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During the June event in Silicon Valley, we heard from travel industry leaders across sectors about topics including personalization, distribution, and innovation. And after first speaking to them on stage, we took another few minutes with the executives to get more insight in our backstage Skift Take Studio.
It’s easy enough for a traveler to book a flight, choose a place to stay, or pick something to do on their trip.
But the real challenge for travel companies is to figure out what combination of those things a consumer will want and make suggestions that will feel crafted just for them, said Tony Donohoe, Expedia’s former chief technology offer, behind the scenes at Skift Tech Forum.
“There’s so much still to do on that personalization space,” said Donohoe, who has since left the company for an online lender. “It’s a difficult problem to solve to get the right trip in a person’s hands, and technology has a place there. It will not be done solely with a travel agent. There’s just too much information to parse.”
Travel companies can only do that, though, with some help from consumers in the form of “quite a bit” of information, Donohoe said.
“So at the discovery phase, are we able to put in front of you the exact right trip or combination of travel products that you want?” he said. “I believe that is what people are actually looking for. The basic table stakes of find a hotel, find a flight, choose an activity, that’s all there. But it’s pulling all of that together, knowing your personal situation, that’s the next wave of innovation, I believe, in the industry.”
Just this week, TripAdvisor announced a redesign that will highlight personalized recommendations from friends, influencers, celebrities, and publishers in an effort to provide more inspiration for those who are in the earliest stages of thinking about a vacation.
Back in June, Donohoe acknowledged that the use of personal information requires trust on the part of travelers and transparency from the companies that have access to the data.
“When the trust is broken, the customer will go away — and obviously, no company can survive when that situation happens,” he said. “So there’s the law and then there’s just doing the right thing, and I think we need to adhere to both.”