Why local is the missing piece of the jigsaw in the online travel search space.
The buzz around SoMoLo might be finally petering out in the wider tech space, but in travel, it is just beginning. Creating a product that is social, mobile and local is the key to success for any online travel business. There are plenty of social sites, such as Tripadvisor, which allow consumers to share tips and reviews. Similarly, there are a plethora of mobile apps available to do everything from booking a last minute hotel or flight, to finding a couch to sleep on, or sharing a car journey. However, up until now, while there is local within the destination element of the travel industry, the transport area is lacking.
The travel industry moved online more than fifteen years ago, and it was one of the first sectors to do so. This had a huge impact on the way that consumers could search for both holiday destinations and ways of getting to those destinations. The travel search sector evolved to accommodate the busy consumer looking to find the best deal - and fast.
At the start of the travel industry's great move online, the British consumer was faced with a variety of online travel agents (OTAs), such as dot-com darling, Lastminute and Expedia. The sites ushered in a brave new world where flights could be booked at the touch of a button, and high street travel agents faced an uncertain future.
The second generation of travel search tools to reach the market were metasearch engines, such as Kayak and Skyscanner. These platforms saved consumers hopping between sites to compare prices, allowing direct price comparison all on one site. As with the OTAs, metasearch engines were largely dominated by airlines. As a result of the online travel industry being built around airline conventions, consumers have been trained into searching to and from city airports, despite the fact that many of these airports aren't even located within the city claimed, such as Paris Charles de Gaulle. These airline-dominated destination search sites epitomise the local element missing from the online travel search market.
Rail and coach products have developed, become more sophisticated, and are now able to compete with the airline offering. However, there is still little access to these alternative modes of transport online, and customers are required to search across multiple sites. GoEuro searches rail, coach and air transport across the UK and Europe, allowing travellers to search to and from any location to find the cheapest prices and fastest travel times - all in one simple search.
Multi-mode travel search engines, such as GoEuro, are levelling the playing field for the industry, providing the long-awaited local element missing from the online travel market. They allow different transport options to be presented equally and fairly. With these sites, each segment of the travel sector has a fair representation, and the consumer is able to combine different modes of transport to optimise the time and cost of travel.
With this new generation of multi-mode travel search websites emerging, consumers will come to expect more from travel search. They will demand a comparison of more and more transport options. They will not just look to reach an airport on the outskirts of a city, but rather, will want to search for train, coach, and bus routes that will take them from the airport to their final destination, be that to the heart of the city, or to smaller towns and villages.
Secondly, online travel search will become instinctive, in the same way that consumers currently instinctively search for the nearest Starbucks on their smartphone, or enter a postcode into their satnav when travelling by car.
Finally, new companies will be able to start from scratch and build their technology based on mapping algorithms, rather than depending on the airline-based systems currently used by the OTAs. This means that there will be a host of new and imaginative platforms developed, which will provide a unique and easy-to-use experience for consumers.
The online travel search industry is ever evolving. The development of multi-mode travel search is powering the travel industry to move closer to a complete social, mobile and local product.