Vertical Reality: Travel | How Marriott is focusing on measurable ROI (Ep. 3)

Most travel and hospitality brands have always had the challenge of continually working to be more data-driven; the pandemic didn't change that. What it did change, however, is tighter requirements around marketing efficiencies and more improved ROIs.

In this episode of Vertical Reality: Travel, we hear from Devin Sung vice president of marketing platforms, audience distribution and privacy at Marriott International. Devin has deep experience in strategizing and executing on personalized marketing activities across Marriott’s full portfolio.

Devin joins Epsilon’s Jason Simon and Rob Cosentino to discuss how the pandemic has increased the need for clear, measurable ROI, which requires more data-driven insights across the board. They also cover the decline in business travel and how that’s impacted marketing strategy, as well as how personalization is evolving across on-site experiences.


JASON SIMON: Welcome to another edition of Vertical Reality travel. My name is Jason Simon, I'm a senior leader in Epsilon's travel group. Joining us today for this conversation is Devin Sung. Devin is a VP of marketing platforms, audience distribution, and privacy at Marriott International. And Rob Cosentino, who is a senior VP of strategy and insights for travel also at Epsilon. So Devin, tell us a little bit about yourself and the very lengthy title that you have at Marriott.

DEVIN SUNG: Thanks, Jason. I've been at Marriott for the past seven years or so leading our personalization and have a broader audience-led approach across all of our marketing efforts. Prior to that, I was at Choice Hotels on the loyalty team running our relationship marketing and some of the emerging personalization efforts there. But my background: I spent about 15 years on the financial services side, focused primarily on insurance, grew up really on the data and technology side and system development enterprise data warehousing back in the days when big data was just big—before they ever actually came up with that phrase. And over the years, I moved my way over to the DTC and marketing side—watched and jumped into digital marketing and e-commerce as it evolved. I've had kind of a split background; I grew up on the data and technology side and found my way over the dark side on the marketing. And I've been here ever since.

SIMON: What I love about it, too, is as you've taken on responsibility, rather than reconstructing a title, we just added it on. 

SUNG: (Laughs.) Yeah, exactly. It's kind of been the evolution, right?

SIMON: And Rob, why don't you tell everybody a little bit about what you do for us at Epsilon and your role with strategy and insights?

ROB COSENTINO: Yeah, absolutely. So we sort of get the great pleasure to work with clients, just like Devin, actually. All marketing departments or organizations are in some sort of period of rapid change. It seems like every six months there's something else substantial that senior marketing executives have to tackle. Here at Epsilon we get to work with clients and really help them focus on those big-ticket items, whether it be data technology, personalization or identity and help our clients achieve those next big hurdles as they come up.

SIMON: Thanks for helping us out today, Rob. It's great to work with you on this podcast. Based on your background, a good place to start is the travel industry certainly hasn't seen anything happening to it or against it over the last year and a half. Right? (Laughs.) But in all seriousness, obviously very impacted by the pandemic. Probably the single most impacted vertical in the marketplace was travel and hospitality. Devin, I'll go to you first. At the beginning of the summer and starting the concept of re-emergence, where do you see the travel industry going over the next three to six months?

SUNG: Certainly the recovery has even been interesting as much as the pandemic has really ground our industry to an unfortunate halt. I think certain players and subset of the industry have that more catered to, or who had more of a focus on essential work, really captured on the minimal travel that managed to persist throughout the multitude of shutdowns—or just travel blocks globally—have fared better than others.

And those of us who've kind of indexed historically on corporate business travel, resort, international global travel, certainly have had many doors shut for obvious reasons. I think it goes without saying leisure has definitely led the recovery. That pent-up, built-up demand is emerging quicker than business and corporate travel.

