Overcoming Hurdles of the Digital Travel Market, with Thomas Mueller

Episode 198

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Thomas Mueller has more than 20 years of experience in the Hospitality and Tourism sector, working for brands like TUI and Thomas Cook in eight different countries and cultures. His focus on digital marketing and distribution, the turnaround of hospitality and tourism businesses, and the opening of hotels has made him a Digital Native Hospitality and Tourism professional. He started his career with the largest commercial company, METRO, in Europe and IBM, where he evolved his career in IT, software development, and systems integration. It is this combined commercial, IT, Digital, and Hospitality and Tourism experience that created the holistic approach of Rainmaker Digital. Destination on the Left is joined by Thomas Mueller, the founder and CEO of Rainmaker Digital. Rainmaker is a social enterprise with a clear target to keep more tourism spend in destinations through the democratization of technology. On our podcast, Thomas joins us to talk about how his company is helping clients keep more of the tourism spend in their destinations by disrupting the digital value chain. He shares his take on why Coronavirus is the biggest opportunity of our lifetime, and he also talks about sustainable tourism from an economic perspective.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Thomas’ journey into the travel and tourism industry
  • Why there were such profound skills gaps in small and mid-sized hospitality businesses during the digital transformation of travel and tourism
  • Thomas Mueller’s 5 Stages of Success, and how destinations are using it to transform their travel ecosystems in South Africa
  • How Rainmaker is eliminating the complexities of the digital revolution in hospitality
  • Why Coronavirus is the biggest opportunity of our lifetime in travel and tourism
  • How the role of DNCs will change as a result of COVID
  • How Thomas has seen creativity used throughout the pandemic
  • Why economic sustainability is as critical as environmental and social sustainability in the travel and tourism industry

Rainmaker Digital

Thomas Mueller is the founder and CEO of Rainmaker Digital, a social enterprise with a clear target to keep more tourism spend in destinations through the democratization of technology. This technology enables destinations and their hospitality and tourism businesses to take back control of their visibility, digital presence, reputation, communication, and distribution. On our podcast, Thomas joins us to talk about how his company is helping clients keep more of the tourism spend in their destinations by disrupting the digital value chain. He shares his take on why Coronavirus is the biggest opportunity of our lifetime, and talks about sustainable tourism from an economic perspective.

Adapting to the Digital Market

Thomas brings so many different viewpoints to the table because he has worked with teams in almost every corner of the travel and tourism industry. He experienced the digital transformation in real-time, and helped businesses thrive by staying in front of the rapid changes. But during this process, he discovered massive skills gaps in small and medium-sized businesses who were struggling to adapt to the digital market. All of the various roles were siloed and cut-off from the core business, so they failed to communicate with each other and couldn’t deliver what the customer wanted. Thomas used his 5-Stages of Success to guide these teams to a more holistic approach to destination marketing.

A Holistic Managed Service

The five stages of success are streaming, planning, booking, experiencing, and sharing, and Thomas Mueller made it available as a holistic managed service. All of the stages became integrated and interdependent on one another, which allowed them to perform at a much higher level. Then, because it is a managed service, hospitality businesses can easily overcome the skills gaps. With the responsibility in Rainmaker’s hands, the clients can focus on what they do best; making customers happy. Rainmaker makes sure there are customers coming through the doors without any complexity or technical challenges. Keep More Tourism Spend in Destinations for Sustainable Tourism Development | getenabled@rainmaker.travel

