Operators must “lead the way” on delivering human-driven experiential travel if they hope to compete against sector disruptors such as Airbnb, delegates heard.
Sam Clark, managing director of Experience Travel Group, said he believed operator members of Aito were “ceding ground” to the home-sharing website by not fully using the expertise within their organisations.
He urged delegates to “double-down on the human connections” both during the booking process and when designing and running product in-destination, arguing “the friction… the stickiness” was what travellers seeking authentic experiences really wanted.
“I’m not a Luddite and we should be using technology... but you can’t forget the human elements,” said Clark. “Travel relies upon people… the relationships, the mistakes – that’s what makes it interesting.”
Clark warned that operators who did not follow this approach “won’t be able to offer anything more than a booking algorithm”.
He said his company, which offers bespoke holidays in Asia, was “thinking hard” about how it created itineraries for clients and was focusing on “deciphering what people aren’t telling us” to give them the best experiences. Highlighting the most memorable part of trips – “the memory moment” – Clark said his clients rarely chose tourist hotspots when quoting their own moments.
“Most people don’t say Angkor Wat – one of our clients actually said it was singing along to Cliff Richard with their guide instead.
“Aito needs to be making the case for more of this style of experience-led travel.”