Content Strategy Advisor
Home base: San Francisco Bay Area
Years in the travel industry: 10
The word “content” can mean different things, depending on who you ask. Content strategy advisor Kate Cornell knows this well. “I like helping people and businesses solve what content they want to create and why. It's more than writing. It's how it all comes together to tell a cohesive story about your product." At TourismSolved, Kate works with tour operators to create unique content that increases traffic and conversions across their sales channels.
For the last 10 years, Kate has built departments of writers, editors, and photographers for AAA Travel, Tripadvisor, and Viator. During her time at Tripadvisor and Viator, she led a team that created 300,000-plus pieces of original content for both brands. Kate is also published in regional magazines and newpapers along the West Coast of the United States.
As someone who creates content about places and cultures around the world, Kate is always learning. "Sometimes the best part of my job is having to learn about a place I have never been in order to tell an authentic story. It also leads to major wanderlust," she mentions. Thankfully, that armchair travel has inspired many adventures near and far. While Paris tops the list for all its obvious beauty and fame, some of her fondest memories are a sailing trip through the British Virgin Islands; a trip through Portugal for caldo verde and shopping; and Lake Tahoe for outdoor adventures in any season.
Kate is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, and loves calling it home, but if there's such a thing as another life: "I’d live in London,” she says.
What’s a favorite memory of a tour experience you’ve taken?
It’s tough to answer with just one! Most friends and family know my favorite experience because I take them on it when they visit. In San Francisco, there’s an amazing tour on a vintage VW bus where everyone belts ‘60s tunes and drives around to all the most special spots of the city. I love how even if someone in the group is shy, they can’t help but flash a peace sign out the window as people wave at the colorful bus.
What is it about working in the travel industry that you love the most?
Travel is one of the most human things we can do. It brings out our curiosity and affords us memories and stories that we carry through life. While technology makes travel logistics and planning easier, it’s still the people at the hotels, restaurants, and tour companies that make a trip so special, and so different from the last. While I love helping travelers find what they want, I’m always thinking about how to showcase the businesses that make a destination’s heart beat.
What motivates you to stay in the travel industry?
The innovation that it will take living through Covid-19 to keep people inspired to go on their next adventure in safe, new ways.
What’s been a big learning moment in your career?
I believe in the importance of best practices in any industry, but it often leads to many companies doing the same things. Data is only as good as how you use it. It takes having a perspective and believing in it if you want to do something meaningful and be successful.
What’s one of your proudest accomplishments in your career?
It was extremely rewarding to establish a large-scale content operation, and the tracking and analytics to measure it, at a major OTA. My other favorite moment is when I was an editor at a travel magazine, where I was responsible for overhauling an entire section of its print edition. In both cases, I loved stepping back to look at the big picture and then building off that.
How do you see travel changing over time? What’s exciting about these potential changes?
I believe that while travelers will always want good deals on what they buy, that “buy local” will have more meaning than ever before, even for out-of-towners. Many of us watched our favorite places across the globe close in 2020 because they relied so heavily on tourism. I’m optimistic that travelers will want to keep restaurants, landmarks, hotels, and shops open by supporting those businesses directly (discounts or not) as long as they are offered quality experiences in return.
What 3 things can every tour operator do to make their experience enjoyable for travelers?
1. Always provide unique information on your product description. During my time at Tripadvisor and Viator, I led a team of writers and editors responsible for rewriting tour operators’ content to help them explain what makes their experience different from competitors selling similar tours in their market. Avoid what I call Wikipedia-style historic or flowery descriptions of the attractions, cities, or regions you take your guests. Instead, get them excited about how they will experience those places with your company by providing details about the guides’ knowledge, or let them know about special stops you take along the way.
2. Be ready to communicate before the activity begins. Some of the best experiences that I’ve booked included simple, professional communications via text. A reminder with directions to the designated meeting point is a reassuring and helpful message for a traveler who may be unfamiliar with the area.
3. Hire guides and hosts who love what they do. I’ve done plenty of great tour experiences, but my favorite ones are always because of the guides. It’s day and night when you have someone who is having fun and sharing surprising anecdotes and facts on the tour.
When you’re not working, where can we find you?
I’m most happy these days in my backyard trying my hand at growing a vegetable garden or being near (or on) the water with my boyfriend and our three dogs. When the world is open, you’ll find me on my way to meet friends or family out on the town somewhere in San Francisco or the East Bay.
What’s something surprising people might not know about you?
My great-great grandfather was a somewhat notorious member of the Coast Guard who shot the Black Duck rumrunner speedboat, an event that sparked enough outrage and controversy to help put an end to prohibition in the United States. Let's pretend his, ahem, mistake could have very well prevented Americans from having to go dry as we shelter in place.