Here is a transcript generated by of The Content Mix podcast interview with Florian Blois, EMEA marketing manager at Hotelbeds, on destination marketing 101:

Carlota Pico 0:13
Hi everyone, and welcome back to The Content Mix. I’m Carlota Pico, your host for today’s show, and I’m excited to introduce Florian Blois who is EMEA regional destination marketing manager at Hotelbeds. Florian has also lived in over five different contents in the world and right now he is based in Amsterdam. Welcome, Florian, and thank you so much for joining us today on The Content Mix.

Florian Blois 0:39
Thank you very much. Pleasure is mine.

Carlota Pico 0:41
Okay, so you’re originally from France, right?

Florian Blois 0:45
I am. Yes, I’m a French guy who has been, as you were saying, living the past seven years in five different continents, you know, working for a small resort in the middle of New Zealand, to a big hotel chain in the middle of Beijing and its 25 million people–it’s it’s a bit of a gap. So different background, different experience. And now I do live in Amsterdam and I’ve lived here for the past two years.

Carlota Pico 1:13
Okay, excellent. Did you always envision yourself working for the hotel industry?

Florian Blois 1:19
Yeah, so that’s actually my background. I did a bachelor degree in tourism management in a French business school. And then after that, I want you to specialize myself more in the hotel sector. So I did a master’s in Business Administration, in a big hotel school called Vatel, and I wanted to be a bit exotic. So I was like, they had a school in Mauritius island in the Indian Ocean. So I was like, why not go there? So I went there for two years and I have to say, it’s probably the best place to learn about hospitality and luxury, in an Island like Mauritius Island, and I stayed there two years. And after that, I joined more the distribution side of the hotel industry currently working now, for Hotelbeds.

Carlota Pico 2:09
Okay, and so now you are regional destination marketing manager, right?

Florian Blois 2:14
Yes, exactly, yes.

Carlota Pico 2:15
So, what do you do? What does that mean?

Florian Blois 2:19
Yes, so the origin of the name of that position comes from the destination marketing organizations called DMOs. So the DMO basically, it’s an organization which promotes a location as an attractive travel destination. So it can be a Tourism Board, a Minister of Tourism CVB, for example. In my role at at hotelbeds, during that position, is to create strategies, campaign, sometimes PR activities, for the destinations, to basically educate our agents and drive incremental tourism to the destination. So I look over the EMEA region, and we make sure that we are aligning with these clients to align effective actions.

Carlota Pico 3:08
Okay, so how do you know… howdo you know where to focus your efforts on? Because every market can be equally as powerful or equally as lucrative?

Florian Blois 3:19
Definitely, so maybe a few few words on Hotelbeds for for those who might not know the company. We are the world’s largest b2b travel distributor. What does it mean? That we direct contract hotels and activities–over 300,000 hotels–and we distributes it to a b2b audience. So it can be travel agencies, tour operators, airline companies, we have partnership with 52 Airlines where they directly buy from our inventory, strategic partners, points redemption… So that’s how the business is working. We host also a platform called Bedsonline. And that platform is the most used platform for the travel agencies worldwide. To go back to your question, how do we know what’s the most lucrative? What it all depends on the negotiation, right? Well Hotelbeds lost a lot this year, obviously, but last year, we were doing about more than 50 million bookings on a yearly average. So we basically have some business for every destination at the moment. But we know that with some promotion, marketing campaigns, incentivizing our agents were able to drive more business to a certain destination. So we don’t pick destinations beforehand, it’s just up to our negotiations with the tourism industry.

Carlota Pico 4:44
Okay, Florian, so you know that I’m going to have to ask you about COVID-19 because obviously, it’s really impacted the world in general, but especially the travel and tourism industry. How have you had to adjust your marketing plans for this very troubling and unstable time?

