February 1st, 2018
Are we asking the right questions?
A recent article published in the Harvard Business Review entitled, Relearning the Art of Asking Questions talks about the importance of critical thinking in today's fast-paced business climate. In short, more and better questions lead to better business outcomes. As analysts, we ask a lot of questions. We hold the highest regard for the power of inquiry. So much so, that we decided to craft a comprehensive compilation of the big strategic and operational questions that travel industry decision makers will likely be asking in 2018.
Our list spans a wide breadth of the travel industry value chain, and asks about industry-specific scenarios including potential key acquisitions and funding rounds, budgetary and operational considerations, broader cultural and demographic trends and other external factors involving geopolitics - for instance.
Our hope is that this query set, the LQ360, will help our subscribers extend their view of where the industry is headed.
We also found that comprehensive question-sets are a great tool when developing company, team or product road maps. They push us to slow down and prioritize our thinking on the hard strategic questions. Things like: Should we roll out a new service offering? Do we need to spend more on brand building? How will we grow our team and product line?
Start with our list or create your own list. Have it handy as a reference tool for your next big project. Pick out the questions that you think are relevant. Go wide at first and steadily prioritize and refine the most important questions directly relevant to your initiative. This is our first iteration of our query set. We will continue to refine and make updates available.
Back to Faith-Based Decision Making
Here's one big question we should all be asking. Is science running away from us? You may know this tragic portrayal of history: Aztec priests once used their privileged knowledge of astronomy to control the masses. They were part of the ruling class and would make pleas to the gods, in exchange for a sign that salvation from life’s daily toils was achievable. And only they, through the medium of human sacrifice, could appease the gods. Amid ceremonial slayings, ignorant masses would kneel in awe as the sign, the solar eclipse, would affirm that only a select few could speak directly to the gods. Subservience followed.
For millennia, this faith-based framework determined the fate of entire civilizations. Then the masses began reading and asking the right questions. Dawn the birth of the scientific method to bring us into the light. Through the power of inquiry, we cracked nature's true code within a micro moment on the evolutionary time scale. We uncovered the computer circuit and bridged the connection between us and machines. Now it seems that science may be running away from us. Organizations like the World Economic Forum are debating the ethics of artificial intelligence. We don't know what will happen with ai - but that's the point. The velocity of social, economic, political and technological change has left us short-sighted. Once again we lean on faith.
Ask any venture capitalist and she will tell you that one successful exit out of ten is a good ratio. One victory for every nine pivots. In our growth-obsessed society flush with cash, slim odds do not stop us from making the big bets. It's a moonshot economy. Those that can afford it stand a better chance at success.
The travel industry is certainly not immune to this transformation of epic proportions. Everyone has their heads down working on different bits of an uncertain yet convergent future. We have more data then we know what to do with, but the full face of this change alludes us. There is plenty to be optimistic about. The good times are back. Travel consumption is exploding. Business is booming. The global middle class is compounding. International tourism arrivals jumped 7% in 2017. Yet, there is a palpable unease among the travel industry establishment that this upswing could be very different from the last.
We get bits and pieces of the vision from industry pundits: Suppliers and intermediaries are breaking down established silos while gunning for control of the customer. Blockchain and the tokenization of our economy will likely morph into some new internet of value, opening up a torrent of idea sharing and innovation. Clearly, the biggest technology platforms including Amazon want a bigger piece of the travel journey. Of course, digital marketing and advertising budgets will shift accordingly. Without a doubt, mobile computing combined with artificial intelligence will augment our decision making processes in a profound, and yet-to-be-imagined way.
What about the rest of us? As an industry, we must first acknowledge that travel no longer exists in a bubble. Savvy hoteliers should know how airlines are innovating their retailing and merchandising strategies. Airlines should take copious notes from hoteliers on effective revenue management tactics. Tour operators should know why and how the big hotel chains are shifting their business models. Sharing platforms need to know how their actions impact local communities and economies. Convergence is the new reality.
But it's not the lack of choice that undermines our competitiveness. Rather, the overwhelming number of faith-based decisions that businesses must now make. A business climate of exponential change obscures our visibility.
A lot to think about and ultimately, asking the right questions will help us make sense of the future.
LQ1. How can I best identify and prioritize our most valuable customers?
LQ2. How do I calculate CLV (customer lifetime value)?
LQ3. How do I build and manage brand love at scale?
LQ4. Will China’s travel companies gain traction as Western consumer brands?
LQ5. Can Cruise lines reduce their dependency on travel agent consortia?
LQ6. What are Massive Simultaneous Online Social Communities (MSOSCs)?
LQ7. How will I attract and retain the right corporate talent?
LQ8. Can we start charging for checked bags without undermining our brand promise?
LQ9. Is there a better way to track ROI for our brand advertising campaigns?
LQ10. Should we integrate Apple Pay and Google Pay as a customer gateway?
LQ12. How do I make the hard, strategic pivots while keeping my stakeholders happy?
LQ13. What is a data lake?
LQ14. Should we flag our hotel property or stay independent?
LQ15. Will smart rooms create real value for guests?
LQ16. Do we really need to upgrade our hotel operations software?
LQ17. How do I nurture team buy-in for the adoption of emerging and untested technologies?
LQ18. What is a smart contract?
LQ19. Did we set aside budget for our WeChat strategy this year?
LQ20. Which airline merchandising software provider should I go with?
LQ21. Can we (destinations) tell a positive story with our ad spend attribution data?
LQ22. Is it too early to start thinking about Gen Z?
LQ23. Will 2019 be the year that Airbnb goes public?
LQ24. How will metasearch applications for alternative accommodations play out?
LQ25. Will Airbnb go into the property management business?
LQ26. Will Apple flip the switch on hotel search?
LQ27. Will it be Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa that generates the first voice-initiated hotel booking?
LQ28. Will these economic tailwinds hold up through 2019?
LQ29. What can we do to improve our net promoter score?
LQ31. Should we ratchet up or pull back on our Facebook ad spend?
LQ32. Should we hire that behavioral economics firm to clean up our pricing strategy?
LQ33. Should we commit to Expedia's on-property software in exchange for better rates?
LQ34. How much budget should I allocate to Google AdWords vs. Google Hotel Ads?
LQ35. Will General Data Protection Regulation derail my direct marketing road map?
LQ36. Should we (can we) acquire TripAdvisor?
LQ37. Are oil prices really inching back up?
LQ38. Can Europe really afford to squeeze Google out?
LQ39. Will regulators push to break up big tech?
LQ40. How do we merge and mine customer data stored on our myriad of enterprise applications?
LQ41. How much will Alexa-in-every-room actually cost me?
LQ42. How do we protect our brand reputation while investigating sexual misconduct claims?
LQ43. What can airlines do with subscription offerings?
LQ44. What can airlines learn from Amazon?
LQ45. Will Amazon acquire a boutique hotel chain to improve its image as a lifestyle brand?
LQ46. How do we establish a beach head in China?
LQ47. Is NDC the right direction for my airline?
LQ48. How deep will Europe’s tour operators push into the hotel business?
LQ49. How do we brand our city to attract more events?
LQ50. How can we leverage in-car entertainment to promote our hotel brand?