Google tightens grip on future of the travel industry – also puts startups in a tough spot

As entrepreneurs tasked with delivering the future, we need a simple model that we can use to evaluate opportunities and determine where we should be building technologies and functionality.

We may even dare to use the word “innovation”!

If we don’t understand the evolution of the business and how others (new and existing) fit in, we’re in trouble.

The model needs to be more comprehensive than “web wins” or “mobile” or “social”, but still be practical and useful for decision making purposes.

The evolutionary model that I base my thinking on is as follows:

Phase One – High Street/Main Street

Customers went into a shop and were generally asked “where do you want to go?”. Travel agents had technology with many many suppliers and choices.

The technology challenge was to get the choice down to a selection that the customer wanted to book. The subsequent booking then flowed from the travel agent to the supplier.

Phase Two – Online travel agents (Expedia etc)

Customers went to a website and were generally asked “where do you want to go”. Online travel agents had expensive technology with many many suppliers and choices.

The technology challenge was to get the choice down to a selection that the customer wanted to book. The subsequent booking then flowed from the travel agent to the supplier.

Phase 2 was NOT revolutionary. All it did was solve the SAME problem that phase 1 solved just in a more efficient manner.

Phase Three – Inbound/Supplier direct

Customers began to go direct to suppliers (hoteliers, airlines, local inbound tour operators). Metasearch become dominant as these services could answer the “where do you want to go” question – while letting the customer book directly with the supplier.

Itinerary management services (such as TripIt) became the glue to tie multiple supplier direct transactions together (rather than travel agent reservation systems)

Phase Four – I am here!

Location is known (where you are). Date is known (today / tonight). Services such as HotelTonight launched and began to achieve traction. No longer is the question where do you want to go  and on what date… but it is, instead, here and now.

This phase should not be confused with mobile services that improve access to phase two and phase three.

To reach its phase four potential, mobile is not about accessing existing phase two/phase three web services on the move, but instead MUST use the inferred location to provide a new service previously unimaginable.

Much of the existing industry structure is based around solving phase one and phase two problems. If the customer behaviour shifts primarily to phase three and phase four then the existing travel industry mega-structures become obsolete.

What is Google doing?

Google is leading the charge on phase four.

Some previously announced projects:

  • City Experts – Google is currently recruiting “Local Insiders” for their City Expert program. These individuals will “have access to fun, exclusive events. Free custom swag. Special online recognition”.
  • Field Trip – A location aware app that tells you interesting things as you walk around a city. Also acts as a geocoded travel blog aggregator with many travel blogs integrated). Give it a go. Hundreds of travel data providers are involved.
  • Helpouts – “Real help from real people in real time”. That’s the tips-from-a-local thing we constantly hear about.

So now Google has experts and a location aware app. Put those two together with its consumer facing traffic streams and you have a insurmountable combination.

For example, imagine you are in a city and you need advice. You could turn on your phone (or Google Glass spectacles), and immediately you are in live video contact with a local city expert. They answer you and you are satisfied.

Let’s face it, this is several travel startups that Google has wiped out, just there. In a flash.

Along with Google Flights and Hotel Finder (which look more like conventional phase three metasearch) effectively Google looks like it is going to win phase four.

It is pretty much the only leading travel company (let’s face it: Google is a travel brand now) that is even COMPETING in this game, let alone looking like a winner.

The real question here is if Google is already winning phase four, why on earth now would it want to buy your travel startup?

Travel startups were used to being ahead of the larger players. Now Google is ahead of the startups. Not a comfortable position for the newbies in travel to be in.

NB: Boot crush image via Shutterstock.

NB2: Wondering how Google Glass and Field Trip combine? Here you go:

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Alex Bainbridge

About the Writer :: Alex Bainbridge

Alex is a contributor to tnooz and writes about travel technology, travel startups, in destination guides and the tours & activities sector.

His most recent business TourCMS (sold October 2015) was the original leader in tours & activities distribution, connecting up hundreds of local tour suppliers with leading online travel agents. The industry architecture he put in place during that period is now the regular approach adopted globally by the entire local tour industry.

He is now CEO of a new in destination project coming soon.

