Posts Tagged travel

Ready for Takeoff: Three trends for riding the wave with travelers of the future

It feels like everyone is constantly on vacation – and filling up our Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook feeds with the minute details of their flight paths, what they are eating, and the amazing adventures they are enjoying. Taking ‘bragcations’ have become so ubiquitous that you are probably starting to wonder how people in your network have both the time and the money to do so –  and when your next vacation is!

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This should be only good news for Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), as 90% of travelers have online touchpoints for research or booking, up from 58% in 2006, according to a study conducted with high-end Chinese travelers by GfK. Furthermore, this trend is moving into mobile – by the end of 2016, the majority of online travel bookers from the US will use their mobile device to book their travel according to emarketer’s estimates of digital and travel research and booking.

From a business perspective, the name of the game is consolidation as Expedia and Priceline together own 95% of the market share following their acquisitions in recent years. This is spurred by the need for volume to make up for the small amount they make on every transaction. Their shared scale gives them enhanced negotiating power with their travel partners. The individual OTAs appear untouched by the holding companies to keep brand loyalists on board and keep their business models differentiated. For instance, when Expedia acquired Travelocity in January 2015 for $280 million in cash, it was a stated strategy that they would leave the Travelocity brand intact – with Expedia’s brand spokesperson quoted as saying “the Travelocity team will be part of the Brand Expedia group within the Expedia, Inc. family allowing it to tap into Brand Expedia’s scale and expertise while still maintaining a strong independent brand.”

However, from a consumer point of view, it can feel like there are too many places to start looking  – KAYAK, Trivago, Booking.com – the list goes on. The number of startup options is overwhelming too – with Hipmunk, Skiplagged, Hotel Tonight and others all trying to reinvent how we book and experience travel. The plethora of choices available to help you make your choices can stop you in your tracks before you even start exploring your next trip. Consumers often resort to being price-driven (rather than brand-driven) since they can’t make sense of all the places to look.

Given this competitive climate, how can OTAs make meaningful, differentiated stakes in the ground about why to go with them?

Future traveler trends lend themselves to provocations of how OTAs to ride the wave to win with the traveler of the future:

  • Travelers are looking for more ways to discover and explore their next travel experience before they book to make sure they are making the right choice for them – while also feeling like they are getting a unique experience that hasn’t been done a million times before.
    • How can OTAs extend the enjoyment of the travel experience to booking by making discovery and exploration a thrilling part of process – rather than a price-driven item on the ‘to do’ list?
    • How can OTAs share a bit of the experience to come while keeping some of mystery of what is to be discovered (akin to what a movie trailer is to a full-length feature)?
    • What is the potential for interactive video content and virtual reality technology that can immerse travelers in a travel experience before any money is put on the line?

  • There is also a shift towards seeking more authentic and localized experiences while traveling (this is in stark contrast to the cookie cutter, consistent experiences that ruled the early stages of travel).
    • How can OTAs tie meaningful local experiences into their suggestions and offerings?
    • Could offering homestays, connections with local “peers,” and experiences that can’t be found in guidebooks give OTAs a unique edge in the market?
    • What is the potential for AI-enabled digital assistants to develop highly personalized travel plans without the time commitment on the part of the traveler?

  • Travelers are looking for vacations that help them escape from their daily lives – and the mental escape is just as important – if not more important – than the physical escape.
    • How can OTAs offer peace of mind regarding the traveler’s home life while they are on the road (for instance providing services to assure travels that their home is secure)?
    • What are options for helping travelers mentally escape from their work obligations in this age of always-on connectivity?

While the travel booking market is saturated in terms of number of players, OTAs can cut through the competition by innovating from a consumer benefit point of view. Meaningful differentiation can arise by understanding the core needs travelers have today and tomorrow, then ideating on how your business can solve for these needs to fit into their lives. The outer bounds of consumer wanderlust are yet to be seen — and the potential for growth within the travel industry is immense.

