Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Bourdain Effect? Skift Is Nothing More Than A Web Magazine Focused on Hype

Skift describes itself as "The largest industry intelligence and marketing platform in travel, providing news, information, data and services to all sectors of the world’s largest industry."  My experience with Skift shows it is something far less than "intelligent", though to be sure it is a "marketing platform"...for itself.

Skift Gottcha:
There is no "Bourdain Effect".
Not only doesn't it exist, there is no correlation between
Anthony Bourdain and increased travel
(Interest in Culinary Experiences?  That's Another Story!) 
I first found out about Skift when it asked to interview me regarding Fathom Impact Travel.  The interview by Hannah Sampson was friendly and the questions were relevant.  But then, as I wrote in previously, the article was a "hatchet job" trying to make Fathom appear as floundering rather than what it really is:  An emerging company that is developing a new type of socially responsible travel experience. 

I wondered why until I received a highly unprofessional attack on Twitter by it's News Editor, Dennis Schaal (followed, fortunately, by an email from Skift's Founder and CEO). Skift is not really about industry intelligence and, to be sure, I have not yet discovered how it is a marketing platform for anything other than itself.  In fact, it seems that its focus is very much on building Skift (a logical goal) and its annual two day Global Forum which you can attend in Brooklyn, New York - which it advertises as being New York City - technically correct for anyone not from then New York area - for a rather expensive $2,595.  Skift asserts "we’ve focused our energy on building the most-read travel industry news and insights media brand in the world".

There is a difference between getting market share ala National Enquirer versus New York Times. For whatever reason (marketing it is presumed) Skift has chosen the former while pitching itself as the latter.

Examples, and there are many:

Today Greg Oates wrote an article, Skift Travel Megatrend for 2016: Food Is Now the Leading Hook of Travel and then subcaptions it and writes "Call it the Bourdain Effect, as we do".  OK, other than trying to get Google searches to find the article and to grab the attention of it's readers, there is absolutely no reference...no less data...concerning Anthony Bourdain or how he might be tied to any supposed increase in travel.  NONE. 

"Where's The Beef?" the old Wendy's marketing effort comes to mind, as the Skift article is filled with unsupported, and even illogical, statements.  For example, it references AFAR Magazine partnering with United Airlines "to develop local destination content with an emphasis on food and beverages".  Really?  I am one of the first to advertise in AFAR Magazine and its beauty is explores everything...and there is nothing anywhere about emphasizing food.  The article also mentions Seabourn's partnership with Thomas Keller as if culinary excellence on a Seabourn cruise is something new; the author apparently ignorant of the constantly evolving culinary operations at Seabourn (or its last decade association with celebrity chef Charley Palmer or it focus on the highest quality, specially selected, poultry and beef).  There is even more in the article, but I believe the point is made.

(And if you want to know the real "Bourdain Effect" is, try reading a responsible, factually accurate, article in The Smithsonian, "Anthony Bourdain’s Theory on the Foodie Revolution - The bad boy chef and author weighs in on Americans’ late-arrival to the glorious delights of food culture")

Dennis Schaal wrote an almost unintelligible article on what was supposed to be about Priceline's change in product and marketing strategy, but then came out with his take stating, in relevant part, "Travelers are taking shorter, more frequent trips, and many are booking them on mobile at the last-minute. Their customers are heading to Rome, Georgia more frequently to that other Rome where Vatican tours are available."

TripAdvisor's No. 1 Restaurant in Rome, Georgia
Nice, but somehow it is difficult to chose flying there over Rome, Italy
Let's get beyond Skift's hyperbole (again) about Rome, Georgia being more popular than Rome, Italy. (Raise your hand if you even knew there was a Rome, Georgia), the fact is that that people use their mobile devices to research travel, but the vast majority use their desktop computers or telephones to make their bookings.  (This was a major topic at last month's New York Times Travel Show, which I attended as journalist.)  

As Google's 2014 study on travel explained: Half of the leisure travelers that actually use their mobile device for leisure travel inspiration (that is a minority) ultimately book another way, such as by making a call or using a desktop computer or a tablet. Essentially 75% of leisure travelers switch between devices to conduct the same travel-related planning or booking activity for all types of travel (air, hotel, cruise, car rental) and 87% of business travelers switch between devices to conduct the same travel-related planning or booking activity for all types of travel (air, hotel, cruise, car rental).

I could go on, but the point is made:  Be careful where you get your information from.  Whether it is Skift or TripAdvisor or Cruise Critic, know that just because they market well (even extremely well) does not mean the substance of what they write is true or even based upon fact.

Now, if you want to talk about culinary experiences while traveling, Goldring Travel recommends you don't change your focus:  You love travel, but don't want to change your travel because of a new found willingness or interest in local cuisine, you want to enhance it.  Heck, I may like chicken and pancakes, but I am not compelled to fly to Rome, Georgia to visit TripAdvisor's No. 1 restaurant, Harvest Moon Cafe, and I would not recommend you do either.

If you want accurate and forthright travel information when planning your trip, contact Goldring Travel.  We avoid the hype, are easier to work with and provide more useful information than your mobile device...and we probably have better pricing too!