Innovation and the ability to accept and embrace change are the key elements that will make a difference in the landscape of any sector, not just travel.
We’ve seen the last decade bring about fantastic opportunities for growth out of re-inventing the traditional structures and presenting them under a new light, not only to make them appealing to a larger part of the population but also to promote important ideals such as equality.
Airbnb, Uber, WeWork and others took on the traditional concepts of accomodation, transport and office space and re-imagined them in a way that allows for better interactions and is suitable to a world where globalisation is part of our day-to-day reality.
And yet, at a time like this, disruption has wreaked so much havoc in the travel industry that many companies had to completely re-think and re-design their entire marketing strategy, and some of them are undergoing an innovation process that can potentially create some risks, mainly due to time related constraints.
Let me give you a few examples.
A couple of companies count me as an insider of the industry and I receive a lot of surveys asking me about my preferences when it comes to travel.
I always happily and enthusiastically respond because I know that my requests and the ones of other frequent travellers will ultimately show the direction travel will take in the (hopefully not too distant) future.
The problem is that at least 3 times in the last 7 days I’ve received proposals that reflected what I can only assume is a cross contamination between signature products offered by travel and adventure driven companies and companies focusing on resort stays and vacationing.
Let me be clear: companies whose core business has always been about tourist experiences like resort style accommodation, winery tours, yoga retreats etc.. are asking me if I would consider purchasing from them a travel package that will take me on a 3, 5, 7 days trip off the beaten path and in contact with the locals rather than in a gorgeous 5 stars resort.
On the other hand, a few travel companies that are my absolute favourites when it comes to adventure travel, are now proposing multi-nights local stays packages in an area close to home, where I would have access to wineries, spas and yes, you guessed it, yoga retreats….
What’s going on?
I must admit that at a certain point I thought I had inadvertently mixed up the 2 surveys, but that wasn’t the case.
Let me make the point even more clear.
A company you would normally trust to take you to Djibouti to swim with whale sharks is now asking you if you’re interested instead in sipping a glass of Syrah in the Hunter Valley (about 150 km north-west of Sydney) and pay $600 a night for it (per person).
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Hunter Valley! I go there at least a couple of times a year to soak up in the hilly atmosphere, drink some excellent wine and even buy a few cases to bring back home. It’s just that I can easily do that without having to rely on a travel company. Nowadays it’s become very easy to book something as straight forward as a “local stay” and I certainly don’t appreciate having to pay a huge mark up for something that I can easily organise on my own.
What I do need is a travel company to offer me a trip to the Galapagos and make me feel absolutely safe for every activity I do from trekking on a desert island to scuba diving to swimming with hammerheads.
And for that I certainly would accept to pay a premium price, because it’s rather difficult to book by myself, for one, and because I need to make sure that whatever happens, I will be well looked after.
On the other hand if I’m going to the Seychelles and I want to have a fabulous two weeks vacation of relaxing activities in a great 5 stars resort with all the amenities I can imagine from champagne for breakfast to candle-lit dinner on the beach at sunset then I’m probably not going to book it with the same adventure travel company that offers me to sleep on the floor in a hut in a volcanic island in Indonesia.
It’s more likely that a company that has been dealing with a specific type of travel for over 30 years has more experience and a more reliable network that another company that has only just started today.
And while I’ve been cheering for all the business owners that embraced innovation and change throughout these tough times to sustain their businesses like the coffee shop around the corner that has started delivering pre-cooked meals in the evening to try and bring in more revenues, I can’t say that I’m a fan of 180 degrees turns when it involves my safety or the value-for-money equation.
Change is a wonderful thing but it takes time.
Innovation will ultimately allow companies to survive but it needs to be implemented in a way consistent with brand awareness otherwise you risk a great deal of liability, not to talk about the possibility to lose your customer base.
Needless to say I’m still hoping for the future of travel to go into the right direction and for the industry to re-start as soon as possible…after all, we’re better when we’re together!!