, for example, spent no money on Twitter for the period, compared to over $10,000 a day for the first half of the year. Who’s benefiting? One answer appears to be YouTube, says Ad Age.
“A recent Travelocity study shows that nearly 90% of travelers consider hygiene and cleanliness the most important factors for traveling as restrictions lift. Not food, sights, or activities. Not hotel location, deals, or air transport.” — Doug Park, Senior Director of Global Ad Operations, Expedia Group Media Solutions
Read Doug’s new blog post, “Top Creative Considerations for Travel Advertising During a Crisis.”