The Challenges of Mass Tourism in the 21st Century

Working in the travel industry, it can be easy to forget that our responsibility extends further than just the people and businesses we sell services and products to. The bigger picture stretches beyond travellers, encompassing residents of popular destinations, natural ecosystems and, of course, the sustainability of the industry in general.

That’s where the challenge of mass tourism rears its head. In our increasingly connected world, access to certain destinations is easier than it has ever been. Budget airlines, currency fluctuations and the sharing economy have made trips more accessible to more people. Countries like Iceland and cities such as Barcelona have effectively gone viral. There are no secrets anymore.

A recent Skift documentary took a closer look at the escalating situation in Barcelona, where locals are growing increasingly frustrated at the quantity of tourists flocking to the city. The Catalan capital has become the third most popular city in Europe, after London and Paris.

A growing number of residents are concerned that the high concentration of tourists is pushing up house prices, negatively impacting their lives and well-being and rendering parts of the city overcrowded and uninhabitable.

skift documentary challenges of 21st century tourism

Skift’s latest documentary: Barcelona and the Trials of 21st Century Over-Tourism

And this feeling is coming to the surface all over Spain, which has traditionally been one of Europe’s most popular destinations. The number of visitors to Spain hit a record high in 2016 of 75.3 million, according to the Minister for Energy and Tourism, Alvaro Nadal. Last year was the fourth consecutive record year, as tourist numbers were boosted by security concerns in the Mediterranean from Turkey to north Africa.

Frustration with tourism has not come out of the blue. In a protest in Barcelona in June, one demonstrator held a banner that read: “Tourist flats displace families”.

Protest group Arran has carried out events in Valencia and the Balearic Islands in recent weeks. In Palma de Mallorca, protesters smashed windows at a restaurant and set off smoke bombs before raising a banner declaring in English that, “Tourism is killing Mallorca”.

anti tourism protests in barcelona

Lluis Gene, AFP | Protesters at a demonstration in Barcelona on June 10, 2017 against what they claim is a lack of control by the city’s tourism management.

A similar demonstration is planned in foodie capital San Sebastian on 17 August, due to how tourism represents “precariousness” and “exploitation” for the young.

Are these mass tourism numbers sustainable?

Although mass tourism has come to represent a significant amount of income for cities like Barcelona, there is little doubt that its detriments are felt by locals. Areas such as the iconic Las Ramblas and the Sagrada Familia are no longer what they used to be; years of culture are being crowded and eroded by tourists eager for a quick selfie, by those looking for entertainment rather than something to appreciate.

Read more: In Depth With Barcelona’s Foodie&Tours

Aside from overcrowded public areas and pressures on transport and infrastructure, accommodation is arguably the single biggest concern for residents in cities like Barcelona. A thriving rental market for short term accommodations has led to gentrification and higher long-term rents for residents.

The concern was so grave that in 2012, residents in Barcelona voted in a mayor whose main promise was to curb the rise in tourism. Whereas before there was little regulation regarding the set up of tourist accommodation, Ada Colau introduced a register and required online platforms such as Airbnb and Booking.com to sign up their apartments.

The key is to find a sustainable solution. The Skift documentary speaks to one boutique hotel owner who set up a hotel but opened the ground floor as a bar and restaurant, effectively redeveloping public space for locals at the same time as opening new rooms for tourists.

Could more community-focused travel companies like this be a solution?

Iceland: Another Example of Over-Tourism?

Much closer to home for us, Skift has also conducted investigations into the Icelandic travel scene, particularly looking at the growing number of visitors to Iceland and the sustainability of its booming tourism industry.

Just like in Spain, the boom in tourism to Iceland was predicated by the global financial crisis, which made visiting the land of ice and fire a lot cheaper than it once would have been and resulted in a surge of visitors keen to take advantage.

“Tourism is the factor that got us out of the recession and placed us where we are now,” said Ólöf Ýrr Atladóttir, director general of the Icelandic Tourist Board. “We couldn’t foresee this tremendous growth in interest for Iceland. That is also coupled with the fact that, in the last five years, the world has gone out of a recession. People are travelling more and more.”

There are also parallels in terms of the public reaction to increased numbers of tourists in Iceland and Spain. Both countries can partly attribute their recoveries from the economic crash to tourism, but locals are beginning to worry whether or not the benefits of the influx are being felt by all. Or if the detriments are worth it.

Increased tourism has led to a high demand for short term rentals, to the point where capacity is not enough. The result will be as familiar to locals in Reykjavik as it is to residents in the Catalan capital:

“There is a massive shortage of housing, There is a massive shortage of hotels,” said Sölvi Melax, founder of Icelandic car share startup Cario. “Renting long-term is getting more and more expensive. And that’s because people are going [with] short-term rentals.”

Of Iceland's three main industries, only tourism has increased in value over the last five years.

Iceland’s rising tourism, from Skift’s report into travel in Iceland

Huge changes over a relatively short period of time have perhaps caught city officials on the back foot. After all, it’s hard to encourage a blossoming industry at the same time as keeping things sustainable and under control.

Read more: In Depth With Zen Resort Bali

The public’s perception is partly because tourism is an industry like no other. It’s brash and in your face; there’s no escaping it. “We are just realizing what tourism is. It’s a totally different industry from all others,” said Atladóttir, comparing tourism to fishing:

“You can go out and fish, and you go and get your fish, and then come back. There’s somebody in the factory that prepares it, and then it’s sold. That, of course, is a tremendous economic impact, but then everybody goes home. The fish aren’t bothering you out in the streets asking where the restaurants are, and aren’t using your buses or utilizing a lot of the public goods. They aren’t sitting in your swimming pools.”

Just as in Barcelona, creaking infrastructure is struggling to meet the demands of rising numbers of tourists. To the point where government officials are considering airport entry fees, road tolls, and other types of taxes to fund improvements.

There could eventually be a cap on the number of visitors per year. While that may seem like a dramatic move, part of the allure for visitors to Iceland is the opportunity to see the natural world at its finest. Instead of being known for cathedrals (although Reykjavik has a spectacular one) and architecture, Iceland’s popular sights include glaciers, the northern lights and volcanic landscapes.

Preserving these for future destinations of tourists and residents is understandably a priority. Keeping Iceland’s nature intact is vital to any tourism going forwards, not just an ethical necessity.

Read more: Our Deep Dive into Sustainable Travel

Changes are required at a national level to deal with mass tourism

If there’s one thing we can take from the situations in Spain and Iceland, it’s that this kind of problem requires solutions at a national level.

Despite the fact that increasing tourism has brought with it prosperity and development to both countries, there is a lingering sense that residents’ best interests are being overlooked in the pursuit of industry growth. This is reflected in rising costs of living, rapid changes to what were once established communities and iconic sights being overrun with tourists.

The challenge is to develop sustainable tourism practices that bring the same benefits but welcome international travellers in a more harmonious way: putting in place sensible sustainability measures without putting off tourists. Finding the right balance is vital, especially in countries that have quickly seen tourism grow to be a crucial part of the economy.

