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Skift + Checkmate Present:

WHATS NEXT IN MOBILE:


MESSAGING STRATEGIES FOR TRAVEL
BRANDS IN A POST-APP ECONOMY

special
report
Todays messaging platforms provide an appealing
alternative to native apps, welcoming in a new framework
for how the travel industry reaches its customers.
Smart marketers are adapting to this change, ringing in
a new era of better customer service and streamlined
operations. Welcome to the Post-App Economy.

Whats Next in Mobile: Messaging Strategies for Travel Brands in a Post-App Economy

About Checkmate

Checkmates communications platform enables businesses to engage


customers across any channel SMS, email, messaging apps and improve
coordination within their teams. Checkmate gathers all this communication
into one inbox shared by every employee, creates a single conversation thread
for each customer, and facilitates team collaboration. As a result, businesses
can better delight customers, prevent service shortfalls from turning into
negative reviews, and strengthen their operations.
Founded in January 2013, Checkmate was acquired by Room 77 which has
raised $43 million from leading travel and technology investors. For more
information about Checkmate, visit www.checkmate.io.

SKIFT REPORT 2016

Whats Next in Mobile: Messaging Strategies for Travel Brands in a Post-App Economy

SKIFT REPORT 2016

Table of contents
Introduction: Welcome to the Post-App Economy 5
How Messaging Addresses the Values of Todays Consumer 7
The Rise of Conversational Marketing 9

About Skift
Skift is a travel intelligence
company that offers news,
data, and services to
professionals in travel and
professional travelers, to help
them make smart decisions
about travel.
Skift is the business
of travel.

Why the Call Center Model Must Evolve 11

Visit skift.com for more.

Messaging as an Operational Strategy 13


Hospitality: Creating the Next Generation Of 16
Operations With Messaging Technology
(Free Excerpt from Skifts The Future
of Messaging Technology trend report)
Insights and Strategies 18
A Note to Travel Marketers: Adapt or Fall Behind 19
About Skift 20

This report has been adapted from the co-branded Skift and Checkmate series Welcome to the Post-App Economy.
Read the full series here and learn more about the future of messaging technology at Checkmate.io.

Whats Next in Mobile: Messaging Strategies for Travel Brands in a Post-App Economy

SKIFT REPORT 2016

Introduction:
Welcome to the Post-App Economy
Whenever a traveler is faced with a challenge, big or small, a common phrase will be
uttered by a friend or colleague: Theres an app for that.
This refrain has defined the mobile space for nearly a decade. But today, an emerging
alternative is driving significant change and providing a more effective way for travel
businesses to deliver mobile experiences. Welcome to the Post-App Economy.
What is the Post-App Economy?
The Post-App Economy consists of rapidly growing messaging channels that provide
brands and businesses with real-time opportunities to interact with customers. This
economy includes both new platforms like Facebook Messengers ambitious scope,
WeChat, and Googles soon to be launched messaging app, as well as established
channels like SMS and web chat. All of these channels allow for real-time, one-to-one
communication, providing an alternative model for the development and distribution of
a mobile experience.
Growth of Messaging Apps vs. Social Networks
Monthly active user for top 4 social networks and messaging apps
Big 4 Messaging Apps

3,500
3,000

Big 4 Social Networking Apps


2,500
2,000
1,500
1,000
500
0
2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Source: BJ Intelligence

Today, messaging platforms provide an appealing alternative to native app development.


These platforms - Whatsapp, WeChat, FB Messenger, and Line - have more active users
and are growing faster than leading social networking apps (see chart above).

Millions

When the iPhone launched in 2008, native


apps were the only game in town. They are
powerful tools, but apps have not taken root
in categories with infrequent purchases.
As apps proliferated today the App Store
alone has over 1.5 million apps consumer
engagement concentrated to only a few
apps. Last year, consumers spent 79 percent
of time on their mobile phone using five
apps. Furthermore, only 10 percent of apps
downloaded are ever used more than once.
Thus, it is a growing challenge for businesses
especially those in infrequent purchase
categories such as travel to develop an app
that is discovered, downloaded, and used.