Nicole Mahoney: 00:17 Hello listeners. This is Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on the left. Welcome to this week’s episode with another very smart guest Thomas Miller from Rainmaker digital in our conversation. Thomas and I talk about how his company is helping clients keep more of the tourism spend in their destinations by disrupting the digital value chain. Thomas says that the Corona virus is the biggest opportunity of our lifetime, and we explore this perspective in depth and we discussed sustainable tourism that goes beyond environmental and social sustainability, but economic as well. A little more about Thomas living in Southern Africa for 12 years. He has 20 years of experience in the hospitality and tourism sector while working for brands like Toohey and Thomas Cook and eight countries and cultures is focused on digital marketing and distribution. The turnaround of hospitality and tourism businesses, opening of hotels has made him a digital native hospitality and tourism professional thomas’ company.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:22 Rainmaker digital is a social enterprise with a clear target to keep more tourism spend in destinations through the democratization of technology that technology has made inclusively available to the 200,000 emerging, small, medium, and independent hospitality and tourism businesses in Africa for sustainable tourism development. The Vista destination network open platform and ecosystem is the core to enable destinations and their hospitality and tourism businesses to take back control of their visibility, digital presence, reputation, communication, and distribution to reduce dependency. I no longer sustainable or market dominating behemoths controlled digital value chains. We will get into how Thomas and Rainmaker digital accomplished this. But first I want to share this important message with you, Thomas, thank you so much for taking some time out today to have a conversation with us. I’m very excited for your perspective, and I know we’re going to learn a lot, but before we get started, can you share a little bit about your story with our listeners? I’d love to hear it in your own words. I, I feel it adds so much more context to our conversation. So first of all, thank you very much for having me. It’s kind of interesting background because I started commercial education and then I went with IBM into IP that software development systems, migration, large corporate networks, and I got bored of the it environment and accidentally I entered into the hospitality and tourism business 20 years ago when I used to work for cook and country

Thomas Mueller: 03:00 And have been in eight different countries and all their results and became like a hotel year by passion. So that led to the separation that I do understand the hotel and the tourism industry from the source markets and the destination perspective and the hotel operation. But at the same time, I have the experience in terms of it and digital, which I believe today is a huge benefit because the entire industry is just based on IP and digital. So having both in one brain, I believe is some benefits talking to customers because you can understand both ends.

Nicole Mahoney: 03:38 I love it. Having both in one brain brings you a wonderful perspective as I’m sure. And, and one thing I really love about that is that you do have all of these different perspectives because of the work that you have done, uh, you know, with the tour operators on the hotel, operation side, understanding source market destinations and all of that, and that you bring that, um, to your current, uh, company Rainmaker. And can you talk a little bit about what your new company or your current role and company offer to the industry

Thomas Mueller: 04:13 Or arrive was? I mean, I live in Africa for like 12 years in the Southern Africa and Namibia and South Africa. And, um, when I looked into the hospitality and tourism sector, they, I found there’s many, many small, medium independent owner managed type businesses. And, uh, they, they had a very easy time, uh, for the last like 15 years. And that slightly started changing seven years ago, five years ago when the market changed to digital and everything became overwhelmingly complex for them. Now, when I saw that I was just appointed as a consultant to create a hotel management company in MBR. Uh, and then within that, turning around to hotels from distress into true profit and creating a new 125 room hotel, uh, which the [inaudible] is now the number one hotel in the country and another launch. So while I was doing that, uh, as a consultant being the acting general manager marketing, and it, I figured there was a huge gap in the market, uh, and the huge gap in the market is that, uh, obviously in, in Africa, that is some sort of skill shortages in terms of digital and it, and implementing this to streamline business processes and so forth.

Thomas Mueller: 05:32 But there’s also a gap in terms of, um, a holistic approach to run your business and market your businesses in various aspects on a different of an, a digital level. So when we looked into this and said, okay, what is the market to offer? Then you had a lot of different islands and silo solutions. So one was doing SEO. The other was doing the next one was doing Facebook and social media. The next one was doing something else and they all didn’t talk to each other. So now these, these poor customers at the end of the day, and they’re not trained total years, um, they’re not digital in it geeks. And they sometimes not even tech savvy or in their sixties, former farmers, but they’re now running a launch or a guest house or something like that. And that’s way too complex for them. And they can’t align all of that and they can’t juggle all of that.

Thomas Mueller: 06:27 So that, that was very difficult for them to cope. And as a result, they remained on pen and paper, or if they were offensive, they just used excellent or outlook to manage their business, which in this day and word doesn’t work anymore. So they were cut off from the business and didn’t give the customer actually what they wanted in terms of easy and convenient business with them. Now, then we said, okay, we can do that much better with the skill and with the experience we have and the network we have. And we created something which we called the five stages of success and the five stages of success following the Traveler’s mental model. So when a, when a traveler, uh, is being attracted, uh, let’s say to grow Africa and follows a mental model, which is dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing, and sharing. And actually that’s a closed loop because the shared content, which is clustered user generated, content of people that have recently been in the destination is trusted content for others to start dreaming.

