Dear startups and investors - travel planning is NOT broken (so stop trying to fix it)News / DistributionBy Viewpoints | October 31, 2013Share This article was originally published on Some things never change. Month after month, year after year, we can look forward to news of a new venture which will finally—what took so long?—solve the problem of travel planning.Yes, travel planning: all that tedious surfing around the web, looking at a myriad of sites and user reviews and photographs and maps and schedules and fares, all that time can now be spent more profitably, on... well, that’s never specified. But you get the picture.NB: This is a viewpoint by Rod Cuthbert, CEO of Rome2Rio and chairman emeritus of Viator.Travel planning, apparently, is a waste of time. It’s just dumb, these oracles of wisdom tell us, to spend our precious time on a process that has at long last been automated.Just tell us a few things about yourself, Madam, and we’ll tell you where to go. And what to do, and where to sleep, eat, drink and shop as well. Let us do the planning while you get back to whatever else you were doing.Come back in 20 seconds and we'll have everything ready.Why do the otherwise intelligent people behind these ventures believe that just because we can automate a process, the process should therefore be automated, especially when nothing could be further from the truth?The economist Karl Marx introduced the idea of the opiate of the masses in the 1840s. He clearly wasn’t thinking of travel planning, but he might have been: with its habit-forming and always rosy view into a future we can easily imagine (if we just stare a little longer into the screen), travel planning is a powerful opiate.The escape from the humdrum of our daily life is instant; we feel better about ourselves immediately.Our anticipated trip is perfect: flights are on-time and uneventful, hotel rooms are grand and have views of skies that are always blue, seas that are the deepest green; our dinner arrives on time, our traveling companions are delightful; nothing ever seems to go wrong.Why wouldn’t we want to spend hours planning our travel?This isn’t a just a personal view: there is a host of scholarly research at the intersection of leisure travel and happiness.British researchers David Gilbert and Junaida Abdullah, for example, studied the impact of the expectation of a vacation on an individual’s well-being.The duo's 2002 paper in the Journal of Vacation Marketing cited significant positive differences between those with a vacation planned, and those with no plans.Numerous other psychologists and researchers have arrived at the same conclusion.Of course there are some individuals who simply don’t enjoy or don’t have the time for all that planning.Weeding their way through reviews on Barcelona hotels is just not for them; they certainly won’t be checking a dozen websites to see who has the best Gaudi tours, and the thought of trawling through Yelp, Time Out and Fodors to find the most desirable tapas bars is their idea of torture.These people, I think, are a minority group.But it’s this group in which we find the very same people who decide that building a travel planning site (Bonus feature! Recommendations from your friends on social media!) is just the ticket for their next business venture, and they can’t wait for you to hear their pitch and start the due diligence work on an angel investment in their startup.(My advice for those potential investors? Be careful. And for the entrepreneurs? Focus your energies on an industry sector that could do with some innovation, rather than a problem that doesn’t actually exist.)Travel planning is an often complex and sometimes frustrating process. It can, and no doubt will, be improved over time.But it’s not broken, and doesn’t need to be fixed, particularly if the fix involves reducing the amount of time people will spend on the process.When people begin planning their leisure travel, they expect to drift quietly through a sea of beautiful options, taking all the time in the world to make their decisions.Let’s not take away all the joy associated with that process by shuttling them off to their destination too quickly.NB: This is a viewpoint by Rod Cuthbert, CEO of Rome2Rio and chairman emeritus of Viator.NB2: Travel planning and map images via Shutterstock.