Opportunity in the Chaos of Tourism Marketing, with Humphrey Ho

Episode 151

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As the U.S. managing director for China’s largest independent advertising agency, Humphrey Ho helps American brands reach their ever-growing base of Chinese consumers. Spearheading the opening of Hylink‘s American headquarters in Santa Monica, where he resides, Humphrey has scaled the operation up to 40 employees and secured the company’s key spots with industry leaders like Brand USA and Hawaiian Airlines. In September of 2018, he successfully launched Hylink’s subsidiary, Hylink Travel, a Shorty Awards-winning agency specializing in social and digital campaigns for travel brands. Humphrey has been featured in various publications, with recent examples like The Drum, Digiday, AdWeek, Buzzfeed, and Ad Age. He was named a finalist for Digiday’s 2019 Future Leader award and was also tapped by Forbes magazine as one of the top 8 Asian-Americans Shaping the Travel Industry. On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Humphrey Ho about the needs, trends, and opportunities that have come up in travel between China and the U.S. in recent years.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Humphrey’s unique, scientific approach to advertising and destination marketing
  • Trends Humphrey has spotted in Chinese travel and tourism
  • Opportunities Humphrey sees in China and America during these uncertain times
  • How Hylink spots patterns and creates campaigns from the data they gather
  • Keeping up with the evolving needs of US and Chinese travelers

The Scientific Approach to Tourism Marketing

Like so many people in the tourism industry, Humphrey meandered into his destination marketing role from an unconventional path. Humphrey studied neuroscience and integrative biology in college before getting an MBA in IT management. He founded and sold a social networking company in Canada before moving to China during the recession. He’s since managed interactions between media publishers and Google and now finds himself as the managing director at Hylink, China’s largest independent advertising agency. Humphrey has shed his former roles, but his scientific approach is the same. He is constantly searching for patterns and trends in the marketing data, looking for tried-and-true techniques to prove wrong using his “null hypothesis” strategy. Humphrey is an innovator dedicated to data-driven solutions that meet the changing needs of Chinese travelers. Observing those trends has been important in the wake of the economic tensions between China and the U.S.. Humphrey and his team began to learn how drastically travel has shifted for Chinese citizens, who are now traveling to the United States and beyond. His team was able to spot how the expensive, luxury nature of travel affects the industry in times of economic tension. They also found that Chinese citizens are becoming much more savvy about their local surroundings due to the intense growth of technology in the country. By spotting these trends, Humphrey has discovered how to turn chaos and uncertainty into opportunity.

In Chaos Comes Opportunity

As travel trends shift in places like California and Hawaii, it becomes clearer what’s working and what isn’t. Humphrey is an expert at finding untapped areas that could potentially be marketed, such as the unique use of RVs in the United States that nobody is talking about. He recognizes areas where destinations could go deeper in marketing, like marketing Southern California separately from California, and areas where brands could pull back (everybody knows about Santa Monica beach; let’s focus on something else!). Hylink’s success comes from an interconnected web of partnerships, data, and an understanding of a destination’s target markets. Their campaigns take advantage of nuances, like the differences between Northern and Southern California, to paint destinations as unique, exciting places to go. They bring in key influencers and develop content plans to drive traffic. They collaborate with hotels, attractions, transportation services, restaurants, and local DMOs to create three- or four-sided partnerships to make environments that benefit everyone, especially tourists. Every area of the world has a story to tell. The job of Humphrey and other tourism marketers is to discover that story, find the people who can help them tell it to the most people in the most effective way, and then share that story creatively with the world. Hylink’s unique use of data and demographic understanding puts them ahead of the game. If you simply look a little closer at the trends and patterns associated with your target markets, no matter the demographic, I’m sure you’ll find an exciting new way to draw people to your awesome destinations.


Nicole Mahoney: 00:19 Hello listeners, this is Nick Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on the left. I am passionate about travel and tourism and love learning from the experiences of professionals in the industry and that is why I am so excited to introduce today’s guest Humphrey Ho as the u s managing director for China’s largest independent advertising agency. Humphrey Ho helps American brands reach their ever growing base of Chinese consumers spearheading the opening of high links, American headquarters in Santa Monica where he resides. Humphrey has scaled the operation up to 40 employees and secured the company’s key spots with industry leaders, brand USA and Hawaiian Airlines. In September of 2018 Humphrey successfully launched high link subsidiary, high link travel, a shorty awards winning agency specializing in social and digital campaigns for travel brands. Humphrey has been featured in various publications with recent examples like the drum did you? Day Ad Week, buzzfeed and ad age. He was named a finalist for Digi days, 2019 future leader award and was also tapped by Forbes magazine as one of the top eight Asian Americans shaping the travel industry. Thank you so much for joining me, Humphrey.