Alex has a computing degree, is passionate about usability, speaks French and still writes and reviews code. Follow him on twitter @alexbainbridge

 

Comments

  1. Nick Vivion

    Nick Vivion

    Well done Alex on triggering such an important distinction. As Google Glass gains traction – just look at Vogue’s 12-page spread on Glass – the impact on startups’ competitiveness is going to be quite significant.

    The question shouldn’t be who’s going up against Google – it’s who’s going up against Glass. Where’s the wearable tech startup focused on gadgets for the active traveler? GoPro is already doing a great job there – just go to basically any event, and you’ll see hundreds attached to bodies all over. We have Memoto on the way, for lifeblogging. Apple may or may not be jumping in feet first. There’s most definitely an opportunity to take advantage of anti-Google sentiment and create a solid tech product that enhances the travel experience rather than layers even more information on top of the sensory-filled world.

    Thoughts on how competition to Glass could shake out?

    N

     
  2. Baljeet Sangwan

    There’s really nothing novel about the “City Experts” – think About.com’s “city guides” and all those travel social sites who have precisely that feature, with locals answering questions . Nor, for that matter, is the “Helpouts” concept groundbreaking, as there have been at least a few sites taking a crack at exactly that over the last couple of years. But of course with Google’s resources and dedication these might yet rise to stardom – although, from my perspective, it’s unlikely that the results will be hugely different from the past lot.

    Now, Field Trip IS radically new, which brings with it both excitement and apprehension, the latter due to the Big Brother-esque nature of it. But even in the event that it becomes wildly popular, I doubt that traditional tour operators have much to worry about, for they offer a planning feature as opposed to the random saunter down a cobbled lane where one hopes to discover and be surprised. I mean, Field Trip is not offering an overview of the city and all the options one might have; rather, it’s zeroing in on one’s location and calling out the points of interest, cafes and whatnot. Plus, they’re putting together a random cartel of publishers, some of whose information is questionable or even lacking. It’s a little like Wikipedia launching it’s WikiTravel amid great fanfare, climbing to the top of the SERPS and having empty pages for many of those queries – as an example, try typing in Hellissandur Travel Guide, and you’ll see what I mean.

    So really, while in theory your contention that the “experts and a location aware app” translate into an “insurmountable combination” sounds ominous, I think when you consider that the “experts” may turn out to be no more than Travel Advisor’s “reviewers” – and in all likelihood less than About.com’s guides – and that not everyone is going to make that leap of faith into the kaleidoscope tours, it’s really quite benign. What do you think?

     
  3. mobile guy

    Plus you have to factor in Google’s love to experiment in things, only to kill them later.

     
  4. Mike Stone

    Alex – good conversation… but I believe way to simplistic an approach.

    I also believe that Daniele Beccari identified a key factor that was overlooked in your conversation – namely some structural issues that your view totally glossed over.

    First of all – travel broadly speaking isn’t well automated. It remains a highly fragmented industry with little in the way of robust connectivity. Due I believe in large part because of a distinct and troubling lack of standards for electronic connectivity.

    While Google is a great aggregator of content – it is built on an advertising model and those that pay will be the ones that are found – and that will leave a lot of travel products, services and suppliers out in the cold

    On a local search basis I agree Google has real strength.

    The underlying problem in my opinion is context. The mass market can certainly be well served from Google, but unless and until users have the ability to utilize individualized profiles to allow their searches to generate results that are not advertising biased – but actually user profile targeted – I don’t see much value outside of mainstream travel products and services.

    There is and will be ample opportunity for niche technologies and players to operate successfully by focusing on markets and customers outside of the mainstream – and by doing so will be able to also offer mainstream products successfully.

    Travel is a much more diverse; layered and complex industry and business than most technologies, technology gurus, and technology companies give it credit for or possibly even understand. If for no other reason than that – there is still ample room and opportunity within travel and travel technology and solutions.

     
    • Murray Harrold

      “While Google is a great aggregator of content – it is built on an advertising model and those that pay will be the ones that are found – and that will leave a lot of travel products, services and suppliers out in the cold”

      … exactly!