Taxes on tourists in the form of entry visas; caps on visitor numbers every year; quotas and ticketing on certain landmarks; more investment in under-pressure infrastructure… all of these are steps that local authorities could take to effectively deal with the problems that come with high levels of tourism.

There’s also a need to keep residents onside by educating them about the benefits that tourism brings and giving them tangible access to those benefits.

Perhaps putting limits or taxes on tourism in the short term is the best way to solve problems around infrastructure, capacity and resident’s concerns. Just as fishing quotas in the 1980s helped return Iceland’s fish stock to sustainable levels, maybe something similar could be done with the booming travel industry. Sometimes you have to take a few steps back and readjust your path to move forwards in the right way.

sustainable tourism in barcelona and iceland

Some of Iceland’s most enticing sights could be at risk as mass tourism becomes the norm.

But what can travel operators do in the face of mass tourism?

Let’s not kid ourselves: the primary motive for the majority of travel service providers is to make a profit from tourism. That can lead to a situation where short term growth and dollar signs are put ahead of sustainability.

However, travel operators would do well to take a step back and think about the long-term impact of mass tourism. In cities like Barcelona, excessive tourism threatens to overrun the local culture that makes it such an enticing destination in the first place. But this point is perhaps more significant to destinations popular because of nature. In countries like Iceland, sheer footfall could have a detrimental effect on the natural sights that make it so popular.

With that in mind, perhaps operators can shift to focus on smaller, more upscale tour groups with more focused itineraries. That way the heavy footfall of budget tourism can be reduced without necessarily hitting operators’ bottom lines.

It’s up to governments and travel operators to work together to ensure that tourism remains sustainable. Without progressive measures, some of our mose treasured destinations could lose the heart and soul that made them popular in the first place.

Amadeus Report: Four Potential Futures of the Travel Industry

The world is a complex place and we are living in particularly complex and tumultuous times. We’ve looked on plenty of occasions at different trends from the spheres of technology, sociology and politics. We do this in an effort to predict and outline how these trends are going to impact the travel industry. Then we think of ways startups can adapt to meet those challenges.

However, we’ve never looked at the big picture and tried to pull all of the different strands together. Fortunately, that’s been attempted for us by an Amadeus & A.T. Kearney report, titled ‘What if? Imagining the future of the travel industry’.

The report identifies several risks and trends that the travel industry should heed over the next decade.

It even goes as far as to offer four possible world scenarios that could come to pass, outlining how the travel industry would have to adapt to each. Sounds interesting, right?

So let’s get into it.

What are four possible futures for the travel industry?

So let’s start at the beginning. The report argues that there are four global scenarios that travel companies need to start preparing for today. If they want to maximise future growth, that is. These are named after famous artists:
– Picasso
– Dali
– Bosch
– Warhol
The four possible scenarios that travel companies should start preparing for.

The four possible scenarios that travel companies should start preparing for.

As you can see from the graphic above, the report suggests that changes in the travel industry landscape hinge on two separate battles.
The first is the battle between personalised experiences and mass market opportunities. There is no doubt that in the future, advanced technology and artificial intelligence will enable the aggregation of consumer data on a huge scale. Companies will never before have had so much insight into market trends. They should, therefore, become more and more adept at appealing to the masses. But on the flip side, all of this data could be applied on an individual basis, removing the need for the traditional one-size-fits-all approach.
The second conflict is between seamless travel versus increased fragmentation. Freer movement and more open borders will require huge political and social changes. Even on a small scale, governmental cooperation and data sharing between businesses will be needed, from airports and airlines to destination services such as hotels, restaurants and ground transportation.
With a more connected world technologically, it can be done. However, it will have to be done against a rising tide of populist nationalism, security fears and anti-free movement sentiment.
“Technology has never held more promise for the travel industry”, says Alex Luzarraga, VP of Corporate Strategy at Amadeus IT Group. “But the status quo is being turned on its head. There is widespread mistrust and populism.”
“Things we used to take for granted, such as the right to travel across Europe without passports, for example, may be less likely in the future. It is important to evaluate and understand those issues that will continue to confront and disrupt the industry in the coming five to seven years, so we can as an industry be better prepared to deal with those issues, and also stimulate economic growth and success as a result”.

Four possible futures laid out by the Amadeus report

The vast chasm between these possible travel industries of the future reflects how pivotal the current moment in time is. It feels as though we are at a crossroads; faced with huge challenges: climate change, mass migration, rapidly advancing technology, economic inequality, terrorism, populism, isolationism, scepticism over open borders. All of these issues will shape our relationship with travel in the years to come.

Read more: How Will President Trump Affect the Travel Industry

And there’s no telling how things are going to end up. Although we can rely on the continued advancement of technology, we have no way of knowing in which ways it will be applied. Will it lead to seamless travel, a more personal approach and reduced security fears? Or will it be deployed to restrict travel and shepherd the mass market toward a common theme?

Here are the four futures, based on the conflict between seamless travel, fragmentation, personalised opportunities and mass market groupthink.

The Picasso scenario

The Picasso scenario is the closest world to the one we are currently living in. Things are fragmented; the world is marked by the rise of populism and by heightened security concerns. Think Trump’s America, but on a global scale. This has the effect of making more travel destinations off-limits and limits data sharing. Even so, most parts of the world enjoy economic growth.
With more travel restrictions in place and less global insight available to travel companies, there’s less choice for customers and companies will be driven to invest in innovation to reach them through mobile channels. This interaction enables businesses to provide more sophisticated personalized offers.

The Dali scenario

The Dali scenario is arguably the ideal future. It assumes that social attitudes and economic prosperity will create a more favourable environment towards the sharing of data. In turn, privacy laws will be relaxed alongside borders and regulations, which could allow for the ultimate personalisation of travel.
In this model we can expect to see an increased influence of data and technology giants, who have all the insight they need to cater for travellers’ needs.
The dream of the Dali scenario is that travel becomes faster, cheaper and safer. People benefit from lighter security controls at borders, while developing technology will offer real-time information about unexpected events such as flight delays.

The Bosch scenario

In the Bosch scenario, increased fragmentation will force costs up for travel industry operators. Complying with legal, tax, labour and data protection laws across different companies and continents will be a struggle.
We are confronting a fragmented world based on protectionism and distrust. In the face of Bosch’s political environment, it’s likely that travellers will seek comfort in trusted brands and book directly with well-known travel providers. There’s isn’t much room for gambling.
More regulations and security will mean that, despite advancing technology, technology giants will not have as much influence as they would in a seamless world. Smaller travel agencies will still be valued.

The Warhol scenario

The Warhol scenario is characterised by seamless and not personalised travel that considers the implications of strong economic growth in Asia and stagnation in the west. As travel prices become more restrictive and a growing middle class in Asia comes to the fore with less spending power, travellers will tend toward low cost, mass-market trips.
Asian travellers’ tendency towards group travel will also reduce the market for personalised options, even in a world free of barriers.

Will Tech Giants Have a Big Role to Play in the Travel Industry of the Future?

tech industry giants travel industry

Could companies like Google dominate the travel industry of the future?

