The CMO's MO: 9 questions with dynamic APAC marketing leaders, insights and personalities revealed.
Despite the strong headwinds that have hit the travel industry over the last three years - especially in China - Bo Sun, Trip.com Group's CMO has led his team to survive the dark moments. Now, he endeavours to thrive with a new travel revival plan, including with Trip.com's recently enhanced version of its AI travel assistant, TripGenie, which is set to change the way people travel.
Campaign Asia-Pacific sat down with the three-time member of our PowerList, on why he believes that travel is not just a job, but a lifelong passion. Keep scrolling.
1. What are the three biggest opportunities for your brand?
We have seen considerable pick-ups in travel bookings globally, with pent-up demand still waiting to be unleashed. We are working closely with our partners to ensure capacity levels are resorted to pre-pandemic levels and safeguard our customers’ expectations.
Some travelling behaviour has changed, and new travel trends have emerged. For example, travellers are exploring off-the-beaten-track destinations; they want unique, tailored experiences. There is also an increasing awareness of sustainability when travelling. As a global travel service provider, we will continue diversifying our products and improving our services to align with our changing customer needs.
Our teams have also been focusing on content marketing to inspire travellers with engaging content and enhance interaction, which generates new opportunities for us and our partners. Under these enhanced content marketing strategies, we will optimise our content ecosystem, bringing more benefits to partners and more exciting and cost-effective options to users in 2023.
2. 2023: survive or thrive? Elaborate.
Thrive, for sure.
We endured the tremendous challenges brought on by the pandemic and managed to buck negative trends to drive value in crucial business areas.
We are confident of seeing a much stronger travel rebound as we advance and the world emerges from the pandemic, especially with the return of Chinese tourists this year.
We further launched our 2023 'Travel Revival A Plan' to reunite destinations with Chinese travellers, who are eagerly looking to take outbound trips this year. We have been working closely with our industry partners around the world, using our platform's high-quality, comprehensive supply chain resources to create a full range of 'reunion' experience products, and to strengthen revitalisation efforts that will reshape the post-pandemic industry.
Earlier this year, Trip.com Group launched The "Super World Trip" livestream series designed to encourage short-haul travel among Chinese mainland consumers and boost tourism offerings in important destinations.
3. Give us one example to convince our readers that your brand is walking the talk on sustainability.
We are committed to operating sustainably and creating more resilient businesses, reflecting the travel habits of a younger generation and setting the agenda for more sustainable travel.
Last year, we took action to engage in sustainable travel launching our inaugural ‘Sustainable Travel Consumer Report 2022’, with the World Travel and Tourism Council.
This report highlighted the increased acceptance of sustainable travel and its implications for the travel industry and the wider world. Across the globe, sustainable travel has moved to the forefront of travellers’ minds, with close to eight in 10 travellers (78.7%) acknowledging its importance.
In the same year, we announced our long-term green tourism goals, which include: Working with partners to launch over 10,000 low-carbon travel products, promoting sustainable travel concepts and engaging 100 million travellers in low-carbon practices; and aiming to further reduce carbon emissions across its own operations.
Among several ongoing initiatives, our sub-brand Trip.com, partnered with climate-tech company CHOOOSE, empowering our users around the world to understand and offset their flights’ CO2 emissions. Customers booking on Trip.com will now be presented with the opportunity to address their flight’s CO2 emissions during the booking journey. For a small cost, travellers’ offsets will support projects that either reduce, capture or avoid CO2 emissions in an amount equivalent to the flight’s calculated emissions.
4. What’s your favourite brand campaign that you participated in or wish you had?
Last July, our platform Ctrip independently produced the travel documentary "Hit the Road." We combined destination marketing and the unique new “Travel + Culture” content marketing model.
On Mount Everest, we talked to the local guides about their life stories; in Guangzhou, we strolled down the old street and were amazed at how the history blended into modern life.
The documentary is more than showing the engaging sceneries, but also telling human stories, and local histories with a cultural perspective, and having personal conversations, which could strike a chord with the audience and inspire them to understand the meaning behind the trip itself.
In the future, we will extend the model to tourist destinations around the world as a solution to attracting Chinese travellers – providing a direct line to understanding Chinese tourists’ preferences after three years of travel restrictions.
5. What do you feel separates your brand culture from others?
Even before the pandemic, we recognised the need for an excellent work-life balance and trialed several hybrid work methods.
Last March, we pioneered a global hybrid work model that all employees can benefit from and embedded work-life balance into our value proposition.
We became the first internet company in the Chinese mainland to implement a comprehensive, proactive hybrid work model that offers employees the option to work remotely on certain days of the week. Our global offices have also adopted the policy in 14 markets, including Singapore, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, the USA and the UK.
Our company is further committed to equal opportunity for women and championing female leadership.
We noticed the pandemic’s adverse effect on females within the travel industry and decided to take action. This year, Trip.com Group launched the “Mulan Travel Project", aiming to offer 20,000 jobs to women in 2023 and encourage the industry to unleash the potential of women in the workforce.
We are pleased today that women represent over 50% of all staff.
6. Complete the sentence: “Today’s CMO must be ….”
Open-minded and flexible - one of the crucial things the pandemic taught us. CMOs must be prepared for change and be able to adapt and respond quickly to deliver. There is no point in having a strategy that isn’t flexible and cannot be adjusted, as you will be left behind.
7. What kind of a CMO are you? Answer using maximum three adjectives.
I’m always mindful of new trends and developments; result-oriented and innovative, advocating for market behaviour to be combined with business and products to encourage development.
8. Tell us one personal thing about yourself that others might not know.
I work in travel industry, but to me travel is more than just a job, but lifelong passion. I love exploring new places, meeting new people, and capturing the beauty of each destination through photography.
There's something special about experiencing different cultures and immersing myself in the local lifestyle.
I love sports just as much as I love travelling. Basketball, football, golf, tennis, F1- you name it, I follow it.
9. What keeps you up at night as a CMO?
Ensuring we remain ahead of the curve with an engaging, fun, creative, and inclusive marketing strategy.