The digitally-enabled, smartphone-equipped, and experience-hungry millennial has already begun to create ripples in various industries, as companies scramble to evolve with the changing expectations and preferences of this vital consumer-demographic.
Their presence in the market has been changing how consumers, increasingly from different demographics, interact and engage with service providers. Consumers today are more tech-savvy and want more personalised and customised offerings.
A Goldman Sachs report indicates that millennials are more keen to have access to assets and luxury goods such as cars rather than owning them, preferring a sharing economy. A survey of internet users indicates that any delay in service — of even a few seconds such as when opening a website — can cause consumers to turn away. Most pressingly perhaps, consumers today are seeking engaging experiences. In a consumer-focused and experience-providing industry like travel, service providers are pushing the envelope of innovation each day to evolve and cater to this new set of prefences for today’s discerning customer.
Companies and service providers within the travel industry are adapting to these changes in consumer behaviour with great alacrity, and every link of the travel industry’s value chain has changed through the use of technology. Whether it is in the discovery of and research into various travel opportunities, the booking and payment for itineraries, or during the course of travel itself, technology has changed the travel experience indelibly.
Finding new travel options to experience is no longer reliant on distant word-of-mouth recommendations. There has been an explosive proliferation of virtual platforms providing detailed information about different travel experiences through text, pictures, and videos. With information more freely available, consumers are spending more time trying to find a unique kind of holiday, catering to their desires, instead of going to more conventional holiday destinations and making cliched travel plans.
Hobbyists and aficianados can use this information to both travel to the best spots and to engage in their favourite pastimes. Art lovers can take tours of Europe’s beautiful musuems like the Louvre or the Rijksmuseum; those insterested in scuba diving can go to Andaman for its beaches and pristine coral reefs and diving spots; and wildlife lovers can go to biodiversity hotspots the world over to spot exotic fauna and capture their images and memories forever. With data on travel options such as flights, trains, and cruises as well as interesting accommodation options such as hotels and homestays, consumers can find their favourite travel options easily.
Conventionally, once you had a clear idea of what your trip was going to be like, you’d head to the nearest travel agent and have them book all your travel tickets and make your hotel bookings. Today, consumers can book their entire holiday — from the tickets, accommodation to various tours and group activities they wish to participate in – virtually and instantly. The bundling of different experiences and being able to pay for them on one platform adds a level of convenience, transparency, and payment security that aids both the customers and the service providers. These platforms also enable customers to create complex itineraries, adding more variety and adventure to their travel — from getting the right guides for their tours to finding boutique hotels or immaculate homestays for their lodging needs. Different service providers can also create lucrative collaborations and partnerships, creating customised and attractive offerings that cater to a wider set of travellers and providing them with the kind of experiences that they specifically desire.
Travellers today want to not merely visit a location, but also immerse themselves in their surroundings and completely experience the journey, arrival, and their stay. Travel service providers use technology to make various options available to customers not only at the point of booking, but also throughout their journey. Using the digital medium to communicate with their customers, travel companies can send offers on-the-go to travelers, enabling them to curate new experiences in an instant and be more dynamic and adventurous during their travels. Hiring equipment — such as cameras or vehicles — becomes much easier through the adoption of technology. Tourists at a particular location can use their smartphones to find out more about activities in that place, and book and pay for them digitally, ensuring there are fewer missed opportunities to regret during their journey. Customers can choose to book and pay for an elephant safari at the last minute, or hire a vehicle for driving themselves around in an instant. This enables them to be in greater control of their journey, providing instant gratification and empowerment.
In many ways, service providers in the travel space are using technology to act not as tour guides, but as tour enablers. Technology and its applications are being used to empower a new generation of travelers into curating and finding the experiences they want, and living through them in the most convenient fashion plausible.
(The writer is co-founder and CEO, Toehold)