Humphrey Ho: 01:33 Thank you for having me, Nicole. And hello to all the listeners.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:37 We are looking forward to learning from you today. But before we get started with some of our questions, um, can you tell us a little bit more about your story in your own words and, and how you got to where you are today?

Humphrey Ho: 01:49 Sure. Um, there’s a little bit of history of me before coming to the u s and starting up hyperlink. So actually I, um, never really studied advertising. When I was in school, I was studying neuroscience, the integrity of biology. Um, oddly enough I then took an MBA because I decided that medicine really wasn’t for me. And so, um, I, I, I did an MBA in it management and I started up a company in my first one was a, um, enterprise [inaudible], um, private social network for, uh, companies, um, that needed to have sort of an in house social network. And we sold that company in Canada many, many years ago. And then, um, I ended up right until the recession selling it right into the recession. And, um, that’s how it began, began my China career. So, um, there were, there weren’t any things and opportunities that were available in the United States and Canada at that point. And I’m, I moved to China with, um, my, my work and, um, I, I landed up in advertising. And so I’m, I’ve worked at widen Kennedy

Humphrey Ho: 02:54 in Shanghai, that’s the business director. And before I left highly of for high link in Los Angeles in 2015, I was at Google, um, managing, um, strategic partnerships between media publishers and Google, um, at that point in the China market. So, um, I’ve got a cross section of marketing. Uh, I think that everything is okay, which is great in advertising because everything’s always on fire, but no one’s really dead. That’s usually what I like to talk about. So let’s just keep going and keep calm and carry on. And we started high link. Really. Essentially, if you think about advertising, there’s, there’s no real advertising agency that comes to mind when you think about large major brand that is an advertising agency that understands China will in China. That’s [inaudible] pretty well known us. But outside of the world, you know, you know, to go to WPP, it’s a European based agency holding group, you know, to go to one of the Omnicom network in the United States, uh, known for being an American network globally.

Humphrey Ho: 03:58 Well, there isn’t really nothing in China. And so highly embarked on a global expansion with me, um, at the helm for better or for worse in 2016 and we came into the world of travel towards him. And so in 2017 we founded Highland travel, which is a subsidiary of Silink. Um, the advertising group. It’s just a service, um, destination marketing travel brands. Um, [inaudible] airlines, hotels, et Cetera. And we’ve grown quite yet, uh, briskly in Tufin in 2019 in mid. All of the different difficulties that obviously are facing the market for the China market, I’m into one of the most trusted, the Mos and American. So we’re happy and very honored to have a lot of our clients trust us with their [inaudible] budgets and with their travelers in an Everett changing minute by minute landscape and travel tourism.

Nicole Mahoney: 04:51 Yeah, that’s a, that’s really awesome. I love how you started with a science degree and ended up in tourism. I think it’s, I always find it so interesting when my guests tell their story and you know, where you start and where you went and, and even though it’s a kind of a meandering hash in the end, I think you probably connect the dots right as you build your career from one thing to the next to the next, um, that led you right to where you’re supposed to be today, right?

Humphrey Ho: 05:18 Yeah. I mean, you learn a lot from what you pick up. Many people in advertising don’t expect the client that they have. They end up being very passionate about the industry. I love travel. The way I like to describe it is as a Canadian growing up in Toronto, we were 50 to 60 miles from the border. I spent my entire life observing what are the differences and similarities between the Americans and Canadians? No, we are quiet, similar, very similar, but also a little bit different. And so I’m very passionate to be able to help promote travel tourism of a demographics. And I’m very familiar with which is the Chinese traveler, um, to our clients because you’re able to also pet through a lot of bias because sometimes when you’re bogged down and should we do this or should we not in travel tourism,

Nicole Mahoney: 06:05 no

Humphrey Ho: 06:06 [inaudible] neither biased on one side, which is with our clients, nor my bias with the Chinese traveler. Um, and so therefore it allows us to look at things very objectively. And having a degree in science definitely helped because my entire background was too disprove the theories that we have in the world of null hypothesis. So I still follow no hypothesis theory, um, today in advertising, which is very opposite of a lot of advertising industry professionals because the industry is built on creating passionate moments for the consumer to want it call to action. However, if you take a scientific approach to it, you analyze the data, you want to be proven wrong and as a result of you do the right thing.

