10 Business Lessons from STS Hamburg


In April, I attended one of the most productive conferences I’ve experienced to date. The Social Travel Summit was organized by iAmbassador, Traveldudes, and Germany Tourism and hosted by the swank east Hotel in Hamburg, Germany. The summit brought together key members of the travel industry – destination marketing organizations (DMOs) and tourism boards alongside social influencers, travel content creators, and digital publishers.

Our collective aim could be summed up with this phrase below:

How can we develop mutually beneficial, worthwhile, and respectful ways of working together?

In an industry – travel blogging – that’s still in its infancy compared to other well established blogging sectors, it was refreshing to be amongst fellow business-minded problem solvers. After all, I worked as a consultant for over 12 years in my past life and my job was to develop practical, high quality solutions to problems.

As part of iAmbassador, I was invited to attend and was also one of two bloggers from Sweden (alongside my Stockholm Travel Massive co-chapter leader Sofia Zetterqvist – Fantasiresor). Beyond reconnecting with old friends and making new ones in the vibrant city of Hamburg which unexpectedly grew on me by the end of the trip, I walked away with practical tips. The perfect mix between aspiration and reality. Tangible changes I was already making right away even as sessions went on.

The packed agenda covered crucial topics from profitable partnerships, the fine art of pitching and negotiating, and engagement to public speaking, contracting and neuromarketing, and I scribbled down notes upon notes.

But to summarize, here are just 10 business lessons (out of dozens) I took away from Social Travel Summit (STS Hamburg).

  1. “Create moments of inspiration”…Andrew Davis @TPLDrew

Because, according to Drew, moments of inspiration trigger an irresistible urge to act. One of the things I’ve always been careful about is providing that balance between inspiring others as well as encouraging them to find their own paths as opposed to living someone else’s dreams. I hope to keep creating these moments that urge others to act within their own lives as well.

  1. “WHAT IF…we focused on the passions of our audience?”…Andrew Davis @TPLDrew

This is interesting because most of the time, we focus on our own passions and drives, and share those with others to inspire and encourage them. What if we focused on what they are passionate about instead and connect with them on that level? Lots to ponder under this one.

  1. “I am constantly looking out for problems to solve when I think of blogging projects – same mindset as an entrepreneur”…. Kash Bhattacharya @budgettraveller

These enlightening words by my friend Kash definitely flipped on one switch for me. When I was employed fulltime as a consultant, my main task was problem solving. Technical problem-solving. And over the course of my career, we built tools and modules that were reusable and scalable and could be used as part of the process for solving new problems. As a freelancer, I’ve been problem solving as one-off assignments. Now it’s time to actually get back to that modular way of providing solutions once again.

  1. “I try and think of the longevity of the idea and whether the project has scale”…. Kash Bhattacharya @budgettraveller

Thinking along the previous lesson above, this is what I keep saying every time I publish my annual pitching charts. Of moving away from just one assignment to the next as a freelancer (which I do enjoy) and building something that is scalable and continues to grow in value. Always the ongoing challenge.

  1. “Social media is the best piece of market research you NEVER commissioned”… Andrew Grill @AndrewGrill

It really is. While we all know how much of a time suck certain aspects can be, social media has also been invaluable for me and knowing how best to utilize which social media outlet is key. I have spent most of my time on Facebook and Twitter. I do a creative picture puzzle project on Instagram and I have yet to fully scratch the surface of Pinterest. So I will definitely be using it wisely as I continue to grow my business.


  1. “Your value will no longer be what you know, it will be what you share”… Andrew Grill @AndrewGrill

Curators have been on to this for years. And many travel bloggers who have built solid businesses were either consciously or subconsciously curating all along.

  1. “Happiness is the only good, reason the only torch, justice the only worship, humanity the only religion, and love the only priest”…Robert Green Ingersoll

This beautiful quote was shared by my friend Shane Dallas (@TheTravelCamel) in his session on public speaking (which was superb by the way). Beyond it being a poignant quote, the main lesson was to use simple words creatively. Easy repetitive words can communicate effectively and elevate a simple phrase.

  1. “Know your deal breakers before ever pitching”…Abigail King @InsideTravelLab

Wise business advice from Abi. While on the surface, this might seem easy, it’s actually quite tricky in an industry where a lot of exchange of services and products is still heavily influenced by a barter system. And unfortunately many travel bloggers never read their contracts or even ask for one, usually overpromise, and oftentimes devalue their work.

  1. “Are you a Ptolemy or a Galileo?”…Andrew Davis @TPLDrew

First century astronomer Ptolemy said the earth was the center of the universe. 16th century astronomer Galileo discovered that the earth in fact rotated around the sun, not the other way around.

Meaning, the world doesn’t revolve around you, your business, or your brand. Or your ideologies even. The key is finding those holes where you can make a difference. Like the earth. Finding its ideal position as it rotates in the universe where life can thrive. 

  1. “You don’t tell people you’re influential. You become influential”…Andrew Grill @AndrewGrill

All I can say to this lesson is…preach!

This summit was where visionaries came to think outside the box strategically when it came to working with brands and bloggers within the travel industry. A conversation I’m privileged to be a part of at this relatively early stage.

So I leave you with some thought-provoking words from my friend Katja Presnal (Skimbaco Lifestyle) during a keynote speech at a different conference while talking to fellow travel bloggers along these lines:

We need to stop tribal shaming those who dare to think outside the box.

Because in reality, we really can’t move forward with big ideas without thinking outside whatever predefined boxes we’re subconsciously stuffing ourselves into. Whatever self-righteous labels we give ourselves to stop from exploring outside our predefined boxes.

I’m definitely looking forward to Social Travel Summit 2016 once it’s announced and hopefully my business has grown in leaps and bounds before then.