Today’s edition of Skift’s daily podcast looks at Accor's updated loyalty program, India's restored e-visas for Saudi travelers, and next-gen self-guided tours.
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Good morning from Skift. It’s Tuesday, March 14. Here’s what you need to know about the business of travel today.
Accor is the latest travel company to create a subscription-based product in an attempt to increase customer loyalty. The Paris-based hotel group of such brands as Ibis and Novotel is launching on Tuesday a global subscription card that provides access to discounts and other perks, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.
O’Neill writes that Accor’s new program All Plus will give travelers access to discounts at roughly 4,000 properties across 100 countries. The company had only offered subscription cards in a few markets, including India, China, and Brazil. Accor Chief Loyalty Officer Mehdi Hemici said the global subscription card would take market share away from its competitors. He added that the company’s tests revealed cardholders increased their Accor bookings by 10 percentage points.
In addition to the discounts, the global subscription card provides travelers the option of a check out as late as 3 p.m. O’Neill notes that companies and corporate travel programs can buy cards for their employees.
Next, India has taken another step to boost inbound tourism. The country recently restored e-visa services for Saudi Arabian citizens, writes Middle East and Asia Reporter Amrita Ghosh in Skift’s India Travel Daily newsletter.
The Indian Embassy in Saudi Arabia tweeted it had resumed services that were suspended during the pandemic. The embassy issues e-visas in five categories, including tourist and business. The move comes after Saudi Arabia had announced some exemptions for Indians seeking a visa to visit the country. Ghosh notes Saudi Arabia views India as an important tourism market, especially with the kingdom looking to attract 100 million annual visitors by 2030.
Finally, self-guided audio tours, which allow independent travelers to explore destinations at their own pace, are working to provide guests more emotional storytelling experiences instead of generic facts. Why? Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy writes that’s in response to competition from generative artificial intelligence, the emerging form of technology that includes the creation of images, audio and video.
Brophy writes that generative AI will force businesses to find ways to distinguish themselves from rivals likely to use the technology to pinpoint global positioning systems, or GPS. She cites VoiceMap as one platform that already offers GPS self-guided audio tours created by destination experts and storytellers. Founder and CEO Ian Manley said companies that provide unique perspectives are poised to attract guests willing to pay for their tours.
VoiceMap used GPS to develop a tour in Minneapolis centered on the life of iconic musician Prince. The tour featured narratives that one VoiceMap employee said were more interesting than facts guests would struggle to remember.
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