Nicole Mahoney: 06:49 Absolutely. I think that’s a, that’s a great, a great way to, uh, to illustrate that. And, and what I find really interesting is when you, when you talked about, you know, your passion, your passion and travel and then, and then your passion and you know, representing a demographic. And it was very relatable for me. I actually, you know, live in the u s but I’m in New York state and I’m about an hour away from the border. And so we’re always very curious about our Canadian neighbors, right. And, and studying them. So, um, I found that a really interesting perspective and I’m wondering before we really dive into some of these questions on creativity and collaboration, if you could, um, share with our listeners a little bit about what’s happening in China right now. I know it’s top of mind, especially with the, some of the trade tensions that are going on and, and what you’re seeing, uh, in the market [inaudible]

Humphrey Ho: 07:40 there’s an interesting Chinese word that I use to describe the word [inaudible] danger in Chinese to our clients. In Chinese, the word danger is called Wade’s. He, which is okay. [inaudible] danger [inaudible] champs or in danger comes opportunity. And so how do we find something that is threatening us existentially, um, more or less? Um, but can we, can we profit from it? Can we take advantage of it? Can we shift or pivot as a result? I think it’s interesting because in the Chinese culture, if you think about opportunity in crisis in the American way of thinking about it, and then there’s a lot of similarities between both our cultures [inaudible] how do we take advantage of an evolving situation? First mover we might be, or this is the time for us to change the way we think, to be pragmatic, if you will. And so, um, how are emerging, um, trends that are happening right now? One of the biggest things that we are observing [inaudible] the drastic shift in the Chinese traveler coming to the United States and globally. So previously,

Nicole Mahoney: 08:51 okay.

Humphrey Ho: 08:51 It was very hard to tell who was coming. It was just lots and lots of people were coming from all walks in all different cities. We were opening up all kinds of airline routes for growth purposes rather than for revenue. We were, um, improving our services both in United States, but also infrastructure in China to get people to come over here. Some we knew were investing, others we knew we’re studying ’em and many others were staying. Those 18 days, if they stay in the United States in six days, they stay in Europe, but we couldn’t really tell their demographics. Trade War [inaudible] global economic tensions have created several things. The Chinese [inaudible] [inaudible], which means it’s more expensive to travel two. That expense also [inaudible] more expensive to others than some because travel is a luxury in itself. Even domestic travel, because you don’t have to travel, you can get on the phone and go on the Internet.

Humphrey Ho: 09:47 You don’t have to travel. So that’s the second thing, which is travel is a luxury and it’s always been, but more so whenever. Okay. And the third thing is, if we look at [inaudible] patterns of the Chinese consumer is they’re getting more and more savvy about their local environment. It’s no longer people getting off of a bus and taking the must have photos and leaving because of the intense digitalization of China with [inaudible] 800 million people online in the u equity of mobile Internet, they’re able to get [inaudible] [inaudible] that information with or without [inaudible], um, being to see it by themselves. And so in all of this, I want to highlight one example recently more close to home. We may have run on Jane, travel about Hawaii’s sudden decline in Chinese travelers upwards of 30%. This is a really good the point in time for us to talk about that.

Humphrey Ho: 10:38 Why are they experiencing a negative 30% more plus a decrease in Chinese travelers, but yet some cities on the mainland in the United States, for example, like San Francisco, they’re actually experiencing a net positive. Interesting. We may see some travel statistics that talk about there is a general slight decrease in numbers in the first half of the year, but I think in general it’s not 30%. This is because the traveler is [inaudible]. For example, in Hawaii it’s always been very focused on mice, uh, meetings, incentives, conventions, um, and the events. The second one is always been on group trout and as I said before, RMB is weakening. Okay. The travel has always been a luxury fit free and independent travelers that’s been growing and that Pi’s been growing very quietly. Um, [inaudible] it’s exactly like what I talk about the other day, I read on the news that Iceland officially celebrated, had a funeral for one of the glaziers officially disappearing.

Humphrey Ho: 11:45 Very suddenly that happened. You think about glaciers, you think about it a hundred thousand year evolution. So I don’t want the Chinese travelers the same. They’ve gone from all good leaving the country to now being only 40% group travel, 44% of them fit and yet another a teen percentage is what we call other, which is we call them custom tailor or extreme or adventure ultra lux travelers. These are people who go to the South Pole. These are people who um, no expense spared. Um, they want to go on the vacation they want. And until this is all happened within a three year, four year period and the, the current trade tensions have only accentuated that we’re advising clients. The same thing if nine years ago I got a Chinese travel visa, I still have one more year. So it’s not about the current number of visas that we’re able to process.

Humphrey Ho: 12:46 It’s not really about the general macro trends of visitation. We now need to look more specifically than ever what our cities state or products, our airline product, our hotel product caters to for the individual. And we’ve been talking to hotels for example, to have Chinese. How does Sichuan Burger top of that, Ricardo, that’s okay. Okay. Um, hello products that are catering to fit travelers rather than group. Maybe we’re a family destination, have something to do with the kids. And so that kind of opportunity because now I’m more accentuated than ever, ever. So more important because we can no longer rely on just sort of well build it and they’ll come.