Whats Next in Mobile: Messaging Strategies for Travel Brands in a Post-App Economy

Messaging platforms provide development and discovery tools that address the
challenges of native apps and the app stores. Analyst Benedict Evans provides an
outstanding description of these trends in his 16 Mobile Theses. Three characteristics of
these messaging platforms stand stand out:
1. Easy engagement: Unlike apps, messaging services are present on every users
phone, as every device comes with SMS (and Facebook Messenger, the other top
messaging app, has over 1 billion users). The user does not need to visit the app store
and download an app to engage. Messaging with friends and family have habituated
consumers to this communication channel, and travel brands must be ready to engage
in the conversation.
2. Multi-channel: Consumers use many channels in the post-app world. An individual
consumer uses SMS, Facebook Messenger, and Whatsapp when interacting with friends
and family. Unlike apps, where a phone purchase would lock a user into Android or
iOS, individual consumers bounce across channels in the Post-App Economy. Travel
brands must move seamlessly across all of these channels to connect with their
customers.
3. High signal: Messaging demands relevancy. The ping of a new message pulls the
consumer away from his or her day and into the phone. Unlike apps that could sit
undisturbed on the back screen of a users phone, messages clamor for attention.
Messaging services know they cannot abuse this privilege with blast marketing,
and travel brands must ensure their messages contain relevant content based on a
consumers unique interests and needs.
These characteristics present major opportunities for travel brands for two reasons:
Messaging depends upon real-world, last mile activity. Messaging rewards real-time
responses and emphasizes messages that result in action, areas where travel brands
excel. Consumer requests through messaging platforms may demand real-world
follow-up (e.g., please have room service send up a burger or your room has been
assigned). These messages are only helpful when they result in a real-world action.
Purchase frequency is relatively less important. Messaging channels solve for
discovery and engagement, a real challenge for infrequently purchased categories. In
the app economy, discovery was controlled through the popularity of Top 10 lists, which
bene ted intermediaries with the greatest breadth of inventory and product uses (e.g.,
explore, compare, and book across product categories). Infrequent purchase patterns
limited travel brands reach. However, in the post-app economy, reach matters less
because businesses interact directly through the channels that consumers already use.

SKIFT REPORT 2016

Whats Next in Mobile: Messaging Strategies for Travel Brands in a Post-App Economy

How Messaging Addresses the


Values of Todays Consumer

Interactions between travel brands and

signal their commitment to authenticity.

customers are evolving to keep up with

Accor introduced a local Food and Beverage

the changing nature of communication

initiative in October 2015, and local wines

and consumer expectations. Authenticity

are a tenant of the Sheraton rebrand. All

and one-to-one recognition have become

this speaks to travel brands recognition of a

the baseline expectations for customer

travelers broad desire for authentic, first-

experience, and messaging helps travel

hand experiences.

brands deliver against these values.


But while travel brands seek to create

Authenticity

this feeling of realness, convincing the

From hotels designed to integrate with their

consumer of a brands authenticity requires

location to locally-sourced farm-to-table

more than just new sourcing. Like Justice

restaurants, authenticity has emerged as

Potter Stewarts observation on pornography

a north star for todays traveler. To quote

(I know it when I see it), authenticity is

travel writer David Sze, For the 21st century

hard to define but impossible to fake. And as

traveler, authenticity has become the goal

more hospitality brands clamor to claim this

and measure of travel. Legacy hotel brands

mantle, it becomes harder to cut through the

use locally-based culinary experiences to

noise and genuinely connect with guests.

SKIFT REPORT 2016

Whats Next in Mobile: Messaging Strategies for Travel Brands in a Post-App Economy

One-to-one Relationships
Being remembered, being greeted by name,
being known as a unique individual are all
impactful moments in which brands cement
their relationship with customers. And while
personal interactions have always been a
hallmark of great service, consumers now see
these interactions as a critical cornerstone of
memorable brands. At the Luxury Interactive
Summit 2015, Milton Pedraza, CEO of the
Luxury Institute, said, As consumers are
more sophisticated and products become
more commoditized, its the delivery of an
experience across channels and a personal
relationship that differentiates brands.
Brands that recognize and communicate with
their customers as unique individuals will
stand out.