       
  5. Daniele Beccari (@danbec)

    Alex –

    good insights, and I would add that there is a structural difference between your phases/steps 1-2-3 and 4.

    1-2-3 as you point out are different flavours of the same thing – there’s a need to book services (air/car/hotel) and someone is helping me achieving this. We’re in a transactional business with a straightforward transactional revenue/fee business model split along the chain.

    4 is about in-destination services. No actual need to book (a part exceptions). We are in discovery/inspiration/guiding/curation. We’re down to media and information brokering while also having a right here/right now constraint and humongously fragmented and unstructured data.

    This will call for many different business models, many contributors, many local infrastructure connections, and most likely different maturity levels from place to place.

    What is missing is a platform that enables the “mixture” you mention above (origin, destination, interest, context) on a global scale.

    Android and other mobile OSs have the potential to revolutionize travel user experience with intelligent agents like Google Now understanding what you need at each time (context) and then helping you “find how to find” what you need now.

    G is in an obvious pole position compared to any startup, but G is interested in building platforms. Field Trip is a platform for 3rd parties – add a transactional module in and you’ll have maybe the first truly global marketplace for local services.

    No startup could fund anything like this platform individually today, but many players could provide a slice of the content/service mixture. A slice could be large enough for startups – take restaurants, there are Yelp and OpenTable models that are large enough opportunities to go after (done).

    Local tours, you know better than me it’s ongoing.
    Camping, someone is working on this.
    Dinner with a local, someone is working on this.
    Museum tickets, someone is working on this.
    Taxis, someone is working on this.
    Currency conversion, someone is working on this.

    The list can go on and I can bet that Google is not going to do any of this directly.


    (Note that, at this stage, FieldTrip is still far from working well.

    I’ve been using it for a while in Paris: there is massive content for Paris, but the experience is just appalling – the thing is buzzing every 3 minutes with out of context (or so perceived) stuff, so annoying that you have to tune down notifications – and then you forget the thing exists.)

     
  6. Andrew Smith

    I find it very hard to believe that Google could ever replace their primary income stream from travel sites with what you define as “Phase 4”. Right now people use search and Google makes money from that. If the user behavior changes from desktop, tablet and mobile to also include Glass like devices then it’s still going to require search. If you say “Book me the cheapest flights from London to New York” that’s going to require a search which Google needs to make money from. Whether that be from a PPC like model or a Helpouts model it’ll come down to how Google can make cash from it. Helpouts would potentially be a bidding system based on some form of quality score so that the big OLTAs can get a slice of the pie. The intent remains the same but the delivery adapts to user behavior. What I can’t see Google doing is becoming a travel booking company, it’s too big a shift away from algorithms into customer service.

     
  7. Vipin Singal

    Dear Alex,

    We have been working from New Delhi, India since 1970 and have great memories of serving our clients. We have been providing TRS both for Inbound as well as Outbound to our Guests. Though the technology has played a big role in the last 25 years in ticketing business but our experience has been completely different for selling holidays where Hotels & Spas, City stopovers , sightseeing, shopping and Cruises are concerned.

    We always sell a destination which we have visited personally in detail. We feel there is nothing to beat when we are willing & happy to share our own experience with the clients.This holds true for high end clients who are looking for hassle free & memorable experiences during their holidays. Travel Agent may be known as Travel Advisors or Travel Consultants in near future. The potential is great but not for new start ups based on google findings.Inviting all to Incredible India !

     
  8. Dieter Holle

    Interesting view on things. Not sure I like the categorization into phases. All those phases are still very active, – not as though phase 2 has come and gone etc…

    It is through the sensible combination of the above methods that sales are made. No single method is the golden rule.

    In the end there always need to be innovators to push the boundaries, this applies to technology providers and travelers alike. Main stream technology and travelers are a fair bit behind and operate within what is ‘safe’ and tried and tested.

    Not going to loose sleep over this Google offering, but rather embrace it as an additional ‘here and now’ channel (when it actually takes off and works reliably).

