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In the past decade, online travel has prioritized logistics over experiences. Still, advancements in AI are set to reverse this focus, placing the experience at the center of why consumers choose to travel.

Today’s travelers are in pursuit of emotional engagement, meaningful connections, and memorable moments, and AI is going to be a pivotal tool in fulfilling these desires.

That’s according to Johannes Reck, GetYourGuide CEO and co-founder, at the 10th annual Skift Global Forum. Reck encouraged businesses to integrate experience-driven strategies, which he believes will be at the heart of why consumers travel going forward.

Watch the full keynote address made by Reck:

Johannes Reck: Good afternoon, New York City. Thank you so much for having me.

My name is Johannes Reck and I’m the CEO and co-founder of GetYourGuide, the globally leading marketplace for travel experiences.

Now in this talk, I would love to talk to you about the travel experiences category and what awaits us over the next 10 years just as how AI is actually transforming and augmenting how experiences actually work.

But before I get into the details, let me give you some context on our market.

The travel experiences market is a $320 billion market. So that’s all of the things that actually people do when they travel, from attraction tickets, so think about the top of the rock or the edge observation deck here, all the way to the Statue of Liberty Cruise that I did last night with my team or all of the other fun things like a Brooklyn Pizza tour that you can do here in New York City.

So all of that is $320 billion a year. A massive market that is fast-growing at a clip of more than 10% per annum. Now all of that sits squarely into $1.4 trillion market of at-home experiences. So this actually goes beyond travel, and this includes things like the New York Yankees, for instance, that you might want to do on the weekend or something like the cinema or even the local spa salon.

So this is a monumentally large market, one of the largest untapped markets and consumer internet to the present day. And what’s even most striking about this is provided by more than 850,000 businesses worldwide.

So let’s take a look at these businesses and who they really are.

On average, they employ less than five people, so really small, medium-sized companies, and they welcome fewer than 5,000 guests any given year. Those are not businesses that have large operational departments or engineers.

And what’s most striking is that only roughly 30% of the transactions in our space are being transacted online right now outlining the opportunity over the next 10 years that leading marketplaces in the experiences economy like GetYourGuide have.

Now, let’s take a look at this from the lens of the consumer.

The consumer, when they think about experiences have three things in mind. Number one is connection, emotion, and unlocking unforgettable memories.

And all of that is going to be transformed by AI in the future.

But before we get into how AI is actually working its magic in the experiences category, let’s take a brief look here on how travel search and discovery and experiences actually works today. It is very much a translation of what has happened in flight, hotels, and alternative accommodation over the last 10 years.

It’s really about typing in a destination and then putting down a couple of filters and then some more filters. And it’s really imperfect. This is humans’ best guess of what people are interested in. It’s very mechanical to the present day, and it does not actually take into account how you want to feel when you travel.

And that is precisely the difference that we at GetYourGuide believe AI can make for search and discovery over the next 10 years.

So when… Wait a minute. When we launched AI, when ChatGPT came onto the stage and we immediately jumped on it and we built a plugin on the platform that we also launched in our search and discovery flow, we realized the power of harnessing data to serve up very unique recommendations. So immediately we were able to ask much more complex queries such as, “I’m going to Milan over the weekend with my kids and family and I’m interested in something cultural,” right? So suddenly it’s possible to have these much more complex queries and to answer them.

However, at the same point in time, we also realized that for the consumer, this is still way too complicated. Your consumer doesn’t search in such complex ways.

The consumer is still used to the old ways of doing things. And if you ask me, I think it’s very unlikely that any consumer will change that over the next couple of years. This is just not how we function. This is too complex. You can’t demand that.

So if you ask me, this is not the future of AI and travel, but it will be way more immersive than that. So what we are seeing is that consumers are interacting with our content more than ever before. So when we are launching new video formats, review formats, richer content, we can collect a lot of data signals that very intuitively give the signals to the AI on what type of experiences actually work for customers. And that immersive way of training the AI is actually the future of what will work in experiences.

And that is incredibly exciting to me because that leads us straight back to the founding story of GetYourGuide and Why We created this company in the first place.

So this is me and my co-founder, Tao Tao, in the year 2008, I made a mistake. I booked a trip to Beijing and went one day early and I as the explorer wanted to immediately see and immerse myself in the city.

And it didn’t work because there was no infrastructure online back then where you could book experiences.

