Rafael de Jorge (Growtur): “Investing in technology is just as important as training people to know how to use it”.

Rafael de Jorge is a great expert in marketing and innovation who has recently created a digital school of technology, creativity and ethics for the tourism sector.

Rafael has been teaching for more than 12 years in various training programs of universities in the country such as the University of Barcelona, ​​School of Industrial Organization, Eshob and Euroaula. He also combines his teaching activity as a marketing, innovation and growth advisor for large companies and organizations. In addition, he is a speaker at national and international events, researcher and columnist in the main industry medias. More than a year ago, he embarked on a major project: Growtur, the first growth marketing company for the tourism sector in Spain.

Due to Covid-19, you reconverted Growtur into a “digital school of technology, creativity and ethics for the tourism sector”. Why did you decide to include ethics as a cornerstone in the trainings?

For some time now, I’ve noticed that the development of technology has become very important in our lives and our work. Our universities are training students relatively well; however, us teachers see that there’s a gap: we are teaching how to work with technologies but not how to work with them the right way and with a shared benefit.

It’s equally important to teach how to use technological tools and to educate people in the ethical basis we’ve lost and that, if nothing changes, will totally destroy ordinary life as we can already see in some aspects of current geopolitics.

In terms of the differentiation between creativity and technology, it’s due to the polarisation itself we live in: since technology practically impacts every part of our life, it’s made people go to the other side, to more creative spaces.

The grounds of all Growtur’s trainings are growth marketing. How does it differ from traditional marketing?

In reality, the grounds of all the trainings were growth marketing, and now are ethics. Everything is indeed based on growth, but we wanted to promote the ethical part.

Growth marketing, unlike traditional marketing, is about creativity, technological tools and analysis. These three aspects must work and show tangible results. That’s why in all Growtur’s trainings we teach to prove that all actions must be quantifiable and measurable as well as the importance of analysing and interpreting results. This is key because a suitable compilation, analysis and interpretation can make a business grow in any aspect and level, whether in terms of return of investment or to improve reputation.

What does applying growth marketing to the tourism sector mean? 

Applying growth marketing to the tourism sector means not doing things just because but instead based on information obtained from big data analysis. It’s basically doing things consciously, not just to sell smoke and mirrors. In my opinion, the tourism marketing sector has sold itself out because there are many profiles that claim to be marketing gurus that, really, come out with a load of hot air.

Growth marketing is the opposite of the word marketing, which has been so loosely used; growth focuses on the growth goal. Applying this to the tourism sector means basically obtaining results with actions. Running a marketing action and waiting to obtain results without even knowing if we’ll be able to measure them is useless. In growth marketing, everything is based on growth; in a tangible growth marketing.

Do you think that having a growth marketing expert is an asset for a tourism company? To which extent?

Nowadays, growth managers are more and more in demand, growth experts. This is something I’ve been noticing for six years, most of all in the United States who are leaders in innovation when it comes to marketing.

Having a growth marketing professional in any sort of business will ensure that any action and strategy has a tangible result and turns into a totally numeric and actual value.

Do you think that the tourism industry lacks more investment or training?

I don’t think that more investment in innovation is needed. What I do believe is that investment in the right place is necessary. As I previously mentioned with the word marketing, the same thing has happened with the word innovation. Not everything that is considered innovation truly is so. This is why it’s essential to focus the training and education in teaching in what and where to invest.

In terms of training, something similar usually happens: there’s a wide training offer but it either lacks quality or it’s not innovative. The training sector hasn’t figured out how to show people what innovation truly is, the training based on innovation and innovative strategies. An effort must be made there so that there’s more investment in the right training. But besides not investing in the right training, not much is being invested in.

However, during the lockdown, at Growtur we launched very innovative trainings and we realised how people are waking up, how they are more and more aware of the need to invest in innovative and quality training. I think there’s a collective awakening and this is going to be a game-changer in terms of training in the tourism sector.

Many companies invest resources in innovative projects that don’t succeed or fail to give the expected results. Which are the most common mistakes when launching an innovation project?

I think that the main mistake is the lack of awareness. And where does it come from? From a lack of training and education, that’s where it all starts.

Even a company’s CEO himself must have some notions, even if basic, about new technologies or marketing trends that arise such as data science and even Tik Tok, to be able to identify if an investment is innovative and can really obtain the expected results.

On the other hand, trainers also have a certain degree of responsibility for not teaching innovation, for not offering a training that identifies what innovation truly is.

Talking about innovation is talking about technology, and it seems that we’ve forgotten about people. Which role do they play in the innovative transformation of businesses?

Technology is super important, but it doesn’t work without people. Let’s imagine that we are a Formula 1 team and that we invest in technology and purchase a new car. It is the top technology available in the market. We start driving our new acquisition and we crash. What’s happened? That technologies don’t work without people. Technology alone neither solves our problems nor generates a return on the investment. Investing in technology is as important as training people to know how to use it. Hence, it’s a question of making those two concepts work together.

The classic production formula comprising the variables capital, work and other production factors, would have to be reformulated to include knowledge as a work multiplying variable. In other words, knowledge multiplies the possibilities of technology and for this, it is key to invest in both factors, in the training of employees and technology so that it has a positive impact in the company’s overall result.

Which technology can help hoteliers in these moments of crisis? Where should they focus their investments in technology and innovation?

We don’t know what the current situation will lead to. These past few weeks have been very negative and technology can’t do anything about that. We can try to do some branding, but this is the time to take a break or go half-hearted.

However, we must already think about the next reopening, the next season; hence, I would go for technology investments aiming at transforming the business. It’s time to apply automation and big data, technologies that allow the use of data in the future.

Also, technologies such as chatbots that can help us to have virtual receptionists, to have digital bar menus and to be accessible at all times via WhatsApp; it helps us to prevent the spread of Covid19 and other potential illnesses that may come in the future.

How do you think that the way of doing tourism marketing will change? Is there a disruptive element that will leave a mark on the future?

We’re in such a unique moment that it’s difficult to know what will happen. I do see several trends in augmented reality, which is proving hard to integrate even if there are interesting projects. The problem is that for a technology to be disruptive, it must be affordable for everyone and currently, due to the cost of devices, it’s not.

Another trend is techno ludic applications, in other words, the implementation of video gaming strategies in marketing to, for example,  invite people to discover a destination and learn about their traditions, culture, restaurants, as if it was a game.

For me, videogames are something to consider, augmented reality not as much because we’ll have to see what big corporations do to make it easier for everyone to have access to them.

And, to end, big data that really is not implemented in many companies for financial reasons. Basically, implementing a big data tool is currently very difficult; Still, with time, I hope that prices decrease, they are more affordable and there are more data centres open (open source) so that it is also more accessible. It’s a matter of three or four years before we start seeing the first doses of big data at a low cost.

To get ourselves ready for this change it is important to start educating and training people also in analytical statistic studies, in data science, to know how to interpret data, how to use it and what questions to answer. Without this knowledge, big data doesn’t make sense at all.