Thomas Mueller: 07:38 So we took this a Traveler’s mental model as our base. And then we said, now, if we bring that down to what the properties as a lodge guest house activity provider need to do, then it’s number one, make sure you have a proper visibility dreaming, make sure you have a proper digital presence website with booking engine integration that converts dreaming, planning, and booking, make sure your reputation is managed. So your reviews are right. You answer to the reviews and you have a proper reputation and use that for your operation to improve creating trust, trust creates bookings. And then in number four, get more traffic towards your digital presence, using content and social media and email marketing, or even advertising if needed. And then in stage five, manage your distribution and manage your revenue selecting where like the products are being sold at what rate and so forth.

Thomas Mueller: 08:44 So we brought all of that into these five stages, following that traveler mental model and made it available as a holistic managed service. And what does that mean? A holistic managed service. Number one, all these five stages are interdependent on each other in a marketing mix perspective and they completely integrated to each other. And this is the reason they perform rather than having a number of silos, not aligned to each other or disparate and people aren’t talking to each other. So therefore the results are much better. And second, because it’s a managed service, the customer there’s a lot owner activity provider, owner doesn’t need to deal with all this complexity. So we take this entire burden of that complexity from them, and they can know focus of what they’re passionate about creating happy customers. So we make sure where the five stages of success that they get customers, they can make happy without them dealing with any complexity. And that went very well in the first place.

Nicole Mahoney: 09:48 Yeah, I think that’s fantastic. You just gave us so many, um, really great golden nuggets as I like to call them. And hopefully the listeners are able to keep up, I’m taking notes furiously over here, but, uh, what I, what I really appreciate about what you just walked us through is what you called the Traveler’s mental model, which, you know, some might think of it as the, um, travelers, um, you know, buying journey, if you will. And, uh, and, and aligning each face with the technology that is going to help, um, you know, the business owner connect with that traveler within each phase, um, which I think is so important. And you talked a little bit about some of the, uh, digital tools that might align, you know, you talked about website and you talked about review sites and social media, and I’m curious, Thomas, are there other tech tools that, that kind of get pulled in to this, this mental model is, as you described it, and specifically, I’m curious about something you said earlier that had to do with the business operations, and if there were operational tools also that, uh, you know, business owners should be thinking about as they intersect with this model.

Thomas Mueller: 11:12 Yeah. So obviously what we do, if you, if you take this as a strategic move for your business, have an integrated marketing model that goes through really from the first touch point of the customer journey on Google, all the way down through the invoice and the booking, the payment and the invoice and everything in between, it becomes a part of your operation. And obviously we, we, we, we saw when we did this step, you know, in terms of reputation management, we provide all the data. Uh, your front office is perfect. Your housekeeping is perfect. You get a problem, you have a problem in food and beverage and here with the breakfast, right? So now we have data that we can give to our customers in a very specific and condensed form, improve your breakfast, right. To improve your reputation. So this kind of stuff goes in operation.

Thomas Mueller: 12:02 Now, what we also saw, uh, because that, that scared rather fast. So we got 300 customers and like the first year already, um, and we needed to scale this and make this work. And we then build our own technology in order to streamline the processes, to automate and see me automate everything, to be able to actually provide that in quality for our customers. And that’s when our Vista destination network or the Rainmaker destination network, uh, open platform, uh, came into play. What also came into an into the play then was that we figured that many of them have become extremely dependent on either some, no longer sustainable traditional value chain. So the long tail from the high street travel office, the wholesale, the DMC inbound and so forth, which did not produce as much bookings as before, um, or from, from market dominating, uh, like online travel agents that dictate the rules and policies nowadays.

Thomas Mueller: 13:08 And as a result of that dependency, they give away 60 to 80% of their profits to those value chains, which is an insane amount. If you, if you think of that. So if you have a hundred us dollar booking, then the OTA, uh, can end up with like $38 plus then $3 for credit card payment. And then the property ends up with like $15. So we saw that as a big problem, especially in developing or emerging countries, such as Africa with tourism spend is a main pillar to create prosperity and so forth. So we saw that leakage, which I call it colonialism 3.0. And now we said, no, no, no, we got to stop that. And then, then we changed our model and said, okay, what’s our core interest at this point in time. And then we said the core interests we have as a social enterprise to keep more tourism spent in the destination for sustainable tourism development.

