Berthold Trenkel, the Orchestrator, wants you to visit Qatar

If watching a flamboyance of flamingos migrate is on your bucket list, consider a trip to the country of Qatar during the winter season.

But if you ask Berthold Trenkel, chief operating officer of Qatar Tourism, the better story is the whale sharks. Hundreds of them congregate each summer off the northeast coast of Qatar in the Persian Gulf.

Berthold and his team are dedicated to showcasing the best of Qatar during a time of immense challenges for the global tourism industry recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

It makes their triumph all the more extraordinary, and I don’t just mean Qatar winning the bid for this year’s FIFA World Cup. This year, Trenkel won the Orchestrator Award at the 2022 Adobe Experience Maker Awards.

This award category recognizes their global campaign, “Experience a World Beyond,” involving 11 tailored user journeys in 6 languages with activations in 17 core international markets.

I recently sat down with Berthold to discuss his team’s success, advice for others, and the road ahead.

Congratulations on winning the Orchestrator award this year.

Thank you. We were thrilled when we heard about the win. It’s been a tremendous team effort across 18 months of work to get us here.

You’ve been on an exciting journey. I know your office is aiming to double tourism revenue and triple the number of visitors to Qatar by 2030. No pressure…

Yes, and on top of that, only a short time until the FIFA World Cup kickoff with billions of eyeballs on Qatar. That’s pretty much the whole planet. Anyone who has a TV will probably be watching one of the matches.

Wow. And the World Cup is just one of many initiatives happening right now. Today, we’re recognizing the success of your office to attract global visitors to Qatar. Tell us about the campaign at the core of your nomination.

Instead of doing a classic showcase campaign and showing beautiful images of a destination, we showed the journey of a visitor.

We used CGI characters built around customer segments we call demand spaces. Some visitors are into active holidays, for example, while others are looking to relax and rejuvenate.

We created one character for each of those stories, and through our website, they walk you through a personalized itinerary and their recommendations depending on the type of traveler you are.

There seems to be something for everyone here — a romantic getaway in 72 hours, something for adventurers, activities for those interested in sports. You’ve made it a great experience to learn everything Qatar has to offer travelers. What advice would you give others based on this campaign?

Our biggest strength was our one-solution approach that included software as a service (SaaS) and cloud hosting. We were probably one of the first cloud solution users in this part of the world.

It’s not always easy when you’re first, but it was very important for us. As a tourism board, we don’t have the tech resources or a data center. We wanted to rely on someone to manage the whole back end — where things have to work — so we could focus entirely on the front end user experience.

Tourism is all about what you can do, what you can see, and how it will make you feel when you visit the destination.

You say it’s not easy to be the first. Have you always been innovative in your career journey?

Yes, I’m a bit of an adventurer and I love to explore new things. I’m always in for a new challenge like trying new food or jumping out of a plane.

I’ve lived in many different countries. I grew up in Germany, started out in South Korea, worked a bit in Japan, then two years in China — this was at the height of globalization. I moved to Singapore, Paris, and then here to the Middle East. Luna is my little dog, and she definitely enjoys living in a Qatar with me.

My background is not in marketing. I’m actually more of an engineer at heart. But today, marketing is all about tech. Having the knowledge of how things work technology-wise gives me an advantage.

It absolutely does. And at the core of that tech is data. Tell me about the role of customer data in making these digital experiences relevant for various segments.

You’re right — the whole strategy for tourism was backed up by a big piece of research trying to understand all the core markets and the relevant customer segments that are important for the Middle East and a match for Qatar.

We’re all about data when it comes to the strategy. If you can’t back it up with data or a research piece, be it a brand lift study or an A/B test, we aren’t going for it.

Sometimes it’s not easy for the team to accept, but without data, it’s just a personal opinion. This is the biggest mistake I see. Rule number one in marketing — you are not the customer.

In the end, when someone shows me a piece of advertising, it has to work for the consumer in that market. It has to match with what they would like to see, or get out of, a destination.

“Tourism is all about what you can do, what you can see, and how it will make you feel when you visit the destination.”

- Berthold Trenkel, Chief Operating Officer, Qatar Tourism

You seem to love what you do.

I do. And the scope of what we do here in tourism is fascinating. We’re also the regulatory body dealing with laws, regulation, and enforcement.

But the marketing piece is where the real fun comes in.

Marketing’s a lot of fun, but some might look at it like an unnecessary expense. How do you make the case for your team’s investments in this area?

That’s an extremely important question. We have a lot of stakeholders, whether it’s the Minister of Finance, or the Prime Minister’s office, that are asking about the investments we’re making in marketing. We have to prove to them that these investments make sense.

With tourism, no one sees an ad and jumps on a plane to visit a destination. You’re building up ideas on a bucket list. Then, with time, you’ll go for it.

The COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on anything travel-related, but we’re optimistic about the impact of the FIFA World Cup. It’s an amplifier, and an accelerator. It allows us to showcase the destination to the world.

We hope that the 1.5 million visitors that come for the tournament will have an exceptional experience and carry the word on as ambassadors for Qatar.

You’re not only an ambassador for Qatar, you’re also an example for Experience Makers everywhere. What advice would you give them?

Always do the things you like. If you don’t like the job, you’re probably in the wrong job. Make the best out of what you have, and always enjoy the ride.

My team and I look forward to continuing to innovate in the months and years to come and showcasing the best of Qatar.