     
    • Alex Bainbridge

      Hi Dieter
      Re phase 2 having gone – well yes – there is no HARD date when it will have deemed to have come and gone. I do however refer you to this Tnooz post from a couple of weeks ago

      https://www.tnooz.com/2013/08/13/news/dark-days-for-online-travel-agencies/

      The real challenge is that the timing of these phases are being driven by events from outside of the industry…. phase 1 to phase 2 was due to the rise of the web. Phase 3 to phase 4 was due to the rise of always on mobiles.

       
  9. Elisabeth Bertrand

    Reality check. Information overload in the making yet again. Take Google, it is dependent on the quality of information that PEOPLE feed it. That’s right people, actual living and breathing ones and it still isn’t quite that efficient at doing that : Why do I need 1,666,888 possible answers when I just want 1 good one?? Google is smart but is it smarter than the advertising and media industry put together? At the end of the day someone besides Google has to be able to make a buck out of all of this and I intend it to be me 🙂

    Ions ago I was taught the art of selling a vacation which teachers at my travel college took extremely seriously. A vacation is indeed still one of the hardest things to sell because it only exists as intangible evidence for the buyer and even a review is just hear say. People need to believe, trust or identify with their source and this is not high tech it’s called the power of selling!

    On a personal side note. It’s annoying to know absolutely everything about a place and especially annoying to my family and friends who I’ll feel compelled to bug with ‘interesting’ facts on where we’re going or where we should be going. At the end of the day I’m a geek with the travel app and not a fun person to travel with.

     
    • Alex Bainbridge

      Hi Elizabeth
      YES – agree. E.G. Field Trip currently has many many travel company data sources (you can go to their app and count them, they tell you who they are). Its an app all about other people’s data and prompting it, to consumers, based on their location and interest. Google has NO data themselves, in that app. (They just control the functionality / business logic)

      One knowing everything about a place. Yeah. I see what you are saying

       
  10. hurrymurray

    Okay. Apart from the question not being “where do you want to go?”. Mainstream agents stopped asking that a long time ago. “What are you thinking of doing…. and what do you enjoy?” Is a bit more like it.

    All your phases do answer/ assume the question. “Where do you want to go? Trouble is, has the client answered the question correctly in their own minds? Often, not.

    An agents skill lies in knowing.

     
    • Alex Bainbridge

      Hi Murray

      I just checked a few OTA homepages…. this is how the describe the where you put where you want to go….

      Expedia – “Going to”
      Orbitz – “Where”
      Lastminute.com – “Destination”
      Travelocity – “Enter your destination city”
      Priceline – “Where are you going?”

      Now humans, yes they have the advantage of being human and can process a complicated answer like “I like sun but not too hot, we want to do some sailing, and have nice food in the evening”……. but sadly they don’t scale too well.

      Hence the online (phase 2) OTAs tend to stuck to what is computationally easy (e.g a destination)

      For what it is worth, I think there will ALWAYS be value in an experienced human being involved in a complicated, or emotionally important, purchase. BUT I am not convinced they are best rewarded by commission from a transaction (as this entices them to become booking experts, rather than destination or product experts)…… Google Helpouts could do this (as the end helpers CAN charge for their time), so can startups like Vayable and others.

      [Business travel there IS benefit in travel agents being super knowledgable about the nuances of booking transactions and about flight rules……. just adding so you know that I referring, in the main, to B2C leisure travel]

       
      • Murray Harrold

        Interesting that one has touched on something which is very relevant to agents. Agents were traditionally perceived as people who just wanted to sell something that achieved the highest commission irrespective.. and move on.

        When the – shall we say – “revolution” came, agents were much quicker to realise the general thrust of the change than many wished to accept. The concept of “flog the client the product that gained the highest commission and move on” went out the window very quickly. (along, I might add, with the commission, in many cases). Much to the chargin of many and especially the greater chargin of many corners of the media, agents realised that their main task was to identify what a client really wanted, to understand what the client was asking for, ammend that request (or suggest
        ammendments) as may be appropriate and then apply or suggest the most appropriate solution (at least, that’s how most of the remaining agents work).