And certainly there's a geographic effect because of the way the pandemic has kind of circulated the globe and continues to, unfortunately. The recovery also is following some geographic patterns where we've had to be more nimble at a localized level to say that globally all seas won't rise at the same time—certainly not at the same pace. For any global organization, we've definitely had to appreciate that and really push the boundaries of how we can move in lockstep, but also while allowing certain regions to move faster than others in that process.

SIMON: Yeah. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out. We're excited to see that journey. Rob, from your vantage point, where do you see the industry going over the next three to six months, half a year, maybe a little longer?

COSENTINO: For a lot of our clients, it's been a game of precision, right? It hasn't necessarily been about pushing out big messages on the front-end awareness, brand, hoping conversion on the backend. We've seen everyone get a lot more precise about, okay, who's actually about to travel for what reason and to where at this moment in time? What we're seeing is a lot of our clients have built those building blocks that would last 12 months. I think to Devin's point, you know, travel's not going to open up universally. So the ability to just pinpoint and get to those very precise customers we're boarding on a plane for example, for the next six months, it's going to be a game of precision.

SIMON: Which talks about data, right? Which is always at the base of everything. And Devin, I know you have a tremendous impact in thought around the use of data and organizations and its importance. Where does it fit in, in your mind with the changing landscape and the idea of predicting guest behaviors, things of that nature, because I think we can all agree that certain aspects of travel, at least on some short-term period are going to be very different. So some of those traditional behaviors that were probably easily predicted are going to be a little bit different, you know. So when you think about it, how do you think about it?

SUNG: It's an interesting challenge that's evolved even more quickly than I think the industry could have imagined. So I think most brands have always had the challenge, the ongoing evolution of trying to be more data-driven right? So trying to truly understand what our traveler needs are and match that up and make sure that we present ourselves in the right way at the right time—just that classic personalization relevancy, right place, right time—to capture that demand and make sure we're top of mind and steer that demand to us.

I think what has challenged that certainly with the pandemic and with the current conditions is that base of business that always floated has certainly shrunk. And with that comes tighter requirements around efficiencies, marketing efficiencies and more improved return on investments. Obviously our marketing allowables are tied to our business performance, and so if ever there was a need to demonstrate the measurability and clear impacts on our marketing activities it's now.

That obviously delves into the world of how do you become more surgically targeted? How do you find those pockets of travel that either continued to persist and stay alive throughout the pandemic or who are emerging sooner than other segments? And that is not a broad-based awareness-level play that is truly trying to target a subset of the global traveler base. Those signals even in good travel conditions are typically difficult to identify just because some of them move very quickly in terms of the cycle time of a planning for a business trip.

And some of them persist for a long period of time, which actually ironically makes the targeting a little bit harder. If you spend several months planning for that trip of a lifetime resort stay for a honeymoon or annual family gathering in a remote destination, sometimes those signals can be difficult to identify because the time boundaries are expanded from days to weeks to months.

The data-driven marketer is being challenged on both ends of that, and certainly signals and behaviors are pulling the stock market analogy of past performance doesn't necessarily predict future performance. And I think what's really hard is my travel in the last 12 months is not indicative of what I used to do and vice versa. It certainly would be difficult to model to say what my travel will look like in the next three to six months.

SIMON: Right. Because there's no guarantee that some of those long-term travel patterns are going to replicate anytime soon anyway?

SUNG: Exactly. A lot of that is just the speed to market with which we actually recognize signals in the marketplace. While we have a wealth of CRM data on our historical traveler base, we find ourselves looking at external signals because again, what an elite traveler has done in the past two, three years, doesn't really tell us when they're going to be ready to travel. Because it could be their business, their personal considerations, the markets that they tend to travel to are not yet open. There's just so many factors that are not in our data.

COSENTINO: Devin you said something about, data-driven. I wonder, you know, historically data-driven marketing was something that just sort of happened in a box, right? “Oh, that's the data-driven marketing team.” And given the need, because people's old travel habits do not necessarily apply going forward, because there's such an emphasis on precision marketing over the next three to six months, what's your take on data-driven marketing activities? Should they live in a pristine box? Or should they sort of be decentralized a little, so more parts of the organization, to your point, can leverage them for greater speed of insights and action?

