Posted July 27, 2018 by brandchannel
The following guest column is by Allison Ames, President & CEO,Beanstalk.
During the peak summer travel season, more and more people are traveling for a myriad of reasons. Travel is one of the world’s fastest-growing business sectors, with bookings close to $1.6 trillion in 2017, according to Deloitte. While millennials are certainly obsessed with traveling and have had a significant impact on the growing popularity of travel, other generations are embracing it in full force as well. Adventuring to a new destination has benefits for all of us. From seeking out new places to disconnect from our daily lives, to improving our understanding of other cultures, exposing ourselves to new people and new food and of course, creating lifetime memories, travel is an important escapism from this crazy world.
Of course, the desire to travel and see the world is nothing new. But changes in our needs, tastes and habits are fueling disruption in a space that is driven by consumer behavior (the catalyst of culture change that I’ve written about before).
What has been the impact of our evolving needs? Over the past decade, a new flock of brands and services have emerged that have significantly changed and enhanced the experience of travel and it doesn’t look like the end is in sight anytime soon. These brands, services and products are touching all aspects of the traveler’s journey.
Travelers are looking for transformational experiences, not just when they arrive at their destination, but also before they get there and even after they arrive home. This is forcing brands to think differently about how, when and where they communicate with customers along their journey. There is plenty of disruption going on in the travel industry, fueled by technology, mobility and innovation. So what are a select few of these brands doing?
Ready? Let’s Book!
Technology, social media and the (relative) ease of booking online have changed the travel game with brands and services scrambling to attract consumers. Brands are entering this space at a frenzied pace and finding new ways to woo travelers. The pioneers in this space (Priceline, Expedia, etc.) are facing mounting competition from other tech companies that make the process easier and more affordable.
While the other now-mainstream go-to sites including AirBnB, Booking.com, Tripping.com and Hotels.com are doing an impressive job of bringing a new level of quality to vacation rental and business travel booking, there is a new crop of emerging brands that are adding clever twists to their service offering. On our watch list for further disruption are Upside (for business travelers), Oasis, Luckytrip, TripHappy and Vacasa, to name just a few. Each of these services has created their own unique features to entice travelers.
In the not so distant future, virtual reality will enhance travel booking experiences. Amadeus, a travel services enterprise, is launching a travel booking experience powered by virtual reality. Users will put on a VR headset and they will be able to do everything from researching and booking a trip from any destination in the world, compare flights and even test drive a rental car.
Set? Let’s Pack!
Speaking of technology and a better online experience, the luggage category was a ripe category for disruption and direct-to-consumer brand, Away, has filled a much needed void, merging technology, affordability and durability targeted at underserved millennial travelers who were not satisfied with the traditional brands that were available. Away found that hole and filled it, hitting a chord in the smart travel tech space. Launched a mere two years ago in 2016, its sales are on track to exceed $100 million this year. The brand is now available in 38 countries and in addition to its direct-to-consumer service, it’s expanding into brick and mortar retail with ten stores planned by the end of 2018.
Another clever example of a brand speaking to an unmet consumer need by introducing smart features into fashion for travelers is start-up apparel brand, BauBax. One of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns in Kickstarter history and dubbed the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of jackets, BauBax is a 25-feature, multi-purpose jacket designed to keep travelers organized.
The husband and wife founders of BauBax recognized a need for a single piece of attire that had designated areas for all the various gadgets that we travel with, from smart phones to tablets, headphones to neck pillows and leg rests, to numerous other items. BauBax is a great solution fusing fashion with functionality to simplify the travel experience.
Now Let’s Go!
“Going” has never been more chock-full-of-choices to appeal to travelers who are looking for the ultimate in experiences, be it adventure, distinctive or budget accommodations, exploring local cities and country sides, specialty tours, or just plain chillaxing. It’s one of the most exciting times in the hospitality space as established and emerging brands are creating unique experiences all around the world.
For brand-loyal enthusiasts, travel is an interactive way to connect and truly experience a beloved brand. It’s a natural next step as they find different ways to immerse themselves in the lifestyle of their loyal consumers. Even retailers, including West Elm, IKEA and Restoration Hardware are getting into the travel space and opening hotels. People want more than just a place to stay and brands are able to offer them a more intimate and specialized experience. Two notable examples of this are Equinox and National Geographic.
Fitness has become a lifestyle for many people. As a leader in this sector, Equinox will now fuse health and fitness with tourism through a customized hotel experience set to launch in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards in 2019. When you think about it, hospitality is not a stretch for the brand. It’s already serving fitness-obsessed consumers at its gyms. Why not reinforce and continue that service for travelers? Look for business and vacation travelers to come running in.
As a brand dedicated to enrichment and preserving the planet’s diversity, what better authority than National Geographic to bring the ultimate in adventure and discovery to its consumers through National Geographic Lodges of the World. National Geographic has handpicked a collection of lodges that offers guests an inspiring experience of discovery. Each of these lodges shares the same values as Nat Geo—a commitment to sustainable practices and protecting the planet. Just as National Geographic is truly a one-of-a-kind brand, so are each of these lodges tailored to different themes, activities and adventures all around the world.
One of the biggest benefits for consumer brands entering the hospitality space is not only the ability to maximize their brand proposition but to truly control the way the brand speaks to its consumers in every detail and aspect within the location. While this is a trend that requires significant investment, if executed properly, creating an outstanding hotel or travel experience is a brilliant vehicle to harness long term loyalty for the core brand.
It’s Time To Go Home!
How many of us want to bring back a memento of our vacation after the trip is over? Or we’ve discovered something on our journey that we wish we could package and use it at home? Brands want to find ways to extend their weeklong experience with travelers to continue to engage them after their trip is over. Although it’s been at retail for over a decade, Westin’s Heavenly Bed line was one of the first brands to make it possible to make your bedroom feel like a 5-star hotel. Its partnerships with Nordstrom, Pottery Barn and other brick-and-mortar and online retailers have been a successful way for Westin to differentiate itself as the destination for a good night’s sleep and stay top of mind with consumers to build loyalty and repeat business.
It’s clear that the new experiential mindset customer is here to stay. And with travel and tourism now accounting for one-tenth of our global GDP, per Deloitte, you can be sure that we will continue to see increased competition as well as unique products and services that will continue to change the future of travel. So let’s get ready, set and go on what will surely be an exciting ride!