Nicole Mahoney: 13:33 Yeah. Yeah. I think you just gave us a so much insight. I really appreciate how you broke, how you broke that down. And I think this example with, you know, Hawaii and contrasting that a decline with other cities like you mentioned to San Francisco who are seeing that increase. Um, and I’m curious as you’re thinking about this and looking at [inaudible] and how this landscape is changing, um, and going back to to the word, the Chinese word that means danger in danger, comes chance or opportunity. I’m curious where you think the biggest opportunities are, what destinations, hotels, airlines, you know, what, what is the makeup of those places that will actually be able to take advantage of this opportunity?

Humphrey Ho: 14:21 I think rather, um, if we, are we specifically speaking about the United States?

Nicole Mahoney: 14:26 Yes. In the United States,

Humphrey Ho: 14:28 I think within the United States we have a lot of opportunity not only just in the direct flight market, we also have those that are beyond just the gateway. Beyond the gateway cities. We have opportunities further field. It’s just a matter of looking at the opportunities you have. I was recently speaking about this to a another DMO member. There’s a, well lets not talk about San Francisco. Let’s not talk about New York City. They’ve got their uniqueness, right? New York’s got pardon and culture. San Francisco has the most number of three star Michelin restaurants. So that in itself could be a new opportunity. I’m like, yeah, that’s true. You could, you could attract quite a few people doing that and let alone the resurgence of transcontinental travel in the United States by the Chinese traveler between both coasts. What about Middle America? What about Oklahoma? We actually focused on, and then I said, well, there’s Oklahoma.

Humphrey Ho: 15:20 No, there also, of course my eyes at the Chinese already go to Omaha. They go there for Mr Buffett’s angle, general conference and [inaudible] doing anything else. But Hey, go to Gore at steak house and then leave. That’s all. We’re basically telling them to do what we’re forgetting about the middle of the United States, a small destination is this when I’m at 14% I was talking about the ultra lux traveler. What do we have here that’s ultra luxe, um, that’s in the middle of the United States. [inaudible] I thought about it for a minute and I said, RVs, what do we do? We buy million dollar RVs and we drive them across the country. It’s an American experience. You can’t get a million dollar rolling home anywhere in the world. In Europe. I mean there are RVs, but they’re more like caravan in Australia. It’s not really a relatable thing.

Humphrey Ho: 16:09 It’s an American experience. So I don’t see why in a softening RV market that we currently have, why are we not marketing? Instead of road trips, the road trip by RV through Oklahoma, through Omaha, go to [inaudible], go to Yellowstone and then maybe even make it to a coast and return your car, return your RV just like Auto Europe is doing [inaudible] um, in Europe where you rented a new car for a month or more and then repairing the car at any of the destinations. We’re not capitalizing on that, but that’s an opportunity right there. And then for a small destination that wants to focus on [inaudible] itself, that may not be immediately available because people still drive route 66 they still want to drive through what is the best steakhouses in Texas, in northern Texas. They just, we need to capitalize on those opportunities. Look at what’s really unique to us that is different than other people.

Humphrey Ho: 16:59 And then also look at what’s commonly known about us and be the reverse. We work with Santa Monica, we tell them all the time, there’s no need for you to talk about the beach anymore. People see it. It’s right there. It’s not very hard to look at the beach. We should really talk about our unique experiences when it comes to scooters. When it comes to surfing, when it comes, we have a school right here in our backyard in Santa Monica that has Chinese instructors. Why are we not highlighting that? When people see the Bubba Gump shrimp, they’re going to go to bubblegum shrimp because Forrest Gump is a very influential figure globally. But what about the surf school? Right down the right down the right down the pier. Um, we’re not highlighting these unique experiences, really unique to say Santa Monica compared to the rest of the region.

Humphrey Ho: 17:47 San Francisco is, uh, known for now being a repeat travel or destination. So let’s talk about the things you could go deeper with. The many kinds of foods that you can get from old other old immigrants like the Italian food that we have in San Francisco. The Sonoma and Napa experience going to see the Monterey classic car show. And that gets people to go and it gives people a call back. Yes, they’re going to come back to the city. And so those are all very unique opportunities. New York is now talking about the five boroughs instead of talking about purely Manhattan and Queens. And those kinds of opportunities exist because it enables the traveler to go deeper. Um, in a specific geographical sense. Obviously it’s good for room nights when they don’t go too far. The last and the last opportunity that we’re highlighting two different dos all over the country. [inaudible]