SUNG: That's a good question. I think it's one of those age-old debates that most organizations have. And my perspective on that is it's a cooperation, right? So the particular skill sets that are required to actually act on or enable data-driven marketing are varied and it is highly unlikely you're going to find individuals that possess the full spectrum. It's really working with the data mining skill sets that you typically find in analytics or insights organizations and partnering those with the marketing experts who really understand how to identify consumer behavior, consumer mindset, craft messages and build engaging experiences that will actually drive a traveler down the funnel and to their destination.

I've seen some of the challenges and organizations is that if it's one or the other, or if one comes in after the fact, you run into problems. I really do see a cooperation where even in the absence of data to model on, it does require some test and learn in the marketplace that the marketers typically would handle. And it requires the data organization to try and abstract learnings and findings from that to then quickly get into a more surgical approach. It's really hard to do one without the other.

Organizationally, I think your question is that multi-million dollar question, which is how do you structure it properly? And honestly, I think the cooperation is probably more important than the organizational divides. I know that's easier said than done, but where we've had pockets of success is where you really just have smaller pods of teams working together align on a common goal. And this is typical for any project, in a successful project, but really try and not let the organizational structures or confines dictate how you actually go to market. Because I think the working teams really do know what they need to do. And it's sometimes it's just getting out of the way of that.

SIMON: Which has been a lifelong organizational challenge for sizable organizations anyway. Right?

SUNG: Absolutely.

SIMON: Which is how do all of these things fit together? We see it all the time. Like sometimes from our perspective, Devin, when we're talking to a client or an organization, we can see the silos and then oftentimes they can't for whatever reason.

SUNG: Right.

SIMON: Just things begin to normalize. Do you see that there's a potential for some of the old habits to reemerge pretty quickly?

SUNG: Absolutely. It's a bit of the chicken and egg conversation of, do you identify who you should be speaking to from a marketing perspective, or do you craft messages and programs from the brand's perspective on what you need to get in market? And the answer is I think there's a little bit of both. So I will say like in times like this, where there is a much smaller base of travelers, for example, targets, if you will, to go after, I think targeting is a data-driven effort to understand who is currently traveling today and narrow down our scope because otherwise you're really just throwing unavailable dollars at a marketplace that doesn't exist necessarily until recovery really kicks in.

So I think it's a little bit easier right now, but as we do get through the swings of recovery and as travel picks back up, you'll start to see that blurring of lines where it's a combination of, we're trying to develop segmentation and understand who should we be targeting.  And simultaneously we will have programs and brands and loyalty communications that from our perspective need to get out in front of customers. So it's a matter of trying to mash those up as efficiently as possible without slowing either side down.

SIMON: I'd be interested to hear from both of you from your perspectives about how we use time in the travel and hospitality space while we were in the midst of COVID and now what's happening is we're starting to reemerge almost organizationally. What have you guys seen in the world of marketing or operations that have, in one way, we took advantage of time that maybe we normally wouldn't have had, and now that we're kind of getting into some form of ongoing business, what's happening?

COSENTINO: Yeah, I can start. I think the clients that took advantage of the time off so to speak are best positioned. So when the pandemic hit, obviously there was an initial sort of like it's the global pandemic, we've got to get lean, we've got to do a little bit of restructuring. Once we got into sort of mid to late summertime, some of our best clients basically ask themselves, okay what are the initiatives we're going to advance really quickly over the next six months so that when we come out of the pandemic, we can capitalize on not just our regular customers, but the customers of our competing brands.

And so I think what's interesting is we saw a lot of big either digital or slightly digital transformation initiatives that clients had probably been pushing around the desk for a couple of years, and all of a sudden there was renewed interest to get it done and get it done now so that they would be prepared from a marketing standpoint. I think from an organizational standpoint, some of our best clients got really focused on making sure their marketing teams were doing things that mattered or drove an impact.