One interesting result of the Dali scenario is the assumed influence of technology giants like Apple and Google and Facebook. In a seamless world dominated by innovation and integration, they seem like likely candidates to monopolise the travel industry.

Google, in particular, has already stepped into the travel space to an extent with a series of investments in flights, hotels and destination services. So how worried should traditional travel agencies be? Will the current ‘gatekeepers’ take an even bigger chunk of the pie as their role in travel sales increases? Will they take over transactions and become super travel agencies?

According to the founder of Innovation Strategies Miguel Fernandez Diaz, the answer is no, probably not.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that stepping into selling travel packages will lead to technology giants directly competing with their own customers. After all, travel providers struggle without ranking highly on search engines and popping up on social media networks.

The gatekeepers already make a fortune by charging travel operators for various types of marketing and general exposure. The financial gains to be made by stepping directly into the market may be undercut by the lost advertising revenue from companies put out of business.

Second, moving from being the gatekeeper to actively putting together and selling travel packages adds a layer of complexity and responsibility that can be off-putting. Selling travel packages brings with it liabilities and a duty of care to customers – new burdens that might not be appealing.

In sum, it’s unlikely that the incentives outway the drawbacks for the world’s technology giants.

But that doesn’t mean that they won’t grow more influential in the travel industry, even if they aren’t moving into direct sales. That’s because the way things stand, giants such as Google hold the fate of many travel operators in their hands. If you’re not ranking highly in search engines for your chosen market, it’s going to be difficult to get off the ground.

In the future, the increased role of artificial intelligence and personal assistants, such as Google Home, Siri and Alexa, will present the real challenge to travel agents. These personal assistants will know ever more about our lives, our taste, our habits, our finances and our calendars. It’s easy to imagine a world in which our free time and holidays are planned out by these increasingly influential assistants.

The challenge for travel operators then will be to connect to these platforms as efficiently as possible; to, as Skift says, “look for ways to complement the tools that technology platform giants provide consumers, whether that’s providing richer travel content or marrying data sets to provide more personalised service during the booking process.”

One interesting consequence of tech giants venturing into the travel industry could be the loss of neutrality from search engines. If Google Home is planning your trip for you and offering suggestions based on your history, the function of the search engine has evolved and will be significantly more intimate and personalised. Sure, that’s a good thing, but is it fulfilling the promised function of these engines? Would it be giving you access to all the possible options, or just assuming the right ones?

As we become more open to technology and the integration of information, the power of tech giants and their assistant features will become increasingly dominant. So it’s perhaps not the case that travel operators should be fearful of a direct rivalry. The fear should more be about 1.) getting left behind as travellers save time by going through virtual assistants and 2.) not being able to connect efficiently and appeal to these new mediums.

Nobody can predict the future of the travel industry

As we’ve explored in many of our past articles, the travel industry is very much at the whim of emerging trends in technology, economics, geopolitics and society in general. For that reason, it’s impossible to say which of Armadeus’ future worlds will come to pass.

However, some things are clear and some challenges are inevitable. The growing influence of technology giants in the travel process is one of the obvious ones. While it may not come to pass that these ‘gatekeepers’ actually sell their own travel packages, there’s little doubt that they stand to become more influential regarding travellers’ purchasing decisions.

While no travel operator can predict what the future holds, one thing they can do is prepare for a more technologically advanced world in which customers are better informed and better connected. There may not be an appetite for a complete one stop travel shop that tech giants could create, but providers should seek ways to best complement smart assistants, search engines and other tools to stand the best chance of succeeding in tomorrow’s world.

Searchmetrics Study: Travel Industry SEO & Ranking Factors

The battle for search engine ranking is as fierce as it’s ever been. Particularly in the travel industry, where a handful of enormous operators tend to dominate most online travel searches. In fact, many of these operators are themselves becoming the keywords that are searched for. That’s not SEO, it’s just unfair!

So what can travel startups do in the face of such challenges? How can they gain traction and move up search engine rankings? Are there any industry-specific trends that travel hopefuls should be looking to jump on board of?

Travel Industry Search Ranking Factors

New research from Searchmetrics has brought to light some interesting (and no doubt significant) travel industry-specific search ranking factors. We expect that no matter what field you’re in, whether you’re a travel agent, airline, hotel chain or related brands, improving visibility in Google searches will be a priority.

So here’s a summary of Searchmetrics’ key findings…

  • Travel brands rank higher by giving searchers a highly browsable experience

In many ways, this is standard SEO practice. A ‘browsable experience’ is arguably just a fancy way of saying that it’s easy for browsers to move between content, from one page to another. So this will include easy to navigate menus and, we assume, plenty of internal links.

  • Travel brands rank higher by offering easy to gather and compare information

There’s be more detail on this below, but this key point encompasses the usefulness of a particular post or page. Customers are searching for a reason, after all. Easy to gather and compare is arguably referring to having a high quantity of content as well as high quality, as well as pointing out that how it’s formatted is significant.

For example, there are always plenty of list articles and ‘top X’ pieces towards the top of search engine rankings.

  • High ranking pages cover topics comprehensively, using more words and more large images, even if this means pages load a little slower.

This is interesting in one sense, because it suggests that page speed isn’t necessarily as important as it’s made out. Plenty of SEO posts will tell you that too many HQ images will impact upon your page loading speed and lower your ranking in Google search. Apparently not.

Read more: The Changing Trends of Travel Industry Marketing

Covering topics comprehensively, with more words, is again to emphasise the quantity point. People want information, and Google’s best way of gauging how informative an article is is to look at its length. There are obviously other factors, but the number of words will always be significant – they are the table upon which all the other SEO factors are served.

Now let’s get into the detail. The press release included a few interesting quotes from the team at Searchmetrics.

“Google now more accurately determines searchers’ intentions by analyzing the keywords and phrases they enter in the search box,” said Daniel Furch, Head of Content Marketing at Searchmetrics.

This isn’t really anything new, but we assume that the algorithms are getting smarter…. Ah, here we go…

“It knows the context of individual searches – including whether they relate to travel, retail, finance or other verticals – and ensures that results reflect the characteristics that meet the needs of searchers. For travel marketers, as for marketers in other verticals, this means they can no longer focus solely on generalized, universally applicable rules to drive the best search performance. They also have to take account of specific factors that are important in their specific vertical.”

So this suggests that Google is increasingly understanding context when you type something in. If you search for two related terms it may well point you in the direction of the missing link you’re looking for. So perhaps keyword stuffing is officially dead. Google will now pick up on synonyms, related phrases and words in the same lexicon?

The Searchmetrics team put plenty of time into the latest study. They carried out an analysis of the top 20 search results on Google.com for over 6,000 typical travel-related search terms. So these are terms like ‘airline tickets’, ‘vacation rentals’ and ‘budget rental car’.

The team then filtered the results to find the most commonly occurring elements that appear in these travel results. They took a closer look at how they differ from a separate, broader Google ranking factors study, which analyzed the results from 10,000 general, high search volume keywords that apply across all industries.

