Last week, this column devoted time to the theory known as Blue Ocean Strategies wherein the travel consultant is able to forget the competition and is, in fact, able to operate competition free! The Blue Ocean travel planner accomplishes this minor miracle by sailing into Blue Oceans where no competition even exists. By re-imagining the experience of travel and by focusing on the client rather than on the travel product, the Blue Ocean travel planner creates an experience so unique as to be without competition.
This week, we are going to follow up our theoretical discussions with five examples of Blue Ocean strategy in practice. In each example, we are going to follow the pattern we laid out in our Mountain Biking Cruise example. In each instance, we will focus on creating a leap in value so extraordinary, no other travel agency can compete.
Today, let’s focus broadly on the entire concept of travel. Too often, we think of travel as transportation garnished with a beach and a nice hotel. In Blue Ocean Strategy, it is important for us to more fully appreciate the experience of travel and its importance to the client. In so doing, we will open up new ways of thinking about our discipline. We will, in fact, re-invent travel while all of the other travel consultants in town are selling airline tickets and cruises.
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Our Mountain Biking Cruise re-invented the very concept of cruising. No longer was the ship the central experience of the travel plan. Rather, the cruise itself become secondary to the shore excursions. This is a subtle, but significant psychological shift. In so doing, however, we shift every major pivot point in the travel experience. Let’s do it again.
One of the truly great aspects of the travel experience is practically any activity can provide a matrix in which travel can play an important role. Pull up any activity you want, let’s choose one pretty far removed from typical travel activities.
Let’s imagine you love chess and we will pretend you have enough of a background to justify your entry into this particular activity. Typically chess is played by people who love study the game with a passion, who have memorized great players and even games of the past. Their travel seldom extends beyond the local coffee shop or park table. I’ll bet they don’t travel to play chess because they don’t know you. Yet. You haven’t yet had the opportunity to suggest they attend the Chicago Open on May 23 – 27, 2013.
Of course, you don’t want to just provide transportation and hotel accommodations to a chess tournament. You want to provide a giant leap in value over transportation. So you do the following:
- You study the local chess clubs for information on instructors, local tournaments and interest. You do your research on the Chicago Open, tournaments and the psychology of chess competition.
- You prepare a packet of information on the Chicago Open. Your pricing is not discounted. In fact, in light of the enormous value innovations of the package you have prepared, there is a sizable premium built into the program.
- You provide four weekly meetings with a local chess master who will train your travelers and prepare them for the competition. If you are really lucky, your chess master will have experience with this particular event. If you are even luckier, your chess master will act as a group leader and recruit your travelers in return for a comp to the tournament.
- You arrange an online mini-event in the days prior to the Chicago open with members of the University of Chicago Chess Club and your travelers.
- You plan your hotel and transportation accommodating the travelers in your group and you set up some of their dining opportunties.
- Since your little home town does not have a major retail location for chess paraphernalia, you set up a visit to It’s Good To Be King in Elmhurst, Ill. and arrange a 15% discount with the shop owner for your travelers.
- You plan a return party for your travelers to debrief in front of the local chess club and begin planning the next trip.
Now it may appear that our focus in this example is all on the product. But note instead where the focus really lays: on the experience the travelers will have surrounding the trip. This is a package custom designed for a chess enthusiast. I’ve chosen chess in this instance because of its relatively low key connection to travel. Certainly your travelers can shop around the airline and hotel accomodations. It is unlikely, however, any other agency will be providing the innovative value you are packing into your program.
There is hardly any activity to which you cannot relate travel. Naturally, the more affinity you have for an activity the better job you will do in your own research, packaging and understanding and you are better off choosing an activity with which you have intimate familiarity.
Most importantly, however, you will not be competing with a single agency in your home town for this business. Tomorrow, we create a new value innovation for another set of travelers.