Florian Blois 5:03
Yeah, well, well, definitely, I think every companies has been majorly hit by by COVID-19, but especially in the travel industry, right? So the marketing plans have definitely been changed, affected, but even more our marketing department. I’m not going to talk too much about our marketing for our own company, but maybe more about the destination. The destinations at the moment–and they always do–but depends a lot on the governmental policy. So let’s say if the government decides to close the borders, well, let’s forget about marketing, there is nothing they can do to bring people to their place if the borders are closed, and that has been the case over over the past few months. Plus, on top of that, a cut of budget for the tourism boards. Why? Well, some tourism boards work with a city tax. That’s how they get their money. That’s how they are financed. Of course, there is no tourism anymore in their city, well, there is no city tax, then they don’t have budgets anymore. So it has been challenging on that side. But what we have been doing the past, over the past few months, is really being a close partner to all our Tourism Board partners in terms of being very transparent into delivering data. For them data is very important to know what is the trading, what is the situation looking at in terms of consumer behavior as well. So we are able to deliver this data for the company. We also did some campaigns with some destinations in my region, in EMEA, and basically now the campaigns have definitely become more domestic–for domestic audiences–promoting more like a secondary destination, you know that people now travelers don’t want to go to a crowded city, don’t want to visit the capital city of the country, but more the countryside or a city that that hasn’t been really promoted over over the past few years. And then we also have to adjust with the lead time. So the lead time is how long basically in advance of consumers booking. We used to have as a b2b player, we used to have 55 daily time. And now we’re seeing that our clients are booking within that seven day window period. So all of this has been impacting the way we do marketing. So yes, to summarize, we are promoting new places for domestic audiences, last minute deals is important, and also with heavy safety content. That’s what our agents wants to read. How is it easy to get there? What is the destination doing to be an effective destination to travel to?

Carlota Pico 7:50
Yeah, our backgrounds are actually really similar because I used to help tourism and destination investment authorities to attract an audience to their local markets, right. So I’ve worked with the Tourism Authority of the Maldives, of South Africa, Hungary…the list goes on. I’ve been doing that for 10 years. And I still keep in touch with a lot of these government authorities and government owned agencies. And actually one of the campaign’s that really caught my attention lately was done by the Maldives. The Maldives is right now offering a “work from home package” at their ultra luxury resorts. So high net worth individuals are able to book a luxury destination resort for one month and work from there, and they have their own personal assistant and their butler and they have access to wifi and printers. Have you seen any other destinations really trying to make the best out of COVID-19 times?

Florian Blois 8:48
Yeah, well, Thailand for example has just announced that they are laughing a visa for let’s say a kind of, we’re going to call them “digital nomads” that they can work from anywhere in the world. So it’s a nine month visa that you can stay in the country, enjoy the Thai life, and don’t have to go back to your country in between. So I think that’s going to be also a future trend nowadays because a lot of people that can work fully from home or less; they can travel long term to a destination. So why not keep discovering the world but more as a as a local than just a weekend touristic trip?

Carlota Pico 9:31
Yeah, no, definitely. I couldn’t agree more. Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about how you create your marketing campaigns from idea to actually launching a campaign. What does that look like? How does that process work?

Florian Blois 9:44
Yeah, sure. Well, first, how we get connected to through our partners to our tourism boards–we meet them essentially at the fairs. So we go to World Travel Market in London. It’s one of the biggest in the world. ITV in Berlin. ATM, for me, in Dubai. That’s how you have, let’s say 40 meetings a week, that week of the fair, you meet your partners, you know what they are, what is their tourism promoting strategy, you know what source market they are willing to bring to their country, you also line on their on their budgets, what they are willing to spend to attract some passengers. And we start from there. So we start from there, we say, look, we have we have a powerful database where we know how many facts–we can even do it per day–we are bringing from a certain source market to that destination. And then we say so this is the base without any much promotion for your destination for this source market. And with an effective strategy, with education of the agent, with incentivizing our agents, we will be able to drive X amount more, percentage more, to your destination. So we drive that marketing strategy, that marketing plan, we show big piece of our plan, of our proposal, of our ROI, what is going to bring to that destination. Usually we show the CPA–the cost per Acquisition–so how much do they spend to have one pack in their destination? And then we calculate what is the pack bringing to that destination, when it’s saying as a tourist, and then the and then the partnership is hopefully launched. And then so once that step is done, it’s actually when the real work will start. So we connect with the Tourism Board, we connect with the content team, with the creative team, we usually try to get the content from the Tourism Board, because they are the experts of selling the destination–we are going we’re not going to make better content than them. S8o they are giving us the content and of course we can adpat it to a more b2b audience, because we’re fully b2b. We do the design, we do the landing pages. Our sourcing team is negotiating extra promotional rates and activities on that destination. And then we’ll launch the campaign and then and then every day, I’m going to look at the bookings to see if there’s an effective action on what we do.