SKIFT REPORT 2016

Whats Next in Mobile: Messaging Strategies for Travel Brands in a Post-App Economy

The Rise of Conversational Marketing

The demand for individual communication has

to grasp the increasing importance of creating

paved the way for the rise of conversational

a two-way conversation with customers. They

marketing, rendering traditional TV and radio

struggle to break free of the broadcast muscle

advertising a less effective tool to engage

memory, even when tapping into channels geared

potential customers.

for exchange.

Broadcast marketing has been the bedrock of

Travel brands often exemplify this when sending

brand campaigns, operating under the assumption

promotional emails. Sending a message from a

that, with the right message and sufficient

noreply@ domain precludes conversation and

impression frequency, a brand could imprint itself

dialogue; the brand has made it clear that they

in the consumers mind.

expect customers to be seen and not heard.

Campaigns were thus measured around

Academic research provides quantitative support

impressions, and marketers tested for aided and

for the intuitive truth that strong relationships

unaided recall to understand whether they were

require dialogue. In his 2015 study Twitter for

were really changing perceptions. Turn the dials

Two, University of Stockholm professor Jonas

and revenue would follow.

Colliander compared the impact of messaging for


brands that engaged Twitter followers in dialogue

And because this strategy worked for so long in

to those that used Twitter solely for broadcast

the past, its been difficult for some marketers

messaging. His experiment revealed 14 percent

SKIFT REPORT 2016

Whats Next in Mobile: Messaging Strategies for Travel Brands in a Post-App Economy

greater purchase likelihood for brands that


engaged in a dialogue. Colliander sums up the
findings, saying true customer engagement will
require a shift from one-way broadcast reaching
all customers to two-way dialogue with each of
them.

The Conversational Approach


An alternative to staid one-way marketing
can be seen in the conversational approach of
new brands unburdened by a broadcast legacy.
Ecommerce brands like Warby Parker have burst
into consumer awareness in the past five years,
and their conversational approach in messaging
channels demonstrates part of their appeal.
Great conversationalists are first and foremost
great listeners; they are tuned in to others
perspectives. So too with these brands: smart,
conversational marketing starts with listening
to the customers needs and responding
with empathy. As the example at the right
demonstrates, Warby takes an edge case they
cannot serve - international shipping - and
provides an empathetic, useful response,

^ Warby Parker utilizing Twitter to provide useful


information to customers.

delivered by a real Warby employee.


In taking this approach, Warby Parker was able to
maintain a positive relationship with the customer,
who will be more likely to return in the future
instead of taking their business elsewhere.

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SKIFT REPORT 2016

Whats Next in Mobile: Messaging Strategies for Travel Brands in a Post-App Economy

Why The Call Center Model Must Evolve

loathing than being transferred from

Communications Between Travel


Brands and Customers are Fragmented

department to call center department.

Travel brands have concentrated customer

YouTube is replete with outrageous,

interaction in large-scale, off-premise

frustrating call center clips. GetHuman built

customer contact centers. Whether a hotel,

a cult following among consumers desperate

rental car, or other travel brand, customer

to hack dehumanizing call center processes.

interactions are handled by agents in places

Few experiences conjure more consumer

like Omaha or Ireland. What started as call


Messaging provides a path out of this

centers handling an 800-number have grown

morass, but like any new tool, adopting a

to contact centers encompassing a range of

better communications strategy demands

communication channels, including email and

an organizational change. Customer

social media.

communication must be the shared


responsibility of the entire team, not an

While these scale operations have some real

isolated task for contact center agents.

benefits such as 24/7 support and lower


unit costs contact centers are ill-equipped

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Whats Next in Mobile: Messaging Strategies for Travel Brands in a Post-App Economy

to manage the real-time service requests from


messaging. A Checkmate study of over 10,000
customer messages found that consumers
use messaging tools to ask questions about
immediate needs. Travelers seek answers to
questions like when is my room ready? and
is room service is still open? Far from the
property and disconnected from the operation,
contact center agents struggle to respond.
These limitations are illustrated by one global
hotel brands experiment with Facebook
Messenger. To Hyatts credit, the brand
invited guests to use Facebook Messenger to
communicate with their properties. However,
responses were handled by their contact center
agents, not the property team. In this case:
A message to the Hyatt Regency San
Francisco resulted in a response to call the
hotel directly. Since contact center agents
lack the tools to easily reach the team on
property, this response is no surprise. But for
the guest this is confusing. The typical guest
will wonder who did I talk to? and why did I
waste my time? (See image to the right)
Despite an initial message (and response)
via Facebook Messenger, the guest is directed
to talk on the phone. Again, internal systems
dictate this response. Since the property
team lacks access to Messenger, the only way
to reach the property team is through a phone

^ Hyatts attempt to use Facebook messenger to direct


guests to their call center.

call.
Response times are challenging for service
delivery interactions. A six-hour response
time would be fine for questions around a
point balance, but for on-property service
delivery this falls short.

