THE ROLE OF AI IN THE EXPERIENCES VERTICAL
GREATER EMPHASIS ON ACQUIRING DIRECT BOOKINGS
THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR UP-SELL AND CROSS-SELL ARE EMERGING
As always at Arival, we had the opportunity to connect with so many different operators, technology vendors, and re-sellers. Not to mention the incredible Arival team, a host of inspiring speakers, and other amazing people who make experiences truly the best part of travel. At events such as Arival, you witness first-hand such an inspiring level of collaboration and innovation that is driving this industry forward faster than ever. We’re all part of a $250bn industry, in which +70% of bookings are happening offline. The industry is getting its time in the spotlight and the rate of change is building velocity. It’s only through collaboration and partnerships that everyone is able to maximise the opportunities from technical innovations and grow to new heights.
One week on from Orlando, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the key themes the event brought to life.
One of the most prominent takeaways from Arival 360 is the impact that AI is having on the industry. Don’t think this is just ChatGPT ad-ons, automated content creation, or customer service systems, there’s going to be seismic impacts on all different aspects of this industry. Personally, I’m excited about the Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) experiences, that operators and some of our partners at Holibob are beginning to roll out. What could be cooler than being in a real-life Star Wars duel!?
Where I think the biggest impact will be in the shift towards hyper-personalisation. Consumers today expect it to be easy for them to find and buy things on the internet effortlessly. The reality in experiences is that hasn’t been the case. Finding a way to effectively ingest and leverage data to understand consumer preferences, and use this to feed AI and machine learning-based systems, in order to efficiently connect the right traveller, with the right product, is going to put those who do in the driving seat.
For a long time, there was, and arguably still is, a perception that the OTA’s have a massive advertising budget that independent businesses can’t compete with. Whilst there’s no doubting their budgets, a common misconception from operators is that this means competing for online traffic is not worthwhile. With a well-thought-out paid ad strategy tailored around your niche and specific keywords - there are opportunities for all operators to acquire traffic and drive more profitable bookings than selling via OTA’s.
The rest of the travel industry, flights, hotels etc., has up-sells and ancillaries now firmly woven into their DNA. Perhaps with experiences often being the last travel component booked or the still largely disconnected nature of the industry, it’s not something we are commonly seeing. I think this is set to change if operators embrace the opportunity to re-sell other experiences that can be complimentary to a traveller’s trip. The question I would ask is: how many times have you recommended another experience to one of your guests? How effectively are you monetising that? For most, the answer is not at all.
This was truly an awesome event, filled with so much meaningful connection, and I have no doubt will be the root of important innovation and partnerships in the future. We will see you again in Berlin!