Skift Take

Financial analysts and other travel industry watchers often listen to the words of CEOs to hear what direction they're taking their companies. But, increasingly, CMOs at many major travel brands are dealing with ground-level, consumer-facing marketing and strategy that impact the company and customers on a daily basis.

CEOs are still at the top of the masthead at travel companies, but when it comes to reaching key decision makers who actually have a say in day-to-day marketing and operations, chief marketing officers are much sought after.

In the digital age, the role of a CMO is increasingly important and the position has become a track towards CEO at some travel brands. That’s mainly because at consumer-facing brands, everyone is in a marketing function, said Skift founder and CEO Rafat Ali, speaking on stage with three travel CMOs at Skift Global Forum in New York City in September.

He said that because of the evolving nature of their roles, CMOs are also being targeted for sales pitches by technology service providers who previously would have sold mainly to chief technology officers and chief information officers.

A chief marketing officer needs to quickly be able to see how a new technology will help them solve a problem or innovate, said Julie Cary, executive vice president and CMO of La Quinta Inns & Suites, one of the panelists.

“Is there something intriguing there that can help me do what I need to do, which is drive revenue, build the brand, and continue to innovate?” said Cary.

But like anything else, adopting new technologies has a cost — and many brands’ budgets are limited, said Lisa Ronson, CMO of Tourism Australia.

“We have to be really mindful that everything we do influences the economic impact back on Australia,” she said. “For us, it’s about doing fewer, bigger, better partnerships, whether it’s with media owners or technology companies, because for us, the partnership component is a really, really big part of it.”

Ronson said most brands, including Tourism Australia, don’t have a hefty enough budget to have purely transactional relationships. “For us, it’s about having a deeper partnership to work more strategically together to capture additional value outside of that transaction,” said Ronson.

When being pitched, Kathy Tan Mayor, CMO of Carnival Cruise Line, said she often asks herself if the value proposition of some new approach is worth taking the time to change course.

“At the end of the day, the technology is not really just the technology,” said Mayor. “It requires people, process and technology. Sometimes the silver bullet makes it sound like it’s going to be so easy, I’ve heard so many times ‘It works straight out of the box.'”

She added: “But there is that notion of ‘I need to bring the people around, I need to bring the process around,’ so is that value proposition worth the slowing down to speed up?”

Watch the entire interview above, and find more coverage of Skift Global Forum here.

At this year’s Skift Global Forum in New York City, travel leaders from around the world gathered for two days of inspiration, information, and conversation. There were interviews, panel discussions, and solo TED-like talks on the future of travel.

Visit our Skift Global Forum site for more details about 2018 events.

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Tags: marketing, sgf2017, skift global forum, video

Photo credit: From left, Kathy Tan Mayor, CMO Carnival Cruise Line; Lisa Ronson, CMO Tourism Australia; Julie Cary, EVP and CMO of La Quinta Inns & Suites; and Skift founder and CEO Rafat Ali speaking during Skift Global Forum in September 2017. Skift