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Travel: commodity or experience?

Is Travel a commodity or an experience?  That's a question that Peter Greenburg recently (June 2018) raised at the Collette Future of Travel conference. Collette a premier land tour operator, is celebrating 100 years of business.  Peter Greenburg is the Travel Editor at CBS news and was one of the speakers - we heard his talk via the web.

Some facts we found interesting:

  • International air prices have stagnated this year.  Why? A couple of factors: 1)  International tourist travel into the US has declined about 8% which drives demand downward, 2) The advent of low cost international airlines like WOW or Norwegian Air which is driving down costs.
  • Hotel rooms are expanding at unprecedented rates.  Marriott Corporation is opening a new hotel somewhere in the world every 14 hours.  Hilton is not too far behind.
  • Cruise ships are expanding at unprecedented rates.  Every shipyard that build cruise ships is at 100% capacity yet only 13% of Americans ahve ever taken a cruise.
  • 52% of hotel and resort inventory is actually on line

So does this lower costs and more supply mean that travel is a commodity?

Trust but Verify

Use Go Astro Travel to verifyMr. Greenburg's basic thesis is that the internet has made a commodity out of many travel components.  And that's fine if you want a direct flight at the lowest cost between NY and Chicago. There's a place for commodification.  But the problem with the internet is that there's no verification.  Greenburg called out Trip Advisor specifically not being objective.  And he cited situations in which hotels offer travelers discounts to travelers if they write a positive review.  He called that an incentive to lie.  We personally have stopped using Yelp because it's so easy for trolls or competitors to write just about anything.  (Instead we use Open Table for restaurant reviews because at least the author is verified to have actually eaten at the restaurant).

There's a million questions that travelers need to ask that you can't because the algorithms don't allow it.  And without proper verification, today's traveler is likely going to be disappointed with the results.

Conversations

Just about every travel supplier presentation declares that travelers really want something that's "Authentic" and "Curated".  And while we can easily debate the details of each word, what it comes down to is that travelers are looking for experiences.   And to get a real experience, you need to have a conversation.

So Mr. Greenburg always calls the airline to book flights - he says with the right questions to the reservation agent, he can find routes and rates that don't show up on booking engines.

Conversations of course are a big part of the value add that travel agents provide.  A good travel agent that is.  And professional travel agents will ask you the right questions, find answers to your questions and give you verified information that you can trust.  Oh and by the way, also deliver competitively priced products. But the key is value.

Value vs low cost

You'll get more value with Go Astro Travel. Let's start a conversation Start a conversation to get your best travel value.

Is a $300 round trip ticket from NY to London a great value?  Sure you might say.  Well, let's start a conversation before we buy it.  What if I told you there's a 20 hour connection time in  Dublin?  Or that each piece of luggage you bring costs $75, and that even snacks are extra and you'll even need to pay for overhead storage space.  What if I told you the seat pitch was 28 inches.  And what would it still be a good value if it was a middle seat the entire way?  And if you're a 5 ft tall college student with only a backpack, perhaps this really is a great deal.  But for many of us... perhaps not.

Are 3 free nights in a great hotel in Paris a good value?  Why not you might ask.  So the conversation might go like this.  Do you really want to only stay 3 days after going through 5 time zones (from the east coast)?  The only airfare available  for your specific dates is $1500 per person.  And the hotel, well, it's not exactly in the heart of Paris - it's next to Charles de Gaulle airport.  I think I'd pass.

Or what if a friend told you that Viking is offering a 2 for 1 rate on their Rhine river cruise.  Is that a good value?  So this conversation goes like this - did you know that every price in the Viking brochure and website already includes the 2 for 1 offer?    And that for that same cruise, we have an AmaWaterways river cruise with a promotion that actually comes in a few hundred dollars cheaper than the Viking price.  Oh if you changed your departure date by 2 weeks, the river cruise price is actually $300 lower.  Maybe you were looking at a balcony cabin on that Viking ship but after I explain how river cruises dock, you realize that a fixed window cabin fits your needs just fine - that's another $400 lower in price.  Do you still think the original 2 for 1 is a good deal?

Commodity vs Experience

The internet, almost by definition, treats travel as a commodity. It's great for standard air travel and even better for bus and subway information.  But you need a real conversation to really get the best value.  And to makes sure you get a verified great experience tailored to what you want, you need a conversation with a great travel agent.

So let's go back to the start  all those interesting facts.  How best to take advantage of low international air or the ever growing inventory of hotel rooms and cruise ships?  Simple - start a conversation with a professional you trust.  It's one thing to know the facts and do research. It's another thing to have a great experience.

Want to find out more?

Interested in this topic?  You might like one of our previous posts:


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