CrowdRiff’s Dan Holowack says destination marketers should invest in data scientists

Technology is being increasingly leveraged to market travel destinations and tourist attractions, according to Dan Holowack, co-founder and CEO at the visual marketing platform CrowdRiff.

Speaking at TechToronto’s travel edition, also known as TravelTechTO, Holowack talked about the many ways the travel industry is using technology to help people choose their next travel destination or figure out where to eat in an unfamiliar country.

Holowack kicked off his presentation by talking about what up-and-coming travel tech companies like CrowdRiff are doing.

“We primarily work in the market with something called destination marketing organizations,” said Holowack. “Almost every city, town, county, country, state, province has an organization that’s charged with the marketing of their destination and driving the economic impact and growth.”

Holowack noted that CrowdRiff works with travel organizations like Tourism Toronto or Destination British Columbia, as well as cruise lines and theme parks to help them visually market their attractions.

Holowack also stressed that destination marketing companies that are using technology to streamline how consumers find and select travel destinations are filling a gap, especially because consumers often visit multiple websites or tools like Instagram and Expedia to book a trip.

“Some of the really smart folks in the travel space, some of the attractions and destinations, they’re investing deeply in hiring…data scientists, deep digital marketers that are working with really modern technology.”
– Dan Holowack

“That represents an interesting challenge for all these brands in the marketing space because they need to find really unique and interesting ways to intersect with that activity,” said Holowack. “Because you might not travel right away. You might be looking for inspiration for a trip in a month, a year. You might not even visit that attraction the first time that you go there, but they’re [companies] are charged with having to figure out how to actually get your attention and figure out if that’s working.”

During his presentation, Holowack also gave examples of the different types of tech that is being leveraged by destination marketing companies to personalize experiences for future travelers, including artificial intelligence, chat bots, and virtual reality.

“We’re seeing some of the bigger travel brands start to really think about this, start to think about breaking their content down into little building blocks…that can be compiled and personalized in all these different experiences,” said Holowack, “Chatbots…we’re seeing destination marketers are posting numbers that you can text to ask questions about ‘Hey, where should I go to eat?’”

While marketers are moving towards adopting digital technologies, he says the travel tech space still faces several roadblocks when it comes to leveraging and implementing tools like chatbots and AI.

“They’re finding the challenge is simply getting the word out so they can collect enough questions and data to apply the artificial intelligence to eventually answer those questions automatically,” said Holowack, adding that tech vendors interested in the travel space should continue to push for more competition and innovation to overcome these challenges.

“Some of the really smart folks in the travel space, some of the attractions and destinations, they’re investing deeply in hiring even sort of data scientists, deep digital marketers that are working with really modern technology,” said Holowack. “And keep in mind, of course, the technology is not in the solution itself…make yourself a trusted market leader and work alongside other partners in that endeavour.”

In April, CrowdRiff announced the release of a visual marketing platform for user-generated content and owned visuals. The company raised a $2.6 million seed round in March 2016.

Watch the full presentation below:

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Amira Zubairi

Amira Zubairi

Amira Zubairi is a staff writer and content creator at BetaKit with a strong interest in Canadian startup, business, and legal tech news. In her free time, Amira indulges in baking desserts, working out, and watching legal shows.