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BRANDS GIVE TRAVELERS                                                                                          Writer: Andrew Sheivachman

                      MORE CONTROL OVER                                                                                        Sponsored by                                             Illustrator: Vanessa Branchi

                                           THEIR EXPERIENCE

                                                                                                                               Booking a trip is complicated, with dozens of  As travelers choose travel apps over a hotel
                                                                                                                               platforms and providers jockeying to sell accom-  desk or information booth for booking tours
                   Skift Take:                                                                                                 modations, flights, and experiences. Yet as travel-  and activities, though, a major opportunity has
                                                                                                                               ers have become wiser and more empowered  emerged for established travel brands to sell
                   Creation is the new consumption, as travelers weary of commodity                                            by digital tools, they are now looking to more  those activities alongside their usual products.
                   travel seek to have a more active role in curating their experiences,                                       actively determine the shape and contours of
                                                                                                                               their trips when they are already in a destination.  Travelers want more control over their trips
                   and digital platforms more seamlessly mediate in-trip discovery                                                                                       than ever before, and new digital tools allow
                   increasing the opportunity for serendipity.                                                                 Having an increased level of choice and flexibility  them to co-create a trip within the structure
                                                                                                                               at the fingertips of travelers will lead to a new  of the apps and services they already use. The
                                                                                                                               era as travel brands act as trusted guides and  technical plumbing is now in place to allow a
                                                                                                                               enablers of the rarest and most valuable travel  new wave of engagement with travelers from
                                                                                                                               phenomenon: serendipity.                  a wide range of industry giants ranging f rom
                                                                                                                                                                         Google to TripAdvisor and relatively new players
                                                                                                                               The emergence of co-creation and collabora-  like Airbnb.
                                                                                                                               tion between travel company and traveler has
                                                                                                                               become perhaps the most impactful change  It’s still early days, but Airbnb has made one of
                                                                                                                               the industry has seen, the end result of a long  the most robust efforts to integrate its Airbnb
                                                                                                                               period of digital development by the global  Experiences venture with its traditional homestay
                                                                                                                               travel sector. The control that travelers now  product, accompanied by a recommendation-fu-
                                                                                                                               have during every phase of their trip will begin  eled itinerary management service baked into
                                                                                                                               to revolutionize the sector starting in 2019, and  its mobile app.
                                                                                                                               smart travel companies are paying attention to
                                                                                                                               ways they can empower their customers without  “We so far have seen that hosts can be empow-
                                                                                                                               eroding the value of their brand.         ered to provide something that hits their passion
                                                                                                                                                                         and also makes the guest’s trip a lot better,” said
                                                                                                                               For decades, the online travel revolution didn’t  Joe Zadeh, Airbnb’s head of experiences. “We
                                                                                                                               really extend to the tours and activities travelers  are seeing the growth experiences to be even
                                                                                                                               experience during a vacation. Companies like  faster than the growth of our personal homes
                                                                                                                               Expedia and ITA Software pioneered the software  visits because we already have an engaged
                                                                                                                               that undergirded e-commerce for flights in the  travel audience that wants to have a real local
                                                                                                                               late 1990s, while helped to bring  experience.”
                                                                                                                               online the long tail of hotel properties in Europe
                                                                                                                               and around the world over the last decade-plus.  Google has straddled both sides of the line this
                                                                                                                                                                         decade, providing flight and hotel booking tools
                                                                                                                               Today, the tours and activities sector is under-  to consumers while also deploying the capabil-
                                                                                                                               going a similar expansion in the digital space.  ity for travelers to track their itineraries using
                                                                                                                               There are numerous reasons for the slow speed  Google services.
                                                                                                                               of digital adoption, ranging from the extreme
                                                                                                                               fragmentation of tour operators to the buying  Over the last year, there has been a major
                                                                                                                               habits of consumers, who tend to book activities  convergence emerging from both sides of the
                                                                                                                               anywhere from a few days before their trip to a  company’s bifurcated strategy; the Google Maps
                                                                                                                               few hours before a tour takes place, limiting the  app now serves up dining and activity recom-
                                                                                                                               need for robust online booking.           mendations, while the company’s traditional

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