The digital space is flooded with information and crowded with choices. New tools, platforms, and distribution channels are being created all the time. Technology has blurred the lines for tourism industry professionals, and now all aspects of the travel experience — activities, accommodations, transportation — bleed into one another.
Unsurprisingly, those working in the industry have lots of questions: What will tomorrow’s adventure travel trends be? What social media platform is most popular with travelers? Where should business owners place their focus? These are big questions, and Luke Bujarski, founder of LUFT Group, encourages professionals to keep asking them. During the AdventureELEVATE Quest360 Digital Trendspotting Lab, Bujarski will introduce delegates to Quest360, a query-driven, knowledge-sharing resource for those working across all aspects of the travel industry, so they can mine the answers to their own questions. To kick off the conversation, he generously agreed to answer some of the questions the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) has about today’s digital landscape.
ATTA: You often speak about convergence and how we can no longer separate any one aspect of our lives from other aspects. How have tech developments and trends in the travel industry reflected this idea of convergence?
Bujarski: The same platforms we use to navigate daily life are basically the same platforms we use to navigate our travel experiences. The types of businesses we used to interact with at home used to be very different than when we were abroad. A lot of functions have merged onto the same platforms — Google, social media, travel apps like Airbnb and TripAdvisor — and we’re using them more on a regular basis. We’re able to open up the entire world to people through this universal technology digital layer that we operate on now.
There used to be the “beach vacation” and “ski vacation,” and while that’s still kind of true, travelers now customize their experiences across those areas. There’s a lot more independence in terms of what that experience looks like. The travel industry used to define that experience, but now it’s up to the consumer to define that experience.
ATTA: How has today’s technology changed the way we learn about, act upon, and understand travel industry trends?
Bujarski: I think every organization is different but the big shift is the importance and value of knowing what’s happening across the entire travel value chain. In the past, local tour operators didn’t need to know what was happening with the airlines, hotels, or big distribution platforms. They were focused on running their own businesses. Things were simpler back then.
The travel journey is now much more interconnected digitally, and it pays to know how these segments of the industry are managing their digital strategies. It’s important to be aware of different trends in order to connect to new markets, understand where partnerships are, and connect with the right people.
ATTA: How can one sift through the noise to find important trends?
Bujarski: There is a danger of becoming overwhelmed or going too deep in certain directions. The key is to really get a sense of or understand what you need to know, which is hard. Practitioners running their own businesses know what they need to know, but having a multidisciplinary view can help. The goal with Quest360 is to provide an overview without getting too overwhelmed because questions ultimately offer a lot of information. They give you a good sense of what’s happening, and they’re very contextual. By reading the questions that are being asked in the airline industry about digital marketing, for example, you already know a lot of information.
ATTA: What are some of the current hot digital trends in the adventure travel space?
Bujarski: While we’ll go into this in detail at AdventureELEVATE this June, digital marketing and distribution is one big one. The explosion of digital content across the typical travel sites and social media is obvious. This is what everyone is battling with in terms of getting their content up to speed and integrated into these platforms in order to tap into those global audiences across the entire travel journey.
Also, the operations side — the backend technology — is big right now. These are the things tour operators are adopting to help them run their businesses. There’s a middle layer of technology companies that are trying to get local adventure businesses to sign up, go digital, and plug in. And on the product side, there’s so much you can do with payments, communication channels, messaging with your customers, and the peer-to-peer tour space that Airbnb has pioneered.
I also think less is more. Keep a clean profile, build a simple tech stack. I think people are looking not to overdo it on the tech right now.
ATTA: What are your thoughts on where professionals should place their attention within the digital space?
Bujarski: In terms of digital distribution and marketing, in particular, there’s a huge top-down push to get a lot of content out. Every organization and every market is different, but I think the gut check is to talk with your community to understand what their digital IQ ultimately is. Understanding who your competitors are and who your partners are, and having a clear line of communication at the local level is an important gauge. It’s good to know what’s out there in the industry, but then go back and ask what kind of product we offer, who we are as a community, and what we need to know. Don’t go “all in” just because it’s there. Contextualize the use.
ATTA: What are your recommendations for how companies can stay ahead of digital trends?
Bujarski: I’d suggest tapping into the community. Social media is a great way to stay informed. Also, build community within your specific segment, talk to the people who are close to you, and ask a lot of questions.
Learn more about how Quest360 is helping adventure travel professionals make sense of today’s digital travel trends at AdventureELEVATE 10-12 June 2019 in Lake George, New York. Register today.