The 2017 edition of The Social Travel Summit took place in Kitzbühel in Tirol, Austria from the 18th to 20th September. This year, 146 delegates from 26 countries – including 56 influencers – gathered together in the Austrian Alps to share their experiences, learn from each other and to take home a lot of new knowledge and inspiration, and possibly a little bit of extra weight thanks to truly fantastic Tirolean food and hospitality! Lots of buzz was created around the event – and #STSKitzbuehel was a number one Twitter trending topic in Austria for both days of the Summit! – so here is a summary of the highlights.
This video is a very quick summing up of #STSKitzbuehel in just over three minutes. Alternatively, read on for an overview of all the sessions and experiences delegates enjoyed.
With the majority of the conference and networking events taking place in the luxurious A-Rosa Kitzbühel hotel, #STSKitzbuehel began with tours of the famous Alpine resort Kitzbühel. Some of our delegates headed up a nearby mountain and other groups wandered the Alpine town streets – all bravely unphased by the drizzly and unseasonably cold weather. Later several delegates warmed up by the fire in A-Rosa’s bar while newcomers were welcomed by Keith Jenkins, CEO of iambassador, Angelika Schwaff, Founder of Reiseblogger Kollektiv and Chief Strategy Officer at iambassador, and Manuela Mortenbach of Visit Tirol. Everyone joined together once more at the official opening reception at A-Rosa’s Kaps Steakhouse enjoying Austrian wines, a delicious barbecue and a lederhosen-clad Tirolean band playing a mix of traditional Alpine songs and modern classics.
In the morning the much anticipated tradition of a dance woke everybody up at 9 o’clock prompt as Angelika and Keith took to the stage and showed off a number of moves that literally left them breathless, including a nod to famous Austrian skier and singer Hansi who was born in Kitzbühel!
The opening keynote speaker, Nick Westergaard kept energy levels up with his fast-paced but in-depth overview of what the future holds for digital marketing. Nick was part of the very first Social Travel Summit in Leipzig and it was like he’d never been away as he connected with the delegates and highlighted the seven key trends that online marketing and content professionals need to look out for (spoiler alert: cat content is going nowhere!). After a quick super selfie featuring Nick, Angelika and Keith, a warm Austrian and Tirolean welcome was extended to delegates by Markus Aspetzberger and Teresa Karan from the Austrian National Tourist Office as well as Florian Phleps, from Visit Tirol.
After Nick’s keynote we were also treated to the return of another Social Travel Summit tradition – STS Doodles! These doodled notes from the talks and workshops at STS are by Nina from Smaracuja and you can find more of her doodles on Twitter by searching #stsdoodles – thanks so much Nina for doing and sharing these with us.
After a quick coffee and kuchen the delegates split into industry and influencers in separate rooms. Influencers were inspired by a session called “Business Planning for Influencers” co-hosted by Janice Waugh of Solo Traveler and Keith Jenkins of Velvet Escape. While influencers learned the importance of working “on” the business as well as “in” the business, industry delegates listened to a panel share their own experience of working with influencers and creating online content campaigns. With Nicholas Montemaggi, Chief Marketing Officer of iambassador, moderating this “Industry-to-Industry: The Online Challenge” panel, examples of successful influencer and online marketing campaigns were presented by Susanne Hoeller of Graz Tourism, Emma Mead from VisitBritain, Manuela Moertenbaeck from Visit Tirol and Gemma Suñer from Costa Brava Tourist Board. With industry delegates sharing a range of experience working with influencers, there were several examples of the challenges but also the rewards that come from working with bloggers and influencers.
Tuesday’s lunch was a special treat from the Carinthian region of Austria, and these traditional carrot noodles certainly helped keep the energy up as the afternoon’s schedule began.
In one room Peter Jordan (Gen C Traveller) chaired the STS Think Tank for the second year as he outlined three main issues that mixed groups of industry and influencer delegates would be discussing. Group leaders Emma Mead, Becki Enright and Elena Paschinger rotated around the three groups who offered their feedback and personal experience on these timely topics.
