Q. What or who has been the most disruptive influence in travel over the past decade?
The predictable answer would be mobile, but it is only the enabler to perform a function. Mobiles have been around for decades and every year was always the ‘year of mobile’. The real disruption has come from connectivity and social.
Connectivity and social have given rise to some of the most successful and fastestgrowing businesses in history, many of which reside in the travel and leisure space. This sort of growth has created a mindset that anything is possible, and customers expect a lot more, with far more immediacy.
Q. What or who do you think will be the most disruptive influence in travel in the coming decade?
Further disruption in travel comes from the new generations. Obviously technology will continue to evolve, but the way in which it is being used and connectivity will increase. Today, you can check in to a rental accommodation and order transport, food and entertainment direct from your mobile.
You can do the same from a hotel. This has made hotels think about how they service their customers and what a hotel experience should be. Smart cities will be a further extension of this. Again, technology is the enabler, but some of the biggest developments and changes will be in the travel product people want to go on. We will see new generations travelling more, to new destinations and in the way they want to.
Q. What about the travel industry today surprises you most, given the predictions made 10 years ago about what we should expect?
I can’t recall what predictions were made 10 years ago. I am sure it would have been about ‘bookings on mobile’ or ‘social is going to be the place to find young people who want to go on holiday’ and ‘reviews will become critical to the success of your business’. I don’t think we could have predicted that the environment is far more nuanced than that.
We see people using mobile and social in ways that provide huge opportunities for travel brands to connect in ways never possible before. No sooner has a social channel become popular and dominant, another one takes its place. Social was predicted to be the place for ‘young people’. This is true but the demographic spread is incredible. There are some great learnings here for all brands.
The fact is that on a mobile, simplicity is the winner – and that makes it accessible to all. I watch my mum on Pinterest, I see my father on WhatsApp and Facebook. It’s as much a part of their life as anybody else’s. They don’t read newspapers any more and watch the BBC on iPlayer. These are things that continue to surprise me.
At Travelzoo, we are fortunate to have teams in Silicon Valley and Shanghai, and generally, they are living those predictions way before we do in Europe.
Q. Do you think the pace of change will quicken in the coming decade compared with the past 10 years. What will influence this?
Things are not going to slow down. The rise of connectivity and mobile was a huge milestone but the opportunities are now in abundance –and this is just the start. Generational demands will progress faster and further than before.
Uber and Airbnb are two of the most successful brands ever that hold no stock, Deliveroo just raised a whopping amount of capital and Accor is now in the private rental space with OneFineStay.
These changes are a wake-up call to anyone working in travel. Companies that understand the new generation of traveller and have connectivity at the heart of their strategy will succeed.
Q. How do you think travel compares with other areas of business and commerce in terms of how it has met the challenges of the digital era?
Travel is a huge industry and too broad to say how it rates against others. There are some obvious areas in which travel is leading and showing incredible innovation.
But there will be many companies that won’t exist in 10 years because they are too rooted in the wrong marketing channels or tied to a defensive strategy.
Generally, best practice can be seen elsewhere in fashion, fintech and social platforms.
Q. Do you think travel is well placed to meet the challenges of the coming decade?
Yes, of course. People will always want to travel and I believe more so than ever, despite all of the uncertainty and instability in the world. That will never change. However, there will be winners and losers in terms of the providers of those trips.
Q. What has been the most disappointing aspect of the travel industry over the past 10 years?
The airport and airline experience is nearly always disappointing. Due to security, it will never be perfect. But the customer wants one thing and generally you get the opposite.
Q. What has excited you most about the industry over the past 10 years?
There has been much more of a level playing field created. Traditionally, the big two dominated, but many more companies are becoming significant.
This is only a good thing for the customer and, ultimately, allows great businesses to succeed. The diversity of holidays and experiences on offer to the customer is also far greater now than ever before.
Q. Has the internet proved to be a broadly positive force for travel intermediaries or are the forces of disintermediation still at work?
The internet has been so positive. I can book a holiday at my fingertips right now and be there tonight. That’s amazing.
Q. If you were given £1 million to invest in a travel start-up today, what would you look for?
A dynamic management team, integrity and something that interests me. I’d love to do something cool in cycling.
10 seconds with Richard
Apple or PC?
PC at work – we use too many Excel spreadsheets at Travelzoo. Apple for everything else.
Which of your gadgets do youmost worry about losing?
My Bose headphones, as they are the only gadget I have paid for myself.
How many Twitter followers do you have?
About 700, but I’m done with Twitter now.
What was your first online travel purchase?
A studio apartment in Chamonix for eight people via Expedia.
Who makes the best smartphones?
Tough one. Judging by the length of queues for repairs at the Genius bar at Apple Stores, probably not Apple.
Atari or Sinclair Spectrum?
My sister had a Spectrum but my friends had an Atari –and Atari was the clear winner.
What’s your favourite travel app?
At the moment, it’s Babbel, as I’m trying to be better at French.
How many travel apps do you have on your phone?
Too many that I don’t use. This is a problem we have in travel.
Who has made the biggest impact on travel in the past decade?
What was the last Instagram picture you posted?
I’m not on Instagram or Facebook. I’d rather not be on any social channel.