        Ironically and as you suggest above, it is the online sector that went down the route of becoming the “order taker” and is now struggling to find a way out of what is, in effect, a dead end. You can add a few bells and whistles, but any OTA is simply an order taker – a very efficient one, granted, but still just an order taker. Google may be/ would be simply a big order-taker.

        As to commission as a means of renumeration – I don’t see what the issue is. There is nothing wrong with commission as a model. It does seem to have become something of an anathema to many – but the concept is still sound and unless someone has a better way of doing it …

        I suppose this comes back to the question of “for whom does the agent work?” That is another question for another day and not really what your piece is about. So although your phases mentioned are pertinent I suggest online should take a few steps backwards as this whole online sector seems to me to be traveling down the wrong road. “How to be a better order-taker” is not what it is about – “How to be a better solution provider” is.

         
  11. Mike Putman

    Alex,
    Interesting article and take on Google’s efforts thus far. I especially like your phase analogy. I’ve got to believe they have much more up their sleeve than this. Surprisingly, Google hasn’t demonstrated much, if any innovation. The space is too big for this to be their end game. The gap between online ability and offline acceptability still exists; my guess is they will leverage their reach to somehow fill this chasm. If they aren’t working on this, they may need some strategy assistance.

     
    • Alex Bainbridge

      HI Mike
      Well 2 of the 3 services from Google that I mentioned are unlaunched and the 3rd is an unbranded labs project that is in the wild, but not being promoted (apart from to those in the know). Hence pretty sure they are not showing their hand yet!

      Pretty sure they have a handle on the strategy. They could call me of course if they want a hand 😉

       
  12. Mark

    Thanks for linking to our guide @William. That’s Tourism Radio’s vision of the future.

     
  13. damien

    a true gem!

     
  14. William El Kaim (@welkaim)

    Excellent post. I totally agree with you concerning the four phases.

    Google Glass, or any similar devices, will become the new must have tourist device. It will replace your camera and guides. It will offer real time language translation (major adoption factor). And of course devices will help dating with foreigners.

    Another video here: http://lnkd.in/wz93iR

    It will also link you to “local concierge” or to your local “travel Angel”. This angel could be a real human … or a virtual one powered by the crowd or computers … Nobody will know, only the relevance of the answer will be taken into account (and will be rated).

    What is also really interesting is to look at the innovations coming from the “virtual and augmented reality” ecosystem and research centers. They clearly want to create competing platform around these devices. Of course they do not have the content like Google, but can also leverage Google or new search engine adapted to that kind of devices. Imagine, an OTA buying a platform like the one presented below …

    The new revolution in travel? New devices for travelers, and the software to empower them: augmented Reality platforms of next generations, like infinityar (http://www.infinityar.com/). Look at the video on their website.

    Can you imagine that, in the future, when you will buy a trip, you will get access to a dedicated app to download to your device. A login/pwd will be provided to you also to enable you to access the augmented reality platform content and services during your trip. I also imagine that devices will be rented and all “digital souvenirs” stored into the travel supplier cloud (and could be monetized later for printing pictures, etc.) or to you.

    The GoPro revolution already proves how people are becoming “digital narcissist”.

     
    • Alex Bainbridge

      Half the challenge William with local concierges as a web marketplace is the mixture of
      – party size
      – culture
      – destination
      – product

      So someone who understands how Russian (culture) families (party size) travel to Mexico (destination) in order to go diving (product)….. may be quite different knowledge to US (culture) couple (party size) travelling to Mexico (destination) in order to see the archaeology (product).

      Hence to cover all the permutations, all the cultures, all the types of travel, all the destinations in the world, will require a very large marketplace of local concierges.

      I think that to get this to have traction you need to work with an outbound company (e.g. a leading outbound tour operator e.g. UK to Mexico) because at least then you can focus down on a single culture of travel…. and probably launch with a few destinations….. I certainly don’t think that launching as a global marketplace without any concept of how you are going to get wide traction, would be wise, as you would end up too thin on everything

       
      • William El Kaim (@welkaim)

        You are totally right Alex. But that’s also the part of the adventure … Discovering other way of living and thinking is also part of the travel journey … In a digital world, people travelling like to feel and meet real local people. What I do not see is if it is a global trend or just an European/USA/Canada vision. How will Middle class people coming from Asia behave? Do they share the same needs?

