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Trip.com Group, Airbnb, and other online travel agencies have all made commitments to up their travel inspiration games. Pandemic uncertainties and anxieties will bolster their efforts.

Series: Dennis' Online Travel Briefing

Dennis' Online Travel Briefing

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, Executive Editor and online travel rockstar Dennis Schaal will bring readers exclusive reporting and insight into the business of online travel and digital booking, and how this sector has an impact across the travel industry.

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Online Travel This Week

(Editor’s note: Dennis’ Online Travel Briefing is taking some time off at the end of the year and will be back on Monday, January 5. Thank you for being loyal readers through the year. Here’s wishing you all the best in 2022.)

Online travel agencies from Booking.com to Tripadvisor, and airlines, including Emirates and easyJet, as well as hotels, have all dabbled with travel inspiration features over the years, but now online travel companies are approaching it in a much more strategic way.

The pandemic and travelers’ ambivalence about getting back on airplanes, and as well as fretting about which destination to visit amidst instantly and constantly changing travel restrictions, have propelled the trend, as well as Instagram’s power to visually nurture wanderlust.

Travel inspiration, after a fashion, has become an important function for Airbnb. With hundreds of millions of people visiting the Airbnb platform without a destination in mind or even having pre-determined travel dates, Airbnb launched an “I’m Flexible” search feature earlier this year for the undecided traveler. The company uses it to point travelers toward destinations where it has available homes, and the company can use it to deter visits to over-touristed areas where there are no vacancies.

In China, Trip.com Group is diversifying its revenue streams by developing a media and content business open to partners. “Our content channel is not only an inspiration hub for travelers, but it’s also a platform where business partners can showcase their products and interact with Trip.com Group to the high-quality users,” said co-founder and Executive Chairman Jianzhang Liang during an earnings call a week ago.

He said 30-35 percent of the company’s app users browse partner content, and they buy travel at a higher conversion rate than app users who don’t view that content.

Among others tapping into the travel inspiration trend are Booking Holdings, which has stated its brands will likely get more active in social, and Trivago acquired Weekend.com and has plans to play heavier with travel inspiration now that it is taking bookings for holiday packages.

Travel companies tend to lean heavier into travel inspiration coming out of crises such as 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Covid-19 pandemic.

But it’s unclear how effective travel inspiration drives can be for booking sites. A huge roster of travel startups specializing in travel inspiration failed over the years because they couldn’t smoothly transition travelers from inspiring them to go somewhere and then actually buying a ticket on their sites.

“Two things are different right now: First, organizations like destination marketing organizations (DMOs) around the world, which are measured by inspiring travel to their market, are leading the recovery effort and investing in marketing to drive tourism that supports local accommodations and activities providers,” said Kurt Weinsheimer, chief solutions officer at Sojern. “Second, consumer travel is more unpredictable with pent-up demand that could be unleashed due to travel opening etc. versus traditional travel periods. So you actually have a chance to inspire travel more today than in the past.” 

Amir Eylon, the CEO of Longwoods International, said it remains to be seen whether the turn toward travel inspiration will work.

“So the brands are jumping up-funnel, and now Instagram and TikTok offer new social tools for quick emotional pulls and instant feedback,” Eylon said. “Will it work? The jury is out. DMOs excel in it as they are great curators of content. The brands tend to come off looking pitchy in the eyes of the consumer if not executed well.”

In Brief

Trip.com Group Adds Chinese Name

At its annual meeting, Trip.com Group added a dual foreign name, 攜程集團有限公司, which translates from Chinese to Ctrip Group Co. Ltd. The company is now listed on both the Nasdaq and Hong Kong stock exchanges.

Vacasa Share Price Takes a Beating

Property manager Vacasa, which started trading on Nasdaq in a blank check merger deal on December 7 at $10.99 per share, was trading late Tuesday afternoon at $8 per share, which is around a 27 percent drop. Not an auspicious beginning, but it’s early days for Vacasa.

Airbnb and Vrbo Start Sharing Data

Vrbo and Airbnb started sharing data on problematic listings where house parties tend to take place. So far they are not sending information back and forth on guests who book those and other listings for blowout parties, but that could come eventually. Skift

Paris Tightens Rules on Converting Shops to Short-Term Rentals

Short-term rentals aren’t merely crimping affordable housing, but they are adversely impacting commercial establishments, so Paris tightened restrictions on converting businesses into short-term rentals. The city would bar such conversions if they hurt jobs, housing or commerce. Reuters/Skift

Editor’s note: Dennis’ Online Travel Briefing is taking time off at the end of the year and will be back on Wednesday, January 5. Thank you for being loyal readers throughout the year. Let’s do it again in 2022.

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Tags: airbnb, booking holdings, Dennis' Online Travel Briefing, instagram, online travel agencies, otas, paris, short-term rentals, travel inspiration, trip.com group, trivago, vacasa, vrbo

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