Thomas Mueller: 14:10 So what does that mean? I mean, due to the greater effect you to Corona sustainability, responsible Trevor is very, very high on the agenda, but when people talk about that, they talk about environmental or social sustainability and so forth. But what has been completely neglected in that perspective is economical sustainability. And I believe that, you know, if you do not achieve economical, sustainability through tourism spend, which is being kept in the country and not leaking out of the country, then you have no funds and means to even think of social and environmental sustainability, because you just can’t right. So we see it that this economical sustainability by keeping more money in the country by enabling customers to easily do business with business in the destination in various ways is a key aspect, uh, after date. And, um, if you, if you look at this, uh, now with the Corona situation we are in, I think that is one of the biggest opportunities we have in the industry to change for the better.

Nicole Mahoney: 15:23 I just love that. And what I also love that I forgot to point out is how this is impacting small to medium size business owners. We’re not talking about, you know, big, huge operators you’re talking about helping those grassroots roots people, those people who are, you know, in the communities, reinvesting in the communities, providing the jobs in their communities and helping them find the opportunities. And I, I think that this whole issue around OTA is not just, uh, in Southern Africa, it’s, you know, a worldwide, uh, challenge in terms of the sustainability of, you know, operators to be able to work through OTAs because of the amount of profits that, uh, that, that gets shaved off. And the consumer is not necessarily willing to pay a higher price right. To compensate for that. So, um, it’s definitely a huge challenge. And Thomas, what I really appreciate about what you just talked about is how you just talked about what you think is the biggest opportunity to come out of the coronavirus and this pandemic that we’re in. And can you kind of elaborate a little bit more on that and, you know, talking about sustainable tourism, as you mentioned, is already something that, uh, has been high on the agenda, especially since the pandemic broke, but you’re talking about something a little bit different. Yeah.

Thomas Mueller: 16:58 So let me look into this from a maybe different perspective than most people would look at it. So why do I say the current crisis is one of the biggest opportunities? Actually, it’s very simply because if you look in the industry, like in Africa, we’ve got 200,000, the hospitality and tourism businesses in Africa health, which 10% have a coherent digital presence. And 15% only use technology to run their business. And they’re not giving their customers what they want and by doing so they actually forcing them to go to another value chain. They’re not genuine the customer off in most cases, but because they don’t give them what they want, they go elsewhere. Right. So, and that can end up in three different scenarios. Number one, it’s too difficult, uh, to, to deal with too difficult to pay in book and so forth. So let’s go to an OTA or let’s go to a high street travel office to have them bookmark itinerary, or they decide let’s go on a cruise because it’s too complicated for me to go there, right?

Thomas Mueller: 18:03 So then we lose them altogether. Now, why is that? Because, you know, the traveler has digitized years and years ago and 60% of the booking and 80% of the planning and 90% of the dreaming is being done on the internet. It’s digital, right? If you do not give your customer what they want, they go elsewhere. So that’s number one. Number two is in that perspective, you know, that little digitization and that little, um, use of technology, put them on their back food and others took over right now, the Corona crisis, put us all back to like a normalization layer, I would say. So let’s us tomb in a couple of months, six, nine, 12 months. Nobody knows when that will ever happen. I believe we all starting at the same star King line and that starting line is ground zero. And we all starting from that ground zero line, whether we are an airline or a hotel chain or a small launch in Africa or a tour operator or whatever, we all starting the same starting line.

Thomas Mueller: 19:16 Now I do believe that now, since we have few or no guests, we have very little to do now is the time to think how we can pivot, how we can change, how we can be creative and how we can adapt to this situation to get better off this crisis, no longer being dependent, no longer need to give away 60 to 80% of our profit. Then we have entered the crisis, meaning we must not fall into the same trap. We have been like five, 10 years ago. And then we just went with it. Now we have opportunity to cut off and to restart when we all started at the same starting line. And that I believe is the biggest opportunity. So the hospitality and tourism industry was very, very slow in adopting technology. And now we have the point where we can leapfrog and say, now we get up to speed and we get on the same level, and then we no longer be dependent. I think that’s what, what is going to happen or what should happen. And we try to try to encourage that and we try to support that wherever we can.

Nicole Mahoney: 20:26 Yeah, I think that’s, um, that is really, again, really good perspective to think about how the playing field has been level set. And we are all at the same starting line. I think that’s a, really a really great description for it. So I I’m curious, Thomas, are you some creativity happening within, you know, the industry that is starting to show signs of folks doing exactly what you just described, you know, while they have more time on their hands thinking about how they can change, be creative and adapt.

