I recently attended one of the largest travel conferences in the US – a few thousand people representing the biggest names in global travel, including the CEOs and Presidents of TripAdvisor, Google, Skyscanner, Airbnb, Expedia, Virgin Galactic and Booking.com.
As with most things in hospitality, it's a relaxed environment where people are free to speak their mind (as opposed to reading corporate statements) and therefore a good opportunity to know what’s really on the horizon for the travel industry - directly from those with the ability to drive it. Because the travel industry is the largest and most digitally-driven industry in the world, this usually has a knock-on effect on other industries. So, we go and we listen hard.
Flights, hotels and car bookings have already been digitally transformed; experiences are next. However, the decision-making dynamics are completely different, which is why the larger Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) and digital players have been struggling to crack the next potential $150bn market. This market, like many, has been propelled exponentially by the growth of Instagram. People love to show off experiences, encouraging envy and then, inevitably, action.
This has paved the way for the next wave of potential travel digital giants like GetYourGuide and Klook.
When you factor in the SoftBank $100bn pot of funding behind them, we’ll soon be seeing how these new kids are cracking the golden nut that has eluded previous travel giants. Very simply, they worked out that the discovery process for experiences is very different to hotels. A hotel choice is dependent on the depth of supply, whereas experiences are not. As Airbnb attests, it's the curation of inventory that is key. You don’t want any old experience with your hard-earned week or two holidays a year – you want the best experience. What also makes sense is the shift of booking experiences from offline to online, and these new guys reckon there’s 20% incremental bookings to be made by getting your experience on a digital platform.