Read more: How Travel Startups can Compete with Established Marketplaces

5 Key SEO Points for Travel Industry Professionals

Below are five main points from the analysis. These are the things that travel sites should consider when planning their content and SEO strategy. As you can see from the infographic below, the top 5 ranking factors were word count, the number of internal links, number of images, overall content relevance and the number of bullets per list.

Make ‘browsability’ a priority

Travel-related pages that rank higher tend to be more browsable. Essentially this means that they included more internal links. These allow site visitors to easily navigate between relevant content and is basically the opposite of a high bounce rate.

People want to stay once they’ve arrived, which is a great sign for any search engine. This translates well to the travel industry (and makes a lot of sense) because travel searchers are likely to be keen to compare different views and options, and more generally just gather related information about an operator or destination.

So what about the figures? How important are these ranking factors? The study found that travel-related pages ranking in Google’s top 10 results have around 23% more internal links (compared with general results that rank in those positions within its broader ranking factors study).

The number of internal links on a travel page and how highly it ranks were also found to show a high positive mathematical correlation of +0.21. Or, the more internal links on the page, the higher it ranks.

But let’s not get carried away. Having a high number of links isn’t a silver bullet here. Sure, that helps travel pages to rank well, but the priority is to have an intelligent internal link structure, using the menu, sidebars and content – all in a way that guides visitors intuitively through the website.

“Travel-related brands need to ensure their web pages intelligently link to related content throughout their site, so searchers can easily find relevant content and background to help them compare and decide on their travel plans,” said Furch.

Intuitive browsing is especially important when you’re a traveller looking for information, bookings or last minute deals.

“This is not surprising as planning a vacation, for example, involves so many details – from flight times and luggage allowance to insurance, car-hire, and seasonal weather patterns. Searchers want to be able to find answers to all those questions as painlessly as possible.”

Include plenty of large images

As we mentioned above, page loading times hindered by big images didn’t seem to be a factor. In the world of travel the visuals are all important. That potentially explains why search results in the industry prioritised those with big images over those without.

Pages that rank in the top ten Google results for travel-related queries use around 38% more images over 200 pixels per page. Using more larger images can increase the file size and slow down page load times, and Searchmetrics’ analysis indicates that travel-related pages listed in the top ten results have a 40% larger file size and take almost 3 seconds longer to load (travel pages take 10.6 seconds to load on average, while the average across all industries is 7.8 seconds).

So the conclusion we get from this is that Google search is getting smarter. It now knows that travel industry searchers are keen to see higher quality images, not just a streamlined site that loads quickly.

Be comprehensive – Longer posts are good

Here at Travelshift, we’re no strangers to long, wordy posts (sorry). We do it because we like to be comprehensive, but also because we are well aware that long posts tend to rank better on Google searches.

Travel-related pages that rank higher tend to carry more text than other high ranking pages. In fact, Searchmetrics’ analysis indicates that travel results that make it into Google’s top ten results average over 2,500 words per page (yikes!), which is 57% more than in the company’s wider benchmark Google Ranking Factors study (the average across all industries is 1,633 words per page for results that rank in the top 10). This suggests travel marketers should be comfortable using longer copy to go through destinations and topics and in plenty of detail.

We don’t need to tell you that 2,500 words is a lot of content. The challenge for travel industry marketers is to produce copy that hits that word target without being repetitive, boring and uninformative. Challenge accepted.

Longer lists

This is a running theme that goes way beyond the travel industry. Google’s search ranking seems to favour posts that include lists. This is likely because they are deemed to be as informative as it gets. There’s no room for fluff with bullet points. Pages that rank in the top 10 results for travel-related searches have longer bullet point lists – nearly four more bullet points per list than pages in the general results published in the benchmark study. As with the need for longer copy and links pointing to related content, this finding suggests travel sites need to

Pages that rank in the top 10 results for travel-related searches have longer bullet point lists – nearly four more bullet points per list than pages in the general results published in the benchmark study. As with the need for longer copy and links pointing to related content, this finding suggests travel sites need to

As with the need for longer copy and links pointing to related content, this finding suggests travel sites need to prioritise satisfying searchers’ hunger for detailed information. After all, using bullet points makes it easier to assimilate details.  everything from hotel descriptions to holiday packages and car-hire terms.

Think about where in the travel industry you’ve seen bulleted lists before: hotel descriptions, holiday packages, room services, car-hire t&cs. They’re everywhere. If you can master them and tailor them to your niche, you’ll be on to a winner.

Don’t stuff keywords

For a long time in SEO, the aim of the game was to stuff as many keywords, over and over again, into your content as possible.

This largely led to hard-to-read web pages that were nowhere near as informative or entertaining as they should have been. It was also just an easy way for people to cheat the system, and for search engines to return results that were high in keywords but not high in relevancy. Thankfully, as we’ve seen, the system is getting smarter.

Travel pages that rank in the first two pages of Google use the searched-for keyword or phrase far less frequently in the text than other top-ranking pages. The study found that travel results included the searched keyword on the page around half as much as search results on the first two pages for general searches (travel pages in the study mention the keyword three times on average versus 7.4 times for general search results pages). Keyword matching is a simplistic, outdated SEO technique and it seems even less effective in travel, where brands need to be focusing on creating relevant, informative, comprehensive content that addresses the searchers’ needs.

So what’s the lesson here? Keyword matching is a simplistic, outdated SEO technique and it seems even less effective in travel, where brands need to be focusing on creating relevant, informative, comprehensive content that addresses the searchers’ needs.

seo search engine ranking in the travel industry

Looking further down the list of SEO factors

There are a few other important factors that we’d like to draw attention to. These are headings, external links and URLs. All of these can seem like such an afterthought when creating posts and pages for travel industry websites. Putting in headings can seem like such an afterthought, but wow – who knew!

We’re constantly guilty of overlooking the importance of headings especially. But this research shows that it really is the little things that make a big difference to rankings.

External links are another example. Used another article or post as inspiration, or have a page you’d like to share with readers? Do it!

Another important factor in travel industry ranking appears to be the length of the URL. Not too long, not too short, with no filler words – that should do the trick.

Brexit, Millennials and Youth Travel

On the 23rd of June 2016, 52% of the British public voted to leave the European Union in a historic referendum. The consequences for the travel industry, both from a UK and an EU perspective, are only just beginning to become clear.

There are plenty of articles and even a few books detailing the story of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union; countless opinions outlining the whys and the hows. But among all of the analysis is a fact that makes for painful reading for supporters of the European project: There was a huge split in the vote depending on age.

Official UK government statisticians YouGov released a number of telling figures that indicate the divide in British society. Most notable is the difference between the old and the young and their outlook on Europe:

brexit statistics eu referendum

Under-25s were more than twice as likely to vote Remain (71%) than Leave (29%). Over-65s voted in almost exactly the opposite way: 64% of over-65s voted to Leave while only 36% voted to Remain. Among the other age groups, voters aged 24 to 49 narrowly opted for Remain (54%) over leave (46%) while 60% of voters between the ages of 50 and 64 went for Leave.