        I’m convinced that local human concierge will support “the last mile”, while Internet travel website or virtual agent can help find them and reduce as much as possible the cultural mismatch.

        There still room for innovation …

         
  15. Bill Almonte

    Alex, great points on Google. I do agree that they are starting to put the pieces together for a powerful travel platform. I do understand that behind the scenes they are consolidating all this data. However, it seems that they are doing it with separate silos or mobile/web properties on the front end.

    This, I think, leads to the same frustration that all travelers currently have which is jumping back and forth between dozens of sites/apps trying to find the best deal, information, review, expert etc.

    Obliviously, Google could easily bring all of these under a http://www.google.com/travel umbrella for example. However, it doesn’t seem like this is happening – at least not for the current moment.

    I think travelers are still looking for a consolidated travel research, planning and booking experience with a common UI that pulls in all the relevant social data and content.

    I also do not believe any one single travel site or app will ever obtain the true “Holy Grail” of providing 100% of all relevant destination content, suppliers and booking tools.

    So there are many untapped opportunities in the travel industry regardless of what Google does now or in the future.

     
  16. Mark

    From my experience, it’s all about content curation and who the app is focused at. To give you an example. I’m currently sitting in the most visited place in Africa, The Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa. If I open Field Guide, it had one place recommended. So basically, this app is useless. If the focus is tourists, then the info needs to be carefully curated, either text or audio. If its joe public looking for sushi, then it’s fine.

    One thing I’ve learnt over the last 8 years with my company, Tourism Radio, is that tourists want quality dependable info, offline. They don’t need 367855 restaurants, rather give them 10 great ones, correct addresses, nice images etc.

     
    • Alex Bainbridge

      Mark
      If you have great destination information about South Africa – tell the Field Trip app team…. they feature content from people like you. And then it will be right 😉 Certainly I wouldn’t be sitting on the sidelines complaining about it.

      Download the app and go to the sources section. Amazing diversity of travel companies, travel blogs and destination content companies that are already partnered into Field Trip App.

       
      • Darren Cronian

        “Certainly I wouldn’t be sitting on the sidelines complaining about it.”

        Completely agree. While Leeds and York aren’t on the list of initial destinations for city experts, I have signed up. Thanks for the tip about the Field Trip app, off to download that now.

         
  17. P. Jason King

    The one thing everyone seems to have forgotten, there would be no Travel Industry without the Travel Agency Distribution System. Travel Agents work hard to find their clients the best deal on the planet, they have to take on the abuses from the Airlines, Hotels, Cruise Lines and other suppliers. They have to wait for commissions (if they even exist), wait for client’s service charges to clear, they have to wait for BIG BUSINESS & CONGRESS to decide their fate with rhetoric and passing laws into effect to make their lives worse instead of better. OTA’s are here to stay, Portals too – but I know if I book a trip I want my travel agent to assist me, he/she has me in mind when they work their magiic to find just that “Right” hotel, or Spa, or relaxation spot. The Travel Agent is here to Stay…It would be nice if suppliers starting appreciating them – this would bring more staffing into our industry. WAKE UP!!!

     
    • Peter Syme

      Jason from your comments I suspect you are US based. I do notice a large amount of people still use Travel Agents in theA. We even have people contacting us direct and then asking their Travel agent to book for them from the US.

      However, I cannot remember the last time I had a travel agent booking from Europe people book direct or via niche OTA’s. If you want to know the future just watch the kids, mine are now traveling independently from me. The last thing they think of is a travel agent. In fact pretty sure they have never spoken to one. Same goes for their friends.

      I am not saying Travel Agents will die out, their will always be a role for them, well the ones that adapt to the travellers of the future anyway.

      With regards Alex’s article on google. I view it as google playing the long game by first making sure they have all the assets in position before going for travel full blast. They have the money and talent to not to worry if several of the assets they deploy do not work as planned they will all feed the data and intelligence gathering which will improve the next wave of assets.

      Anyone things google are not going to be a major player in travel going forward is not paying attention, however, that does not mean space for others, far from it but it does mean you need to be careful of the online battles you pick.