Humphrey Ho: 18:39 you are no longer competitive to one another. There’s something that you know, we were talking about earlier is, uh, coopertition thing. Yes, it’s the same Chinese traveler, but it’s not the six day European traveler. They’re, they’re here for it. [inaudible] teen days. You don’t expect to keep them in your city for 18 days. So please share. And so therefore, let’s look at the [inaudible] pass that we can share them with. As I said, the resurgence of transcontinental travel road trips, still very popular, national parks, still very popular music culture and arts, those are all still very popular. So how can we share, cause if my city hasn’t it and you don’t, how can we do a joint campaign? Because you might have an airport, I don’t have an airport or maybe I’m popular with inbound and you’re popular with outbound travelers from a flight perspective, how do we then bring in partners like airlines and hotels, but also as to the mos, how do we work together to get that Chinese traveler on a fixed path?

Humphrey Ho: 19:37 Because one of the things that hasn’t changed in the generations of Chinese travelers that are coming here regardless of age is they’re still what we call structure. Sure. Adventurous. They appreciate traveling well planned. The Asian culture, the Chinese culture is very conservative. It doesn’t like to, Oh, you know what I’m going to walk about. No, that doesn’t happen. I have a flight that’s coming in from San Francisco leaving from Las Vegas. You might change up the daily activities you do with in terms of lets her doing zero day and market, but generally your route as structured and so deemos. Sure. Yeah. Also co-oping with one another on some of their programs for Chinese travelers.

Nicole Mahoney: 20:18 Absolutely. Um, I love that. Of course that’s a favorite topic of mine to talk about is coopertition and collaboration and, and co-oping. And I’m curious if you have an example of some, uh, deemos perhaps that are um, taking advantage of this, uh, opportunity and, and working well together.

Humphrey Ho: 20:43 Yes, we have plenty, actually one of our strategies in 2018 looking into the beginning of trade tensions and the evolving fit traveler getting more luxury was um, an interesting insight. So San Francisco and San Diego, they want, they’ve won a lot of awards by running in award winning the campaign called the best of California because San Francisco is known for, it has more weather from the rest of south and Calvin nor cal has, whether it also wine, it also has a Napa Valley. It also has a city with lots of food and traffic’s generally manageable. It’s also very familiar with our Chinese traveler, both the repeat and other wines. It has a lot to see in terms of both itself in the city as well as around, yeah, southern California, sorry, northern California also involved the drive Napa valley, you know, two hours away. Southern California is either marred by lots of traffic to Disneyland and universal studios or there can be the real part of southern California, which is [inaudible].

Humphrey Ho: 21:44 The other part of Chinese that they know is La Jolla because many famous celebrities in many wealthy billionaires from China reside in the Hoya. La Jolla has been made famous. Well San Diego is sort of a representation of um, the real Salvan California. It’s a relaxing lifestyle, a lot of breweries, which definitely helps with the wine contrast. It’s great for kids because of all the different activities you can do with the zoos and the aquariums. And it’s a, it’s generally a more, uh, leisure from a traffic perspective. Imagine if you’re a foreign tourists are traffic really scary people. So it’s a much, it’s a much nicer derive and, and, and the cuisine is also very different in Cali, Baja versus all the different kinds of ethnic foods we can have in San Francisco. And so they ran a campaign based on these differences, but commonalities [inaudible] previously competitors never shared.

Humphrey Ho: 22:33 One has an airport for international travel, SFO, the other doesn’t. San Diego international does not have international direct flights too China. So why not work on a Co op campaign together? And so we embarked on the best of California campaign last summer and fall in both cities have had double digit increases in their room night stays as well as the benefiting airline, which is um, United that was brought in and they’ve also had tremendous results seeing folks travel on that one last domestic lag. Yeah. Into the city as well as the car rental partners that we each brought in each of those DMLS. Um, the, the case study is actually available online and highly traveled.com but essentially, um, besides room nights car bookings, you also had the ability for both Bmos to share what they value most. They not only value your performance in terms of bookings and room nights because it helps with partners and car rental, et Cetera.

Humphrey Ho: 23:29 Both also needed brand lift study. And so we crafted a media plan whereby San Diego and San Francisco, one known for using lots and lots of influencers. [inaudible] San Francisco. They are very prolific in China for engaging major influencers. The market to have Chinese travelers and another sort of more traditional approach using, uh, an online TV, no TV, a TV commercial online, um, to get people to know what southern California is all about in San Diego. Put that altogether and it was actually kind of fun to see them work together. And we also now have multiple pmos in the pipe because of that success where we’re talking about trans continental that’ll come out very, very soon in market. Um, as well as talking about driving further inland. MMM MMM. We’re talking about different kinds of triangles with three kinds of demos or four demos and I think that’s really, really awesome. Yeah. [inaudible] our DMO partners are opening up to this and with their power of looping in airline hotel, car rental, uh, attractions attraction passes, that really creates an entire ecosystem where everybody can benefit.