At a very basic level, the result of the vote appears to be a case of young people, especially Millennials, not being heard. Older generations, particularly those over 65, (also those most likely to be long gone before the impact of the vote bears fruit) decided the outcome of the vote.

Image result for young people brexit

Brexit and Millennials

So what does this say about young people in Britain and how will it impact young people in the UK and around Europe? 

For one thing, it suggests that the UK’s young people are no different to those in their age group around the world: they are open-minded, outward-looking and lean towards integration rather than the closed door of nationalism.

One of the founding principles, or ‘four freedoms’ of the European Union is the freedom of movement: The ability to work, travel, live and love anywhere in the EU.

This translates well into the kind of trips becoming increasingly popular with globally-minded Millennials, such as working on the go, gap year travel, long-term tours, city breaks and immersive experiences.

As it stands, UK negotiations are still underway. Nobody yet knows what the new relationship – if any – will look like when the ‘leaving’ actually happens in 2019. That uncertainty is, in itself, something already having an impact on travel within the European Union. Last month figures showed that there had been a remarkable 96% drop in the number of EU nurses registering to work in the UK since the vote.

That figure suggests that for the foreseeable future Europeans don’t feel particularly welcome in the United Kingdom – at least that’s the case for those intending to live and work, rather than just tourists.

That distinction is an important one. Sure, overall tourism to the UK is a major part of the economy that isn’t going anywhere soon. But travel among young people moving for long-term reasons like work and education could begin to drop off.

brexit and millennials

Survey suggests youth travel in the UK isn’t growing as fast as it should

The Brexit fallout comes at the same time as a stark difference between youth travel in the UK and general tourism becomes clear.

According to the UK’s Office of National Statistics, youth and student travellers coming to the UK contribute £22.3bn to the country’s economy. For the sake of perspective, that’s more than the top 20 football clubs combined or the total made from airline giant Ryanair.

That number didn’t appear to dip as a result of the Brexit result. In fact it has grown at an average rate of 4.7% over the last five years. However, the sector is not growing at the same pace as the country’s overall tourism market, which grew 19% between April 2016 and April 2017.

So sure, youth travel to the UK is growing. But barely. And that’s before the harsh realities of a UK outside of the European Union sets in. So far, the UK travel industry has benefited from a fall in the Pound that’s made inbound travel cheaper for tourists.

But challenges are on the horizon. The British Educational Travel Association (BETA), recently surveyed 336 travel operators in the UK and their overseas partner organisations – in total around 1.5 million youth travellers were represented.

“We did an initial study five years ago which showed a value of £20bn, so it’s gone up, but it’s not where it should be,” said Steve Lowy, chairman of BETA. “There are still massive opportunities, it’s just not growing as quickly and policy could change in a very favourable way, very quickly in a very easy manner.”

One of the things that BETA suggested that would help to grow youth travel to the UK was a more friendly visa application process. But with Brexit on the horizon, it’s more likely that application processes will grow more, not less, complex. 

The report found that youth and student travellers represent 38% of all visitors to the UK. Currently Europe accounts for 77% of all youth travel to the UK, so clearly the Brexit decision and movement policy post-Brexit will have a huge impact on those numbers. In another irony, a third of staff at responding organisations were from the EU.

It’s fair to assume that the weakened Pound is also going to have a reverse effect on UK holidaymakers. Trips abroad have become increasingly expensive as the economic reality of Brexit sets in, which is already having an impact on popular destinations such as Spain and France.

Millennials love to travel, but not the travel industry?

Let’s take a look at the wider picture now. We’ve seen that Brexit is going to have an effect on the UK travel industry. We’ve also seen that it’s going to have an impact on Millennials – perhaps one that goes against the beliefs of many members of that generation.

Those beliefs are our next focus. The travel industry has long been one of the most diverse employers of any developed sector. That fact is symptomatic of an industry based on integration and the sharing of cultural experiences. So why, according to panellists at a recent Institue of Travel & Tourism (ITT) conference, is the industry struggling to attract top young talent?

HR and training consultant Claire Steiner said there was a “disconnect” between travel businesses and students when it came to recruiting. But how is it that such an inspiring industry is failing to attract young people?

She suggested that it might be because many travel operators don’t have systems in place to recruit graduates. Although she also pointed out that there are more ways to go than just standard graduate schemes.

“There are a lot of companies which don’t see the opportunities to employ tourism students,” she told delegates. “Give them work experience, give them projects while they’re doing their degrees.”

There’s no doubt that young people want to work in the travel industry – it’s just a question of engaging them at the right time. That’s where operators have to be proactive, according to Steiner: “They just want to be engaged.”

It’s also getting to the point, she said, where the industry will have to look beyond Millennials and focus on attracting Generation Z.

Why bother employing Millennials?

Travel startups and established operators would do well to realise that Millennials are not far from being the biggest spenders in the industry. With that in mind, having them as part of your team is an easy way to guarantee that you’ll be marketing and speaking to them in the right manner.

Some in the industry are making moves already. One example is Movenpick Hotels & Resorts, who recently created a new advisory board run by millennials. That board will suggest ways to improve how it serves the younger demographic.

Craig Cochrane, senior vice-president of human resources at Movenpick Hotels & Resorts, said that it was a way of making the company future-proof. “It’s something new for us and something we are very excited about. It’s not a PR stunt, it’s an open forum that we have gotten a lot out of and is giving us the pushback we need.”

millennial travel industry

Millennials in the travel industry – Some statistics

Management consultancy firm Boston Consulting Group has reported, perhaps unsurprisingly, that millennials are far more interested in travel than older generations – estimating a 23% rise in interest compared with previous generations.

A 2014 UN report suggested that Millennials make up about 20% of all international travelers. That figure is likely to be larger now, accounting for over 200 million global explorers.

Interestingly, surveys have shown that Millennials are the fastest-growing age segment when it comes to the amount of cash they’ll spend on travel. This is interesting given the context of student loans and reduced home ownership, and serves to underline the importance young people place on travel.

But it’s not just expenditure where Millennials differ. It’s travel behaviour as well…

A study by Phocuswright, a travel market research firm, gave some interesting statistics and insights:

  • More than 70% of millennials took at least one leisure trip in 2013
  • Many take four or five trips a year
  • 66% of millennials think travel is an incredibly important part of their lives
  • 71% of millennials took short jaunts of three nights or less
  • Millennials are twice as likely as older travellers to take trips of 14 or more days

Conclusions

There are a few conclusions to be drawn from Millennials’ interesting relationship with travel.

  • Their passion for travel is being challenged (in the UK and the EU at least) by Brexit
  • The industry isn’t doing enough to bring them in from a proffessional perspective
  • Having Millennials as part of your travel team gives you a greater chance of engaging with what is an increasingly influential market demographic
  • Their global outlook remains undiminished

Survey: Virtual Reality Tech Not a Threat to Travel Industry (Yet)

A global survey by Italy4Real has found that virtual reality won’t replace real-life travel experiences. At least that’s what travellers are saying today…

We like to keep one eye on future trends in travel. There’s no doubt that one of the technologies with the most potential in the industry is Virtual Reality (VR). We’ve written previously on how it can be applied to help marketing efforts and improve conversions.  

