Five Innovations in Travel Industry: How to Make Your Startup Stand Out?

As it turns warmer, many of us start to muse over summer vacations and getaways with friends and families. Today there are dozens of options allowing us to plan, research, compare and book our trips. It just seems like all gaps have already been covered, thus newly established travel agencies still try to find a hidden ace up their sleeve.  

Have we run out of the road? – Definitely no, considering the fact that technologies don’t stand still and consumer expectations constantly grow. Market statistics prove that online travel industry is all the rage. In the first quarter of 2015, around 180 million people visited travel websites every month, showing a 27 percent increase compared to the similar period in 2014. The total bookings of hotels, air tickets, and rental cars ran at $35.1 billion after the first quarter of 2015, demonstrating 11 percent growth, in comparison with the same period last year. 

And if we talk about bookings, what tendencies do lead the current market? Here are the top five trends in the travel industry:

Adventures

Active tourism is expected to be one the major travel industry trends in the next few years. More and more people show interest in wreck diving, hiking the Swiss Alps or swimming with whale sharks in Australia. Today customers lean towards the personalized and unique experience.

innovation-in-travel-industry-adventure-hiking

Culinary tourism

Currently, gastronomy plays the defining role in the travel experience and serves as the #1 motivation for travelers in the American market, as alleged by Hillary Smith, the Insights Director at Condé Nast’s Food Innovation Group. Such food experiences aren’t confined to dining out only. They include farm tours, tasting sessions, vineyard visits, cooking courses or food markets, just to name a few.

Female solo tours

Modern women not just transform the entire industries, but also make 80 percent of decisions on traveling, based on 2014 report. What is more important, according to solo travel report 2014 from Booking.com, 72 percent of American women go on solo tours. They are not afraid of visiting unexpected destinations while looking for fresh experiences. Beyond that, women eagerly go on tours with daughters, sisters or other women friends. 

Mobile photography

Mobile is everywhere, so it is not surprising that people are looking for ways and opportunities to capture their Hallmark moments.  Moreover, they wish to do that in the best way possible. Today companies offer mobile photography workshops, while smartphone manufacturers hold “best photo” contests and use them as a part of their marketing strategies. Innovative travel companies can also benefit from this trend, offering mobile photography trips, similar to Amsterdam tour by Dutchie.

innovation-in-travel-industry-mobile-photography

Sustainable tourism

The United Nations General Assembly has announced 2017 the international year of sustainable tourism; however, this concept can be supported and promoted at any later dates. Travel businesses can benefit from well-established ecotourism practices and assist in developing a strong social focus.

Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Secretary-General, explained: "This is a unique opportunity to build a more responsible and committed tourism sector that can capitalize its immense potential in terms of economic prosperity, social inclusion, peace and understanding, cultural and environmental preservation”.

Except for quality service and interesting ideas, today’s consumers are looking for unique offers and fresh approaches. They have unlimited access to information and eagerly share opinions on social media networks or ratings and reviews platforms. So how to innovate in online travel booking industry?

Five travel industry innovations:

Resolve a problem

There is a clear dominance of big hitters in the travel industry and it is obvious that for newly-created startups entrance the market turns into a tough challenge. Moreover, today users add names of travel agencies or airlines, while looking for “skiing tours” or “beach holidays”. What does that mean? – Names of most innovative travel companies are now associated with journeys they offer, so people search for them directly.

It is important to realize that innovations take time. You shouldn’t lose sight of the core value that you offer to customers. Start with identifying the gap that you wish to cover and suggest a clear business objective for users to easily understand and engage with.

Become the one-stop shop

Gone are the times of businesses focusing on one particular part of the tour. To become bigger players, companies cover more niches and expand their portfolios.

For example, last year Airbnb moved beyond accommodations only and launched Trips. This new feature includes two services: Experiences (like surfing classes, yoga and nutrition workshops or dive into the world of electronic music with local experts) and Places (long list of best places and favorite spots, recommended by trusted insiders).

innovation-in-travel-industry-airbnb[Photo credit: Airbnb]
 

Recently, TripAdvisor has also switched from solely ratings and reviews to a platform, where users can instantly book hotels and plan their trips.

innovation-in-travel-industry-tripadvisor[Photo credit: TripAdvisor]

Focus on mobile

To remain competitive startups should be open to digital transformation, while mobile is the leading trend within all the industries. Leading companies enhance mobile sites or build apps, making booking process on smartphones smooth and convenient.

To provide 120 million customers with a better experience, Ryanair has invested in digital and launched its own application:

“Over Christmas, we hit over 17 million downloads of the app across Europe, which makes it the number one airline app in Europe. That gives us a great asset to monetize to other products.” – explained Kenny Jacobs, Ryanair CMO.

innovation-in-travel-industry-mobile-ryanair[Photo credit: Ryanair]

Turn users into heroes

User-generated content is a powerful tool that should definitely become a part of your marketing strategy. These days, word-of-mouth marketing, posts on social media and various campaigns help with obtaining notable results within a shorter period of time.  

Pay attention to Tesla. The company moves beyond traditional ads for its electric cars, offering its fans to make advertisements instead.

innovation-in-travel-industry-tesla[Photo credit: Tesla]

Back in 2014, Starbucks held a White Cup Contest. Customers had to doodle on the Starbucks cups and submit their photos. About 4,000 consumers shared their pictures within a 3-week period.

innovation-in-travel-industry-starbucks

[Photo credit: Starbucks]

Travel agencies can use these best practices and engage consumers in various campaigns, like sharing photos on social media networks with you startup name, make videos with their travel experiences through your agency and so on.

Guiding experience

The Lonely Planet used to be a bible for travelers, though it has become irrelevant nowadays and can hardly compete with mobile apps and sites. Today people can find recommendations and reviews on restaurants, tours, places and hotels in a matter of seconds. While new players provide new opportunities: Peek can provide you with a tour guide right on your phone, while AnyRoad connects you to amazing guides and helps to avoid travel agencies.

innovation-in-travel-industry-guides-anyroad[Photo credits: TechCrunch]

Artificial intelligence influence

Technologies have been and will be the main game changers in all the industries, including innovations in travel. Today you book tickets online, make hotel reservations, and chatbots answer your queries. AI can easily replace some existing jobs and companies should realize that.

For instance, using Watson tool by IBM, Thomson travel company has developed a virtual assistant to provide consumers with holiday recommendations. In such a way they want to improve human intelligence, but not replace it. Artificial intelligence can also help hotel owners to know their audience better, to meet their needs and so gain loyal customers.  As an example, Hilton tests Connie, a robot that answers questions about services, local attractions or hotel amenities.

innovation-in-travel-industry-hilton[Photo credits: Hilton]

Today these innovative travel ideas are the emerging standards, though ten years ago we have hardly heard of them. The modern world is reasonably called the digital world, as technologies play the leading role in every industry. Being one of the top business areas, travel industry employs the technological advances and offers numerous benefits to both travelers and travel agencies.   

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