Opportunity in the Chaos of Tourism Marketing, with Humphrey Ho

Episode 151:

As the U.S. managing director for China’s largest independent advertising agency, Humphrey Ho helps American brands reach their ever-growing base of Chinese consumers. Spearheading the opening of Hylink‘s American headquarters in Santa Monica, where he resides, Humphrey has scaled the operation up to 40 employees and secured the company’s key spots with industry leaders like Brand USA and Hawaiian Airlines. In September of 2018, he successfully launched Hylink’s subsidiary, Hylink Travel, a Shorty Awards-winning agency specializing in social and digital campaigns for travel brands.

Humphrey has been featured in various publications, with recent examples like The Drum, Digiday, AdWeek, Buzzfeed, and Ad Age. He was named a finalist for Digiday’s 2019 Future Leader award and was also tapped by Forbes magazine as one of the top 8 Asian-Americans Shaping the Travel Industry.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Humphrey Ho about the needs, trends, and opportunities that have come up in travel between China and the U.S. in recent years.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Humphrey’s unique, scientific approach to advertising and destination marketing
  • Trends Humphrey has spotted in Chinese travel and tourism
  • Opportunities Humphrey sees in China and America during these uncertain times
  • How Hylink spots patterns and creates campaigns from the data they gather
  • Keeping up with the evolving needs of US and Chinese travelers

The Scientific Approach to Tourism Marketing

Like so many people in the tourism industry, Humphrey meandered into his destination marketing role from an unconventional path. Humphrey studied neuroscience and integrative biology in college before getting an MBA in IT management. He founded and sold a social networking company in Canada before moving to China during the recession. He’s since managed interactions between media publishers and Google and now finds himself as the managing director at Hylink, China’s largest independent advertising agency.

Humphrey has shed his former roles, but his scientific approach is the same. He is constantly searching for patterns and trends in the marketing data, looking for tried-and-true techniques to prove wrong using his “null hypothesis” strategy. Humphrey is an innovator dedicated to data-driven solutions that meet the changing needs of Chinese travelers.

Observing those trends has been important in the wake of the economic tensions between China and the U.S.. Humphrey and his team began to learn how drastically travel has shifted for Chinese citizens, who are now traveling to the United States and beyond. His team was able to spot how the expensive, luxury nature of travel affects the industry in times of economic tension. They also found that Chinese citizens are becoming much more savvy about their local surroundings due to the intense growth of technology in the country. By spotting these trends, Humphrey has discovered how to turn chaos and uncertainty into opportunity.

In Chaos Comes Opportunity

As travel trends shift in places like California and Hawaii, it becomes clearer what’s working and what isn’t. Humphrey is an expert at finding untapped areas that could potentially be marketed, such as the unique use of RVs in the United States that nobody is talking about. He recognizes areas where destinations could go deeper in marketing, like marketing Southern California separately from California, and areas where brands could pull back (everybody knows about Santa Monica beach; let’s focus on something else!).

Hylink’s success comes from an interconnected web of partnerships, data, and an understanding of a destination’s target markets. Their campaigns take advantage of nuances, like the differences between Northern and Southern California, to paint destinations as unique, exciting places to go. They bring in key influencers and develop content plans to drive traffic. They collaborate with hotels, attractions, transportation services, restaurants, and local DMOs to create three- or four-sided partnerships to make environments that benefit everyone, especially tourists.

Every area of the world has a story to tell. The job of Humphrey and other tourism marketers is to discover that story, find the people who can help them tell it to the most people in the most effective way, and then share that story creatively with the world. Hylink’s unique use of data and demographic understanding puts them ahead of the game. If you simply look a little closer at the trends and patterns associated with your target markets, no matter the demographic, I’m sure you’ll find an exciting new way to draw people to your awesome destinations.


Episode Transcript

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