Thomas Mueller: 21:04 Yes. I definitely do see that or those, they, they, in some cases need to be inspired one way or the other, because as I said, they’re not hotel years by training and they’re not digital geeks. So, but they all think now what can we do in order to get better of this crisis? Right? So we’ll let some inspiration, you can get them on the right track. So what we have seen, number one is that different providers in a very fragmented market now have come together and say, okay, we as small business lodgers or small business activity providers, we can’t cope with all that. It’s too much for us. So why don’t we collaborate? Why don’t we get together in a group of 10, 20, 30, and wherever that grows towards, and then form kind of an umbrella brand. And under that umbrella brand, we market our products collaboratively and on our own digital presence on our own websites, we do cross selling amongst each other.

Thomas Mueller: 22:05 We enter a phase with the local to operate around us that supports us, we support them. So I believe this, you know, we call that local is lacquer that the local support of your, your brothers and neighbors that have become a very important aspect. Number one, number two, um, collaborate and work together because as a standalone, I can’t achieve nothing, right. But together we can do certain things much better. Cause we share skills, be sure to share resources, we share funds and so forth. And we also see that from the number of inquiries we getting from destinations. Uh, so we got inquiries from countries I’ve never thought of, you know, looking into, uh, and we currently working with like four countries where the tourism authority comes back and said, no, we would like to digitally transform our hospitality and tourism industry with all the suppliers, with all the local operators, the authorities and the associations in a single ecosystem pivot. In that perspective, it could take back control of our own visibility, digital presence, reputation, and distribution, because we can no longer leave that to third parties and become dependent.

Nicole Mahoney: 23:24 Yeah. Now you’re talking my language because I love to talk about collaboration and, uh, I, I believe so strongly that’s, that’s one of the things that I have been thinking a lot about in terms of, as we come out of this pandemic or a silver lining from the pandemic is that there are going to be a stronger collaborations. Um, what I’ve actually talked to my team about is what I call world changing, uh, collaborations. And that’s exactly what you’re describing right now are, you know, world changing in terms of changing how, uh, destinations, how operators actually reach the customer and how they do business. And I think that’s just really, really exciting. Is there a specific example, Thomas, that you can share with our listeners to help illustrate how you know those destinations are? You talked about associations are, are, are looking, you know, to transform the ecosystem as you called it, uh, using your model.

Thomas Mueller: 24:26 Yes. I mean, we were doing that since last year for the entire South Africa, for example, in the public private partnership. So the model we have as a social enterprises, we, we democratized technology in the first place. So we take the technology and make it available to all the emerging, small and medium businesses. As you said, this is our focus market, not the global chains. The second thing we make this inclusively available for them to enable them. And we do that by scale. So because we can tackle them at higher destination and South Africa is about 30,000 businesses. We can use that scale to bring down cost of operation for such a thing and make it really affordable. If not free as a freemium model for everybody in the industry. Now, we, we are a partner of the UN WTO and UN WTO has a number of countries where they do support with their technical package and technical, uh, relief package, uh, getting out of the crisis situation and digitization and digital transformation is on the top agenda, I guess, for every single destination nowadays.

Thomas Mueller: 25:37 So I believe as you said, world changing, yes, there is the word is changing and there is no new normal, there is a new right. And then we will define when we will see over time, what will then become a normal, which we then understand, but we will not get back to where we were. Right. And you can also see it in, in source markets. Like if you talk about Tuohy, uh, the largest travel company in the world, which also got, obviously got hit very hard by this crisis. Um, they had something in the roadmap, which is called vertical integration. So what vertical integration means, what they did in the past is they vertically integrated from the customers. They got 22 million customers through the high street travel offices, uh, like 11,000 in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, and they mid office. So that is all digitized using blockchain technology and so forth.

Thomas Mueller: 26:35 So they’re very, very modern in that perspective. And they turned around that in within five years time. Now the next level was to integrate into the destination and then it was difficult in the past because the lack of enablement in the destination, right? So, and the lack of communication, sometimes it was difficult. That’s why DMC in Mt. Operator, uh, existed now today’s best. And many other large operators in source might say, okay, we can’t afford that value train, uh, that long tail value chain anymore. We need to vertically integrate and we connect to the supplier directly. So it’s as simple as if you’ve got a Facebook account, a Google account, and you can manage that you serve two to get in. Then why wouldn’t you have a two year account as well? Right? So what they do is they disrupt the value chain themselves by eliminating the DMC, as we know it.

