The Changes We Can Expect To See In The Travel Industry

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The global travel industry, valued at $2 trillion*, has largely embraced digitization, but the inter-city transportation segment, which is estimated at 9%, lags drastically in modernization. In countries outside of western Europe and the US, modern travelers accustomed to paying with digital wallets and having all information at a click, often find themselves lost in translation. They face challenges such as language barriers, dealing with local currencies, a lack of information, and journeys that can be stressful. In 2017, Noam Toister, my partner for this interview, wasted a full day during his honeymoon in the beautiful Philippines because he missed the bus to the Rice fields. Today, he is the founder & CEO of Travelier, a travel-tech company transforming ground and sea transportation for travelers around the world. In our journey today, we will explore the impact of Covid-19 on travel, discuss the technology gaps that land & sea are facing and the future of travel.

Gary Drenik: How have consumer travel habits changed since Covid-19?

Noam Toister: The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally reshaped consumer travel habits, placing a strong emphasis on safety, hygiene, and flexibility. Travelers are now more inclined towards domestic exploration, opting for rural or less crowded destinations, and showing a preference for private and personalized experiences. Technology has become a vital tool, with contactless procedures and digital platforms becoming essential. The industry has also seen a rise in sustainable travel, longer leisure stays combined with remote work, and a decline in traditional business travel.

Travel companies have responded by implementing stringent health protocols and offering more flexible booking policies. Virtual and remote experiences have emerged as new trends, and there’s a growing reliance on digital platforms to navigate the complex landscape of restrictions. Despite the challenges, the travel industry has shown remarkable resilience. According to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey, 2023 is the year in which travel is starting to climb back up to pre-covid numbers. The post-pandemic world is likely to continue to grow as China and Asia completely recover alongside these trends becoming the new standard in travel.

Drenik: What tech tools would benefit travelers when booking land and sea travel?

Toister: In the evolving landscape of land and sea travel, technology plays a pivotal role in enhancing the traveler’s experience. Online booking platforms should offer a one-stop solution for comparing and booking bus, ferry, and train tickets, providing information on timetables, prices, and reviews. Contactless payments and check-ins, enabled through digital wallets and mobile apps, streamline transactions and boarding processes, while real-time tracking and notifications keep travelers informed about their journey’s status. Virtual customer support through chatbots and virtual assistants, along with AI-driven personalized recommendations, add a layer of convenience and customization. Sustainability tools guide travelers towards eco-friendly choices, and the seamless integration with other services like accommodation and local attractions creates a unified and comprehensive travel experience. These digital solutions not only enhance efficiency but also reflect a shift towards a more connected, personalized, and responsible way of traveling.

Drenik: What are the barriers to the continued digitization of the ground transportation sector? What keeps consumers from booking their journeys solely online?

Toister: The barriers to the continued digitization of the ground transportation sector are multifaceted and complex. A significant challenge is the lack of knowledge and technological infrastructure, particularly in regions where the industry is still emerging. Unlike the flights sector, which has embraced digital transformation over the three-four decades, ground transportation is approximately 20 years behind, resulting in a penetration curve that’s still in its early stages. According to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics Survey, the data confirms the huge gap between flights and any other modes of transport.

The intercity transportation industry is also highly fragmented, with a multitude of small operators lacking the resources to invest in digital solutions. This fragmentation leads to inconsistencies in service quality and availability of online booking options, deterring consumers from relying solely on online platforms. Again, when comparing to flights, According to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey, most travelers will go to the airline website for booking. Within the intercity transportation sector, this is not possible as there could be tens or hundreds of options in many touristic locations.

Additionally, concerns over security, privacy, and the absence of personalized human interaction may keep some consumers from fully embracing online booking. The combination of these factors creates a landscape where the transition to full digitization is gradual and fraught with challenges, reflecting an industry that is still navigating its path towards a fully integrated online experience.

Drenik: Asia was lauded as “the” destination for 2023- what geography will be hot in 2024?

Toister: For this question I went to ask our favorite travel agent, ChatGPT. I honestly would agree with the answer I got. “While it’s challenging to predict with absolute certainty the “hot” travel destination for 2024, given the ever-changing dynamics of travel preferences, trends, and global events, some indications point towards Latin America as a region that could gain significant attention. Rich in culture, biodiversity, and historical landmarks, countries like Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina have been investing in tourism infrastructure and promoting sustainable travel practices.

The appeal of Latin America lies in its diverse landscapes, ranging from lush rainforests and stunning beaches to vibrant cities and ancient ruins. The region’s focus on eco-tourism, culinary experiences, and community-based tourism aligns with the growing global interest in responsible and immersive travel.

Drenik: What’s needed to help the ground travel industry grow? Is it consumer buy in, big investments, a shift in mindset…?

Toister: In order to overcome the technological gaps and this fragmented sector, a centralization system is much needed. One of our key investments in 2023 is our Connect hub which will enable our subsidiary brands alongside partners, OTA’s, and affiliates, to easily integrate with a single API additional transportation service while maintaining full visibility of assets. By centralizing payments, bookings, and metrics across the many local transportation providers and online travel agencies, this will lead the whole industry to be able to offer a one-stop-shop for travelers with better service and full inventory, far from what is available today.

Drenik: In conclusion, travel is much back but trends are changing, and consumers are shifting gears to new alternatives. I would like to thank you, Noam, for taking us through the journey of land and sea transportation. I’ve enjoyed the ride.

Check out my website. 

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