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Whats Next in Mobile: Messaging Strategies for Travel Brands in a Post-App Economy

Messaging as an Operational Strategy

At its core, hospitality rests upon human

provides a means to catch issues as they occur,

service. To quote Heads in Beds, Jacob

delight guests, and improve operations.

Tomskys memoir of his years as a hotelier:


The TripAdvisor review below provides an

Hospitality, no matter how slick it gets,

example of the challenges faced by general

will always be a business run by people who

managers as they operate. Information is not

serve people. It will always be about service.

readily passed across teams and shifts, so

It will always take a person to explain that,

customers are forced to repeat themselves

no, you cannot hook up your iPad to the

multiple times to different employees. Small

toilet but you can use it to control the lights

problems are not addressed in the moment,

and wirelessly play music through the in-

and when left to fester take on oversized

room speaker system.

importance in the mind of the guest. The


extent of customer dissatisfaction only

General managers must coordinate these

becomes clear after the fact, and the hotel is

complex, human logistics, and mistakes are

forced to grovel for forgiveness. All this would

inevitable given the complexity of this exercise.

have been preventable if the hotel had better

The challenge is identifying and recovering

lines of communication with the guest and the

from these issues in the moment. Messaging

more efficient internal tools.

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Whats Next in Mobile: Messaging Strategies for Travel Brands in a Post-App Economy

SKIFT REPORT 2016

Messaging As A Management Tool


Messaging provides general managers and other
operators with tools to counteract these problems.
Unlike traditional customer communication (phone
calls, physical signage, face-to-face conversations),
messaging has three differentiating factors:
1.) Customer interactions are recorded. With
messaging, there is an artifact of every conversation.
Any employee can see the interaction that colleagues
have had with that guest. Employees dont start from
zero when they interact with customers. Instead,
they can anticipate guests needs because they have
context from previous interactions.
2.) Performance is measured in real-time.
Messaging allows GMs to measure their teams

^ Once a guest checks out of the hotel, its too late to

effectiveness in real-time instead of relying on after-

fix a bad experience. Check in with guests before they

the-fact GSS scores. They can track response time

leave to resolve issues and avoid bad reviews

and read their employees interaction with customers.


An objective record provides them with real visibility
into their operations. And embedding feedback loops
into standard operating procedures (see image right)
keeps a pulse on performance.
3.) Information is easily shared. Hospitality requires
collaboration by team members over time. Staff
members work in shifts, which makes communication
a challenge. As seen below, a shared workspace
improves collaboration and efficiency.

How Messaging Benefits Managers


Operations teams that embrace messaging improve
the quality of their service and the strength of their
customer relationships and brands. Here are some ways
this works in practice:
Prevent suboptimal interactions from escalating into
bad memories and negative reviews.
Hotels and travel brands are messy, people-driven
operations, and operators are judged by their ability
to recover from and overcome these challenges. And
in a complex, human operation, negative customer
interactions are inevitable. Rooms may not be ready
when a guest arrives. Lights burn out, bathtub drains
get stopped up, and air conditioning breaks. Stuff
happens, and operators must pick up the pieces.

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SKIFT REPORT 2016

Messaging gives operators a leg up by alerting


them when they must take action. Ease of
use makes consumers more apt to bang out a
message when service goes awry than pick up
the phone to complain. As this example from
Hotel Carlton by JDV demonstrates, operators
become aware of problems in real time (see
image to the right). Rather than apologize after
the fact on TripAdvisor or provide explanations
in a GSS review, operators fix the issue in the
moment and nip the problem in the bud.
^ In this example, messaging technology makes it easier for

Delight customers through personal interaction.

hotels to check in with their guests before check out.

