The ‘real skills’ you need in travel marketing

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The travel marketing skills that will set you apart in the 21st century, are those increasingly being referred to as the ‘real skills’. There’s nothing soft about them

I can turn out newsletter copy in minutes, conjure up a multitude of hashtags in seconds and slice and dice pillar content into blogs, press releases and content pieces with the ninja speed at which a toddler can get through a bucket of sweets.

The newsflash this week that that may not be enough to set me apart from a machine in a few years’ time left me with the same level of pain I would likely have experienced had I managed to plough through said bucket of sweets.

As travel content creators and marketers, we’re left with the realisation that many decades of hard travel marketing skills development may well be replaced by R2-D2 or Cortana in the space of a few years.

It’s not something that had kept me up at night before last week when I first encountered the term during an event organised by Seth Godin’s Akimbo Workshops in the run-up to this week’s Real Skills Conference on January 17th.

But having spent an evening with like-minded professionals globally on a virtual Zoom call, the penny dropped. Real skills are what will distinguish humans from machines.

What are ‘real skills’?

Real skills like creativity, critical thinking, empathy, flexibility, storytelling and the tolerance for change and uncertainty are all things I value highly in the workplace. I’ve viewed these as soft skills in the past, however, choosing instead to focus most of my attention and that of the team on those hard skills needed for cutting-edge travel marketing, such as social media engagement, SEO, design, etc.

Two hours on Tik-Tok, no problem. Two hours for teambuilding, errr…not so much. In a couple of years’ time, it’s likely R2-D2 is going to channel his inner Dancing Queen in ways my two left feet will never allow me to. What will set me apart, however, will be my ability to be agile, make decisions when exceptions are required, show empathy, flexibility and adapt swiftly to change and uncertainty.

They say that over 65% of children entering school today will end up working in jobs that don’t even exist yet. My own career comprises roles that didn’t exist when I entered the workforce in the days before the arrival of the Internet, Social Media and, dare I say it, Boy Band Voice on Waze.

Travel marketing skills – how do we prepare for an uncertain future?

So, how do we prepare for this new reality? A new decade with a new array of travel marketing platforms and opportunities we cannot even begin to imagine? The new travel marketing skills we’re going to have to acquire to stay ahead of the game?

The answer, ironically, may not always lie in chasing our tails to stay ahead of the technological curve and being the first to hop on the Tik-Tok train before it leaves the station.

Instead, at Big Ambitions we’ll be looking to the ‘real skills’ for inspiration – the critical thinking instead of mere compliance, the charisma and skill to influence others, the compassion and empathy to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers, and in turn their customers.

These are all skills successful travel marketers need in 2020 and beyond if they’re going to set themselves apart from machines. This is what will distinguish us as travel marketers. This is how we will successfully give more than we receive. And if that isn’t the ethos of good marketing, what is? Eat your heart out R2-D2.

What will you do in the next few years to keep him on his toes?