Nicole Mahoney: 24:43 Absolutely. I love that example and we’ll make sure we put a link to that case study in your show notes for this show because I think it would, it would definitely be something that our listeners should go take a look at. Um, and I’m curious as you talk about this Avalon kind of evolution of, you know, of that, um, case study and you mentioned Trans Continental, um, you know, working with demos or in these triangles, which I can completely relate to. Cause then in the area of the country where I am in New York state, we’re always looking at the triangles and how they, how they travel right between New York City and Niagara Falls and um, over to Boston or whether it’s down to d c through Philadelphia and thinking about that. Um, and so I’m curious how you are taking this case study and enrolling, rolling that out. Are you creating this or are you letting them partners drive it as they, as they come in?

Humphrey Ho: 25:39 We’ve had to drive a lot of it. There’s no brief, it says create a tri-city de DMO campaign or two city DMO or a triangle. We’ve had the use three things to make sure we get partners and their senior leadership on board. It’s completely new. When we first showed up, here we go. Why didn’t you do this sort of, um, pretty disruptive thing? The first one is we use data. We have because of heiling signs and leverage in the country where a billion plus dollar organization, we work very closely with the people that are associated in travel tourism, see trip muffin will, MSW, slinky, et cetera. We have exclusive data pipes with them that our clients would love to leverage. Using that data, we can prove where the triangle actually is. It could be based on location data. We based on search behavior could be based on booking patterns.

Humphrey Ho: 26:26 It could be based on search and booking and abandonment. Veterans. We’re able to see, actually this is your triangle like, oh wow. Didn’t know that triangle existed. We recently had been talking to our, our hometown in Santa Monica though new different kinds of triangles you can take except the ones that are in socal and even smaller. Connecting small and big dms together using that data because the Chinese travelers naturally obviously generating a lot of it. Search information, looking data and behavior. We have that information we can provide them. That’s new to our clients. The second thing is we look at who the partners are that are connected together. Is it a car rental company that they all share? Can comment, isn’t airline hub that they have, is it a hotel or a series of hotel chains groups that they can leverage to do that. And we bring [inaudible] partner as well.

Humphrey Ho: 27:13 So our, our job is to strategically plan all of ’em that as well. And the third is because we are a media and creative agency, she mushed into one, we’re able to create what our COO clients like, which is what is the line, what is the, the brand that we’re using because traditionally traveled tourism in China has been really boring sale by now. Really Boring. What can we do that talks about, that’s just California, right? The explore nor cal. So cal culture. Well that’s interesting. People don’t know we have a nor cal and so cal, they think it’s just [inaudible] California. There is a different kind of culture. It’s wine versus beer. Kelly bar versus Italian foods, Michelin Star. So there’s very different, um, behaviors. We create the creative and we also create the media plans in house. So we say, based on your underscore understanding of the market in your budget and your known budget, we’re going to say we spend this much on performance that satisfies the hotel airline and [inaudible] dental partners on Ctrip, [inaudible], muffin war, et cetera.

Humphrey Ho: 28:18 We’re also going to recommend that you have, um, you know, some key influencers that come in. But because of our buy and leverage, a lot of those influences come as part of the media plan rather than just be purely an influencer that comes and filmed and leaves. So that really benefits our clients. And the third is sort of coming up with the content plan that they need. So what is nor cal culture, what is so cal culture, how do we talk about that in muffin one, travel itineraries and strategies. How do we take photos and then how that NC trip travel moments, how do we then share all of those assets, create banners and videos and gifts that drive further traffics to the website using programmatic media, buy it. And so all those three components created a media understanding the partners, current [inaudible], other parts of their partners, their clients sponsor strategy and desires.

Humphrey Ho: 29:10 And then third, looking at yeah, data. It really informs partners on what they should be doing. And it just becomes naturally go, I’m in, we have to solve this because it speaks to exactly their problem. It speaks to the fact that [inaudible], you know, New York, we have the highest historical opening of hotel rooms. I believe there’s like 7 million new hotel room nights going online in the next year or two. Right? How can we solve that problem from a hotel partner standpoint, which is very different than San Francisco’s traditional problem. Please stop coming in October. We have a lot of tech conferences, but oh wait, that’s also your holiday. How do we get people who have money and also free time? Those must be high end people who can take vacation outside of their national holiday. So very different strategies come out of all of our data-driven kind of approaches.

