Having been part of the Travel & Hospitality Industry for the past 20 years, I have been witness to many disruptions in the travel space; be it in the form of OTA’s, Aggregator Apps, online planning tools and the more recent buzzwords: Chatbots, AI, AR and VR. Many travel trends and characteristics have been reversed or broken and many more will break in the ensuing years.

Here are a few mistaken ideas/stereotypes that exist but should not.

Indians book their travel months in advance

“Booking flight tickets and hotels months in advance while planning a vacation is a thing of the past as more and more Indians are turning into impulse holidaymakers”. As per Ixigo “This is due to the flexibility to book anytime, anywhere, that travelers enjoy due to advanced technology, uninterrupted connectivity and easy updates that keep them informed about fare prediction, offers and online reviews” .

Booking tickets early is a sure way of getting the best rates, internationally 49 days before travel date is the best time to buy. So are people in India becoming more easy with their money? The more likely reason for late bookings is the high cancellation charges. Booking early also increases the chances of plan changes and cancellations and thus losing money. In the same vein why block your money in advance when you are sure that you will get hotel rooms even if booked close to your travel date. Technology has made the booking process easy and flexible but that may not be the reason for late bookings. It must also be noted that the impulse holidays are for a shorter duration, 2-4 nights. Longer holidays 7-10 days are still planned well in advance.

The Millennials are sooo.. different

Millennials are generally regarded as those born between 1980 and 1994. This young age group has been regarded as the most prolific travelers. They have also been bracketed as part of the “experience economy” and most survey’s and experts have identified them as travelers looking for culturally rich experiences and offbeat travel.

It looks like the term “millennial” is more a mindset rather an age bracket.. Agoda’s global Travel & Tech Study showed that regardless of whether a traveller is a millennial or not, what interests them is the same. For example, the top two preferred travel activities are seeking out nature or scenery (67 per cent for millennials vs 72 per cent for non-millennials), and food and dining (67 per cent for millennials vs 70 per cent for non-millennials).

Virtual Reality has revolutionized Travel

In reality there is little consumer demand for virtual reality. Agoda pointed out that the hardware isn’t advanced enough to provide any real value. The VR and Mixed VR experiential good quality hardware is expensive and requires high spec PC configuration as with Microsoft HoloLens. The low and mid range devises have insufficient juice to render Mix Reality. We must wait for a couple of years before VR /AR and Mix Reality can be functionally useful in the travel planning stage.

Chatbots have changed the way people book travel

We, humans are great at talking, we can understand the unsaid, we take queues from change in tone, the length of pauses, the excitement in the voice etc. We are constantly responding not just to the words said but how they were said and in what context.

A chatbot, is a computer program that conducts human conversations, using textual methods or AI techniques. Booking.com, Expedia, some international Airlines and now our very own Ixigo, are using chatbots to enhance customer experience and simplify customer service. They could be chat bots as in text chatting or voice chatbots like Siri or Alexa

Text based chatbots are very cumbersome since user has to write a lot. Voice ChatBots are the future and technology already exists to make them useful. AI driven bots can do one thing well like helping in Hotel Bookings or in flight bookings. When it comes to planning a complete holiday package the bot would collapse. Booking travel is exceptionally complicated. It might not be immediately apparent how chatbots could make things simpler, given the layers of information which need to be gathered and collated in order to make a complete travel purchase.

So imagine conversing with a bot about a 10 day tour with 3-4 destinations, air tickets, car rental and activities. The challenges of context of a conversation and multiple meanings for words and phrases will continue to frustrate Chatbots. Artificial intelligence (AI) advances will help mitigate this limitation over time, but it is unlikely to eliminate the issue

So travel Agents do not need to worry, it’s a long long time before chatbots can plan and book a holiday as well as you do.

Business and Leisure do not mix

We in India have a long history of phrases like don’t mix business with pleasure. Did you know that more and more people are taking their spouses on their business trips? The trip is extended by a couple of days for them to enjoy and explore the destination. Bleisure is a term used to define people who mix their vacation with business. Those who have done so, say that it helped them work more effectively and also helped relieve stress. According to The Bridge Street Global Hospitality Report, 60 per cent travelers have taken at least one bleisure trip during the last 12 months and their tribe is only set to increase globally.

Camping is roughing it out
Going Camping referred to living away from civilization in makeshift tents, with basic amenities, in short living rough. But the modern day tourist is seeking luxuries of hotel accommodation alongside the adventure of camping. The Oberoi as well as Aman-i-Khas inside Ranthambore National Park, for example, offer visitors ample opportunity for wildlife sightings while staying in super luxury camps. The swiss tents around the Sam Sand Dunes are well known to provide great luxury in the middle of the inhospitable desert. Glamping refers to experiences where glamour meets camping. Worldwide, glamping sites are appearing around music festivals and other large congregations like the Pushkar Fair or the Kumbh Mela. So go Glamping not camping..

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