Tour operators who offer a wildlife adventure or a skydiving experience may face a common challenge: How can they market their activities to the right travelers? To reach those customers, some businesses are turning to social media networks designed around travel offer deals and reservations.
Travello, in particular, was developed to fill a gap in the social media space. When Founder Ryan Hanley realized there wasn’t a platform designed specifically for travelers who want to find like-minded individuals when they arrive in new cities, he helped to start the Australia-based app, which launched an early version in 2015. At the time, “there was still no really good way on a digital platform to meet other travelers in [a] destination,” Hanley told PYMNTS.com in an interview.
In a way, Travello takes the idea of a social network and turns it on its head: While many of those sites aim to help friends or business contacts stay in touch, Travello helps to connect users with people who might share a common interest, like photography. The site provides a platform for local businesses seeking to market their guides and excursions, providing a built-in audience of travelers looking to explore a new city.
Social Networks for Businesses
For travel vendors, Travello seeks to provide a way to market to new customers. Vendors can choose to offer booking and reservations directly to customers through the platform, enabling consumers to see a vendor’s live availability. Alternatively, vendors can offer deals in exchange for Travello referring customers to them, as tour operators and suppliers are looking for more direct sales. “They want to deal directly with customers, and we’ve got a huge consumer base,” Hanley said.
Beyond tour operators, companies that provide accommodations might use Travello as a way to build a sense of community. As an example, Travello is working with a few different hostel chains. Hostel guests who come from the same country or have something else in common might not end up crossing paths, even if they are in the same building. But hostels can help facilitate meetings by sending guests a deep link to join a sub-community through Travello along with their reservation confirmations.
The Market for Activities
Beyond solving a social media need for travelers, Travello comes with the rise of mobile technology. The app is offered on iPhone and Android. According to Hanley, mobile technology is part of the modern travel experience, from the dreaming phase to discovery and all the way through booking. Yet the technology seems to be used in some travel verticals more than others.
Consumers are used to booking flights and accommodations through their mobile devices, but the vendors that Travello connects with are part of vertical that is poised for mobile growth. As of now, he said, travelers are still turning toward those old brochure racks, and there’s a “huge opportunity” in mobile for activities and destination tours.
Those sentiments were echoed by Klook Chief Product Officer David Liu, who, in an August interview with PYMNTS, stated that the market size for travel activities will reach $183 billion globally by 2020; today, less than 20 percent comes from mobile or online bookings. Aside from mobile and online bookings of flights and accommodations, tours and activities remain among the fastest-growing online segments.
Klook, a travel company based in Hong Kong that recently raised $200 million in funding, is eyeing a continued push into the United States and Europe. The company aims to streamline the process of booking travel activities spanning visits to attractions, hotels and restaurants. The company’s platform allows users to search, book and pay for activities across thousands of choices and partners.
In the interview, Liu said the overarching theme is one where the website and app are designed to cater to the needs of all travelers, across all planning stages. The conduits to assist with planning can include seasonal recommendations, editors’ picks or the most popular destinations. In the future, Liu said he “envision[s] Klook to introduce more vertices to include local services, satisfying modern travelers’ changing needs for travel and leisure.”
Beyond Klook, Airbnb has rolled out booking for experiences, and some marketplaces, such as IfOnly, seek to provide once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Will some of the new offerings from activity-booking platforms also include a social media component? Time will tell.