Nicole Mahoney: 30:01 Yeah, absolutely. And a lot of us that you’re talking about and illustrating for us. Um, is this specifically tailored to reaching that fit traveler, that growing population that we started this conversation talking about the, it mostly appeals to that versus some of that. Probably more traditional thinking that that folks in tour and travel in particular, you know would lean on which were those groups, those traditional groups that they would try to market to?

Humphrey Ho: 30:28 Yeah, it comes with a shifting and understanding of the Chinese traveler. We first started marketing these campaigns is actually not f I t cause it was such a radical idea to focus on just the fit ups must be a small travel demographic. With our clients we actually focused on semi fit and these are people that [inaudible] the data we can tell but a lot of traditional [inaudible] based organizations or trade based organizations may not be able to see is that yes they take part in a tour package maybe for flight in the first couple of days a hotel or maybe they do fight and car and told me they figure out their own hotels. We started with semi fit by helping create packages that were relevant to the semi-finished kind of population. Then it evolved into, hey, actually we noticed a lot of people coming in that were more the fit demographics, families, individuals, that group tour people aren’t buying by block.

Humphrey Ho: 31:19 Um, they’re booking in, they’re coming in through data that’s from booking.com which actually a sea trip data. They’re coming in through CTRIP. They’re coming in through MFW, they’re coming into other, what do we do here? Um, we can’t tell. And so we started helping them with fit, um, packages and products. We’re very trade based. It was all like this is what [inaudible] San Francisco or the San Diego or the Chicago Ah, or the New York traveler Oh, once as part of their today or three day trip because we took an analysis and we noticed quite sadly a lot of the OTAs didn’t have products that highlighted yeah. Things you thought we should highlight that they were marketing as iconic or landmark or even off the beaten path because they weren’t focusing on OTA product development. So actually it was very trade by it. And then once that product is ready and people are even just booking organically and we then inserted fit based campaigns into feeding those products to make sure that people are starting to now book those products and are coming. And so actually it started off as a semi fit approach. An audit then came out and said, we did an audit and said, actually the products don’t fit anybody. It is essentially sort of book your own tour. It’s, it’s way too advanced for even the Chinese traveler, let’s create packages and products that inform them on what [inaudible]

Humphrey Ho: 32:38 do because they’re such structured, adventurous. And then the third part came where we would then run the consumer facing fit campaign to the user as the trend of fit suddenly blew up in the last three years.

Nicole Mahoney: 32:51 Right. Absolutely. I love that. I think you are, I hope, I’m sure a lot of our listeners are having a lot of Aha moments because, um, I think you’re really taking some of the, the mystery out of this market for some of the folks that I know I’ve talked to who are, um, you know, reaching this market and trying to connect those dots. And one of the things that I think is I’m really compelling about what you’re talking about is all that data that you have and the behaviors that you’re able to track and you know, the ability to, um, to, to measure that lift, right and, and what’s actually happening, um, once that product is developed. Um, I’m curious about, uh, brand USA. I, I mentioned it in, uh, in your bio and the relationship that you have with brand USA. I know a lot of our listeners do take advantage of a lot of the programs that come through brand USA. And I’m curious if you can share a little bit about how you’re working with them or how your partnership works under the brand USA umbrella.

Humphrey Ho: 33:50 Of course. So we’re brand new essays, China Agency of record. We helped brand USA market, the welcome market. Currently we’re marketing music and culture. Um, previously we’re remarketing national parks and roaches will, our job is to market, um, America to the Chinese and American is still the number one outbound long haul destination. It’s number five this year amongst all the destinations. But yeah, the other four are Japan, Korean closer destinations. So um, we have definitely the inspirational or aspirational advantage we have, the aspiration would advantage compared to other countries. It’s just the amount of, of enabling them and inspiring them to come. And so half of our job [inaudible] branding, you know, brand USA brand America, what can you do [inaudible] Trans Guy, what is outside of the gateway,

Humphrey Ho: 34:40 what is a national park, what are things that you can do? National Park Road trip. So our job is to brand and create a lot of content around that. And partners generally are, I’m not really involved in that level of marketing the entire country, but obviously they do get a ton of brand exposure because brand new assays, purchasing [inaudible] that exposure and brand awareness for them and their feature, which is I think a great service brand USA provides to DMO partners. Now more actively partners engage with brand USA through their partnerships. Oh team. And we’re a big proponent for obvious reasons of the brand new essay, um, partnerships, programs that they have because over the last few years I, I’m obviously going to be biased when I say this, USA is partnership team has started to create programs that generally performance for partners that demand performance and to help partners go ahead deeper into the market. [inaudible]

Humphrey Ho: 35:39 branding. What they need is branding and so they developed programs [inaudible] cover, social media cover, website cover, media buying. This is sometimes the first time a partner’s done that or maybe 50th time that a partner has done that and they’ve become the evolving sort of agency, the evolving adviser, partner’s small, medium, large and extra large go to as part of their annual China planning. And Execution, which uh, I think is something that our partners in the u s should definitely take advantage of because there are programs that cover a wide range of what they need and brand new I’ll say has been very, very oh good at helping these partners understand what they require in China, so we’ve been a big proponent of you know, if you don’t know what you’re doing or if you’d think you need a second opinion call brand USA. It’s a lot different than what it was before because over the last three years, brand new we’ll say has also evolved to understand the group which they understand very well.

