Jodi Ettenberg is a former lawyer who saved hard, quit corporate life and hit the road never looking back. Jodi has been travelling the world non-stop for the last three years documenting her experiences in her popular Legal Nomads blog and directly to her many thousands of followers and fans on Twitter and Facebook.
We’re delighted to welcome Jodi to the Amadeus ideas for travel judging panel where her experiences as a seasoned traveller will provide the perfect balance to the industry expertise of the other judging panel members in the selection of the winning idea.
We managed to secure time in Jodi’s busy schedule to get her thoughts on the areas of travel she believes are the most ripe for change, how smartphones and social media are changing things and, of course, her advice for competition entries.
Why are new ideas important to the travel industry?
New ideas are important to any industry, but travel is quite unique in that it is an industry constantly interacting with its primary consumers. In travel, it is impossible to plug your hands in your ears and pretend you can’t hear the feedback coming toward you. The state of technology today means that, in addition to the feedback cycle, consumers have very easy access to each other’s experiences and stories.
As a result, new ideas are extremely important to the travel industry because the industry itself should be actively driving changes that occur. Creative individuals can create apps or circumvent the primary industry players using social media, but what better position to be in than by propelling the industry forward as a major player?
What role do you believe the ideas for travel competition can play in helping to improve the travel experience of today, tomorrow and beyond?
Consumers now expect change as part of their interaction with businesses. Travel specifically has such a wide variety in its spectrum of experiences, from some hassles in the process itself (as with the new TSA regulations) to the joy of being able to cobble together an itinerary that is exactly what you wanted, and do so easily.
The travel industry has a huge potential to engage consumers through change. This can be as simple as an acknowledgement of an issue and a promise to rectify it in the future. Or it can take the form of a call for change, like this competition, demonstrating that innovation is important to the future of the industry. The competition is a fun, lively way of pushing the envelope within the industry as a whole, while simultaneously engaging those who matter most to it – the consumers.
Which areas of the travel industry do you believe are best positioned to develop and grow?
Mobile applications are a huge area that I think will see considerable growth in the coming year. Smartphones have become ubiquitous within North America and most of Europe, and the next step will be pushing the boundaries of what apps can do for the traveller.
I think we will also see a continuation of the more organic interaction between customers and companies that occurred in 2010. Using social media to shore up a customer’s loyalty is extremely effective if done in a genuine, non-shilling way. When a customer tweets “wow, thanks [Company X] for a great deal on my flight!” and the company responds publicly, well – that’s one step closer to them being a repeat customer. Many companies have realized this already, but I think 2011 will see a higher ratio of responses to individuals within the social media sphere.
What changes made in the travel industry during 2010 stand out to you as being the most significant?
The first is interaction with consumers at a more direct level than we’ve seen prior. Technology (social media specifically) has given consumers unprecedented access to people within the travel industry, access that was previously only achieved via customer service hotlines or email. In 2010, more and more travel companies began to focus on outreach through social media, which did not go unnoticed.
The second is the use of smartphones – mostly iPhone and Android – during travel. Be it in-flight wifi or the terrific apps that have been developed (for example, the app that allows you to take a photo with your phone and translate it on the spot), smartphones were all abuzz in 2010.
Finally, what message of inspiration do you have for to the competition’s contestants?
Don’t try to clone an existing idea and make it better. Think of a new take on travel and technology that hasn’t been done yet and make it your own.