Innovation is key during recession, AWTE members told

Travel businesses should increase their focus on innovation during the recession, according to Innovation Norway director of tourism for international markets Heidi Dahl.

Speaking at the Association of Women Travel Executives’ second director development session, Dahl, who is also director for trade and technology at Innovation Norway, said not innovating during the recession could lead to failure.

She said: “It doesn’t need to be anything big, it could small scale. You have to challenge how things are working. But standing still is much riskier than changing.”

She gave examples of Legoland and Disney as companies that have used innovation effectively, and added that businesses that “subtracted” elements of their offering – such as Ryanair – were also innovative. “Michael O’Leary took away service, but it’s still innovation,” she said.

She stressed the need for managers and company leaders to have the right mindset and communicate ideas to staff. “Change can be quite scary. If you want serious innovation or change in your business, you have to communicate it and you have to share it with your team,” she said.

Partnerships in the industry and outside it were also vital to innovation. Innovation Norway has worked with cruiseline Hurtigruten to encourage tourism to northern Norway – in the first two months of this year visits to the region were up 25% year on year, compared to a 7% fall in visits to the rest of the country.

Keeping abrest of travel trends is important, she added. “It’s about seeing opportunities and being able to move on them.”

Recent research has suggested women – often the decision-makers when it comes to booking holidays – are trading down more as a result of the economic downturn, she said. Marketing to women, particularly in the current climate, is therefore an important focus for companies. 

“You have a better chance of surviving if you can find a better way to communicate with women,” she said.

Homepage image: F1 Online / Rex Features

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