DMOs Find Captive Audience at 35,000 Feet

October 2, 2013

Travel Icon for BlogLast week I was on a flight headed west.  A flight attendant, let’s call her “Jane,” was also on the flight – although this flight was to be her last… as a flight attendant.  Jane had joined the airline biz back in the day when her title was “stewardess” and her uniform included go-go boots (so she says.) When I asked her what had changed about her job over the years – beyond the said go-go boots – she noted “It’s been an amazing career. But we have so many more responsibilities these days than we had when I began.”

Joe Sharkey’s article in the New York Times last week best describes many of these changes, particularly when it comes to the transformation of airlines as centers for retail and commerce. Today, thirty percent of the $46 billion that airlines generate in ancillary revenue is from onboard sales of food and drink, WI-FI, entertainment and travel packages.

This makes an airline a virtual shopping mall with a captive audience – one whose feet are not likely to get tired. For destination marketers, a new and intriguing platform has emerged.

DMOs now have the ability to provide customized content to travelers, targeted by location, to an audience who’s got the time to listen. This means that destinations seeking to convince a business traveler to include leisure experiences to his itinerary or even extend her trip for leisure purposes can motivate and convert interest all from the confines of a seat-back entertainment system. Destinations seeking to augment dispersal can promote travel experiences beyond a city’s iconic attractions, wooing vacationers to venture further afield.

IMS Research estimates that for flights lasting longer than one hour, passengers who used a personal electronic device (e.g. tablets and smartphones) spent, on average, more than 40 percent of their flight time on it. And at least for now, on a flight destination marketers will not have to compete heavily with typical distractions, activities, phone calls, multiple devices, TV and the like.

As Sharkey notes in his article, he was planning to tie in a few leisure activities to a recent business trip, “So (he) might have been receptive to a carefully focused in-flight sales pitch for Dodger Stadium tickets or museums, through smartphone technology that already knows (his) schedule and has some idea about (his) tastes.”  And if a some-what cynical New York Times reporter can admit that – it can only mean good things for the DMOs who rely on consumers like myself who are often motivated to make last-minute purchasing decisions on travel experiences that align with my interests when the process is easy.

Karyl Leigh Barnes

Written by Karyl Leigh Barnes

Karyl Leigh Barnes is President of DCI’s Tourism Practice. Since joining the firm in 1998, Karyl Leigh has led destination strategy and created marketing communication programs for destinations on every continent except Antarctica.

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