No matter what you think about the travel industry, it will not only be back but it will be bigger than ever. It just won’t be exactly be the same. What will be the major changes? Business travel will actually go down but personal, experiential and blended (stay/work/play) travel will rise. If you look at the behavior of Millennials and Gen-Z during the pandemic, while international travel fell off a cliff, local and state travel exploded. Airbnb shifted all their marketing to encourage customers to travel locally and between states in the United States.
Well, combine this renewed focus on domestic travel with the pent-up demand for travel internationally, fueled by remote work opportunities, and you will have a travel industry that will be growing exponentially beyond where we were in 2019. In talking with Brian Kidwell recently, cofounder and CEO of Scotts Cheap Flights, he stated that their SaaS platform and email interactions are already back to the 2019 level and growing.
Here are five insights that might have you surface a product or service for your next travel company startup.
Less business trips? Meeting software needs to be better. According to a December 1, 2020 Wall Street Journal article, between 19% and 36% of all business trips could disappear given the efficiencies developed during the lockdown. Even as Covid-19 vaccines become widespread, business travel is likely to be changed by the pandemic. Travel budgets have been slashed and some meetings will remain virtual. If that is the case, let’s hope a startup out there somewhere will build better virtual meetings applications that are easier to use, have better UI/UX, reduce the bandwidth drag and have more interactive meeting options. Can it happen? Whats App came out of nowhere to disrupt SMS and the telephone industry with a better messaging application and technology. Hopefully, there are startups out there right now working to disrupt Zoom, Cisco Webex, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams whose collective meeting software platforms remain weak at best. If we are going to have virtual meetings in our future, then they should be on amazing platforms.
Discovery and adventure trips. The pandemic, which has curtailed travel worldwide will also unleash a market tsunami as travel returns. But it may not be travel as usual as scores of travelers will want a deeper meaning or purpose for their travel. Perhaps before, a trip to Rome meant the Coliseum and Trevi Fountain. Now it might be a bike ride in Tuscany or perhaps a cooking school experience. This will create new opportunities for concierge like travel startups to correctly package and sell “experiences” and not just travel destinations.
Glamping will explode for a while. Glamping is where stunning nature meets modern luxury. It’s about an authentic way to connect with nature and stepping off the beaten path, walking away from superficial tourist activities and embracing an immersive cultural environment. By pushing themselves out of their comfort zones, and hotel rooms, experiential travelers will experience a shift in perspective that improves the way they connect with the world. Some people call it luxury camping. Some call it glamorous camping. Either way, glamping is here to stay for now. Startups like Bubble Hotels are flourishing and raising funds. Will it explode into a new industry segment or be a narrow niche for Millennials and Gen-Z? Time will tell.
Workcations will grow. While the pandemic may be temporary, it has caused some permanent shifts in our work and play behavior. It has upended the way many people work; office work is out, and remote work is in. With the rise of remote work, however, has come fatigue from working in childhood bedrooms, living rooms, kitchen counters, sitting room couches and other unconventional spots. On the flip side, this has created a lot of flexibility for remote workers of where they can be physically located. Some Caribbean island countries are offering relief from visa restrictions to move to their country for one year and work. Other workers have moved to Europe to “work and play.” Regardless, this means companies like Airbnb and major hotels will have to adjust and create products and services to match this vagabond worker. Somewhere in all of this are opportunities for startups.
Travel experience apps will grow. The travel restrictions have created two major opportunities within the travel software industry. One is for you to experience travel via a virtual opportunity with you in your living room and a tour guide or an interactive app taking you on a walking tour in Paris or London. Startups like This are providing a new way to experience travel without leaving your couch. This may grow or shrink based on travelers’ appetites for travel in the next two years, or if the software is good, may turn into a strong industry with kind of a Netflix platform where you can easily “rent” a travel experience. The second type of app opportunity is all about personalized localization to either connect with locals or get a local’s experience. Either way, the future for travel applications looks bright.