The internet has driven a tremendous transformation in how people plan and book their travel by providing users near-instant access to information about trip options and the ability to book online. Over time as the amount of travel information online and numbers of travel tools have grown, so has the complexity of planning and booking a trip. Discovering things to do or altering plans during a trip further adds to this complexity. Another trend is the increasing use of smartphones for travel planning and booking, especially amongst millennials . Unfortunately, most mobile travel tools today feel like shrunk-down desktop websites from the 90s rather than user-flows truly built for mobile.
Fragmented planning and booking
Nielsen research found that the average traveler spends 53 days visiting 28 different websites over a period of 76 online sessions in order to plan and book a trip . That’s a lot of time and effort, even for someone who loves to research travel options. It can feel particularly painful for people who are planning an itinerary on top of a full plate of career and family responsibilities. While users try to keep track of options that are spread across different websites, the browser undergoes a tab explosion. More organized travelers create shared documents to collect options in one place and coordinate with co-travelers, but they still need to do the hard work of gathering and synthesizing disparate data from a variety of sources. Some companies are making inroads towards decreasing fragmentation within specific verticals (like flights and hotels) but no one has so far successfully unified the entire process.
Climbing a mountain of generic options
Another pain point in travel today is figuring out the right ingredients (flights, hotels, restaurants, events, etc.) for each person’s trip incorporating their preferences and context. In most products, users need to “teach” their preferences to the software for each trip by adjusting canned filters. Take some of the online travel agents (OTAs) as an example. Because the categories of the filters are selected by the provider, they often miss aspects that the user cares about . Even when these filters are carefully tuned by the user, they are too coarse-grained to yield search results that sufficiently hone in on the best-fit candidates. Even worse, in some cases an advertising-based revenue model incentivizes the surfacing of worse-fit candidates who pay for placement. As a result, users scroll through an overwhelming number of generic options before landing on something they can commit to booking.
Mobile-first, experience-first travel
By 2025, millennials and younger generations will account for 75% of all travelers in the United States . They value experiences over material possessions and prioritize travel as an integral part of their lives . They’re selecting their destinations and building their itineraries around specific activities and events. They are blending business and leisure travel . They don’t want to settle for cookie-cutter, touristy experiences, and they don’t want to plan everything in advance. In essence, they’re hungry for better alternatives — for products that are mobile-first and enable them to easily discover, personalize, choose and book their travel and leisure, and to do all of this while on the go.
In the next blog post we will talk about how XOKind is approaching these opportunities and our solution to these pain points. Follow us to stay tuned! Are you an avid traveler yourself, excited about applying AI to improve everyday life or have opinions about how travel planning and booking can be improved? Drop us a note at email@example.com or join us. Visit us at xokind.com for more details and to sign up for our app waitlist.
- Arjun, Yinyin, Scott and Sarah
Notes and Sources
- E.g. the “wifi” filter doesn’t provide insight into speed; “gym” doesn’t reveal the level of cleanliness; “restaurant” doesn’t convey food variety; “neighborhood” doesn’t tell us the level of safety, popularity or convenience to locations we care about
- So much so that that there is an even a term for it: bleisure