Travel tech puts adventuring back in style

December 1, 2016

My grandmother was known for her eccentric fashion style; she also refused to get rid of anything. At any given time, you could find a flying saucer hat, a poodle skirt and a groovy pair of bellbottom jeans in her closet. She had a saying for staple items and accessories: “Don’t throw it away; it will be back in style soon.” She was right. I used one of her straw purses from the ‘60s for a wedding this summer.

Today, fashion isn’t the only industry repeating trends or putting a fresh spin on an old idea. In technology, the old-can-be-new trend is an emerging reality for the previously troubled travel industry. While the days of the traditional travel agent are long gone, the fad of luxury travel from the Golden Age of Travel (1950s and 1960s) is making a comeback thanks to consumer accessibility to cheaper, DIY options. With advances in data and machine learning, the travel industry can provide consumers with easier, more manageable experiences from booking plane tickets based on your location or time of day to on-demand rental car services to localized travel guides. Here are three reasons why the travel industry is betting on marketing and technology trends to revive itself: 

Machine algorithms saved the consumer’s wallet

Fast Company recently interviewed Guillaume de Syon, a professor at Pennsylvania's Albright College and an expert on aviation history, about the Golden Age of Flying, -- the 1950s. According to the article, you could expect to pay 40 percent more for a round-trip ticket in the ‘50s than you do today. That price equates to a little more than 1 percent of the average American’s salary today. Unlike the Golden Age of Travel, today’s consumers don’t consider flying a luxury – it’s a necessity. With more flights, more airlines and fewer amenities in-air, in 1995, Boston-based ITA Software recognized that consumers were becoming more impatient with their flight options. While it was one of the first to calculate flight schedules and ticket prices from different airlines into one dashboard, startups like Hopper can now tell you which day and time to buy a flight, so you don’t have to worry about overspending on transportation. 

Personalization without a travel agent

Some of the biggest marketing buzzwords the last few years were “personalization” and “customization,” and the travel industry took notice. Just like with products or brands, consumers want to feel wowed and proud to share their unique travel experiences with their social media followers. But instead of relying on brands or products to create experiences for them, travelers are using companies like Yonward, which allows travelers to share their tips and tricks through crowdsourced tourist guides curated by other travelers, or buggl, a company that connects travelers with knowledgeable natives, who can offer customized itineraries or suggestions. 

Experiential travel versus sightseeing

Travel companies are capitalizing on influencer marketing and social media advertising to push consumers to desire unique and interesting experiences. We’ve all been presented with incredible photos of friends or complete strangers on social media experiencing the ends of the world. Blame it on the social media effect, but travelers no longer just want to “see” culture or historic sites when they go on vacation. It’s not only about seeing a vineyard in Italy or sipping the wine while on vacation; it’s about transporting yourself into a new culture or moment in time. The experiences are aimed to serve as inspiration and reflection, and companies like Explora and Vayable make it possible for the average traveler to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip, more than once. 

I’m among them. With access to travel websites and first-hand consumer reviews from around the world, I recently booked a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Oman, where I camped, rode a camel through the Arabian Desert and wore one of my grandma’s old-can-be-new-again pieces as a fashionable headwrap on my adventure.

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