In the other room Nick Westergaard took to the stage again with a “Branding Matters” presentation, in which he highlighted the importance of story for any kind of brand. Following Nick was an industry-influencer panel moderated by Kash Bhattacharya of Budget Traveller who invited the panel to share their experience of creating breakaway, successful campaigns. This “Standing Out in the Digital Landscape” panel featured fascinating stories of challenges and success from Janice Waugh of Solo Traveler, Susanne Hoeller of Graz Tourism, Caz Makepeace of Y Travel Blog, and Anna Fawcett of VisitBritian. After another coffee break all delegates returned to the main room for day one’s closing keynote by Kieran Morris of Slingshot Sponsorship as he revealed the power of brand ambassador partnerships at micro and celebrity levels.
The day came to a close in a spectacular way as the gala dinner took place in the castle hall of the beautiful A-Rosa hotel before the party moved to Kaps Steakhouse again for more Austrian wine, live entertainment, and some Austrian gin or Stin – as it comes from the Styria region of Austria.
Day two started in exactly the same way as day one with some dancing… by everybody!!
This was followed by an incredibly informative keynote talk by Simon Lehmann of Phocuswright, the world’s leading research authority for the travel market. With every slide revealing a new stat or fact, both industry and influencer delegates learned about the consumer habits of travellers and can now apply this knowledge and predictions to their own business models.
After a quick coffee (and yes, more cake) delegates were divided again with some attending “The Definitive Guide to Influencer Ethics” by Matt Long (Land Lopers) and others learning about paid and organic social media growth in a joint talk entitled “Algorithms are Killing Us!” by travel photographer Marion Payr and Lynsey Sweales, CEO of Social B. The following sessions were arguably some of the most talked about presentations as Becki Enright (Borders of Adventure) and Martina Jamnig (Austrian National Tourist Office) discussed how they are working together on a year-long influencer-DMO partnership, and Erik van Erp (Around the Globe) and Audrey Bergner (That Backpacker) revealed what all content creators should (and shouldn’t!) be doing to maximise the SEO potential of their websites. It’s fair to say that everyone left Erik’s session with a long to do list as he really proved himself the SEO expert.
After another delicious lunch – thanks A-Rosa! – two more enlightening presentations began with Lynsey Sweales returning to present “Where to Focus in the Fast-Changing Digital World”, and Chantelle Symester from Trinity Mirror Solutions spoke to mostly influencers about affiliate revenue… And so the To Do Lists just kept growing!
Following the final coffee break of the Summit, there was another round of the Austria National Tourist Office Quiz that had been testing the delegates’ knowledge of Austria, and some fantastic prizes were dished out as we learned just what percentage of the country is made up of the Alps (62%) and that STS is also the name of an Austropop band!
Peter Jordan then returned some of the key findings from the Think Tank discussions (and his report will be published in due course) before the final keynote. This was delivered by Kei Shimada from Dentsu Inc. Throughout the Summit, he and his team had been conducting “Brainwaves” experiments with delegates, monitoring their neuro-activity as they were shown certain photos on a screen. As Kei explained, this neuro-research is helping people understand how people respond to content and it was fascinating to learn how varied reactions to some images can be.
After closing words by Keith, Angelika and the teams from Tirol, Kitzbühel and the Austria National Tourist Office, the delegates disappeared to get ready for the closing party which was in a surprise location. As everyone arrived at the Ganslern Alm mountain hut and it’s incredible view of Kitzbühel and the surrounding mountains, there couldn’t have been a more perfect location for all the dirndls and lederhosen on show… A fantastic night of live Austrian music, Alpine delicacies, dancing, drinking and even a little yodelling followed – the perfect way to end #STSKitzbuehel!
The following morning, with a few sore heads among them, many of the influencer delegates headed off on their three-day tours of the Tirol region and some of the photos already suggest an incredible experience was had.
Check out the #STSKitzbuehel hashtag on Instagram or Facebook to see more photos.