At antedote, we love to hunt down new opportunities for our clients and have a range of approaches and award-winning tools and techniques to do this. Get in touch with us at hello@antedote.com to learn more.

Innovating for a New Breed of Business Travellers – Part 2

In our previous blog post, we looked at three ways companies are innovating to capture the hearts and budgets of a new generation of business travelers. This week, we’ll take a look at two more ways the industry is getting a refresh in the last part of our 2 part blog series.

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Image Credit: Hotel Chatter

Are you traveling for business or pleasure?

Well, why not make the best of both?

A business trip to Europe you say? Fantastic, let’s book some personal days to enjoy a Paris detour on the backend of that corporate trip.

You aren’t alone in combining some personal vacation with your business travel. In fact, 83% of travellers use time on business trips to explore the city they’re visiting, with nearly half adding personal travel days to their business trips, according to a report from Bridgestreet Global Hospitality. Great news for the travel industry!

Built with ‘Bleisure’ in mind

“Bleisure” is the growing global trend in the travel industry as the worlds of business traveling and leisure traveling blur.

How is the hospitality industry leveraging this trend?

Hyatt Centric has done a great job serving as a basecamp to their guests’ city excursions. They have defined a clear target audience: Wish-Listers, who want to experience a destination’s iconic activities. In response, Hyatt Centric lobbies feature areas defined as “The Corner” with books and magazines that provide insight into the local destination.

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Many hotels are also recognizing that guests enjoy travelling with their pets, to bring a piece of comfort and home on their trips. Enter programs like Kimpton Hotel’s Very Important Pets and W Hotels’ Pets Are Welcome (P.A.W), offering plush pet-bed loaners in your guest room, food, water bowls and mats, and a concierge list of nearby pet-friendly restaurants, parks, groomers and pet boutiques. The recently opened Virgin Hotels also has pet-friendly rooms, complete with a dog statue outside the door to watch over you.

Common Clubs Innovation SpaceImage Credit: Upgrd.com

The Bleisure movement is also reshaping how we design communal spaces. Hotels are providing a new type of multifunctional space for teams to work, socialize, or just people watch. Virgin Hotels’ Commons Club is a dynamic hybrid of bar/lounge, laid-back study and restaurant with a private members club vibe, featuring a 24-hour library, social hour, and restaurant all in one.

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Image Credit: Breather

If you’re looking for a new type of meeting space outside of a hotel, Breather is an Airbnb-like app that lets you book a non-typical, home-like space to work, meet or relax by the hour, or for the day. It is available in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Ottawa, and Montreal, with more markets to come.

Convenience maximus pre and post trip

Business travel is taxing, so services that reduce travel stress are more than welcomed. Although hotels have made a good start to up their game to match guests’ demanding expectations for convenience, offering services such as mobile check ins and keyless doors on their trip, other companies outside the hotel industry are providing truly breakthrough solutions to proactively reduce travel frustrations pre and post-trip.

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DUFL Virtual closet is revolutionizing the way we prepare for travel by removing the pain of packing, checking in, and lugging around suitcases. For $9.99/month and $99 per round trip, you don’t have to pack anything at all. Your clothes will be shipped to your hotel, then cleaned and stored in DUFL’s virtual closet, ready to be used on your next trip.

The team at Antedote are also using apps to simplify our travel logistics. Egencia (the business arm of Expedia) is an online travel booking platform which can follow customized travel policies to manage travel costs, and has flexible options like day-of-arrival hotel cancellations. Expensify is an app for easy expenses, which lets you pull expense records directly from your credit card account, and photo log your receipts in real time, so you don’t end up with a huge stack of receipts in your wallet when you come back from your business trip.

The fact that a slew of new technology and service companies are popping up to cater to the needs of travelers that typical hospitality providers have not yet catered to before is a wake up call for the hospitality industry to take on a more future-focused and proactive approach to innovation. Rather than focusing on the typical touchpoints every hotel and travel brand is already thinking about, how can we leverage the larger cultural and macro trends at play, which are changing the role of travel in consumers’ lives, and identify new touchpoints to connect with consumers? Through pushing the boundaries of what the industry is ‘expected’ to provide, we can think of new ways to win consumers, fixing problems and creating delight where they didn’t realize they needed new solutions for.