In that same article, we also suggested that once the technology is perfected, it could even represent a risk to the travel industry. Why the risk? Well the point is a simple one: If virtual experiences become convincing (and cheap) enough, perhaps they could replace travel altogether.

Sure, it’s an ‘out there’ claim. But it’s easy to imagine a VR system capable of matching the visuals of real life. The difficult things to replicate are the other senses that are stimulated by travel: smells, sounds and conditions, along with the intangibles of excitement and awe.

European tour specialists Italy4Real have conducted a global survey of 1,000 people to look into travellers’ perceptions of VR technology. Could it replicate or even replace genuine travel experiences?

These were the main results:

  • 81% don’t think virtual reality could ever take over from real-life travel
  • 90% say they would miss the full sensory experience of travelling
  • 77% claim the lack of local food and drink would be a downside of VR travel, while 69% would miss meeting new people and locals
  • 52% say travel agents could be replaced by artificial intelligence, but majority agree tour guides and hotel staff need personal touch

The survey was conducted because VR technology is at an interesting stage in the travel industry at the moment. It’s becoming an increasingly popular way for agencies selling tours and accommodation to offer potential customers a preview of a given destination. Simply put on a headset and be whisked away while experiencing 360° views of hotel rooms and resorts.

That’s the idea, anyway. Inevitably the introduction of this technology to the interview has led to questions surrounding its use in the future. Will it become established as a method of enticing customers, or will it replace travel altogether?

The results of the survey will be of comfort to operators fearing the latter. Of 1,000 adults questioned, although 46% said they would invest in a virtual reality travel experience headset, a huge 81% said they did not believe virtual reality could ever replace the desire for real-life travel.

‘Ever’ is the word doing all the work here. The vast majority of people don’t think that VR technology could ever be up to it. This says two things. First: There’s something intangible given to us through travel that perhaps can never be accurately replicated. Second: these assumptions may be based on a false assumption of VR technology and its real potential.

To dismiss VR as a technology that will never quite make it is a dangerous game. After all – and not to get too philosophical at this point – how are we to know that the lives we are currently living aren’t some kind of virtual reality experience?

Travellers will always want the real thing

The main point is more simple. No matter whether VR tech is convincing enough, travellers will always want the real thing. Nobody wants to feel like they’ve cheated or, worse, like they’ve somehow missed out. This is perhaps why physical trips to Machu Picchu will never be adequately replaced by VR.

It also explains why 92% of survey respondents stated that visiting a destination via a virtual reality headset would not count as actually having been there.

The reasons why are down to the feeling that VR travel can’t measure up to real-life travel, with the absence of the smells, sounds and atmosphere of the destination.  not being able to enjoy the local food and drink, and missing out on meeting new people and locals.

Another important factor is the things that VR would take away from the experience, like local food and drink or the opportunity to meet new people; two things that are an important part of any travel experience.

Owner and Director of Italy4Real, Rem Malloy, said:

“We were very interested to see the results of this survey. Virtual reality and artificial intelligence are growing aspects of the travel industry and discussion around the role they play is vital.

At Italy4Real authentic travel experiences are at the core of what we do and we don’t believe that virtual reality could ever replace the full sensory experience of travel. We are pleased to see that a large majority of respondents feel the same way.

Virtual reality can certainly help to enhance the travel experience at the pre-booking stage, however we don’t believe it could ever replace it entirely.

We were also interested to see that 67% of respondents feel the role of tour guide could not be replaced by artificial intelligence. At Italy4Real our expert local tour guides are a crucial part of our services, and we intend to keep that personal touch.”

vr travel industry

Survey respondents weren’t convinced that VR represents a threat to the travel industry.

VR’s place in the travel industry will expand

Let’s assume that VR technology is decades away from convincingly imitating the real world. And that in terms of travel, it will always be second best to reality. There are still, as we’ve spoken about before, potential applications to excite travel industry professionals.

These include providing interactive guided tours of accommodation and resorts and generally showing off a destination’s best visuals.

One final point: Sure, VR travel might never reach the stage where it’s an adequate replacement for the real thing. But it could make a name for itself as a backup option. Perhaps it will soon be offering the ill, the incapacitated and the elderly a way to visit sights and experience places that otherwise would be beyond their reach.

Survey respondents hinted at this. 77% said VR would be a good option if you’re not physically capable of travelling. Other benefits suggested were that people could effectively via VR go ‘wherever you want, whenever you want’. Another plus is price: VR would be significantly cheaper than genuine travelling in the long-term.

We love travel technology, not just Virtual Reality

Here at Travelshift we specialise in building technology that empowers travel startups. Travelshift software is currently helping travel startups around the world build competitive marketplaces and level the playing field.

Competing with established travel providers isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. We’ve created a marketplace platform with all the tools you need to succeed, with SEO optimization, community-driven content marketing features, an easy-to-use inventory system and much more.

Find out how you can benefit from our travel technology Saas solution today.

Insight and Lessons Learned From Travel Industry Leaders

In a slight break from tradition, this week we’re not going to be delving deeply into the work of a particular travel startup. Instead we’re going to be looking at several in one go, deciphering trends and gaining insight from a selection of people who have been there and done it.

There are a few benefits to this approach. First of all, it means that you, the reader, can learn multiple lessons from a single read. Second, it’ll be interesting to see if startups and established travel operators offer similar answers when faced with the same questions. Is there a consensus? Are there definitive dos and don’ts even with travel businesses operating in different niches?

First of all, let’s introduce the travel companies and individuals that we’ve received comments and insight from:

  • Lujaina Kharusi, founder of Envago – a marketplace app for adventure travel.
  • Matt Mavir, founder of Last Night of Freedom – a popular Stag and Hen trip platform.
  • Mike Lewis, founder and CEO of Trip Historic – an online travel guide for historical sites around the world. 
  • Robert den Hollander, founder of Tripaneer – a marketplace for themed trips, catering to all kinds of travel niches.

The first question we put to our esteemed travel industry leaders was about the challenge. The challenge of building a travel company from scratch and the biggest hurdles they had to overcome in those early days. Unsurprisingly, a few common themes came up. These included building relationships with suppliers, getting noticed and the familiar problem of finding enough hours in the day.

Dealing with time constraints

The first challenge was time. Startups are time intensive, whether or not they are in travel. And when the founding team have day jobs or other commitments, finding the hours and energy to get a new project off the ground can be difficult. That was the experience of Last Night of Freedom founder Matt Mavir.

Back in 1999 Mavir was a self-styled ‘hoody-wearing, cider-swilling student taking business calls in his pants‘. Since then, Last Night of Freedom has come a long way and its growing team has since organised more than 25,000 successful stag and hen weekends.

The biggest challenge in the early days was having a full-time day job and trying to maintain a healthy social life,” says Mavir. “I was 22 years old and the only way around it was to work my way through it. I’d get in from work at about 6:30 pm, have dinner and work on Last Night of Freedom until 2 in the morning.”

