As more and more travel companies endeavor to own the end-to-end traveler experience, is this consolidated world good for consumers?
“Consolidation brings with it a number of challenges,” cautions Lonely Planet CEO Luis Cabrera, speaking at the Voyager HQTravel Disruption Summit in New York last week.
“I don’t have a yes or no answer. It creates a different environment,” he says. “[At Lonely Planet], we’re ambitious. We want to be able to touch every part of the journey, but we don’t want to own it.”
Says Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck, “Every OTA wants to get into experiences, and everyone’s always wanting to go beyond,” pointing to the strategies of companies like Booking.com, Ryanair and TripAdvisor to own the customer journey.
“I don’t know if any one company is going to be an Amazon. A lot will go after it, but I don’t know if Booking will clean the clocks of everyone else,” he says.
“Whether it’s Airbnb or hotels, everyone’s going to be competing to enrich the experience, and those that get there first with contextual technology and personalization - that’s where you have magic happen [and inspire] loyalty.”
For example, Foursquare, Glueck says, works with Airbnb to add photos to its experiences offerings and funnels content to Ctrip to help those brands deepen their connections with travelers.
Partnerships such as those - even ones labeled a “frenemy” partnership - will be critical to a consolidated world, says Shane Mayer, head of partnerships at GetYourGuide.
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And the goal of partnerships should not be harmony, Cabrera says. “Some friction must exist. You need to partner with someone the right size. You need to find someone your size so it becomes a true partnership/relationship,” and there need to be clear boundaries.
“At Lonely Planet, we won’t be launching our own OTA. We try to partner with the right individuals and companies.”
Cabrera also cautions against exclusivity agreements. “Some exclusivity is toxic. When things change so much [and so rapidly in the industry], it’s probably not right.”
Glueck says “friends” should be picked based on aligned interests. “We work with tons of companies, and we are succeeding because people are afraid of people [depending] on Google and Facebook.”
Uber, for example, turned to Foursquare for a partnership because it’s competing with Google on self-driving cars, he says.
In order to compete with the giants, “You need data, and you need reliable partners,” Glueck says. “You don’t want to be completely dependent on them.”
* PhocusWire was a media partner of the Travel Disruption Summit