Innovating for a New Breed of Business Travellers – Part 1

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Image Credit: Starlab Tumblr

[first of 2 part blog series]

Part of the perks and woes of my job as a consultant is the frequent travel. It’s the easiest conversation starter that sparks passionate debate with the people I meet. While it definitely helps rack up the loyalty points and has it’s adventurous allure, the reality is that constant travel is grueling, and has been lacking in freshness in recent years. The expectations of business travel have also evolved – with company travel bans and more frugal budgets, the days of decadent schmoozing trips are long gone. The new business traveller, especially millennials, have developed a new set of expectations, and the industry is finally starting to catch on.

Here’s the first of a two part series on the hospitality industry’s much needed innovation refresh.

Buzzworthy, budget-smart

The new business traveller still wants unique experiences that can make work trips more delightful and story-worthy, but they want smart finds that show they are sensitive about the way they spend the company’s money.

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Image Credit: Wired

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Image Credit: USA Today

Jetblue recently launched Jetblue mint, a premium coast-to-coast flight service that got tech execs all excited, even warranting a tweet from LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner. Boasting lie-flat beds with massage function, a small-plates menu created in partnership with new York restaurant Saxon + Parole, and a take home Birchbox amenity kit, the service is available on two routes: JFK to SFO, and JFK to LAX. Starting from $599, it is stunningly half the price of traditional first class tickets.

Non-traditional players like Airbnb are also targeting the business traveller with its corporate program, a great option for longer trips which give travellers a more home-like experience with kitchen and laundry facilities, which could help companies save in the long run.

New Millennial lifestyle brands

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Image Credit: Aloft Hotels

The big hotel brands are also taking notice of the shifting landscape, launching new lifestyle brands with the millennial traveler in mind, such as Hyatt Centric, AC Marriott, Aloft hotels, Radisson Red, and Canopy by Hilton – all of them aiming to become destination hubs for both locals and visitors, featuring convenient locations, bold, modern design and technology, cocktail culture and mingling spaces, with special attention on health and wellness. They are a welcome breath of fresh air for those looking for an alternative to the usual expensive, overly corporate and stuffy, dated options.

Co-creating with a tech-fluent generation

It’s accepted now that the modern traveller is tech-obsessed and always connected. What the travel industry is also recognizing is that this techy generation is opinionated, and not shy to share their ideas. Connected guests will not only know all about your brand but will have formed an opinion about your brand way before they even step foot in your door.

So rather than innovate for them, why not innovate with them? Especially with those who are your self-appointed brand ambassadors.

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Image Credit: Starlab Tumblr

Take Starwood for instance, who recently launched Starlabs (an innovation incubator space blending design, technology and luxury), where associates, owners, developers, customers and partners can converge and scope out the latest guest technology shaping the hotel of the future, such as keyless entry, BotIr robotic butlers, Oculus bikes, smart mirrors & vanities and more.

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Image Credit: Starlab Tumblr

Marriott Hotels also launched an online co-creation platform where anyone can submit new ideas, and fellow travellers can vote on which ones are most brilliant. The winning idea of 2014 is a bartenders in residence program, which is now being launched at select Marriott properties.

With the emergence of these new co-creating platforms, hotels are positioned to launch successful experiences that will resonate with their guests.

Stay tuned for the second part of the series to learn other ways that hotels have been innovating hospitality, through bleisure and convenience maximus.

Travel Innovation: Virtual Reality Takes Off

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An industry first, Qantas Airways together with Samsung recently introduced a 360 degree Virtual Reality experience for their travelers. Now on select flights, First Class travelers will be able to be transport to any virtual world (imagine immersing yourself in your favorite blockbuster movie or exploring tourist sites of your final destination before you even land) during their long 14 hour flight from Australia to Los Angeles.

