The Future of Personalized Travel — Brought to You by Journy

Travel Disruption Summit Guest Blog

Editorial Note: Journy has been selected as the moderator guiding the “Destination Roundtable” at the Travel Disruption Summit, a one-day symposium bringing together thought leaders in the travel industry to New York City on May 23rd. During the event, participants will discuss the opportunities for innovation at each phase of a traveler’s experience, including in-destination tours and activities.

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For many companies, the future of travel is all about personalization in a number of forms to improve the traveler’s experience:

The on-site experience: As travelers continue to book through online channels, OTAs and other booking sites need to use various data points (from behavioral to demographical) to personalize the results and show travelers more relevant offers that will increase conversion rates.

The physical experience (in-flight, in-hotel, in-restaurant): Travelers increasingly expect more personalized customer service. For airlines, this means arming flight attendants with key information like a traveler’s airline status or their preferred language. For hotels, it means anticipating a guest’s preferences on room types, amenities, dietary restrictions, and more.

Communications: Targeted emails are one thing, but personalized communication should go beyond that. Knowing a traveler’s preference of communication method (SMS vs. chat vs. email vs. phone), leveraging information about a traveler’s geolocation, their flight departure/arrival times, and more are now critical to sending relevant targeted offers.

The end-to-end trip itinerary: Instead of cookie-cutter tour packages, travelers want to visit hotels, attractions and restaurants that match their own unique preferences, pace of travel, and budget (while tour packages tend to cater to one budget level, many travelers prefer to save in some areas such as lodging, but splurge on experiences such as high-end restaurants).

These all serve to make the traveler experience smoother, requiring less time for the traveler to search for what their looking for, and instead have systems that predict what the traveler needs, in some cases even before they realize it themselves.

Journy is a mobile app and web platform that pairs travelers with their own personalized trip designer to plan their perfect trip. Travelers work one-on-one with their trip designer online to create a fully tailored custom itinerary with recommendations sourced from our network of 300+ top chefs and local experts.

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Travelers get a custom itinerary created by their own personal travel designer

Most companies face two main challenges in bringing personalized travel to life. One, there’s a massive amount of data needed to allow personalization at scale, and two, the decision of which types of interactions should be automated, versus the high-touch interactions that should remain human.

On the data side, there’s a host of traveler information available, ranging from location-based data to past behaviors (like seat preference or how far in advance they book). There’s also supplier information — flight times, schedules, ticketing availability, and reservation availability. Getting all this data onto one platform requires integrations between companies’ own proprietary data and third-party data.

The decision of what parts of travel should be automated and which should remain human is a delicate balance that can either greatly enhance or destroy a traveler’s experience. In some instances, technology is seamless (e.g., getting a credit card fraud alert and being able to tap to confirm or deny that transaction is much smoother than being disturbed with a phone call from a human). Other times, it can be hugely frustrating (e.g., talking to a chatbot to book a complex flight where there are many trade-offs to consider).

At Journy, we’re focused on becoming the one unifying platform for travelers to plan and track every aspect of their trips — and carefully identifying what can be automated versus what requires a human touch is critically important. When we started the company, we planned every aspect of a person’s trip manually. Today, while there are many aspects of the planning process that we’ve automated, our travelers always communicate through email or chat with a real human. Our trip designers interact with our tech platform, but our travelers for the most part just get access to an expert to plan their trips to their liking — something that’s been critical to the value of the service Journy provides.

We’ve seen first hand that having a purely digital product, while technically something that is cost-saving, ultimately may not be best for overall profitability. In the past, travelers would have to convert to paying for our service off of just a website. But, in the last 2 months, we allowed travelers to schedule phone consultations with us, and it’s a decision that has resulted in a conversion rate that is 20x higher, and a traveler that spending at least 2.5x more with us than travelers who convert purely online.

At the end of the day, travelers voting with their wallets value the experience above anything else — if the driving factor behind personalization at scale is cost savings, companies may find that they’re creating an experience that alienates rather than delights.

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