       
    • Drew Meyers

      “but I know if I book a trip I want my travel agent to assist me, he/she has me in mind when they work their magiic to find just that “Right” hotel, or Spa, or relaxation spot.”

      But how exactly does that travel agent sitting in an office in your city KNOW what the “right” spot is? That requires truly local knowledge/experience…and I’ve venture a guess most travel agents aren’t well versed in every location they help clients with.

       
      • Ann Bartholomew

        Drew,

        ‘But how exactly does that travel agent sitting in an office in your city KNOW what the “right” spot is? That requires truly local knowledge/experience…and I’ve venture a guess most travel agents aren’t well
        versed in every location they help clients with.’

        Actually, that’s why I specialize, or focus on a niche. If I have a potential client come to me & say ‘I want to take the family on a photo safari’, I can direct them to a travel professional who focuses on safaris, and when I have a possible client want to take a river cruise, I can even narrow that down to location, time of year & cruise line.

         
      • Murray Harrold

        You often find, in any good travel agency, a spread of knowledge. Often, agents have general knowledge but then specialise in a particular resort – or resorts/ areas. True, one cannot know every resort, but if we don’t… we generally know someone who does.

        So, if you find a good agent who has a wide ranging knowledge, nurture them. They are very few and far between.

         
        • Alex Bainbridge

          One challenge is that many retail travel agents, although as said above, can cover a diversity of resorts…… but they tend to cover a single outbound culture.

          E.g. A UK based travel agent may know a lot about how UK people travel to Mexico, about how they go to Egypt etc……

          But the trend is towards inbound travel agents. So the agent, based in Mexico, knows a lot about Mexico – and then has to learn how British people travel, how US people travel (for US its a budget destination, for Brits is a luxury destination).

          A grand scale marketplace that covers all the necessary permutations (inbound destination expert, outbound customer expert) would do it. Currently this search / find is handled by Google…. and Google search! (not very well)

          Potential opportunity for an entrepreneur here….. BUT it must not be based on selling or distributing leads. Also potentially the greater opportunity is working with the suppliers the agents are selling, as they have a larger margin to play with.

           
  18. Matt Zito

    Alex, good article and thanks for bringing awareness to travel startup founders about where Google is going next. Mobile is the future and local, well that’s the holy grail so we think. I recently wrote an article about how travel startups could create the next hot travel startup. http://www.travelstartups.co/5-techniques-to-create-the-next-hot-travel-startup/

    A travel startup entrepreneur could analyze City Experts, Helpouts and Fieldtrip then iterate off their business idea using one of the five techniques. If you can create value travelers will flock to your service or application.

    I agree with you that Google Flights and Hotel Finder look like Metasearch but phase 1 and phase 2 will never be obliterated. Travelers are always going to plan ahead of time and book their vacations with travel agents or online travel agencies. I do think the Google glass with Field Trip combo is a killer application.

     
  19. Mark

    Just because a big company suddenly launches into a space, doesn’t mean that it’s a winner. Google has tried a few different travel/social apps and lost focus. Try using field trip offline. You’ll find it’s a nice empty shell looking for data.

     
    • Alex Bainbridge

      Hi Mark

      Yes – I have been using Field Trip for a few months now (on an iphone). Because they rely on 3rd party data it really depends on who Google has for your area (Also some of the information is somewhat dull, but that is a different issue).

      I guess this is why they are innovating on it as a labs project. KEY point though is I bet they are learning a great deal on what could work, how to aggregate destination data from travel bloggers and other providers etc. This learning will be what puts them ahead, not any specific consumer traction on any currently live services.

      Also, I do agree with your general thrust. Spaces dominated by a single large company tend to have big gaps around the edges of the opportunity. Many small companies in the same space leave very small gaps for new entrants to launch into. So having ONE dominant winner in this phase 4, that is probably better for entrepreneurs than if there are 5 medium large winners. However, right at the moment, the game is on to be that one dominant winner, not to find a space in a gap, and it is this “winner wins big” game where the other leading travel industry players are falling behind and leaving it to Google to win before the others even start really playing.

       
 
 

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