It’s hard to beat a lizard laden, sun shiny, ocean retreat like the Biltmore Hotel in Miami, but add in the Travel and Tourism Research Association (TTRA) conference and you’ve got my attention.
I quite enjoyed a number of the talks. Michael Rodenburgh from IPSOS Canada spoke about behavioural data and offered some fascinating tidbits about where people go to and come from during the tourism and travel customer decision journey. Passive behavioural data collection is a fabulous data collection tool and if you’re careful about obtaining explicit consent, I’m a big fan of it.
I was fascinated by a talk that Thomas Roth and David Paisley from Community Marketing and Insights gave about research with people who are LGBTQ+. Terminology seems to be in a permanent state of evolution and I never know what the most current respectful terms are. Needless to say, Tom and Dave will now be my go-to experts.
TTRA holds a number of academic tracks throughout the conference. In these tracks, graduate students and professors share their academic work which means there is a heavy contingent of highly trained, highly specialized researchers at the event. For those of you who love statistics and the nitty gritty of research details, these tracks are definitely for you. I love them for two reasons. First, of course, you learn about the research itself. But second, and most importantly for me, they are a great way to refresh your statistical and methodology training. ANOVA results take front stage and we see betas, f-values, p-values, and all the supporting statistics. People comment on and strategize over minute details. These discussions make me rethink what I thought I already knew and update my opinions about how to use statistics. Love it.
I was delighted to speak on the main stage Thursday morning about AI, chatbots, and voice search (my slides are below). I shared results from a Sklar Wilton & Associates white paper showing that the general population is fairly knowledgeable about the state of AI. AI can now write newspaper articles about anything you ask of it, AI can create humour that people actually laugh at, in some sense AI can even read your mind, and Google’s millions of dollars have allowed them to create an AI voice that is practically indistinguishable from the human voice. Of course, AI isn’t perfect and Joy Buolamwini of M.I.T.’s Media Lab has conducted research showing how facial recognition technology has trouble recognizing dark faces.
Technology for the regular folk who don’t have millions of research dollars backing us up has progressed to such a point where it is useful for customer service reps, marketers, and market researchers. Customers regularly use AI to book flights and hotels whether through chatbots on Facebook or voice assistants, we can now use AI moderators from companies like Quester to conduct surveys with anyone who has a voice assistant, and chatbots from companies like Elsient to conduct text surveys.
As fabulous as AI is, people are still unmatched for their ethics, emotions, and genuine caring for other people. This is what market researchers bring to the research table. Sure, we bring tech. Tech speeds things up and helps reduce technical errors. But people bring research results to life.
Oh, and if you’re wondering about the diversity of speakers, put your hands up, they’re playing our song, 54% of speakers were women. Rock on, TTRA!
Thank you Kathy and Scott for putting on a fabulous conference. We’re off to Melbourne Australia next year!