The pandemic indeed has been a portal to change in so many ways, and the innovation is coming at the edges as it always does. Here are some of the reasons why I am excited about the travel industry today, almost a decade into running and building Skift.
The time right after our flagship conference Skift Global Forum, from around mid-September ’til the end of November, is the most intellectually invigorating weeks for all of us at Skift. It is the weeks full of planning and possibilities for the next year. Our heads are filled with optimism for the coming year, and so much deep thought goes into how our editorial and research coverage will evolve over the coming months and year. Also, this is just a few weeks prior to our biggest editorial franchise of the year, the Megatrends Defining The Future of Travel, which we launch in mid-January as a look forward to the year in travel.
All of this worked until the pandemic hit, and as you can imagine the fall of 2020 was a bit of a downer when it came to optimism for the next year, though it has turned out a lot better than what the year-ago sentiment would have anyone believing in travel — including our most optimistic prognostications.
As the travel industry makes its ferocious recovery back, evidenced by the earnings of most major players in airlines, hotels, online travel, and by the comeback of events this fall and the early recovery in business travel, I am excited about lots of innovation happening all across.
The pandemic indeed has been a portal to change in so many ways, and the innovation is coming at the edges as it always does. Here are some of the reasons — not in particular order of importance — of why I am excited about the travel industry today, almost a decade into running and building Skift. Many of these below will define our coverage through 2022 and beyond.
- Financialization of travel booking, including innovations through companies such Hopper, Affirm etc. Buy-Now-Pay-Later (BNPL) has real use cases within travel and expands the market. Lots of innovations happening in payments in travel, including in hotels.
- Seamless local transit possible though wallets such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and others, fulfilling a long time tech dream. Example: London local transit through trains & buses is so much easier as a result of using mobile wallets, for the benefit of families. Add Clear-type biometric services adoption that has accelerated in a big way in the pandemic times, and you can see contours of the seamless travel vision coming through.
- Family travel awareness, including long stays, home-like lodgings, need for flexibility in all sense of that phrase, and need for healthier alternatives all cross the travel value chain.
- Real awareness of travel’s extractive effects on the world, and while we should be skeptical of greenwashing in travel, lots of tech, creative & social innovations to come in travel as a result.
- Contactless adoption at hotels’ airports, restaurants and others, including QR codes and mobile keys, and more to come.
- On-demandification, unbundling — and rebundling again — of travel packages and services, at airports, airlines, hotels, online travel, and more.
- Customer service innovations to come online, including DIY, flexibility of dates and packages, as pandemic showed the need for it and different ways to monetize it.
- Continued strength of domestic travel, which means hyper local marketing through tech and data is very important.
- Better understanding/awareness of labor conditions in travel, through the Great Resignation that has led to lot of upheaval in the industry but also lot more upskilling and innovations to come.
- New forms of business travel including bringing distributed teams together, potentially replacing lost business travel due to tech alternatives.
- Speaking of tech, lots of new forms of interaction tech to come, including for events. Zoom is only version 0.1 of the revolution, wait till this looks practically obsolete in the next three to five years. Sure, metaverse is a buzzword now, but has real implications for business travel and especially events industry.
- Attempts at being the superapp of travel, meaning attempts to reduce channel proliferation.
- Mobility of humans, passports, everything, à la what author Parag Khanna said in his new book “Move.”
- Rise of subscriptions and memberships in travel, leading to real loyalty.
- Everyone wants to lower marketing costs post pandemic, meaning more creative innovation to come, including emphasis on brand marketing and spreading money beyond Google.
- Changing of travel booking windows which means possibly new behaviors and new business models to come. Digital nomads and long stays is just the beginning of the manifestations of this.
- New creativity coming into travel advertising to spur demand, as evidenced by new, now-viral campaigns by Travel Oregon and Visit Iceland, and hopefully more to come.