The world of travel has progressed significantly, and the past 365 days have undoubtedly been huge for the industry. The domain has been awash with innovative technologies, path-breaking tourism policies, hybrid solutions, some social-media controversies, and much more. Mobile has had a great impact on bringing these changes to the fore and affecting the behaviour of today’s connected traveller.
So, on this rundown, we’ve pulled together a list of trends from experts across travel and tourism on how we will be seeing travel in 2018. While some of these trends have just begun to rise, some are practically around the next corner.
#1. China and India will dominate the startup domain – Chetan Kapoor, Research Analyst, Phocuswright, Asia Pacific
“China and India will remain the bigger attractions of the APAC startup universe in 2018 and beyond, but more startups will emerge to tackle local nuances in other parts of the region. These won’t be the most sexy, consumer-facing brands but those focused on the more complex and under-served aspects such as corporate travel, packaging, traveler intelligence solutions, travel experiences and cruise travel. With aggregation and distribution still being the focal point for various segments across markets, we may see hybrid solutions (artificial + human intelligence) accelerate these processes in the near-term than fully automated ones.”
#2. Online travel is set to become more competitive – Valentin Dombrovsky, CEO, Travelabs
“I don’t want to go for ‘usual suspects’ and claim that AI, blockchain, VR or whatever else will bring ‘revolution’ into travel tech in 2018. When we talk about change, we need to see what leads to this change. Few things that happened in 2017 might mean a lot for 2018 (and upcoming years). Airbnb brought up lots of news this year – it changed some of its top managers and claims to end 2017 with profits. This is a major milestone for the whole industry as its main ‘unicorn’ turns out to be real business (if there were some people who didn’t believe that, now they should). Airbnb IPO will probably happen in 2019 and it means that we’ll have lots of people with travel tech experience who might get resources for investment in some of the disruptive startups. I’d say that our industry is ‘hungry’ for the events like that.
The launch of Airbnb experiences has also brought attention to tours and activities sector and investments in such startups as Getyourguide, Klook, Musement, Tiqets, Tourradar have summed up to approximately $200 mln. It’s great to see that my favourite part of travel tech industry has become ‘hot’ again and I believe we’ll see some exciting developments there in 2018.
This year there were also lots of talks about B2B startups and ‘plumbing’ which they make for the industry. We all know that travel tech has lots of parts where old legacy systems are in place. In tours and activities sector, on the other hand, lots of suppliers didn’t use any technology at all. Situation changes now at least on the development markets and B2B travel technology companies bring efficiency to travel suppliers enabling easier online distribution as well.
Travel suppliers will also try to catch up with online companies in terms of distribution and online travel ‘competition’ becomes more and more intense. With Google paying more and more attention to the industry some interesting things might happen in 2018 too. Lastly, the ‘Big Game’ of major OTAs might see some interesting moves on the market due to CEO changes at Expedia and Priceline, and their claims that their major growth should be on the emerging markets. At the same time Chinese OTAs (especially CTrip) don’t want to stay in China and see themselves as global companies. So, in 2018 we should see some interesting competitive moves from online travel juggernauts.”
#3. Virtual assistants will rule the roost- Winnie Tan, CEO and Founder, TripZilla.com
“The tech revolution continues in travel with startups leading the charge. A trend that will disrupt the travel startup industry even more fiercely in the coming year is the increasing use of virtual assistants such as Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Google Assistant. We will be seeing the rise of virtual travel concierge/chatbots, powered by AI, which can give recommendations for things to do, where to eat, help with ride-hailing as well as ticketing/bookings.
Personally, I have not seen any killer idea for use of blockchain technology in travel, yet. But seeing how the term is fast becoming a startup buzzword in every industry, we will definitely see our fair share of blockchain-for-travel startups. At the minimal level, the rise of ICOs (Initial Coin Offering) will disrupt the way startups raise money. Travel startups will also need to consider how foreign exchange and payments will be disrupted by the widespread adoption and use of cryptocurrencies and smart contracts.”
#4. Technological advancements will lead to more acquisitions – Matt Zito, Managing Partner, Travel Startups Incubator, LLC
“Two trends we see in 2018 are a renewed interest by VCs in USA and larger corporate companies like Facebook to invest in travel technology in India, and second, a move by larger global travel companies to start acquiring smaller startups as the pace of technology advancements will force acquisitions of new technologies and teams to stay ahead of their competition.”
#5. Indian travellers will embrace connected technologies – Sesh Seshadri, General Manager, Lonely Planet India
“Our daily life is changing. With IOT integrating into our lives it is changing even more. I recently had the opportunity to engage with Amazon Alexa and Google Home. These technologies offer significant value when it comes to how we travel and help us plan quicker, a great opportunity for the differently-able people. Enthusiasm for connected technologies varies from country to country. We should see the growth of this enthusiasm among Indian travellers in 2018. Virtual Reality is moving into the mainstream travel brands and significant investments are being made in this space.”
#6. OTAs will need disruptive solutions in 2018- Sanjiv Agarwal, Founder, Chairman & CEO, Fairfest Media
“Globally, and especially in Europe there is a trend of competition law authorities intervening in the OTA business. Increasingly, rate parity and MFN-type agreements are suspect. This is an interesting trend that may need disruptive solutions.”
#7. 2018 is going to be all about Blockchain – Bart Bellers, Founding Partner, Xpdite Ventures
“Disrupting an industry doesn’t happen overnight, so probably 2018 will still be fine for the majority of industry players. However, the seeds for disruption have already been planted and the disruptor of any transaction-based industry will be Blockchain. Travel is no exception. And sure, the speed and performance is not up to par with the requirements of our industry. But rather than a problem, it is a blessing. If we have learned anything from the past, underperformance of a new technology is a key warning signal for disruption. Because it is so slow and not performing, incumbents will underestimate the power until it is too late to adapt. A textbook example of disruption. 2018 will be the year that the seeds will come out and the first real use cases will take shape that will change our industry forever. That’s why I am so excited to be at the forefront with Xpdite Ventures and help those startups become better companies.”