And one day later when Tao came and became my guide, he opened up the city in a way that I could have never experienced it just by myself. He guided me to the summer palace. We saw the hidden and forbidden city. We ate Beijing duck in a way that I have never done it ever since, and I could have never imagined it, but not everyone can be so lucky to have this sort of personal tour guide and we want to leave this type of experiences up to chance in the future.

So now think about the present. Think about a couple going to Paris. They’ve just put their kids to the nanny. They have a couple of hours free, they want to do something romantic. I can very much empathize with that myself. I have two young kids and any one of you who has these few precious hours with their loved ones can probably relate to this story.

So how can the AI now pick up the signals immediately of what they want to do?

So they will interact with our content and immediately the AI will understand that they have a couple of hours free and that they want to do something romantic. The AI will guide them to the perfect places of where they can see things, where they might do a food or macaron class where they can have a quick river cruise. It can stitch together the itinerary in a very dynamic way, leading them to the best food experience, the best local and authentic things that are available that given day.

And through that, they will transform the customer journey, not with long text boxes, but with immersive and interactive content.

And that is very much the future of AI in the experiences industry.

Now let’s flip it to the other side of the marketplace and think about the supplier, the experienced supplier that I talked about at the very beginning, the small medium-sized businesses that are creating the next new innovative ideas on how they can serve customers in a better way.

For suppliers, we have three core pillars on how we imagine that they can serve customers in a better way. It’s operations, it’s insights, and it is content.

So let’s start with the operations for a minute. Being a supplier today is very hard because what you do most time in the day is actually not doing the things that you love to do. It’s not serving the customers, it is not being out during the experiences, but instead it is actually operating across a myriad of different platforms where you need to put in your availability, the up-to-date pricing, maybe some sort of discount.

You have issues with customers on trip, you need to track your vehicles and all of that. These operations will be taken away by the AI in the future so that you can focus on what you’re really passionate about and that is your business, your creativity.

The other piece I’m equally excited about is insights. We see that new experience businesses are coming up all of the time serving new and diverse customer tastes and customer profiles, whether that’s the movie tour in Croatia following Game of Thrones, or whether that might be the very new immersive food experience here in New York City.

Those are the types of tastes that we want to relay to the supply community so that they can come up and create a lot more content and a lot more experiences in real time responding to customer needs. And that in turn, and I predict that, will lead to millions of more experiences being created on our marketplace over the next decade fueling the need of the experience economy and the craving for new and better content.

And that brings me to the last piece, creating that content online might seem very intuitive for people like ourselves here in New York City, a city that is at the heart of the American tourism economy where everyone speaks English and where you have great literacy of online tooling. The reality, the vast majority of the travel industry is not like that. Think about the local supplier in Columbia. Think about the Andalusian tour guide.

Those people need tools so that they can create content at scale for multiple languages. And that is already provided by our AI tools today. We have recently tested that machine translation is actually surpassing human translation in performance, which essentially means that any local business can now create content for a global audience in all languages at any given point in time.

And I predict that over the next one or two years, we’ll see the same thing in photography and we’ll even see the same thing in videography. And that is much, much closer to today than we think.

So in a nutshell, what we’ll create in the experiences economy over the next couple of years is matching customer demand much more fluidly with supply and creating millions of new experiences to cater to the much more diverse and unique customer needs that we have today. Second, we’ll do that while making our supplier community a lot more efficient and better at serving the customers, thereby overall lifting the quality of the experiences on the platform and being accountable to customers for having incredible memories.

And last but not least, this industry was originally created by paper guidebook companies, but the future is no longer the guided book or even any type of static content. It will be dynamic, immersive category-defining content that will always keep on moving. And that is what AI will be able to provide all of our creator community that work with us or our supply community. And I can’t wait for that next level of content to materialize because I think it’ll represent the destination and unique things that you can experience in a much richer way than before.

Through that, we will change travel. And here’s why. The last 10 years of travel, of online travel, these very standardized booking marketplaces has been a permit that’s been built on logistics, logistics around accommodation and how you get to a destination.

And at the very top as an add-on was the experience. Now, I believe that through AI and the much more immersive content that awaits us over the next couple of years, this pyramid will be inverted. And at the tip of the pyramid, at the core of the itinerary, the reason why you travel and why you plan will be the experience and the logistics will just take care of itself.

They will go to the background and we will not spend a lot of time thinking about it. And with that thought, I want to leave you thinking about how experiences can actually be part of your business strategy in the future because very clearly they will be at the heart of what consumers dream about what they crave over the coming decade.

Thank you very much.

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Tags: artificial intelligence, experiences, getyourguide, online booking, sgf2023, tours and activities, travel tech

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