The Social Travel Summit 2019 will continue to break new ground in travel and destination marketing.

As always, it will be a small conference of just around 150 delegates which will include top bloggers and influencers from around the world as well as industry representatives seeking to leverage their clout. Being small is an advantage: serious discussion, networking and learning takes place in a way that would be impossible at larger conferences.

The arrival date for all delegates is Monday, 23rd September 2019. In the late-afternoon, an exclusive tour of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Basilica di San Vitale will be organised for all delegates. After the tour, delegates can register for the conference at the National Museum of Ravenna next door to the Basilica. Delegates will also be welcomed here with drinks and canapes, and this will be followed by the Opening Reception in the museum.

On both conference days, shuttle buses will ferry delegates to/from the Classis Ravenna Museum, where STS will be held. The conference kicks off at 9am on Tuesday, 24th September 2019. In the evening, delegates will be invited to the STS Gala Dinner at one of Ravenna’s most beautiful palaces.

 The conference continues on Wednesday, 25th September 2019 and ends with a closing party. Delegates will be transported to the beach for an evening of fun, food and drinks by the seaside.

Watch this space for updates on the STS Conference Programme and speakers.

Living the Travel Dream – Reality & All

Dave Cornthwaite

Lighthearted and unconventional, Dave is also very clear. For every ambitious decision to skateboard across Australia or paddleboard the Mississippi, there are days and days of hustling and laptop time. Dave has made a living as a photographer, filmmaker, speaker, writer, and teacher and each one of those income streams was developed on a rollercoaster. To kick off STS 2019, Dave will share the highs of his adventures and successes as well as the blows of perceived failure, the fear of chasing the unknown, and the struggle to make ends meet. Living a life that from the outside seems like the dream job comes with a lot of pressure. And yet, it is still a dream job.

Insights for the travel industry

  • The power of storytelling vs selling

  • What to look for in an influencer – it’s not all about figures

  • Examples of successful campaigns and why they worked

  • A reminder that anything other than natural authenticity has a limited shelf life

Takeaways for all

  • The excitement of a potential that is yet to be realized

  • How to look after yourself and switch off in the midst of a tough project

  • Tools to bring that freshness back after years of working the project

  • The value of variety, and how to nurture this in a career

What’s Google Up To?

Tom McLoughlin

Google is constantly innovating and developing their products. Depending on your standpoint, these changes are made either to focus on helping users achieve their goals more easily or to increase advertising revenue. As publishers and marketers who are trying to maximise the potential of Google’s platforms, it’s important to stay on top of the latest changes and adapt accordingly. This session will look into some of the key areas where Google products are impacting travel, from changes in the search results to the way Gmail filters emails that will impact the reach of your list.

Once we’ve identified the key things that are happening, we’ll point you in the right direction to determine what actions you can take to minimise the negative impact or capitalise on new opportunities to make significant steps forward.

Leveraging Decision Science

Phil Barden

What motivates human beings to do what they do? Why do they choose certain destinations and buy certain travel brands? Scientific insights from various fields including psychology, neuroscience, and behavioural economics unlock the driving forces and underlying mechanisms of human decision-making and purchase choices in particular. Given that 80-90% of innovations fail in their first two years, often despite customer research having assured us otherwise, we need to find a way to improve.  Science and academia have answers for the commercial world. We can learn from their insights. Phil will share some of these, he’ll challenge your current models, and he’ll offer some hacks that you can use to immediate effect in your day-to-day marketing work.

Machine Learning, AI,  Storytelling and the Customer Journey

Peter Watson-Wailes

Machine learning, artificial intelligence, and digital media are reinventing the way stories are told and these, in turn, are affecting the customer journey. Long-term relationships with smaller, more influential groups are being cultivated over larger publishers who have traditionally been influential but deliver lower engagement. Pete will discuss how ML and AI influence how media, marketers, and consumers behave. He will cover how these innovations are impacting marketers specifically in the travel space and what marketers can do today to take advantage of the opportunities they present.

Spot the Future of Travel and Shape It

Liselotte Lyngsø

We all have a futurist inside of us. What really matters is whether you tap into it to shape what’s ahead. Liselotte will start by looking at the future trends in travel – those that will be driving markets and decisions soon. She will then help you develop the mindset of a futurist so that you can see the travel trends specific to your audience or customers. Liselotte will share techniques that will allow you to see opportunities and creative solutions where others see problems and challenges. It is about training your future muscles, practicing trendspotting, and translating your new-found knowledge into perspectives that create direction and value. In this session you will learn many new techniques and methods to become your own futurist.