Humphrey Ho: 36:44 Mice and the fit trailer. That’s it. All right, and so a smaller partners take advantage because they have limited budgets and brand new state amplifies that significantly. Medium size partners. I tend to take advantage of both the branding effect that the branding team does, but also some of those programs that they may need some help in terms of budgetary because they may be gapping out on some of those budget line items. And the [inaudible] [inaudible] partners are definitely taking advantage of it because they’re also, as I said in the world of Hawaii who is a big spender in China, they also, um, you should take advantage of brand new assays programs because most likely they’re more adaptable brand USA to the evolving market because Brand USA has leveraged it has already [inaudible] codafide two assist, small, medium and large partners in the market. So not taking advantage of it is kind of playing to one’s own strength and hoping it works. And we’ve seen time and time again in this rapidly changing environment that may not be the best case to go in alone at this planet.

Nicole Mahoney: 37:56 Okay. Yeah, absolutely. And, and uh, you may be biased, but I completely agree with everything that you just said suggested. And, um, we actually had Karen Greenberg from the partnership team on this show a few months ago and talked a lot about how they approached partnerships and I couldn’t agree more that there’s so much leverage there, um, for you know, GMOs and, and others to take advantage of. So, um, thank you for going into that. Uh, for our listeners, I think it’s always helpful to, you know, to hear it from different perspectives. Um, so Humphrey, I knew this would be an awesome conversation. We didn’t even get to our regular question flow, but we talked lot about creativity and a lot about collaboration through this whole conversation. Um, before I say goodbye, um, are there any final thoughts that you’d like to share with us? And also if you could share, um, how our listeners can best connect with you?

Humphrey Ho: 38:51 Yes. So my email, I’m free dot Ho. Okay. Hyland group.com. You can also just drop us a note on one of our various sarcastic lead driven, get in touch buttons on highly traveled.com or Highland group.com. I’m also on WeChat and you just need to know my Chinese phone number, which means you’re probably already a client. Um, I think final words is this, the market is evolving even faster than what we were used to. So if you thought six months in three months is something you had to renegotiate your media, you have, oh my God, it’s changing again. I thought we could do this. [inaudible] oh, now it can again. Oh, who, what’s this new platform? Tech talk and doe. Yeah. And what are the, you thought three or six months is on these media platforms was intense. Forget about that. The traveler is drastically changing and if we don’t adapt to it, we’re not going to make fiscal.

Humphrey Ho: 39:48 And the problem with that is since fiscal is now the new, we’re just in our new fiscal for most of the, uh, partners, we’re going to lose out on an entire year of opportunity. Definitely two pieces of advice for all the DMO brand as well as, um, hotels and then travel brands out there. Number one, if you didn’t thanks that you needed or needed to talk to brand USA, give them a call. Oh, it’s none. The brand USA, you may have thought that they were or know that they are. Okay. They are very different in terms of gearing up towards the Chinese traveler today. I can tell you one thing, smaller, large, they’ll provide more. They’ve got more leverage than you, and so therefore make that part point of call. Secondly, um, if you need advice from Highland, our model has always been to all of our clients. Uh, we provide an unlimited buffet of China market advice. So give us a ring if you need a second opinion. But what China is in China isn’t [inaudible] because we may not be very large in the United States. We have, um, I think 50 staff now in the United States, we have 2,400 and Trina and that’s probably bigger than any institution currently travel tourism works with. And so we may be able to provide at least just a second opinion. I’m more than happy to do that.

Nicole Mahoney: 41:12 That’s awesome. And thank you for that offer. And, uh, two really good pieces of advice. Uh, thank you so much, Humphrey, for joining us. Um, I know our listeners got a lot out of this conversation and I’m, we’ll look forward to seeing how the market continues to evolve.

Humphrey Ho: 41:27 Thank you. And thank you to all the listeners for giving me a few minutes of your time today.

Speaker 1: 41:32 It’s to hit the road again, visit destination on the left.com during your travels for more podcasts, show notes and fresh ideas.

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