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Sales & marketing - quo vadis? Concerning challenges and potential solutions during the coronavirus pandemic

At the discussion round entitled ’The Role of Travel Sales & Marketing’ at the We Love Travel Event! The focus was on sales and marketing and the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Taking part in the virtual panel discussion were Sascha Nitsche from Solamento, which specialises in mobile travel sales, Ömer Karaca from Schmetterling Reisen and Boris Raoul from the Invia group, whose associates include the well-known online portals Ab-in-den-Urlaub and

Sascha Nitsche kicked off the discussion with quite a direct statement. “My message to the industry is ‘stop whining!’“ was the travel expert’s unequivocal appeal. After six months, Nitsche said, he was missing signs of a positive outlook in the tourism industry. Life had to go on – compared with other countries the state had provided relatively generous relief and it was no use pinning all our hopes on a vaccine and a subsequent end to the crisis. He called upon the industry to pull together as one instead of devouring each other, as so often. A spirit of enterprise was what was needed. Responsibility did not lie with politicians alone.

For Boris Raoul, focusing completely on the customer was the key to handling the situation and its consequences. Travel agencies had to accompany the consumer on the customer journey with tailor-made products. Customers no longer tolerated mistakes. According to Raoul, it was necessary to rethink products – which meant greater flexibility and better cancellation options, for example. There were many market players who had already understood that. The fact that airlines needed working capital for their business model was understandable but not the customer’s problem. Package tours needed a makeover too. Robinson Club customers did not necessary want to have to be with 50 other travellers on a shuttle bus. Package tours needed to be personalised from the ground up.

As a representative of conventional marketing and sales in the discussion round, Ömer Karaca stressed the importance of face-to-face consultation. His company was naturally also aware that one needed to move forward with digitalisation. That was why Schmetterling Reisen would shortly be launching a campaign to combine online and offline sales in conventional travel agencies as well. Particularly in terms of reaction time and the response to changing market capacity, conventional sales channels could learn a lot from the online segment.

During the Q&A session a listener wanted to know if videotelephony was becoming an increasing part of consultation. Karaca affirmed this, however one would have to see whether the trend continued.

The topic of package tour guidelines was also addressed, for which a kind of pandemic clause is currently being discussed. In that context it was remarked that the customer should bear a greater financial share of the travel risk. Boris Raoul commented that he remained unsure as to whether the consumer would agree to that. What was more, trips would continue to be booked at such notice for the foreseeable future that the question of this clause was perhaps not relevant.

Finally, a member of the public asked about the role of major players such as Amazon and whether they might significantly disrupt the market. Raoul saw the online delivery giant as possibly only impacting on hotel and airline bookings at present. Package tours were too complex, he said. Furthermore, the US company would probably be too worried about harming the overall brand if Amazon-branded trips did not work out to the customer’s satisfaction.

The participants were unanimous that each individual aspect of marketing and sales was important in its own right. Everyone was called upon to learn from each other and take other influences on board, whether by focusing more on the customer online or by moving forward with digitalisation in conventional areas.

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