Quality Not Quantity – Managing ROI From Content Creation

Amber Hoffman


One of the most important elements of content creation and social media campaigns is showing a return on investment for your marketing spend. There is a difference between bloggers, influencers, and content creators. Which you should choose, and why, is an important part of meeting your marketing goals. It’s important to look beyond the numbers and look for quality content that meshes with your brand and messaging. It’s also important to diversify your marketing campaign and think about the ROI that results from the various content creation platforms, the life cycle of each platform, and how to track results. How can you create a campaign that focuses on quality, not quantity that reaches your marketing goals?

Organic Traffic – Options Beyond Google

Astrid Taran, Kaila Yu

Despite publishing quality posts that have been optimized for Google, there are a whole range of reasons that Google results may not be what you want. So, what then? What else can you do to drive traffic to your site without spending money? Our panel will share strategies they use, how to use them, and the results they have seen.

STS Think Tank

The STS Think Tank will return for the sixth time for another session of knowledge-sharing and brainstorming. Peter Jordan will facilitate the discussions on topics ranging from influencer ethics to overtourism and sustainable travel. This year, the STS Think Tank will also host discussions with the aim of updating the STS Code of Ethics for travel influencers and content creators, which was created in 2014.

The Think Tank is a highlight of the STS programme, giving delegates the opportunity to share their experience, ideas and recommendations on how to improve blogger-industry relationships. This year we’re opening up the Think Tank to give more delegates the opportunity to participate. We’re also bringing in a broader range of topics including: how to encourage responsible travel behaviour by DMOs and bloggers, how bloggers can support DMOs as they transform, leveraging diversity in travel blogging, and how to ‘break the numbers cycle’ by finding other ways to measure success. The aim is to produce concrete recommendations that will guide us all on how to work better and with a more responsible attitude towards the destinations and the people who live in them.

Ideas and recommendations from all the Think Tank sessions will be published after STS for the benefit of the wider travel industry.  

A full list of topics will be shared before the Summit and all delegates will be requested to pre-register for a specific topic.

Overtourism: Bumping Up Against the Local Culture and the Environment

Becki Enright, Margherita Ragg, Susanne Hoeller

Overtourism has been an issue for many years now. We no longer need an education about what it is, we need to know how we, collectively, can do something about it. Looking at this issue from many angles, including technology, storytelling, and sustainability, suggestions will be proposed. In addition, results will be shared from the Social Travel Forum, which tackled this issue in Graz, Austria in May.

How to Build an Affiliate Strategy for Your Travel Blog

Amanda Williams

Making affiliate marketing work for your travel blog doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Along with telling you when you should start (spoiler: it’s now!), we’ll cover the best affiliate programs for travel bloggers, affiliate marketing rules you can’t afford to ignore, and how to shift your mindset about creating content that is affiliate-friendly. You’ll come away from this session with actionable tips and tricks you can use to not only get started with affiliate marketing, but also grow your affiliate marketing strategy into an ongoing stream of passive income.

Looking Beyond the Blogger to See the Real Audience

Lola Akinmade, Kirsty Leanne, Erik van Erp, Scott Guthrie

The gender, geography, race, mobility, or age of a blogger or influencer is not necessarily indicative of their audience. A blogger located in Canada may have a larger audience in the US and UK than many bloggers located in those countries. A blogger of one race may have a keen audience of many races. Older bloggers may attract a younger audience. Often assumptions are made about the audience of a blogger that are incorrect. If incorrect assumptions inform the blogger selection process, less than ideal outcomes may be the result. This session digs into why and how organizations seeking to tap into a blogger’s influence must look past the blogger and at the actual audience.

The 3 P’s of Blogging: Professional, Personal & Profitable

Abigail King, Janice Waugh, Janicke Hansen

Get all 3 P’s of blogging right and you’ll have a success on your hands. But there are tensions between them. Our panelists will go deep into how to achieve success with each.

  • Professional, including quality control and editorial planning, 

  • Personal with a focus on storytelling and authenticity

  • Profitable which begins with knowing your audience and developing policies and revenue streams for a strong brand.

The tensions between the 3 P’s will be exposed and strategies for managing all for success shared. Three bloggers will share their perspectives on publishing professional and personal blog.

DMO’s and Innovation

Emma Mead, Inga Ros Antoníusdóttir, Emilia-Romagna Tourism

In this session, three DMOs (VisitBritain, Icelandic Tourist Board and Emilia-Romagna Tourism) will present innovative tech projects which help them to work more effectively with content creators and influencers. These projects have facilitated a greater understanding of digital marketing, allowing them to continue to innovate and foster fruitful relationships with both their local partners and content creators.