At antedote, we thrive on tapping into the newest technology to uncover new insights and drive innovation for our clients. That is why we love watching how different sectors integrate emerging technology and are following the evolution of this exciting new medium as it moves from gaming to travel.

As virtual reality becomes even more refined and more realistic, researchers can also look forward to leveraging the technology to create immersive experiences for subjects in conceptual scenarios, without spending money or time creating physical prototypes.

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Innovations of all shapes and sizes that I came across in my travels

Bonne Maman

Clean, simple (and cost effective) single serve jam…

How many times have you fumbled with those circa 1970 tiny square plastic single serve jams, or worse, been subjected to the petri dish communal jam pots? Now no doubt the cynics among you are thinking “hey what about those little glass jars?” Agreed, the mini jars are great, although what about the waste? What about the cost to the proprietor? Someone is paying for that thing.

So I was out for brunch this past weekend and noticed this little pot of jam on the table and thought “what a great example of simple packaging innovation.” Clean, simple, cost effective for the business–and a single serve!

This might not be one of those innovations that wins awards or gets talked about in job interviews, yet I think it is worth a mention. Sometimes the little incremental improvements can make all the difference to the overall experience for the customer and in this case for the small business owner too.

*served at Katy’s Place Carmel

… And a product that promised to combat the effects of jetlag

On a recent trip to Australia I came across 1Above at the airport. It was the first time I had seen a product available that promised to combat the effects of jetlag. The brochure I picked up informed me that the founder, a young New Zealander from memory, came up with the idea after filling two passports before the age of 30 and discovering long haul flying seemed to be getting tougher not easier. Being a too frequent flier myself, I purchased every variant and decided to put it to the test.

Like most people who travel too much, we never have a great deal of time at the airport, so without reading the labels I grabbed the two different sizes that were on shelf and ran to my gate.

Upon boarding the plane, I took a closer look…

The large water bottle option was great; it came ready mixed and had a lid-come-cup which made drinking less medicinal and more pleasurable. The downside: it was kind of expensive, and I could only buy one due to my later plane change and the TSA liquid regulations.

The concentrated bottles were excellent in theory, fit the TSA regulations (under 100mls)–smart–in fact, I had bought several of these so I had a stock supply for future use.

The ingredients are basically a combination of sugar and salt (electrolytes), with a few other vitamins and minerals thrown in. I understand the basic chemistry of our body; I get you need to stay hydrated when flying and a concentrated delivery of electrolytes is better than water alone. That said, it was a lot of money for bunch of electrolytes.

The recommended dose? I needed to drink 6 liters of this stuff to get the desired result. That was a piece of information I wish I had known at point of purchase–there goes my stock supply! And hold on, I would not be able to fit enough of these in my TSA designated clear plastic bag–well that’s an oversight.

I was willing to play though, and pay. Jetlag is tough for me these days and only getting worse. So I settled in and started drinking 1Above. The taste was fine, I had heard from the shop attendant that her boyfriend didn’t like the taste. It wasn’t something you would order in a restaurant, but it didn’t bother me.

I quickly consumed my ready made bottle and then went to mix up one of the concentrated versions – decanting into the large bottle of course – genius. The only downside was the flight attendants were not that keen on giving up that much water, and I was flying business class! Eventually I was successful and by the time I needed to make up the next bottle there had been a change of crew, so it wasn’t as difficult.

I diligently drank the required amount (with frequent bathroom breaks) for the duration of the flight. When I landed I felt more hydrated and I didn’t experience the cracked lips, dry skin or sinuses discomfort that I had experienced in the past. Sleeping pattern? Sadly this drink made absolutely no difference whatsoever. Same old 3am wake-ups for the next week.

Would I buy the product again? Absolutely. Do I think it had any impact on jetlag? Not at all.

This product is ripe for repositioning as a personal care product. In fact I might just contact the owners…

Travel is one of the best ways to discover new innovations–from small incremental improvements in commercial innovation to transforming existing technologies into new product innovation.