So there was almost, there was a better look at, are we pointing at the right initiatives? So it was an acceleration of initiatives and making sure the marketer boots-on-the-ground were pointed at the right initiatives that were to prepare them for essentially the period now when everything's opening up.

SIMON: How many times do you get to put your foot on the proverbial break to take a look at things when in a normal course of business, there's always the next room that needs to be booked or the next event that needs to be scheduled? Devin, I think it was a unique time for you guys.

SUNG: Absolutely. I think to Rob's point when things first hit out of necessity and I think most of the industry pivoted very quickly towards messaging around cleanliness and health measures to make sure that those who were still able to travel still felt comfortable doing it. A lot of attention was focused on just getting speed to market, on inserting honestly more operational messaging, and turning that into marketing messages around like Marriott’s commitment to clean measures that we were putting in place globally to ensure that travel where it was possible met our customer needs and concerns.

But once we got a lot of those, those messages in market, we did start delving into where can we find pockets of opportunity? And it wasn't in our general broad-based marketing. It was really looking at where do we have hidden pockets of value? So clearly even our elite travelers tapered off. It was not as easy as just looking at our frequent travelers and past performance. And actually, we worked on an effort with Epsilon and with our media partners to look at share-of-wallet analysis, looking at where there may be hidden value in our existing member and non-member base.

Places where perhaps we were losing share of wallet, or we did not have visibility to somebody who might've been a basic member at Marriot Bonvoy but actually had more travel in their wallet, but we unfortunately were not getting it and they were being sent to potentially a competitor.

SIMON: That's interesting Devin, I don't mean to interrupt, but like from a experiential standpoint, since the majority of people weren't necessarily experiencing the brand, which is part of the value, right?

SUNG: Correct.

SIMON: Of the brand itself, not just your brand, but any brand, the disconnect in that touching and feeling, if you will, probably has created some opportunity to bring some folks over who may not have previously been members of Bonvoy or whatever the particular program might've been.

SUNG: Certainly you see this discussed at many venues around just the future of travel and the impacts of COVID on travel, where I think there is a question of, as we reboot the industry and people start coming back and feeling comfortable traveling where do loyalties lie, right? I've always felt like there may be a resetting of a lot of free agent travelers who will want to potentially experience things that are now open to them. And it really just depends on how travel patterns come back up. So I think there's an opportunity for all players to get smarter about how we target and not necessarily focus on what we have done only in the past.

SIMON: And were you also sort of making the—I don't want to put words in your mouth—but like that somebody who may not necessarily been a high-tier Bonvoy member, but may actually have value at a lower tier or lower frequency as we re-emerged.

SUNG: Absolutely. Yep.

SIMON: Yeah. That's fascinating because loyalty isn't just measured by frequency, right? There's some level of loyalty that's measured just by brand affinity or brand engagement.

SUNG: Yep.

SIMON: I talk a lot about my sister-in-law who flies only on one airline, she doesn't fly nearly as much as I do and is probably more loyal to that airline than I am and is very frustrated that they haven't been able to recognize that loyalty. And that might be shifting a little bit, because she actually may be more valuable to them right now than I am.

COSENTINO: To that point it's interesting because, you know, listen, everyone in loyalty says loyal customers are those that are highly engaged. But I mean, think about it: for years and years of loyal customers were just the ones that were high frequency. And so the pandemic hit, the loyalty programs that did it the best, they finally got serious about, okay, we can only engage with our customers at this time and we can only engage with them in a meaningful way.

It is interesting because I think the loyalty programs that doubled down on engagement and not necessarily just frequency are probably the ones that are going to have an actual, more loyal base coming out of this because they engage with customers the right way.

