The Missing Piece in Travel Industry Innovation: Understanding What Changes Discovery

Drive innovation in travel, enhance user experience, and gain a competitive edge by discovering the missing piece.

In the travel industry, there is fierce competition among online travel agencies and travel search engines, and staying ahead of the game means constant innovation. While current features like destination inspiration, price prediction, social connections, local experiences, and sustainability ratings help travelers in different ways, there still needs to be one piece to the puzzle: understanding what changes discovery. In this blog post, we explore this missing piece and how discoverability can be used to drive innovation and improve the user experience for travelers. We also offer insights on improving existing features and gaining a competitive edge in the market.

The travel industry is fiercely competitive, with innovation being a key driver of success. When we consider the most significant advancements in the last two decades, a few come to mind immediately, such as the shift to mobile devices, secret deals, travel insurance, the sharing economy, and buy now, pay later options.

Looking toward the future, the question on everyone's mind is, "What's next?" While it's easy to ponder about the advancements in technology and its capabilities, as well as the changing patterns of travelers, it's essential to consider the questions we can answer today that will inform the development of relevant products and services. Some of these pressing questions include:

  • Can AI be used to predict travelers' needs?
  • Will virtual reality eventually become a realistic substitute for physical travel?
  • Is hyper-personalization the key to the future of travel?
  • How will loyalty programs evolve?
  • Will work mobility reshape market segments?

Having hypotheses and creating a thesis on responses to the above and many other questions can drive innovation and solutions to the evolving user needs. Ultimately, the existing players focus more on ongoing UX optimization and marketing efficiency. Companies like have mastered that art. You can find a great case study on this here.

While larger companies have been able to take necessary steps, smaller ones have often needed help to keep up. This is especially evident in the airline industry, where the first step in booking a flight is searching for specific criteria or discovering options. Factors influencing a customer's decision to search for a flight include pricing, itinerary, and affinity to a particular airline.

When it comes to travel booking, the decision-making criteria are standard. But what sets travel companies apart is their ability to innovate in search and discovery. Most companies have focused on five primary features to help travelers discover new destinations and make informed decisions about their travel plans:

  • Destination Inspiration: Instead of just searching for flights to a specific destination, this offers travelers inspiration for where to go based on their interests and preferences.
  • Price Prediction: This typically includes using machine learning algorithms to predict the likelihood of flight prices changing in the future.
  • Social Connections: This is a now more common solution to allow travelers to connect with other travelers going to the same destination simultaneously.
  • Local Experiences: Several sites allow travelers to book local experiences and activities at their destination.
  • Sustainability Ratings: Some booking sites have started to provide travelers with information about the environmental impact of their flights and help them make more sustainable travel choices.

Let's take a closer look at each of these features and explore what's missing in the current offerings:

Destination inspiration: Instead of simply providing travelers with a list of destinations, some travel companies use personalized recommendations to suggest new and unique places. However, the relevance of these recommendations can be highly seasonal and irrelevant if they fall outside a specific date range. A more useful feature would be to capture what makes a destination attractive to the traveler and map out, on a calendar, when it makes sense to travel and alternative destinations that can satisfy the original traveler's needs.

Price prediction: By providing insights into when prices are likely to increase or decrease, it helps travelers make more informed decisions about when to book their flights. However, the relevance of these predictions can only be limited if travelers are flexible with their travel dates. A solution here would be a rules-heavy feature set option for travelers to select destinations and "potential" dates, increasing-price the prediction's relevance.

Social connections: By creating a social network around travel, travelers can make new friends, find travel buddies, and share tips and recommendations about their destination. However, the success of this feature is highly dependent on the amount of social data and social interest models that travel companies have access to. A solution would be to develop social network models in-house with public data or through 3rd party partnerships.

Local experiences: By connecting travelers with authentic, locally curated experiences, they help travelers get a more immersive experience beyond the typical tourist attractions itinerary. However, what needs to be added is a mix of timing and experience ranking. A potential solution would be to leverage AI to create itineraries with these experiences using existing APIs and rank them in a way that makes a much smoother travel day-to-day experience.

Sustainability ratings: By providing sustainability ratings for different flights, airlines, and destinations, they help travelers make more informed decisions about their travel and reduce their carbon footprint. However, more work can be done to provide travelers with actionable steps to make their journey more sustainable, such as suggesting eco-friendly accommodations and transportation options.

While the features described above can undoubtedly improve the discovery experience for travelers, they may need to be more on their own to address the most pressing concerns of modern travel. Fortunately, several promising startups are emerging that focus on measuring and reducing the carbon footprint of travel. By accurately tracking emissions and promoting sustainable options, these startups offer a way to make sustainability a deciding factor in travel planning. However, incentives will be essential to create a shift towards more sustainable travel. This could involve convincing airlines or governments to offer kickbacks for greener travel options, unlocking new travel possibilities that prioritize environmental impact, and driving innovation toward a more sustainable future.

In conclusion, there are several ways to create or tweak travel features to gain a competitive edge. At Hyper, we have helped several companies in the travel industry, including the Minor Group, ResortPass, and Nok Air, to provide unique user benefits and grow their market presence much faster. Whether enhancing discoverability or addressing sustainability concerns, we have the expertise to help you stay ahead in the competitive travel market. Contact us today for more information on how we can help your business thrive.

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