Digital DNA Digital Tourism conference at the Titanic Belfast on Thursday 12th November was a fantastic success.The MC for the day was the suave, charming, witty and very down to earth Mr Jim Eastwood (of Apprentice fame). He really knows how to juggle life, work and family perfectly and he aint a bad MC!!!
John McGrillen from Tourism NI spoke first and his message to us all was that the Travel and Tourism industry brought £750 million to Northern Ireland and that the digital input was paramount. He mentioned five areas, which I have coined “the five pillars of Digital Life”, which we should embrace being internet connectivity, multi media devices, multiple devices, video and SEO. Tourism NI do this by touch screen tech, working with BT to increase connectivity and being a Sponsor of Digital DNA to name but a few. Johns parting message was that he wants us all to revisit our own Digital World.
The Agency lead for Google, Stephen Murphy was up next. His key message was that we all live our life in Moments and that we are now mobile first. In July this year in every country in the world more than 50% of searches came from mobiles. People check phones more than 150 times a day and spend on average 170 minutes per day!!
Then there was a double act consisting of Sean Collins from lastminute.com and Pete Marshall from Salecycle. They talked about the vastness of their market place and all the criteria that they have to fulfil and enhancing customer experience by using data cookies and resending info if sale not completed, respectively. This throws up a major question-with all this data how secure is it?
Really enjoyed listening to Stuart Bailie from Oh Yeah Music Centre who was saying that in 2015 260,000 music tourists came to NI spending an average of £860/ person. This demonstrates how important this sector is. For the recent Van Morrison Cyprus Avenue concert approximately 500 people attended from outside NI, staying for approximately 7 days spending £100/ day which equates to £350,000 spent in NI. Lots of people ate in Ballyhackamore colloquially known as Ballysnackamore!!
The man from Yotel, Fergus Boyd, was telling us about the journey of Yotel (which was co founded by Simon from Yosushi-hence same logo font) from being a pretty handy airport hotel (50 room) to having aspirations of being a big hotel in big city centres eg New York approx 700 rooms. Their expansion plans are great and they even have robotic luggage storage.
The next speaker was John Bustard of University of Ulster who was showing us an app and a clever way of promoting a service for $5. After John we split into our work shops and I was very fortunate to attend the one “Travel Bloggers- Friend or Foe?” This was hosted by the top 5 Travel Blogger in Ireland Janet Newenham and Nial Toner of The Tomorrow Lab. They basically talked about how to find and engage the services of travel bloggers and how to nurture the relationship. Lots of great ideas.
After a wonderful lunch of chicken Lissan, yellow rice, vegetarian Meditteranean penne pasta and salad, followed by mini desserts and coffee it was the afternoon session. The chefs and staff at the Titanic really put on a great spread with superb service.
Kathryn Pyper from Engage spoke next then Michelle Lee, Director of Marketing for Aer Lingus, spoke about how they are engaging directly with their customers and implementing changes.
The afternoon workshops were next then talks from David Tutin (Expedia) and Samir Bhana (Twitter) which unfortunately I had to miss.
In conclusion this was a very well put together conference which highlighted the impact that the Digital World is playing on the Travel and Tourism industry here in NI. We must all embrace and together drive forwards and be world leaders.