The contrast between student life and the working world can be a shock for any recent graduate. “I didn’t completely abandon my mates, but I did have to limit nights out to weekends – and work all of Saturday and Sunday. This was also back in the days when I could still function with a hangover!”

It goes without saying that being able to put sufficient time into your startup is a necessary condition for success. A good idea can go to waste without the resources needed to get it off the ground; time is a fundamental part of that. That’s why plenty of travel industry startups are projects that occur as part of a career change, as was highlighted in our recent interview with Wheels of Morroco.

Getting noticed

One of the common conundrums faced by travel startups is exposure. To begin with, most startups find that traffic in their niche is dominated by enormous marketplaces and long-established contenders. Getting around this is no mean feat, even if your core product is unique.

This is where budget constraints can come in, too. If you don’t have the financial resources to pay for mainstream marketing that will put your brand directly in front of prospective travellers, how do you go about getting noticed? That was the biggest challenge faced by Mike Lewis at Trip Historic.

As he admits, “The biggest challenge for any new site, particularly a travel start-up, was simply getting noticed.”

Lewis’ project is a travel guide first and foremost, but with products to come it’s easy to see how building a global audience could be the first step toward monetising that engagement. Either way, he has faced similar challenges to operators starting up in the hope of selling or aggregating tours and excursions. The key, we’d imagine, has been quality content. Quality content invariably speaks for itself. 

“There are loads of established players out there as well as hundreds of new entrants, up and coming brands and blogs, so it can be hard to break through. At Trip Historic, we focused on our core proposition and the fact that we were dedicated to historic and cultural travel really differentiated us from other travel sites.”

So far, so sensible. But how did Trip Historic get the ball rolling and build authority in the historic travel sector? “

We didn’t have any resources to call in a PR agency, so I just got online and on the phone” – Mike Lewis, founder, Trip Historic

From there it was just about politely but persistently reaching out to people,” he said. “We didn’t have any resources to call in a PR agency, so I just got online and on the phone. I was helped by the fact that so many journalists turn out to be massive history fans. We ended up getting coverage in a vast array of publications and even featured on the BBC.”

Building a marketplace from scratch (and attracting sellers)

The two startups we’ve featured so far faced challenges that will be familiar to many in the industry: gaining exposure and finding the time to get things off the ground. Our next industry leader also had to grapple with a third issue: enticing sellers.

Adventure travel marketplace app founder Lujaina Kharusi started Envago knowing how crucial it would be to get sellers to pitch up in her marketplace. Without sellers, there would be no reason for customers to enter the website or download the app. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that getting the supply side of the business sorted was the most important part of starting up and therefore the biggest challenge.

“Because adventure providers are busy running their business, it was hard getting them to look into Envago and actually register,” she said. “And without them it was tricky to grow the demand side.”

Read more: Building a Travel Marketplace – Pricing Strategy

envago travel industry leaders

Envago

So what was the solution? “I learnt that the best way to overcome this issue was for Envago to list on their behalf,” she said. “It costs nothing for a planner to be listed on Envago, and we transfer all monies to the planner for each booking we take. It works for everyone, our customers have more choice of adventures and planners have a new channel to sell their products!”

Kharusi explains that as well as listing operators for free, Envago supports them with global marketing and PR; a sure way to get on good terms with sellers and populate a marketplace quickly. 

Building the right team

Anyone starting up in the travel industry will quickly realise the importance of building a strong team. From what we’ve seen already it’s clear there are plenty of potential pitfalls and many areas of expertise that need to be covered.

tripaneer travel insight

Themed travel from Tripaneer

Because of that, Tripaneer founder Robert den Hollander suggested that the biggest challenge facing travel industry startups is finding the right people to share in the vision.

“Though finding the right people to join the team is always a challenge – no matter what stage your business is at – it was particularly difficult when we were first starting out,” he said.

This is especially the case when your own investment is on the line. “To start Tripaneer, I had used my own capital, which means I had to be very cautious when it came to spending – and this certainly included operating expenses such as employee salaries.”

“If I were to hire local (in this case Dutch) team members, I would have to spend a big chunk of my capital on this. So, I decided to search for alternatives. The best option I had found was to hire high-quality remote workers.”

Den Hollander admits that this wasn’t necessarily the most efficient way to recruit, but it certainly paid dividends in the long run. “By taking this option, it probably took a little longer for me to find the right people to initially join the team but knowing what I know now, I believe that it was the right step,” he said. 

“It allowed me to not only hire quality candidates who were less costly than if I were to hire locally, but also to invest my resources in developing our first set of travel theme websites.

Insight: What’s changing in the world of travel?

People want to personalise their travel plans

We like to look ahead here at Travelshift – whether that’s how different technologies will be used in the industry or how new trends are shifting the landscape. One recurring theme that we’ve seen in our interviews with industry leaders is the increasing level of customisation tourists are demanding.

On the one hand, this is because increasingly immersive travel is becoming increasingly trendy. Travellers want something memorable; a more personal experience. On the other hand, this shift is a result of the availability of choice. With marketplaces such as Last Night of Freedom offering a huge variety of destinations, accommodation and activities, groups can (and now expect to be able to) tailor their trip to the max.

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Last Night of Freedom

Generic no longer cuts it, as Last Night of Freedom’s Matt Mavir explains: “Everything is becoming a lot more bespoke – no-one is happy these days with a generic three-star hotel and unnamed activity centres.”

As a result, he says that the company has shifted to “bring far more info upfront”, increasing the ways in which revellers can adapt their trips to suit their needs.

The rise of augmented reality?

We’ve written at great length in the past about augmented reality and virtual reality, as two hot technology trends that could have a real impact in the travel industry. Virtual reality, in particular, could revolutionise the way hotels and resorts market their destinations. It could even give tourists a feel for a site or activity before they arrive.

There’s no doubt that exciting opportunities lie ahead, especially as the technology continues to develop. Trip Historic’s Mike Lewis is certainly an advocate for mixing the past with the future, and has plans to introduce augmented reality in his company’s experiences.

insight from travel leaders

Trip Historic has plans with Niantic, the augmented reality gaming company responsible for Pokemon Go.

“Augmented reality is a very exciting technology for us,” he said. We work quite closely with a couple of different teams at Google and have already worked with them on a Google Glass app which aimed to bring the classic guided walking tour into the 21st century.”

It’s easy to see how a little technology could bring a historic tour to life. Just imagine glancing through your smart glasses and suddenly being transported to medieval Paris, or watching as a famous battle unfolds before your eyes.

Lewis admits that previously the technology hasn’t quite been capable of offering what he envisions. “But the idea of augmented reality fits our content perfectly and we believe it’s the next natural step for travel tech experiences.”

And it seems there’s big news on the horizon: “We are lucky enough to work with one of the most cutting edge companies exploring this technology at the moment – Niantic Labs, creators of Pokémon Go – and we’re working with them on their flagship Field Trip app,” he confirmed. 

Adventure travel and far-flung destinations

Envago’s Lujaina Kharusi has built a business based on one of the travel trends that we’ve highlighted before: the unrelenting desire for adventure.

Adventure travel offers many of the things the modern tourist is looking for: fun, immersion, memories and adrenaline.

