People seem fond of telling the story of the travel industry, especially those who have been around it a while. Unless you were spending a lot of money it must have sucked to travel on business in the 70s, pre-deregulation, with hardly any choice of what kind of experience you wanted. Even as we got into this century, and the dot com businesses started trying to work out how to use the new connectedness to help businesses, the business travel experience only barely improved.
The travel industry was rather dazzled and over-excited by the possibilities, but looking back from now, it was more like a Cambrian Explosion of experimentation, where a lot of business models and approaches had to be tried so we could learn how to do it properly. The great thing about keeping connected to your users, particularly once their computers migrated from their desks to their pockets, is that they can teach you what works and doesn’t.
The big travel success stories now, Expedia, Booking.com, etc, are the ones who became experts at continuous, rapid fire test-n-learn enhancements. They make a thousand variations in their user’s experiences and then data analyse which ones were best. This type of continuous improvement repeated for several years produces the prospect of a decade to come when most of the apps on our devices are pretty awesome at what they do. Google maps and translate are awesome, booking.com and expedia are awesome, and so on. This is good news. There will continue to be new challenges, ideas and problems to solve, but being in an industry that is finally making users happy is a great place to be.
At Traveldoo, for example, this is the target we are setting as we build out our new T&E mobile applications. “Pretty awesome” is the height of the bar now and we have no intention of not hitting that mark.