Messaging provides operators with a new


opportunity to build a personal relationship
with the customer. Employees can express
their individuality. And because employees are
armed with knowledge of the customers prior
experience, they can be more relevant in their
response and outreach.
The best evidence that messaging leads to
customer delight comes from guests own
words. In Checkmates analysis of over 10,000
messaging interactions between guests and
hotels, the most commonly used phrase from
guests was thank you. Over 20 percent of all
guest comments used the phrase, by far the
most common words used by guests.
Improve operations and efficiency.
Better communication flows make for more
efficient teams. With the record described
above, guest requests do not get lost, and
employees can be more productive. Instead
of supporting multiple, disparate means of
communication, messaging allows employees to
focus their time and attention.

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SKIFT REPORT 2016

Hospitality: Creating The Next Generation


of Operations with Messaging Technology
(Adapted from Skifts Future of Messaging Technology trend report)

As of late, Hyatt has made strides in refining its

Important to any consideration of Hyatt,

messaging strategy, utilizing WeChat messaging

WeChat, and messaging technology in the travel

to engage Chinese markets.

industry, is also the notion that brandconsumer


conversations are primarily traveler driven.

In 2015, we received and responded to more than

Unlike platforms like Twitter, where

50,000 WeChat messages, says Dan Moriarty,

conversations are often public and we can jump

director of social strategy and activation at

in when it makes sense, these conversations

Hyatt, in a Skift interview. Some 60% of those

have to be initiated by guests, says Moriarty.

interactions, he says, revolved around on-site

So were reliant on guests knowing were on

experiences. The other 40% focused on bookings.

these platforms. Opportunities we are exploring


are integration or initiation points from our

Many guests find WeChat easy to use and a

other owned digital platforms, such as email

natural gateway to activities information or

confirmations, the Hyatt website, or the Hyatt

transactions, Moriarty says. We see high

mobile app. Although there is a lot of growth

engagement with guests around account

already on messaging apps, we know there are

management, offers, and enrollment in our loyalty

more guests who we can better care for with

program. Some of the functions guests can enjoy

increased awareness.

on the Hyatt WeChat app also include on-site


guest services.

Considerations of awareness are not confined


to hoteliers hoping that travelers can find hotel

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Whats Next in Mobile: Messaging Strategies for Travel Brands in a Post-App Economy

messaging options. Suppliers are also positioned,

Patterson, Checkmates CEO, in a Skift interview.

via messaging tech, to increase their awareness

In fact, that hotel is composed of a number

of guest details and then, ideally, incorporate what

of shift-based teams and individuals. You have

they aggregate about their customers into the

somebody who might be dealing with the front

messaging exchange itself. For hotel groups such

desk or another operator that took that call. You

as Commune Hotels + Resorts, operating in the

have a kitchen that actually has to prep that room-

U.S., Canada, and Europe, that means bringing in

service order. You have a runner that has to take

third-party partners to assist.

that thing upstairs.

Just look at how SMS eclipsed voice

As you move between those departments,

communication, says Niki Leondakis, chief

information gets lost, says Patterson.

executive officer at Commune, in a recent Skift

Particularly in the kind of analog world were in

article. And start-ups such as Uber are setting a

today theres a chain of telephone that takes

precedent for on-demand communication. Where

place. The consequence is when anything breaks

consumers spend their time has changed; its now

down or a customers expectations are exceeded,

SMS, messaging apps, and email. By extending

it can be a very frustrating conversation, he says.

our service into these channels, were bringing

One of the consequences of messaging as a

a boutique hospitality experience to todays

means of service delivery, however, is it has this

consumer in a way they prefer to communicate.

kind of record. If its visible to everyone else in the


organization, then the business can start to act

The strategy underway at Commune the

with a collective intelligence.

company announced a merger with Destination


Hotels in January 2016 is fueled in large

To view the full Skift report, go to

part by Checkmate, a business that works to

http://trends.skift.com/

supply travel verticals such as hospitality with a


more messaging-based customer-experience
approach.
One of the challenges that travelers have time
and again is they think theyre talking to a single
entity when they talk to hotels, says Drew

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Whats Next in Mobile: Messaging Strategies for Travel Brands in a Post-App Economy

SKIFT REPORT 2016

Insights and Strategies


To engage with todays consumer and leverage changing communication dynamics, consider the following:

Delight customers by eliminating the need to repeat themselves: A single conversation


thread for each customer gives employees context to provide great service. Instead of starting
every interaction from zero and forcing the customer to re-explain a request, employees are aware
of every prior interaction with the customer.

