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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 Booking.com 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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