SIMON: Yeah and there were some other things that happened that I noticed in certain industries and travel. There were packages or benefits or perceived advantages that those brands had over other brands because of the way they priced or the way that they provided, services that got evened out as well. So some of the competitive advantages shifted as well, which will be interesting to see how brands react to that in our space.

SUNG: I think we know that our best foot forward is through our brand experience. Right?

SIMON: Right.

SUNG: And so this is where the conversation starts with our travelers. This is likely a time where as people reengage and travel, their first foray back into the relationship with Marriott will be through our brand experiences and on-property. And so I probably can't emphasize enough how much we're focused on that experience. The first time back you're on property nailing that experience is the best marketing we can do to drive continued loyalty or a new set of loyalty with new segments.

SIMON: Which could mean—right, Devin?—shifting a high frequency business traveler to a leisure traveler and then killing it with that leisure experience for that guest.

SUNG: Absolutely. I think the industry focus on leisure because it is the segment that is emerging sooner than later. That's a great opportunity because again, I think with the multitude of experiences and the dynamics within a leisure stay, there's a lot more room for the brands to play and build differentiation from competitors.

SIMON: Hey Rob, I would call it the Cheez-It experience, right?

COSENTINO: Yeah. It's, it's funny you were going to go there. Infamously, I checked into a Marriott in Dallas and we just had like a three or four course dinner, but I traveled that day. And so when I checked in, I simply said to Jason, who I was traveling with, “I wish I had a bag of Cheez-Its.” And the guy behind the front desk, like he literally raced across the lobby to grab me Cheez-Its from like the sundry bar or whatnot.

And quite honestly it's still to this day the single most incredible front desk experience I had. I mean, talk about super-serving your customer. I think, Devin, to your point about winning at the operational level, I was just in my first hotel for the first time in 15 months in the AC Marriott property in Asheville. And it felt like a welcoming party walking up to the front desk. That AC hotel staff, they were well-trained, because I walked up and they said, “Welcome back! This looks like your first trip—titanium elite. We're so happy to see you.”

COSENTINO: I mean, it felt like a coming home party, and that just resolidified my affinity for the brand and I think to your point, Devin, that operational aspect is where I think a lot of wins and a lot of gains are going to be made with respect to loyalty.

SUNG: And from a marketing perspective, I think we've had this vision and it's really coming to a head right now with this need to nail that first experience—which is really the messaging that we put in front of a customer—isn't relegated just to marketing or top of funnel. The best marketing sometimes comes from that in-person experience on property, and just the messaging channels that we have available, where we've been trying to extend everything that we know about our guests and that we've learned through the acquisition process and funnel. As you shop and book, can we relay some of those data points to help personalize your experience when you do show up on property? And we can enable our associates to deliver a more personalized, satisfying experience that's really trying to connect and break some of the divide, probably the organizational divide that there's a sales and marketing side, and there's an operations, an experience side. Clearly from a data and from a strategy perspective, there's opportunities to link the two sides and just leverage what we already have in terms of knowledge.

SIMON: But the data's there. Right? So once you start like understanding who Rob is and all of the information that you gather on him is the challenge then figuring out well what we were talking about a little bit earlier, how to get that personalization on property or against the various marketing or multi-faceted marketing touchpoints that you have?

SUNG: Certainly. In past years, we've been focused on creating digital proxies with the shift towards mobile and the mobile device being really kind of your remote control when you're on property, in a stay, not to replace the in-person experience, but really augment.

SIMON: Right.

SUNG: And I think with the pandemic and with the shift to contactless or low-contact experiences, it actually just doubles down on the need to ensure that we can deliver that level of personalization and actually choice for the guest to engage with us on property either via digital or associate. But traditionally it's that challenge of trying to make sure that we enable our associates and give them the processes in place to actually deliver on experience. That activation is not a digital activation, that is an in-person translation to offering Cheez-Its to a weary traveler.

