Travel's Pandemic Digital Push Was Just The Start
The digital ease of booking travel is growing post-pandemic and it’s only the beginning.
Lebawit Lily Girma
Travelers are increasingly using digital tools to find and book experiences easily and brands have bet on that shift by investing in a bigger and improved digital push over the past two years.
“There will be huge push towards digital,” Johannes Reck, co-founder and CEO of GetYourGuide, told travel tech editor Sean O’Neill, at Skift Forum Europe. “In the world of experiences, no one is going to queue up at Empire State Building anymore, they will want that digital companion with them. That was the key reason we made to not cut down our business too much but continue to invest in technology.”
Frank Rosenberger, executive board member of IT and future markets at TUI Group, said that for TUI, the digital transformation is they key asset going forward in terms of driving towards a much better customer experience by giving consumers more choices. Owning and controlling its own brands has made TUI a great test bed for implementing new technologies.
“We need to be able to drive that kind of change from the inside. There’s so much knowledge in our business that we want to translate that directly into technology and it will provide much more choice.”
This means building the most modern technology under a unified platform — from a previous five — and tapping into TUI’s vertically integrated business to bring it all together and provide hyper personalization for the customer, Rosengerger said.
“The key is the openness – that’s a key objective going forward.”
Amazon of Travel Versus Specialized Players
Which model is the future — the bigger brands or the specialized experience platforms?
“I think different strategies can win; the travel industry is a huge market,” said Reck. “We are a multitrillion dollar industry and I do believe there is enough room for the very specialized players as well as the broader players. I do think booking can become the Amazon of travel while there is still room for a Get Your Guide. But also we don’t think AirBnB can stand for experiences the way that Get Your Guide does.”
Reck added that the technology under the hood is a massive undertaking and that Get Your Guide is only just getting started but that it doesn’t preclude others to sell it as an add on to their offering.
Rosenberger agreed that once you are inside tech, you have the same toolbox.
“From a business perspective, I believe horizontal as well as vertical have their role to play and I think they will all challenge each other,” said Rosenberger. “Also looking at what stage of market maturity is there. Tourism from a digitalization perspective is on its day one. If you look at hotels experiences, there is a long way to go and that’s why we are investing so much, giving the customer to have the opportunity of choice in their hands.”
Post-Pandemic Experience Booking Trends
The pandemic behavioral shift leaned towards booking outdoor experiences for Get Your Guide, and a push towards domestic and regional tourism for two years.
But Reck said that it isn’t so much that travel has changed, as the trend towards digitization of supply as well as smaller suppliers creating unique experiences has continued to thrive.
“The one big behavioral shift that I have seen that has also surprised me is the shift towards mobile,” said Reck. “Get Your Guide saw 45-50 percent booking on devices pre-pandemic and now we’re up 78 percent.”
Even for longer-term trips, consumers will now start on apps and not so much on their desktops. “It makes us think what are the additional levelers we can pull to become an app first business and not a web based business as we have in the last decade.”