Moving Beyond the Itinerary-Why Travel Today is More About the Unknown Than the Famous
The key insight into understanding why the travel industry is shifting from package tours to independent journeys
The waves sing the songs of the seas, as you sit under a beach umbrella sipping on your favourite drink and savouring some seafood. Both were bought using the first of the forex you so carefully calculated and carried, that tension slowly leaving your mind. Your taxi waits closer to the parking area, ready to take you back to your quaint guesthouse. Not too far from it is the market area, full of local delicacies and bustling shops, waiting for you to try your luck at bargaining. Later today, you’re going on a hike that you found on your travel app, and tomorrow, your favourite activity - scuba diving! The next few days are full of activity and adventure, all in your style. It’s here, finally, you’re on a holiday!
Travel involves a number of factors, even for a spontaneous trip. When is the last time you travelled without thinking about transport, accommodation, good food and money? Not an unplanned, but an unprepared trip?
The world of travel has moved on from companies and agents promising to take over the industry by throwing around tours and packages to the internet taking them over. Armed with a smartphone, every traveller today is an information source all by themselves, with the best insights, deals and offers in the world (and about the world!) at their fingertips. What are they looking for then? Experiences, the more exotic, the better.
According to the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), India alone will account for 50 million outbound tourists by 2020. The ever-increasing ease of travel planning has helped people become independent while booking their trips and taking faster decisions, resulting in a greater number of trips that are not dependent on third-party facilitators. Here are the factors that have made way for this sea of change:
Access to Information is Super-Fast and Easy
Booking transportation, accommodation to even dinner at the best Chinese restaurant in a place you are visiting for the first time, everything is possible in a few clicks. With so many options, customers are moving away from prioritizing convenience with customization, since the former is a given. Just like clothing, no two groups want their vacation stories/pictures to sound or look exactly the same. Everyone today wants something unique, that little ‘off-the-beaten-track’ experience while being completely in control. As a result, travellers seek a lot more in-depth information about a particular place, as they do not want to be dependent on travel service providers.
FOMO Concerns-Social Media Drives a Shift in ‘Travel Mentality’
A recent report suggested that 52% of Facebook users dream about a vacation when they are on the platform, even when they are not planning a specific trip, due to the fear of missing out on what others of their group are experiencing. People spend a number of hours on Google searches and weeding through social media forums looking for that perfect ‘Insta-worthy’ travel destination or experience. This has made user-generated content and peer-to-peer reviews a popular source of inspiration for young travellers, often acting as the first nudge to make a trip.
Travel influencers are a thing, but people also plan entire trips based on the pictures they’ve seen on their friends’ social media feeds. Either that or, with some aspirational value, they post a number of photos as part of their ‘bucket lists’ of the coolest travel spots. The millennial generation, in particular, is inspired to travel based on movies like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Queen. People are talking more and more about places to go and things to see, while stressing on the ‘Do you know about….?’ phrase. Exclusivity has assumed paramount importance, and being able to do the things they like in these new places is a high priority.
Travel Enterprises Not Being Able to Keep Up With the Expectation of Experiences
Due to the shift in the mentality of travellers, tour and package companies find it extremely difficult to keep up with the diverse demands of travellers today. Instead, travel aficionados prefer to create a travel bundle of their own from the ground up, picking and choosing the product and service for a highly customized and micro-targeted trip. It always has room for ‘improvisations’, with ample scope for unexpected halts. New age enterprises then, need to evolve their products that can enrich this ‘uncertain’ experience further, by ensuring that a traveller is able to cater to all reasonable whims in the most convenient and secure way. There is no harm in seeking new experiences, as when everything is over, the vacation uploads become old and the frequency of likes decrease, it is the stories and experience that one still carries with them.
The generation of online travel portals surely made booking flights, hotels and activities easier for travellers, giving them freedom of choice and the independence to plan. However, the new wave of travel companies is catering not just to booking travel and accommodation, but instead, to booking experiences and personalisation of every aspect of one’s trip. With the level of flexibility they provide that caters to every little need of a traveller, this is the wave that is taking over the travel industry of the present and will define it in the future. We live in a time when it’s no longer just the travel destinations that matter, but instead about the options, and the many experiences you can create from them.
Rahul Singh is an IIT Bombay, 2012 grad. Worked at GulfTalent, a Dubai based market leader job portal for the Gulf region with over 1 million users a month. He started off as an Analyst and worked across Product, Operations, Sales, Marketing before becoming the first Product Manager there.
This gave him massive exposure on running a business and he is also specialized in building great products. He was CPO at Ithaka till March this year, when I took over as CEO when Ameya, my co-founder left.