Thomas Mueller: 27:30 So the DMC in one operator, as we know it today from the last 10 years in two years, time will no longer exist. They’ve got to change their business model. They’ve got to change their level of services or what they offer and what the values are for either party or they might disappear. So that’s a big change in the industry, but it’s driven by these large corporations and they, there’s no way to avoid that. Right. It’s it’s, it’s I always take it like a similarity. If you think 35 years ago, the record label industry and the digital downloads where the record label industry brought up all the lawyers and whatnot of the word to fight that and completely lost everything. And you know where we are today, right? So that’s the same kind of situation. This word is changing. The value chain is changing and you can’t avoid that. You better be progressive and dynamic with that. And you better jump in digitize and get into a change business model for you for the future.

Nicole Mahoney: 28:28 Absolutely. So that’s really interesting to talk about the value chain and specifically how, how that sales chain, right, is basically going to, to change, uh, in terms of tour operators, being able to work direct, uh, with the operators and, and that need that middle, uh, that middle, you know, relationship with the DMCs. I I’m curious, uh, Thomas, if you have given any thought, I’m sure you have, uh, to how DMCs might change or add value, or do you think with what’s coming down, uh, you know, in the next few years that perhaps there aren’t DMCs at all and you know, those, those DMC operators will become something else within the industry.

Thomas Mueller: 29:18 Yeah. I mean, the good thing on this vertical integration, I believe is more tourism spend is being kept in the country, right? Because you know, now there is more, more money available. And as sustainability is a, is a high top priority also for all those companies, because the consumers asking for it, right. The consumer due to the great high effect now due to Corona is very conscious about, um, responsible travelers is very conscious about sustainability and sustainable Trevor, or let’s call it fair travel. I mean, we’ve got fair coffee and we got fair. This, why wouldn’t we have fair Trevor? Right. So now if you see a company like two, you say, okay, from the money we save by, you know, streamlining that value chain, we give like 2% into the destination or 5% in the rest of the nation to create projects right. For the communities and stuff like that.

Thomas Mueller: 30:16 So that will now be possible now, but back to your question, how I see the DMC changing, I believe that the DMC today has little value to the supplier and with the vertical integration has little value to the wholesale operator on the other side. So if the vertical integration happens and that gets digitized, then the right management and the contracting and all that would no longer exist because that’s all digitized and streamlined. So that’s the major stuff the DMC operator does today, plus the ground handling. So now, if I would be DMC, inbound, I would say, okay, I’m stepping out of this value chain altogether. So I don’t contract with the supplier. I don’t contract with the wholesale in the way we did, but I offer services like I do meet and greet at the airport. Do you emergency handling? I do this. And I do that. And I do that to cater for your customers while they on the ground. And you pay me with a fixed amount per packs per night or something like that, but stay away of the value chain, uh, in the first place. So that way is a complete different business model, but it might make business much easier for you.

Nicole Mahoney: 31:33 Yeah. Interesting. And then you’re thinking about, uh, actually to go back to what you just described about what customers are demanding in terms of responsible, sustainable, fair travel, um, you’re, you’re actually creating and thinking about the customer experience more and how you can elevate that experience or add to that experience rather than the mechanics of the actual sale, right. By being in the value chain. So to me that that just elevates everything,

Thomas Mueller: 32:04 But what, what are also, you know, see what needs to happen is, is customer or travelers consumer education, because yes, they talk about responsible travel and sustainable Trevor. But now it’s a very, very, very broad field. And they see it, as I said at the beginning as a social and environmental thing, I guess the industry destinations and products and operators, we need to make the customer aware that if do not deal and book with the destination and it’s businesses, it creates some sort of damage due to the leakage. So, you know, you do not facilitate economical sustainability in the first place, but you require responsible travel and economical and social sustainability in the destination, but you’re not contributing to it by booking elsewhere. You know what I mean? So I think we need to create awareness that economical sustainability is the key to even think of social and ecological sustainability as the next right. And customers need to be made aware that booking direct in the destination keeps a hundred percent of the tourism spend in the country to contribute to the SDGs, to contribute to the people, to the businesses, to the communities. That’s the only way. And that’s where it all starts.