COSENTINO: Devin, will you just talk a little bit about connecting the digital marketing to the operations? Talk to me a little bit about where you see brands being successful, bridging the upfront advertising, which is usually brand or awareness focused, actually bridging it to what happens mid-funnel, which is more direct marketing oriented. This has been a halo goal for a lot of clients for a lot of years now.

SUNG: There's limiting factors on either end of that spectrum, I think where it is easier to win on bridging that, that connection is for example, within our portfolio brands—and we have 30 plus brands—that there's a place in more high touch experiences where we can actually support and enable that personalization. If we do pass those insights, we're able to connect those insights from more top-of-funnel shopping behaviors to the on-property experience. Like we were just saying it, it takes that level of enablement on property. Sometimes it just comes down to resourcing and having staff and measures in place to be able to take that insight and turn it into an activation.

That's probably where we've had the most success in activating. And I think that tends to fall in more leisure experiences, such as resort stays or our luxury segment where obviously clearly the staffing ratio and the ability to deliver on more personalized experiences is going to be higher. Connecting the data is the first piece, but I think there is a “gotcha” in there where there's an assumption that if you just pass the data along through systems and you somehow pipe it into the property, that magic will happen on property.

You do need to take it that last mile and work with operations and the properties and the brands to build out very specific experiences and how to turn an insight into an activation. It's not obvious and it needs to be repeatable and scalable too, unless you're planning on only doing it on one property as a pilot, which that's not challenging. I think what's challenging is to try to do it on a global scale and turn it into a brand standard or translate it and localize it across multiple continents and regions.

SIMON: Just a simple task, right Devin? Nothing really…

SUNG: Just a simple task.

SIMON: ... too challenging. So I'm curious, you know, we've been talking for a while now. I'm curious, any lessons learned over the last 18 months that are applicable long-term?

COSENTINO: I think the lessons learned are again where I saw our clients succeed is they got very specific about their focus and the initiatives. That we're going to move the needle, doing more with less, right? And focusing on the things that were going to help them. I think that's a little bit more from a transactional standpoint. From an emotional connection or an engagement standpoint, it's definitely the brands that sort of recognize that their customers may not be spending at a particular point in time, but they found meaningful ways to engage them.

And I think the lessons learned over the last 12 months are just as applicable over the next six months. People start traveling again, marketing organizations are going to get extremely busy again, there's going to be hyper-competitiveness because brand loyalty has gone down across the board. The cost to switch loyalty programs right now is pretty low.

COSENTINO: And so I think the tools and the good behaviors they learned the last 12 months are going to help them essentially get out of the gate faster over the next six months if they can maintain that focus.

SUNG: I think I personally am planning to use a lot of the events that have taken place from a marketing perspective over the last six to 12 months as reminders in the future of why we need to be nimble. Perhaps based on my background, just coming out of technology and data-driven processing, you really get tired of doing the same thing over and over again on an ad hoc basis. And you start to build routines and make things more repeatable, more efficient and I would love to see that happen and continue to persist in the brand of marketing organization where we probably tend to in the past have gone to market on an ad hoc basis.

Meaning there are campaigns, there are portfolio campaigns, there are brand campaigns. There are efforts that we have year over year, but I try and get the organization and our teams to think about them as a set of capabilities that we're just repurposing with the business challenge that we're currently facing.

Even just getting “what-to-expect” messaging for our properties in market very quickly when COVID first hit is just a need to be able to deliver more near real-time messaging through our channels in a consistent manner. And so that may be a new need based on COVID, but it was not a new capability. And I'm sure we've had many other times where we've had to do it. I think about my days in insurance where we had from an underwriting perspective, anytime a hurricane decided to creep up and decided to slam into our Southern states, it was something we needed to react very quickly to—basically shut down and make sure that our contact centers would pause all quoting and underwriting in certain zip codes and markets.