The adventure sector grew by 23% in 2015 alone and according to a report by Skift, operators in this niche have reported an average of $3,000 spent per person and an average trip length of eight days. Big.

“Envago is built on perhaps the biggest of all emerging travel industry trends- the rise in adventure travel,” said Kharusi. “In particular though, I am interested in Eastern European markets such as Croatia, Bosnia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Georgia. They have spectacular nature that allows you to do many outdoor activities at reasonable prices.

She also suggests that adventure tourism will soon hit Africa in a big way, with Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda likely to be the next popular destinations.

The rise of remote workers

Traditionally, people have taken holidays during the summer and winter breaks. This is especially the case for families with children and school term times to cater to.

But aside from the conventional family unit, the dynamics of travel timings are changing. This is partly down to the rise in remote working. In an increasingly connected world, rigid work days and office-based 9-to-5s are growing more scarce and more needless.

remote working is a travel future trends

Remote working is on the rise – who needs an office?

If you can work remotely, typing at your desk in the office seems unnecessary. The result is that people have more freedom to blend travel with work, blurring the lines between work, play, holidays and office hours.

This trend will have an obvious impact on the travel industry, according to Tripaneer’s Robert den Hollander.

“With the rising trend of remote working, we are hoping that more and more people will not be tied down to certain holiday schedules in order to determine the ‘right’ time to travel,” he said.

“This means that more people will have fewer constraints when it comes to planning their next holiday destination. They don’t necessarily have to fit their travel within a certain schedule, as they have the ability to take their work with them while they are on vacation.”

We are hoping that more and more people will not be tied down to certain holiday schedules in order to determine the ‘right’ time to travel” – Robert den Hollander, founder, Tripaneer.

In terms of how this could affect travel operators, “there’s a likelihood that travel will increasingly become a year-round activity with the demand for travel packages – including theme travel – is less likely to be affected by seasonality.”

One final piece of advice

Our final question to each of our industry leaders was a simple one: If you could give one single piece of advice to people starting up in the travel industry, what would it be?

Choosing your niche and sticking to it… (to a point)

As a provider of travel marketplaces, we like to think that we have some expertise when it comes to choosing a niche. After all, the first application of our marketplace software in Iceland has had incredible success.

“Pick your niche. Then decide how you’re going to do things differently and how you’re going to add value to an already crowded marketplace, and, then, formulate your mission statement.” – Matt Mavir, founder, Last Night of Freedom

But having a focus doesn’t only apply to setting up marketplaces.

Our industry leaders also highlighted the importance of having a target in mind when you setup, both in terms of customer and in terms of product. Clearly that relentless focus is vital, but it shouldn’t be so rigid that change isn’t possible when things aren’t working out.

Last Night of Freedom’s Matt Mavir has built a business on top of a very particular travel market. “Pick your niche,” he said. “Then decide how you’re going to do things differently and how you’re going to add value to an already crowded marketplace, and, then, formulate your mission statement.”

“Work ruthlessly, unapologetically and tirelessly to achieve it… But, also have the awareness to know when things aren’t working and when it’s the right time to pivot or cut the bait.”

It makes a lot of sense to set up a travel company with a clear target market and focus in mind. The same can be said of any business. When starting out startups need to work with conviction, belief and focus. But if things aren’t working out, they have to be prepared to pivot.

Envago’s Lujaina Kharusi agrees. Travel startups (particularly marketplaces) should “focus on one or two markets and give the best experience possible.”

The sentiment towards customer experience is an important one. If you’re not focusing on crafting an offering that gives your first customers the trip of a lifetime, how can you ever hope to inspire loyalty and gain recognition? 

Creating new products to add value to a travel marketplace

We’ve spoken before about how travel marketplaces need to create value to appeal to customers. Enticing offerings are all well and good, but packages and new combinations of services and products are what travellers want. In the case of Last Night of Freedom, the company has gone one step further.

As well as organising bespoke Stag and Hen trips, they have also become the UK’s largest supplier of Stag and Hen costumes and accessories.

It’s a move that’s both smart and obvious. In one swift the company has become a one-stop-shop for stag and hen party organisers; the ultimate in bachelor party convenience.

Envago has a similar level of originality. Everything from trip browsing to purchase is done through an app – perhaps as a nod to the fact that more and more travel bookings are being made through mobile devices. This adds a layer of exclusivity and ease to the Envago service.

The platform also offers a connected group chat for travellers booking the same tour, so they can get to know one another before arrival. Nice touch.

Persevering and not being afraid to hear the word ‘no’

More travel startups close down in the first year than go on to be successful, but the key is in having a strong foundation and a proposition that customers will buy into. With that in place, the world is your oyster – providing you’re willing to overcome setbacks and persevere.

Trip Historic’s Mike Lewis points out that “if you have a strong proposition, the barriers to entry are actually remarkably low.”

triphistoric founder mike lewis offers insight and lessons from travel industry

Trip Historic

“Before the internet, if you wanted to launch a new publication or business, you needed deep pockets and serious infrastructure. Nowadays, anyone can simply throw up a blog, launch a new site or fling themselves into the YouTube generation.”

Just as important as that proposition is the persistence to follow it through. “When it comes to making an impact,” he says, “you mustn’t be afraid to shout about it and just reach out to journalists and companies large and small.”

“You don’t need to be a well-established brand with an army of staff to get noticed. If you’re offering something unique with a quality product then there’s no harm in reaching out to the biggest companies in the world – the worst they can do is say no.”

You can always afford to be selective with your staff

Sure, expertise comes at a premium. But bear in mind the rise in remote working, freelancing and the potential open doors to employees offered by sites such as Upwork. All of these mean that it’s easier than ever to build a team of quality individuals – whether you’re looking for a freelance writer, marketing experts or a remote sales force.

It also means that you can work with people on short-term contracts until you find the right individuals to keep on for the long term.

Tripaneer’s Robert den Hollander agrees: “Be selective when it comes to recruitment, as your employees are your greatest assets. It’s important that when you are looking to hire team members, you should be evaluating their values and character as much as their skills and competencies.”

“Though it may mean that you will need to invest more time & effort in the short-term, in the long-term, you’ll likely to reap the rewards.”

A travel startup is nothing without a committed and motivated team pulling in the same direction. “If you take your time and hire the right people, you’ll have the support you need in accelerating your business’ growth and success.”

That’s all, folks

Thanks for reading our collection of lessons and insight from travel industry leaders. We’re committed to helping ambitious startups get ahead. That’s the main reason for this post; we like to do our bit to help the community!

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In case you didn’t know, we also help the travel startup community in more tangible ways.

Our proven marketplace software helps travel startups build a successful online platform from scratch. Our proprietary solution combines SEO, community-driven content marketing, localisation and much more – giving you all the tools you need to aggregate suppliers in your chosen niche and start a thriving travel business.

Get in touch with us today to find out more – or read more about our software solution.

Thanks again to Lujaina Kharusi, Matt Mavir, Mike Lewis and Robert den Hollander for sharing their insight and experience with us and the travel community.