The Blue Sofa Series: Collaboration, Customization, and Convenience in Tourism, with Letizia Elia

Recent technological advances have drastically impacted every industry, constantly changing market landscapes and playing a key role in creating more informed consumers. These changes are driving today’s top industry players to take novel approaches to what used to be known as “business as usual.” Customized offers, being the ultimate in convenience, and innovative internal collaboration practices have become crucial to business success, and tourism is no exception. In this edition of the Blue Sofa Series we sit down with Letizia Elia, Head of Partnerships for Swiss Tourism, to discuss what it means to be an ideal partner in an industry that’s rapidly evolving in the face of new technologies.

Collaboration Matters

“We live in a world that is very dynamic and fast changing, and where customers are empowered. You need a very broad skillset to respond to that,” says Letizia, who also previously joined us for our Expert Talks on the value of co-creation and collaboration.

As consumers find themselves armed with an ever-expanding set of tools to plan their perfect holiday, it has become increasingly difficult for any single entity, company, or agency to be on the cusp of every emerging trend. Recognizing and exploring new ways of filling those gaps has become crucial for success in today’s marketplace. When asked what makes an ideal agency partner, Letizia listed trust and transparent communication, in addition to bringing in outside technical knowledge and fresh creative perspective. “For partners, it’s important they really see us, see what is missing, and then try to bring their skill set in accordingly,” explains Letizia. “It’s like supporting with a toolbox in a way; with tools that we may not have or not know about yet. That’s so important for helping us become more creative, in addition to providing knowledge about technical aspects that are very dynamic and change so quickly you can’t always have all that information in-house.”

A Changing Landscape

Tourism market research supports Letizia’s perspective about key stakeholders. In The Future of Tourism: Innovation and Sustainability (1) research paper, authors Enrique Bigné and Alain Decrop state: “Technology and digitalization drive innovation in the tourism industry and create new types of relationships between stakeholders. The traditional scheme, focused on traditional linear relationships between providers and tourists, is no longer valid in the modern innovative framework, in particular as regards managerial innovations and the new ways that tourists make decisions.”

Letizia explains. “In our case, we create products and we communicate about them, but as Switzerland Tourism we don’t actually have a physical product. Therefore it’s important for us to work with destinations, suppliers, and agencies that help us realize and create value for our end-customer. It’s a complex process that everyone needs to be part of and everyone has to have the same objectives.”

Only when all stakeholders are on the same page, working towards the same objectives, will powerful new consumer experiences come to light. This type of effective co-collaboration opens the door to new specializations, a key ingredient for success in today’s tourism industry. In Strategic Management in Tourism (2), author Enrique Bigné examines the transformation of tourism’s distribution channels, and observes that, “the strategy of specialization is shaping up as being necessary for the traditional and virtual agencies. This specialization works at identifying gaps or places in the market that are not being attended to or which are partially without a complete range of services where advising plays a critical role in the delivery of value and tourist satisfaction.”

That satisfaction is the result of crafting high-value, memorable experiences for travelers, something that is always on Letizia’s mind. As we look towards the future, we asked Letizia what next generation experiences mean to her: “I believe a true next generation experience is going to come out of both convenience and technology,” she said. “As a consumer, how can I get information about very specific and unique things to do? How can I discover and enjoy unique experiences in an easy way?”

The Importance of Customization

As technology advances and consumers are increasingly empowered, being able to offer fully-customized travel becomes an essential asset. “In term of products, managers are searching for new customized services in an attempt to better serve customers,” says The Future of Tourism: Innovation and Sustainability study, in the chapter on Paradoxes of Postmodern Tourists and Innovation in Tourism Marketing (1). “The need for customization in tourism, through offerings that serve individual needs, has been well documented… More recently, tourism suppliers are incorporating technological features that allow tourists to carry out parts of the process themselves. Most of these are based on advanced technological features (e.g. advance check-in, self check-in, mobile phone boarding pass). This personalized process will continue with the addition of further technological developments.”

Letizia agrees, highlighting what she believes is the most challenging trend in her industry: “Looking at tourism in general, our biggest challenge is really about convenience. How can you become more convenient for the end customer? It’s also definitely important to have very individualized offers,” Letizia continues. “You need to be very individual and offer exactly what the guest wishes and requires, but on the other hand, it also needs to be easily bookable. That’s the key challenge we’re facing.”

Looking Forward: What Makes a Dream Partner

Even as the travel industry continues to evolve – with new technologies popping up every day – collaboration, customization, and convenience continue to be the key to staying on top. Finding the right partners, who share meeting objectives while also bringing fresh creative perspective to the table, is really what makes all the difference. “When thinking about my dream partner, I think it’s a partner who understands us, who is open and transparent, and who becomes part of the team by having the same objectives that we do,” concludes Letizia.

For more on the value of co-creation and collaboration for successful business outcomes, check out our Expert Talk with Letizia, Mathieu Fouvy (Managing Partner, Creatives SA) and Marine Hamou (Head of Global Business Development, LMS MCH Group), and stay tuned for future episodes of “The Blue Sofa Series” right here on MCH Global Insights.

References

1. “The Future of Tourism: Innovation and Sustainability”, edited by Eduardo Fayos-Solà & Chris Cooper, Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019 (Link)

2. Strategic Management in Tourism, 2nd edition, edited by Luiz Moutinho, CAB International, 2011 (Link)

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