Nicole Mahoney: 33:36 Yeah, I think that’s, that’s fantastic. And I think you’re so right. I, I’m thinking about, uh, kind of the evolution of digital in my own journey with digital, I’ll having grown up through this evolution and the speed that it, that it has, uh, you know, how fast it’s gotten in the last 10 years. But, um, one thing that’s occurring to me as we’re talking is that when, you know, the internet was first introduced to us as consumers and all of a sudden we had the world at our fingertips and we were just so curious and wanting to, um, be out and travel, do business with whatever, anywhere in the world. Um, over time, we’ve gotten away from thinking so locally and it feels to me like with the Corona virus, you know, we’re all forced to be local again, but yet we still have these worldly connections like you and I talking to each other, I’m in the United States, you’re in South Africa, uh, you know, and so kind of pulling that all around full circle, how can I be a good local citizen where I am, but also a good local citizen when I travel to a destination and understanding the connectivity of what happens between here and there.

Nicole Mahoney: 34:56 Um, I think is just such a great, great point.

Thomas Mueller: 34:59 I mean, you absolutely correct. And, and when I see, um, how that happens, I mean, obviously every country now tries to activate local tourism. Now, if you look at this in an African or South African or Namibian perspective, then you see that the unemployment rate has, you know, grown to 50, 60%, a number of companies have folded. So there is much less disposable income. So that also creates a challenge for local tourism and in such emerging and developing countries. If I see that, like in Europe, if I take Germany, for example, then you can see due to the fact that, you know, many other countries are still closed and you can’t get the, um, Germany’s destinations in terms of Liza destinations for holiday are running at a hundred percent occupancy or at least 80 90% occupancy, right? The country has never been as full as this, um, at this point in time.

Thomas Mueller: 35:57 And people now see all, we got a wonderful country, so why do we not travel in our own country? Which creates a complete new segment, which we, of course, earthbound Trevor, right? Everything I can reach by car, uh, in a couple of hours and I can safely go back home if needed, right. That has become a priority. And I do believe that remains for a couple of years. So that will last, I don’t think that, you know, long haul travel will kick in, like in two weeks time, whenever, you know, I think it takes a long time and that that’s especially important for Africa to understand long haul travel, to see willingly to more complex destinations or to see mainly more unsaved destinations. It doesn’t even need to be the case, but it’s the perception of the consumer. I think it takes quite a while until they kicked back to where they were in 2019 a couple of years, while I think that the local Trevor or regional Trevor, like the people in Germany, they go to Germany, Austria, Switzerland by car. And that will be a boom market for the next couple of years, I would guess.

Nicole Mahoney: 37:08 Yeah. I think that’s a fantastic point times. This has been a wonderful conversation. I so appreciate everything you’ve shared and I’m sure we could keep talking for quite some time, but I want it to be respectful of your time and then have our listeners time. I I’ve taken so many notes and I, and I know our listeners are also, um, taking notes furiously. So just before we say goodbye, if you could let our listeners know where they might find you, should, they want to connect with you as well as, um, any final thoughts that you have that you’d like to leave us with.

Thomas Mueller: 37:44 Yeah, no, I’ll first of all, thanks. Well, thanks again for having me. It was a great talk and I really appreciate it. I’ve got a passion for this topic and I could take like another hour with you talking. Um, obviously how you can contact us very easy. It’s www.rainmaker.travel. Or if you want to email us, it’s get enabled at Rainmaker dot Trevor. And what can I say as a, as a closing remark, I believe the most important thing we have on our tables today is to make sure to keep motors and spent in the destinations, stop that leakage and take back control of the visibility, digital presence, reputation, and distribution, to get better off this crisis. Then we have entered it.

Nicole Mahoney: 38:31 Absolutely. I love that let’s get better outside of it than we were when we entered it. That was just a fantastic way to wrap up. Thank you so much, Thomas for joining us and we’ll definitely have you have to have you back on so we can continue learning from you. Thank you again. Thank you very much, Nicole. Thank you for listening all the way to the end of this week’s episode. This gives me a chance to tell you about our influencer ebook that gives you the inside. Look at how my agency break the ice media implements influencer marketing for our tourism clients. The book goes into detail on all of the tools that we use to find that niche manage and measure influencers. You’ll find information on key follower benchmarks. How did that influence or channels getting your destination partners on board, creating itineraries, managing influencer expectations and measuring for ROI. Visit break the ice media.com forward slash influencers to download the full ebook that’s break the ice media.com forward slash influencers.

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