Travolution Summit 2022: Beware competition from new entrants targeting travel

Travolution Summit 2022: Beware competition from new entrants targeting travel

Panel Session on the Netflixisation of Travel heard from Traveltek, Feefo and subscription travel start-up Ultimate Travel Club about the opportunities of technology transformation for both travel firms and firms looking to break in to the sector

Travel brands were warned to not spend too much time worrying about competitors within the sector and more on potential new entrants.

A panel session at the Travolution European Summit this month discussed the opportunities and challenges of migrating to new technologies like cloud.

Speakers agreed that this will enable new business models, like subscription travel, but that existing firms ought to be aware about how new competitors may take advantage of it.

Tony Wheble, chief executive of reviews and customer feedback platform Feefo, said firms must use technology to listen to their customers and react to what they are telling them.

And he warned they could lose out to competitors from other sectors like Fintech that are better at prioritising doing that.

Wheble said: “I’m very fond of the travel sector because I have spent so long in it, so I don’t want to be overly critical but sadly, yes, other sectors are leveraging technology and listening to their customers more effectively. 

“There is a risk that other entrants, Uber or brands like Uber, may decide that they want some of the sizeable financial upside in travel and leverage their tech and understanding of the client base in such a way that they become a travel provider fairly quickly. 

“The one thing that new tech can do for businesses is introduce pace and rapid change. If I am being critical, I think the travel sector spends too much time in a bubble, comparing itself to its next competitor and perhaps doesn’t look at Uber, or Revolut, or Klarna, or brands outside of the sector that are leveraging tech to provide great experiences.”

Stuart Cotterell, chief operating officer of Traveltek which has itself completed a cloud migration and is rebuilding its technology to be cloud native, said technology providers moving to a subscription-based offering must find ways to enable all business models.

“As a technology provider the solution lies with us to find way to let the customer adapt the technology. Certainly, there are time when its sensible to consolidate and work in the same way and concentrate on differentiating with your brand rather than on technology.

“However, if you’re brand requires a slightly different way of operating it’s incumbent on providers to find a way to support that and a way to support that that’s not architecturally defunct. 

“I wouldn’t want to go down the route of saying you can’t run your business because you’re constrained by technology because we’re moving to this ubiquitous subscriber model. Businesses do want to differentiate and it’s incumbent on suppliers to find the right and architecturally sensible way to let them do it.”

The panel featured a new B2C business that is looking to pioneer the subscription model in travel. The Ultimate Travel Club soft launched earlier this year and is embarking on a full marketing push to recruit new members.

The OTA offers commission-free travel product for £99 a year passing on the saving of not charging commissions to suppliers to the consumer. 

Non-executive director, Jae Hopkins, said it has built screen scraping technology to compare prices with Expedia and and fund it is cheaper 92% of the time by 5% to 30% and for some Las Vegas hotels it has been up to 60% cheaper.

She said it has been an advantage having Europe’s largest OTA group, Opodo parent eDreams ODIGEO, launch its own subscription service Prime which has attracted over two million subscribers. 

“As a marketer we’re terribly contrary. We want a USP until we’ve got one then we say how do we explain it to people. Actually, having another company explain what subscription travel looks like is an advantage.”