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Competing with Technology

Written by  Douglas Cooke

At the advent of the internet, consumers had a new medium to research and book their own trips. No longer were computerized air, hotel and car rental inventories the exclusive domain of travel agents. Consumers were able to use the early online booking engines like Travelocity and Expedia to book their own travel arrangements.

The next generation of travel technology introduced “consumer review” type sites like Tripadvisor and these features were quickly added to the online booking engines. Now consumers had a way to “qualify” hotels and resorts. Did they really need a travel agent when they had peer reviews to rely on? The answer of course is yes. Consumer reviews tend to be slanted toward either exceptionally good or exceptionally bad experiences. Reviews are extremely subjective and there is no way to qualify the expectations or travel worldliness of the reviewer. Nonetheless, many people rely on these reviews instead of seeking
professional advice.
Today, sites like Airbnb pose a challenge to both the travel professional and hotel chains alike. Business and leisure travelers now have significantly more choices when it comes to accommodations, and so far there is no place in this distribution chain for travel agents. Especially in major cities, these alternative stay choices offer better pricing and amenities like wifi, free parking and flexible check-in. They also often offer a very personal touch desired by today’s traveler and so often lacking in standard hotel accommodations. Airbnb for Business is now available for corporations to establish accounts, and enables corporate travelers to book an Airbnb room/apartment and charge it directly to their company’s account. Where is the travel professional’s place in this business model?
Recently, a press release came across my desk from a company called Zipskee. This new platform claims to mirror the way a younger generation likes to travel, which is to look for more “real” cultural experiences that are often off the beaten, less-traveled path. Although they aren’t purposefully looking to upend the paid for tour industry, this new approach to travel is quickly taking hold with today’s millennials.
Zipskee works by providing a platform where travelers and guides set up a profile based on languages, locations and interests. With this information, users are matched so that travelers and guides in different cities are created. Once connected, travelers and guides communicate over Zipskee’s intuitive chat systems, where users ask for recommendations or even to meet-up. Users are ranked and reviews are posted so travelers can feel safe making these connections.
My question to our readers is this: how are you competing or embracing these new technologies? We will be posing this question on our Facebook page, JAX FAX Travel Marketing Magazine and I invite you to share your thoughts and experiences regarding these new technologies with your industry peers.

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