How travel planning changed in the last 10-15 years

12:31 PM

Can you remember how we used to plan our trips in the past? Or maybe I should be more accurate: Can you remember how did our parents plan the family trips?

Take a few seconds to think about it:
We had to go to a travel agent who had all the knowhow. The travel agents knew all the cool places to go, all the flights options to reach the destinations, all the available hotels room and more... We had no choice but to trust these agents and what they offered although it was quite possible that they never even left their hometown and have never been to all the magical locations they recommended so passionately.

Funny... isn't it

Surprisingly, this wasn't so long ago. Things changed dramatically only in the last 10-15 years. This happened thanks to the internet: its amazing spread and growth, the penetration to mobile phones and the ease of use that enabled all of us access to endless resources of free information.

Today,in many ways, each one of us, the individual travelers, have become a small travel agency.
We have the knowledge and the ability to plan and book a trip from A to Z all alone.
We are able to:
  • Find and book the best flights for us.
  • Explore different options to sleep over. Whether its a hotel room, an apartment or someones private couch.
  • Search and build travel packages from different providers.
  • Compare prices.
  • Read (and write) reviews about hotels, airlines, attractions, restaurants, tours, etc…
  • Reserve a car or a driver.
  • Consult experts in many travel related fields.
  • Get tips and recommendations from local people we don’t personally know that are living at the location we are heading to.

This change is not only related to travel of course, but travel is a good example for an outstanding revolution in the way that the entire ecosystem changed, beginning with the end user through all the online websites that emerged and ending with the hotel or airline as the last link in the chain.

Now let’s try to analyze this huge change. What are the tools and utilities that rose to enable us all that?
These would be the various online travel websites that evolved.
These sites can be split to 6 major categories:

1. Online travel agencies (OTAs)
These sites are a good example for companies and individuals that recognized the shift users made to the online world and spotted a good opportunity to leverage their status and offer online planning and booking capabilities. Today some of the biggest  names on the web are OTAs.
Example sites are: Expedia, Priceline (owner of Booking), Travelocity and Orbitz

2. Travel guides
Websites in the form of a digital travel guide that act as a replacement to the traditional printed books. These sites give the users all needed information as well as lots of updated information relevant to their date of arrival.
Example sites are:
Lonely Planet, Time Out, Michelin and Frommer’s

3. Information Sites
Websites that give the user information and reviews about his destination. Some of these sites also encourage their users to contribute and generate content based on their own experiences. In addition most of these sites connect to the social websites and enable you to see if people you know have been to your location before and have recommendations for you.
Example sites are: TripAdvisor, Virtualtourist, Gogobot and IgoUgo

4. Aggregators sites
These websites are usually getting feeds from all major OTAs as well as from hotels and airlines. Then they display to the users all of the results on one screen, enabling them to choose the best offer.
Example sites are: Kayak, cheapflights, DoHop and WebJet

5. Service providers sites
The websites of the last chain: the hotel, the airline, the car rental company etc… Today it would be very odd to find a service provider that doesn’t have a functional ecommerce website with its inventory.

6. Sharing economy sites
This is a new group of sites that started to show up in the last years. Their main idea is to let the traveler interact directly with the local person at his destination rather than with the professional business factors. These sites offer “the real thing” - authentic environment and the ability to meet local people. It can be to live in someone house, to eat a local homemade meal or to get personalized tips and guided tours from locals. It doesn’t really matter, as long as it is genuine.
Example sites are: Airbnb, Uber, Couchsurfing, EatWith and LocalYoo.

As technology evolves rapidly, we are expected to see more and more new applications and services entering the online travel world . Is there anyone brave enough to guess how will travel planning look like 10 years from now :)

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