By Peter L. Allen
THERE is no question that the growth of the sharing economy and new traveler expectations are disrupting existing norms. Travelers are increasingly looking for accommodations, travel services, and activities that are customized to their needs — it’s a worldwide phenomenon that the Philippines is fast adapting to.
But for the Philippine travel industry to keep up with this global change, it must understand the behavior of the modern traveler. Currently, the local travel sector can learn from two key strategies to ensure that it caters to the global market demands.
WINNING OVER ‘BLEISURE’ TRAVELERS
According to the Global Business Travel Association’s forecast, total business travel spend will grow between 6 and 7 percent annually, reaching US $1.7 trillion in 2021. This accelerated growth may partly be attributed to the blurring lines between business and leisure travel as more travelers are combining their business trips with weekend stays — also known as ‘bleisure’ traveler.
Businesses that aim to cater to this growing travel segment would do well to incorporate flexible spaces and services that can work equally well for business and leisure travel purposes — from working and living spaces, to amenities, apps, and services.
Resorts that have dedicated communal working spaces, extra ‘home-comfort’ facilities, or host networking activities specifically for business travelers will have an edge over competitors. Convenient tagging of expenses that can differentiate personal versus business transactions is another peripheral service catering to ‘bleisure’ travelers that hotels should look into.
PERSONALIZED TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
While travelers’ expectations of comfort, convenience, and reliability have not changed, travelers are increasingly discerning when it comes to customized and authentic local experiences. Many of them are also looking for alternative accommodation in both local and foreign destinations.
Local home rentals are an increasingly popular choice, as the growth of this sector clearly shows. Travelers look for features like kitchens, shared spaces, and laundry amenities — essentials that allow for a much longer stay. Interestingly, we see hotels responding to the growth of this new sector by stepping up to provide these features as well.
Customization of the travel experience is also taken up a notch as a lot of travel businesses have gone digital and use big data analytics and machine learning algorithms to create personalized services. Traveler profiles that include information such as the type of travel, which airlines the traveler is taking, itinerary, dietary preferences and restrictions, and disability requirements provide valuable insights. This data will pave the way for the emergence of highly personalized services and recommendations such as automated door-to-door pick-up from the airport, custom dining menus, reservations, and itineraries.
Data of this kind will also foster smarter and more effective collaborations between travel companies and local businesses. For example, a hotel may link up with nearby restaurants that cater to specific dietary needs to expand its room-service dining options. The extent of these partnerships can make a huge impact on the industry as the need for hotels and other travel businesses to offer more personalized services is increasing.
There is certainly a bright future ahead for travel companies around the globe. But in order to benefit from this growing market sector, it’s important that businesses take into account the changing profile of travelers and offer customizable options in terms of amenities to best cater to consumers. The more the travel experience can be personalized, the better the returns can be for the Philippine travel sector.
About the author:
Peter L. Allen is the Managing Director of Agoda Outside, the outreach and public affairs department of Agoda.com, where he works extensively on travel and tourism issues across Asia and is an advisor to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). He has taught at Princeton University, Pomona College, the University of Chicago, and Nanyang Business School in Singapore.