Carlota Pico 12:22
Florian, you are bringing such great memories back to me. So thank you for sharing your experience with us. I do have a comment, though. I remember when I was working with President Poroshenko with the tourism destination in Ukraine back in 2008, and the country declared Martial law. And then obviously making my campaign was affected because Martial law was in place. And that, of course had its effect on visitors coming in, coming out, etc. How do you plan for the unplanned for?

Florian Blois 12:53
Yeah, it is very hard. We have two main challenges. The first was about potential borders that are going to be closed. If the campaign is already signed, already in a process, created, we are just going to put it on hold. So either it’s going to last one, two or three months, until we can fully have effective action. Second thing is, the second challenge is regarding the ROI. How do we measure ourselves from basically nothing? So how are we able to be accurate in to the number of clients we’re going to bring, starting from nothing? Of course, we cannot base off of 2019 at the moment, because that would not make any sense. So what we are trying to we try to be very creative,, to innovate, to align with the tourism strategy. One example for is the market shares. Let’s say all the all the countries in the Middle East are closed, but the market share for let’s say, French people going to visit let’s pick Dubai as an example, is fixed amount with your competitive destination. And if we do a campaign with Dubai, our goal is going to be to increase that market share of French people going to Dubai compared to acompetitive destination. Because if the tourism is at the same pace for all the regions, then actually it’s worldwide at the moment. So that’s how we can measure now the ROI.

Carlota Pico 14:23
Okay. Well I could talk about destination marketing all day. So I’m actually going to do for when we’re off the record, so we can continue that conversation afterwards. But let’s talk a little bit about your journey so far. Could you talk to me about your favorite marketing moments to date and what made those moments so special?

Florian Blois 14:44
Yeah, well, I’m actually I’m gonna go back to to the Middle East example. We signed last year a very, very big campaign for a destination in the Middle East that they wanted to target. Just for the record, usually once we launch a campaign, it’s for two or three source markets, depending on the strategy. But this one was over 20 source markets was a very long, long campaign, long partnership over a few months for more 20/25 source markets. So we developed all the marketing content for b2b audience, we launchhed a lot of webinars for our agents, we did massive email communication to talk our agents, we promoted our incentive program, so our agents basically made money to book that destination. And then we also translated you know, if you can imagine 20/25 source market, almost all of them is in the local language, so that’s translating more than 20 different languages. So it was massive amount of work. And why for me was one of my proudest moments? It’s the results of it, right? So when you see after the end of a campaign that you managed to drive more than 25% incremental passengers to that destination? It’s a very, very happy moment.

Carlota Pico 16:12
Okay. And what about challenges? Because of course, you’re bringing back great memories for me, but I remember myself, I have 10 years of experience in destination marketing, and I remember that one of the challenges was just that I was always on the road, always on the go, I was never in one place for too long. And that has its own set of challenges, for me personally, right? What about yourself? What type of challenges have you faced along the way in terms of life challenges and professional challenges?

Florian Blois 16:42
Well, if we talk about before, COVID, let’s say before COVID-19, I got. I originally, I had a more of a sales background, I have to say. I started being a contracting manager, which is basically a buyer for certain source markets. So I was based in Berlin, in Germany, where I was basically covering a portfolio of hotels or suppliers and buying a hotel at a certain rate, and you negotiateing availability. And now since two years I’m more into that sales and marketing, sales and marketing position. So the biggest challenge for me was to discover and to learn so many terms about the marketing industry. Marketing, you know, you know better than me, it’s always in movement, it’s always changing. Even if I have some strong background in my, during my business, my mastering business, my MBA program, yeah, I had to review a lot, learn about bounce rate, click through rate, impressions, dive into Google Analytics, and all that in a b2b environment, right? So that was probably my my biggest challenges. And now, after COVID-19, let’s say, within within the past few months, is not to be able to travel, definitely. Because how are you expanding your portfolio without being attending fairs? Well, of course, there’s virtual, everything is virtual. But I kind of miss that, like contact face to face connection with clients, and that’s something that cannot be replaced, I think, even the most powerful and the most advanced digital meetings can be, the face to face meetings will never be replaced I believe.

