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Reading it in the Cards

A smart guide to the perfect holiday

At first glance, Kuoni’s revolutionary Travel Compass looks like a high-end game. But in fact it has been developed using solid scientific principles as an extremely effective advisory tool. It is designed to help people plan holidays that perfectly match their longings.

If you want to get away but can’t decide where to go, Kuoni’s new advisory tool could be just the thing to help you find your ideal holiday. Kuoni’s “Travel Compass” comes in a handsome wooden box, or an iPad version.

The first card I select and lay in front of me is the one that appeals to me most at first glance – the Taj Mahal in all its glory. And next to that I put the one showing the young people enjoying the lightness of being on the beach, with a beautiful sunset in the background. Memories of holidays past are awoken; I can almost hear the waves and feel the warmth of the sun on my skin. But now I’m not sure whether I am looking for “indulgence, simplicity and well-being” or “far away, immersed, making time stand still”. So I take both cards and put them with the other pair, and suddenly I find myself right in the middle of a discussion with my advisor who is showing me a whole range of interesting holiday options. He points to various places on a map of the world, and talks about cultural highlights, idyllic beaches, amazing food and even the wellness traditions of different countries. I really enjoy sorting through the beautifully designed cards that now cover the table, and at the end of the conversation I have booked a holiday that I think will be absolutely perfect for me: two weeks in Thailand and Vietnam, with culture, wellness and a bit of recuperation on the beach.

I had originally walked into the travel agency without any real idea of where I wanted to go on holiday – which is apparently what an amazingly large number people do. Kuoni invented its Travel Compass precisely for this undecided multitude. It is a playful, tactile means of identifying and then really crystallizing your personal holiday longings.
Using the suggestive power of images and word association, the system generates individual combinations that help the travel adviser understand more quickly and more accurately exactly what the customer feels is important about their holiday. The iPad version lets customers play with the virtual cards at home before coming into the travel agency to show their personal selection. Jan Sedlacek, who is in charge of the Market Intelligence Department at Kuoni, explains that the system’s playful element is not just there for the sake of it, but is of central importance to the way the tool works: “When we were developing the Travel Compass, we focussed completely and exclusively on helping the customers – on their needs and expectations. We wanted to design a tool that not only presents a surprising user interface and that is actually fun to play with, but that is as helpful as possible to customers when they are planning their holiday.”

The Travel Compass was created on the basis of Kuoni’s complex and extensive research into people’s travel habits and longings. This research followed solid academic principles and took over a year to complete (see report below). Its designers also made use of the latest insights into the psychology of decision-making, as well as the expertise of the company’s dramaturgs. Kuoni intends to continue this practice of looking beyond the boundaries of its own industry for ideas. It is an approach that opens up new possibilities and can lead the company to unique – and for the travel industry, revolutionary – solutions.

The advertising industry has known from its very earliest days about the power of suggestive words and, especially, evocative images to stimulate feelings. But for the tourism industry, using these techniques to instigate a dialogue and uncover a customer’s true feelings is a completely new way of working. It has taken Kuoni a major step forward on the road to a new advisory culture, in which the traditional boundaries between the givers and receivers of information are becoming increasingly blurred. (RK)