Lighten the burden on employees with automated routing and standard replies:
A communications platform lessens work for your teams by ensuring information gets to all relevant
departments and offering standard replies to common questions.

Make it easy for customers to reach your team with the communication channels they
use with friends and family: SMS and messaging are commonplace when communicating with
friends and family; rather than forcing customer to call an 800-number, let customers reach you via
todays channels.

Reduce the workload for your staff through collaboration tools: A shared inbox enables all
teams to effortlessly collaborate when providing service to customers and to know when colleagues
have already solved a problem.

5
6
7

Minimize the work for employees to engage consumers: Equip front-line employees who
deliver service with messaging tools to communicate with customers in real time.

Eliminate the noreply@ and endless phone trees: Be sure any communication channel
used allows customers to respond to and engage with the business (and respond back).

Surface issues and prevent negative reviews by touching base with every customer:
Establish automatic check-ins during a customers visit to uncover and resolve any service issues
before they leave.

Encourage customers to share your successes: Service can have just as many wows as
negatives, so when loyal customers and brand advocates are discovered (particularly through the
touchpoint mentioned in #7 above), establish prompts that enable customers to easily share their
positive experiences, such as texting a TripAdvisor link to the customer post-trip.

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SKIFT REPORT 2016

A Note to Travel Marketers:


Adapt or Fall Behind
Messaging is the biggest disruption to communication since the mainstream
adoption of email in the 90s. Just as email replaced letter writing, messaging
is replacing voice and email for person-to-person conversation. Thanks
to popular messaging apps (WeChat, WhatsApp) and SMS, messaging has
surpassed voice, email and social networks as the most popular activity on
a mobile device. And while emailing and internet searches may sometimes
feel like a chore, messaging is viewed as a fun and efficient way to engage
with friends, family and increasingly top of mind brands.
By Drew Patterson,
CEO of Checkmate

While many technology trends have resulted in less control over pricing,
distribution and customer relationships, messaging puts power back into
the hands of business operators. The advantages of adopting a messaging
platform are plentiful:

Preventing service issues from escalating and encourage brand champions: The immediacy of

messaging means youll hear about issues early and have the opportunity to solve problems as they
occur rather than letting them go unaddressed and escalating in the mind of the customer. Avoid
begging for forgiveness on public review sites or social media by tackling issues in real time.
Delighting customers in the moment: Because customers can reach the businesses as easily as they

do family and friends, the business hears far more from its customers. Brands are more likely to hear
about special occasions like a birthday or anniversary which introduces the opportunity to surprise
and delight customers with upgrades and extras.
Improving efficiency of your service and operations: For employees, immediate access to every

past interaction with the customer means they can speak confidently to customers, secure in their
knowledge of the customers needs and experience. Instead of starting from zero and enduring
customers frustration at repeating themselves, employees can focus on solving problems, building
personal relationships, and delighting customers.
The emergence of messaging has transformed individual communication patterns. After three decades
of marketing emails haunting spam folders, consumers are delighted by real-time information through
the channels they prefer. As consumers become more accustomed to convenient, real-time, mobile
communications, well expect businesses to adapt accordingly. Companies that recognize these shifts
and adapt their operations to keep pace with consumer behavior can benefit tremendously from more
insightful conversations with their customers, powerful brand differentiation, and increased service
responses. Those who hesitate risk falling behind.

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About Skift
Skift is a business information company focused on travel intelligence
and offers news, data, and services to professionals in travel and
professional travelers, to help them make smart decisions about travel.
Founded in 2012 by media entrepreneur Rafat Ali, Skift is based in
New York City and backed by Lerer Ventures, Advancit Capital and
other marquee media-tech investors.
Visit skift.com for more.

Like what you see?


Skifts content studio SkiftX helps brands such as Amadeus, American
Express, MasterCard, Travel Channel, Hilton, and others create custom
content, research, and experiences for sponsors that influence the
largest audience of travel industry decision makers on the planet.
Contact us for more details:
Rafat Ali,
Founder & CEO, Skift
ra@skift.com
212-564-5830

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