Carlota Pico 18:30
Yeah, well, what I would add to that is also the cultural effects. I think, from my experience, having face to face meetings was extremely important when I was working with different cultures because a lot of times when I’m working with different cultures, that also involves body language–not only communication and language, but I was also communicating through my body language. And I was also showing examples that I can’t always show through a screen. So there was a very physical aspsect to the way that I was selling, back in the day when I was doing destination marketing, which I think would be hard to do over a virtual chat.

Florian Blois 19:05
Yeah, no, totally, totally. It’s exactly for me. Well, for me, covering Europe, and EMEA, Middle East and Africa, I also feel that, right? Because the Middle East, there are some certain topics, you’re not supposed to talk, governmental issues, you’re not going to talk about a certain destination, or a specific destination. So yeah, you need to have a bit of a cultural background of what’s happening in the region to be the most effective definitely.

Carlota Pico 19:35
Definitely. What about distribution channels. What distribution channels are publishing your campaigns on?

Florian Blois 19:41
So we do, everything is digital. We have our own platform, right? So we have which is for the tour operators, the airline companies, the strategic partners basically, and then we have our platform which is for the travel agent. It is actually the most used platform for the travel agencies worldwide. So we have already two big platforms here, two powerful platforms. Then on the top, we are going to add some some social media, email communication, obviously, for the campaign, we organize some webinars that we record and that we deliver to all our agents. So yeah, that’s that’s basically it. We don’t necessarily…we used to, because we have so many clients buying from us, big tour operators, we used to be able–well, we actually still are able–to do some cross-client marketing. So basically we can because we partner with them and we can do some, we can put a banner and do an email communication of one of our clients platform, from one of our client platforms. So you take a big airline company in America, if we’re doing a campaign for this nation in Europe, we are able to do some marketing directly on the platform to send some back to this condition in Europe as well.

Carlota Pico 21:02
Okay, channel marketing? Excellent.

Florian Blois 21:05
Yeah, channel marketing. Exactly!

Carlota Pico 21:06
Well, Florian, let’s take a step back, and let’s say that you had the opportunity to give one piece of advice to your younger self, what advice would that be?

Florian Blois 21:17
Well, I’m still pretty young. I’m 28. So, but let’s think about it. In terms of, for my life, life advice, I would say that time is very limited at the end, whereas knowledge is endless. So make sure to, yeah, make sure to focus your time at something that you’re passionate about. That’s, probably what I would tell myself so let’s say 10 years ago. At work, that would be probably something related to to the tech industry. I haven’t really learned too much. I don’t have a tech background. Because of my degree, which is more in hospitality and tourism. So I would tell myself to, because tech is everywhere right now, right? It’s not even a department itself–it’s in every department in an organization. So maybe learn more already, or back in the day, like 10 years ago, let’s say about tech. Even now, I would love to have more competencies, better knowledge of marketing automation, for example.

Carlota Pico 22:28
Okay, well, it’s never too late to learn something new.

Florian Blois 22:32
I know, I know.

Carlota Pico 22:32
There’s definitely some time to learn about the tech industry.

Florian Blois 22:35

Carlota Pico 22:35
And spinning off of that response, what’s the best piece of advice that you’ve received?

