Jim Brigden, Managing Director EMEA, Sojern
1. What or who has been the biggest disruptive influence in travel over the last decade?
Personally, I think that the sharing economy has without a doubt been the biggest disruptive force in the travel space.The idea that you could become a multi-billion dollar company without owning any tangible assets is revolutionary.
The key to owning a business now is about owning those key relationship links between provider and user, and becoming a facilitator of these transactions.
I find it incredible that we are able to see the travel cycle from the dreaming and planning phase all the way to booking, and we can pinpoint that path to purchase on different devices.
Reaching in-market travellers with advertising content that is relevant to them and helpful to their holiday planning is hugely disruptive.
2. What or who do you think will be the biggest disruptive influence in travel in the coming decade?
I think that travel companies will increasingly tap into their wealth of data and insights to inform their business decisions in a smarter way than has ever been done previously.
3. What about the travel industry today surprises you most given predictions made about what we should expect 10 years ago?
I suppose that travel companies would be using all this data they have at their disposal in a bigger way. I think it’s definitely moving in that direction, but at a slower pace than I expected.
Big data can be especially powerful, and so many travel companies have loads of untapped data, but we really need to start thinking beyond the buzzwords to what it actually means and how best to harness it to drive revenue.
4. Do you think the pace of change will quicken in the coming decade compared to what we saw in the last 10 years, and what will influence on the speed of change?
At the rate that data and content is being created, I can only see the pace of change accelerating. This will be largely fueled by Millennials and Gen Z, as their habits and the ways they interact with the world are increasingly multi-device.
Everyone will need to adapt to cross-device to keep up. New streams of data coming from wearables and the ‘internet of things’ will give advertisers unprecedented access to consumers, their personal interests, activities, spending patterns and behaviours.
These new streams of granular data, if harnessed correctly by brands, will take advertising to a new level of tailoring and relevancy.
5. How do you think travel rates against other areas of business and commerce in terms of how it has met the challenges of the digital era?
Overall, the travel sector is well ahead of the curve when it comes to digital. Though, I would say that different sectors within travel have reacted at different paces.
Airlines were quick to adapt to the opportunities that digital afforded and moved to online booking capabilities relatively quickly.
They’ve expanded this as well in their ancillary services. People are able to preorder food and even duty free before they fly.
Tourist boards have, on average, lagged a little in this space, but then you have something like Visit Iceland and their “Iceland Academy” campaign, which marries all of the wonderful opportunities you have to engage via digital, and it’s fun to watch.
Cruise companies have been slower to adapt, but their demographics are slightly different and so the urgency isn’t quite there yet.
At the end of the day, everyone realises they need to get on board with digital. All demographics are adopting and embracing digital and travel brands will continue to adapt accordingly.
When you compare travel to something like the telecomms industry, which I would say lags behind in utilising its data to tailor services and products to create brand loyalty, it’s obvious how far ahead travel is.
6. Do you think travel is well placed to meet the challenges of the coming decade? If yes, what gives you that confidence, if no, why?
The innovation going on in travel is huge, and so I think it’s one of the best placed industries to meet the challenges and opportunities that the next 10 years will bring.
From airline wifi and robotics to the increasingly integrated and seamless nature of technology and growth in creative content, there’s a ton of innovation in the travel sector and that makes it an exciting sector to be in.
7. What has been the most disappointing aspect of the travel industry for you over the last 10 years?
I don’t know that there is anything particularly disheartening, but with the amount of innovation and growth going on in this industry, it’s disappointing we can’t move faster!
8. What has excited you most about the industry over the last 10 years?
For the larger travelling population, the ease of putting together travel packages has been transformative. Travellers are empowered to book their travel in a much more bespoke way.
The growth in this tailor-made travel is very exciting to me. Travel brands have a real opportunity to inspire those in-market, as they begin to research and then build and purchase these packages.
9. Has the Internet proved to be a broadly positive force for travel intermediaries or are the forces of disintermediation still at work?
On the whole, the internet has been positive for the industry.
I’m of two minds on this one. Offline, I do think there are definitely aspects of disintermediation at work, because the internet connects the user to the end product much more quickly and in a more transparent way.
But online, some of the most important industry players are the Meta and OTA brands, which keeps things competitive.
10. If you were given £1 million to invest in a travel startup today, what would you look for?
The most attractive traits are a great idea and a great team. I’d also be looking at something new that looks like it has the potential to scale fast.
10 second interview
1. Apple or PC?
2. Which of your gadgets do you most worry about losing?
3. How many Twitter followers do you have?
4. What was your first online travel purchase?
It would have been in the late 90s in NY, maybe flight back on London
5. Who makes the best smartphones?
6. Atari or Sinclair Spectrum?
I do not play computer games, never have, never will.
7. What’s your favourite travel app?
8. How many travel apps do you have downloaded on your phone?
9. Who has made the biggest impact on travel in the last decade?
10. What was the last Instagram picture you posted?
A picture of my daughter climbing “the cliff of certain death” in Pembrokeshire