And that is an extremely time-sensitive effort, but it's something that was repeatable every year we would have a slew of events like that. And so we turned it into a process. And I just think whether it's hurricanes or a pandemic or a launch of a new program or a suppression or a specific targeting, these are repeatable capabilities I'm trying to educate the organization on, trying to invest in the capability so that we don't have to treat these as red flag one-off projects year over year.

SIMON: For me looking at lessons learned and opportunity moving forward, it's a little bit more simple. It is going back to my thought about pausing once in a while to think about what you're doing in business. Like I said, we had a chance to put our foot on the brake. Maybe once in a while doing that even in the thrust of normal business operations would allow organizations to have a little bit more forward-thinking in their arsenal, because we find a lot of times that companies just get into their rhythm and that rhythm prevents sometimes them from thinking strategically. So I'm generalizing, but I think that's an opportunity for folks to think about things learned and things that could apply moving forward.

So as we get towards the end of this conversation, give me a bold prediction, guys, on the hospitality business for the next 12 months. Something that you think is going to just be a big thing that comes out of the re-emergence.

COSENTINO: I think one of the big predictions I have is for each customer out there, the first handful of travel experiences they have, even if it's a singular trip, which is airplane to rental car, to hotel or rental property for that matter, those first one or two trips out for the gate are going to redefine who they work with for the next couple of years. We talked about the fact that business travel isn't necessarily coming back full on until 2022, possibly 2023.

So all the market share has to be gobbled up by leisure travelers who are historically less frequent. And I think nailing those first experiences are huge because as people start traveling again, I think we're going to see big swings in terms of their share of wallet basically across brands within each travel sector.

SIMON: And Mr. Sung.

SUNG: I will probably caveat your comment about business travel and I know there's been a lot of discussion around how quickly will business travel come back, will it come back? Marriott, we are still bullish on business travel, and personally, I think just watching all the conversations across the companies and brands, there's a lot of brands out there, corporations who are talking about no need for travel, no need to come into the office.

I still believe in the human instinct that we are a gregarious animal and we will get back to traveling. I think that human interaction is needed. I think it will take time for us to get past what has hit us globally. But I think at worst business travel will shift to probably more of a maybe even evolve into more of a hybrid scenario. We've talked for years about the bleisure trip, which is really just tacking on some leisure to business. But I think the notion of even just the frequency, we talked a little bit about frequency being an elite traveler element.

I think we might even see frequency drop, but the average stay life increase. Because I know just speaking with others who are planning upcoming business trips, they're starting to link business trips together and it's really this mindset of clustering smaller trips to minimize that stop/start and minimize health exposure. So if I'm going to get on a plane and travel and meet with clients or do some sales meetings, I'm probably going to try and bundle a bunch of them together versus do three separate trips and increase my exposure.

And then there's that emphasis on smaller group, hybrid group, and what does it mean to have conferences and meetings where some of it's virtual, some of it's in person? So I think we have to be bullish on business just because I believe in the human effect of—we need to see each other. And we still need that element in our planning. I think the trip planning and route planning is going to be an interesting dynamic that's going to hit our industry, the complexities of just understanding trip purpose. I think a lot of the data signals are going to blur, and I think that'll be a fun challenge the next couple of months, to figure out how we help the traveler in their planning because some of the unique conditions have changed the way they shop and plan.

SIMON: That's interesting Devin. I think, you know, in conversations we've had a little bit skeptical about the return to business travel, but there were 40,000 people at the Phillies Yankees game yesterday. And the NBA arenas have been sold out for the playoffs for those teams. And for what it's worth, that's an indicator, right?

SUNG: Exactly.

SIMON: People are snapping back pretty quickly to more of a normalized environment. So it may be a precursor for, for what's to come.

I want to thank you for a really enlightening conversation, we're living in unique times and we all have a front row seat to whatever's next. And based on the bold predictions we just spoke about and the content we had today, I think it'll be an interesting journey we're on.

For more information on Epsilon's work in the Travel sphere, check out our website.