Online Booking, Voice Tech and Loyalty are Focus of Travel Trends Discussions at Annual Phocuswright Conference

It’s been fascinating to see how Airbnb has been able to build this brand affinity with its user base where people keep coming back and reusing again and again – and they don’t have an official loyalty program

Everyone wants to know what the hot trends will be for the coming year. Whether it’s fashion, travel, green living or anything else, it’s the industry experts we seek for answers. But where do the experts get their information? Well, if it’s the travel industry, you can probably find the experts at the annual Phocuswright Conference. Phocuswright is an independent authority in the travel industry that delivers qualitative and quantitative research on the evolving dynamics that influence the travel, tourism and hospitality industries.

The annual conference, held earlier this month, gives industry members an opportunity to gather and share thoughts about the current state of the industry and trends for the coming year. It’s also where ExpertFlyer went One-on-One with Alice Jong, a research analyst with Phocuswright, who shared some of the most interesting and important topics and trends for 2018, and beyond.

One subject that had conference attendees buzzing was the trend toward booking destination tours and activities online, a process that has long been conducted offline and often in person. One might initially think that this drives a dagger straight through the heart of small businesses specializing in local tours, but according to Ms. Jong, new digital platforms are allowing local businesses to mainstream their services. “There are new technology platforms being created that cater to these smaller players enabling them to digitize their inventory,” explained Ms. Jong.

Looking back on a study PCW conducted in 2011, Jong noted that big online players were only lukewarm to the idea of including tours and activities. Now companies such as Expedia, TripAdvisor, and Airbnb are adding bookable activities to their offerings wherever possible. This data supports what Chris Lopinto, president and co-founder of ExpertFlyer, included in his list of trends for 2017 when he said, “You will begin to see an expansion of business models where companies, such as Airbnb, will be getting into the ‘travel business,’ which will allow them to engage with clients for a longer period of time.”

As new technologies ease their way into mainstream acceptance, another crop of future technology applications, including chatbox© and AI chatbot, are being tested by a variety of companies, especially in the area of customer service. “Expedia rolled out a Facebook Messenger booking capability for Hotels.com, Kayak has been looking at Alexa capabilities, and over in Asia, China’s biggest OTA Ctrip issuing AI customer service chatbot to handle many of their customer inquiries” said Jong. “They’re trying to see what the possibilities are but the technology is still in its early stages of testing.”

Ms. Jong also discussed how price and convenience has quickly taken the “loyalty” out of loyalty programs, most notably in the airline and hotel sectors. “Our studies have found that travelers are willing to book with an airline outside of their loyalty program if it means a better price or schedule. On the other hand,” Ms. Jong said, “It’s been fascinating to see how Airbnb has been able to build this brand affinity with its user base where people keep coming back and reusing again and again – and they don’t have an official loyalty program.”

To learn more about what travel trends to look for in 2018 and watch the video interview with Alice Jong from Phocuswright, visit ExpertFlyer’s blog.

About Phocuswright

Phocuswright is the travel industry research authority on how travelers, suppliers and intermediaries connect. Independent, rigorous and unbiased, Phocuswright fosters smart strategic planning, tactical decision-making and organizational effectiveness.

Phocuswright delivers qualitative and quantitative research on the evolving dynamics that influence travel, tourism and hospitality distribution. Its marketplace intelligence is the industry standard for segmentation, sizing, forecasting, trends, analysis and consumer travel planning behavior. Phocuswright produces several high-profile conferences in the United States, Europe and Asia Pacific, and partners with conferences in China, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. Industry leaders and company analysts bring this intelligence to life by debating issues, sharing ideas and defining the ever-evolving reality of travel commerce.

The company is headquartered in the United States with Asia Pacific operations based in India and local analysts on five continents. Phocuswright is a wholly owned subsidiary of Northstar Travel Media, LLC.

About ExpertFlyer.com

Each month, ExpertFlyer’s One-on-One blog goes face-to-face with the travel industry’s leading decision makers to discuss and address topics relevant to many of today’s business and frequent travelers.

ExpertFlyer.com was conceived and created by an eclectic team consisting of a veteran elite tier frequent flyer, an airline captain and corporate travel manager, and information technology professionals to deliver a 24/7 real time powerful air travel information service. The company provides its subscribers and corporate travel managers alike with a complete, concise and efficient way to access the ever-changing details of worldwide air travel information. For more information, please visit expertflyer.com.

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