Florian Blois 22:43
Well, if we still continue talking about that tech, I had an advice, quite recently, actually, when we were forming, building our team, our destination marketing team. It’s about people. So you know, workplaces automation is everywhere. It is really important for the business growth, for the productivity, for the efficiency. But what I’ve learned from actually my current manager is at the end, you can have all that but what makes a successful team, it’s the people, right? It’s the people that you’re hiring. You can hire the best developers, the best engineers, the best data scientists, but at the end, if they don’t have motivation, if they don’t have interpersonal skills…you know, interpersonal skills– such as, I don’t know, team spirits, motivation, patience–are really hard to develop over the years. And the older you get, the harder it is actually to develop the skills. Whereas. learning about marketing automation, that’s something you can do at 50 years old.

Carlota Pico 23:46
Yeah, I completely agree with you. I think emotional skills are super important, and that you can’t really learn emotional skills, you have to build them throughout experiences and through Gosh, just by pushing yourself to the limits and running with the punches, I think. Okay, Florian, let’s move into our second set of questions, which are our rapid fire questions, your recommendations for our audience. To get the section straight off, I’d like to ask you about your source of inspiration. So who do you admire? A professional role model or an influencer, perhaps?

Florian Blois 24:26
Yeah, well, I’m a big fan of some, of course, very famous role models. Maybe on the public speaking self development, Brian Tracy is one of my favorites. I also had a chance not too long ago to attend to a conference given by Barack Obama that was in Sevilla for a big summit. That was so inspiring, right. Obama has the the power to basically give powerful messages in simple ways. I guess that’s the secret of all politics, of all politicians. But it really does and that’s definitely inspiring. But I also tried to learn the most from the people that surround me. It can be, so not necessarily professionals, not necessarily famous people, it can be, I don’t know, motivation for life from my parents. Also, as being a sales marketing manager, my boss, that I think is one of the best sales guy I’ve ever met–I learned a lot from him. So all these people around me, I learn a lot from them, I guess, more than role models or professional speakers.

Carlota Pico 25:42
Okay, well, I’m sure you’re going to win some brownie points with your boss for that shout out.

Florian Blois 25:49
Oh, yeah. That wasn’t made on purpose!

Carlota Pico 25:53
Florian, what about a resource that you’d like to recommend to our audience? So for example, a hashtag, a book, a publication, an event?

Florian Blois 26:03
Yeah, well, so being in the tourism, industry, in the tourism industry, it’s fast paced, you know, it’s changing every day, especially now, especially at the moment. Every morning, I go to a website called Skift Magazine. And they provide all the news happening in the industry. So it can be about a new partnership can be about new measures that the government are setting up. But also on that platform, I can do a bit of benchmarking with some destination doing campaigns because they promote it. So that’s what I try to do trying to get a bit of all use in my daily mornings. And I have to say, for me, it’s one of the best one of the best magazines to get that from.

Carlota Pico 26:48
Okay, excellent. And last, but not least, what’s your favorite app at the moment, and why?

Florian Blois 26:56
A favorite app would be–it’s gonna sound like I’m promoting my company, not my boss, but my company–but I actually, we actually use a software BI tool called Tableau. Basically, they also have an app for data visualization. And this is the best you could ever have in your pocket. You know, you go to a meeting you go to, I don’t know, when you go to those fairs, you randomly bump into the CEO of a tourism board in Europe, and you need to have data! You need to know how many packs you’re bringing to this country, you need to know the top 10 source markets, you need to know the the average length of stay, you need to know the ADL and with this, with this app, in 10 seconds, you have access to all that. So it has been, great, yeah, I use it a lot. It’s very, very accessible. And it has helped me as well a lot in meetings.

Carlota Pico 28:00
Okay. Excellent. Well, Florian, thank you so much for joining me on The Content Mix. It has been so much fun to talk about destination marketing. It’s brought so many memories back to me, and hopefully our travels will bring us to the same city one day and we can enjoy a nice glass of wine and keep on talking about destination marketing.

Florian Blois 28:18
Definitely, that would be a pleasure, Carlota. Thank you very much for hosting me.

Carlota Pico 28:22
Thank you so much for joining us. And to everybody listening in today, thank you for joining me on The Content Mix. For more perspectives on the content marketing industry in Europe, check out The Content Mix. We’ll be releasing interviews just like this one every day, so keep on tuning in. Thanks again. have a fantastic day and see you next time. Bye!

Florian Blois 28:44

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