ChinaTravelNews, Ritesh Gupta – Fancy playing basketball? How about enjoying the same at a hotel's lobby rather than waiting for your check-in?
How about going to the exactly same spot, one that you were fascinated by while watching a TV show? Imagine an itinerary/ packages around the same from your location!
The above travel/ stay examples are for real. So you can play basketball at one of hotel company Atour's property. And Mafengwo.com would let you book a trip based on your interest or even abstract things that could be one's passion or hobby. These are examples of how Chinese companies - both young and mature ones - are trying to understand what drives people in their lives in general and accordingly, bringing about changes in whatever they do to serve travellers.
Just the way every traveller thinks differently, travel planning and commerce, too, needs to evolve, pointed out Gang Chen, co-founder and CEO, Mafengwo.com.
"Emerging niche tours would become a trend (in the coming years)," said Chen, who presented during the TravelDaily China conference in Shanghai. Chen also added that KOL's (key opinion leader) impact, immersed experiences (like hot air balloon ride, diving etc.) and socialized travel are going to be other trends that are going to drive travel-related decision making.
Finding real reasons behind travelling
Art, sports, food, nature...there could be many reasons behind what excites one and how this paves for a leisure trip. Since every traveller thinks differently, travel planning and commerce, needs to factor this and evolve accordingly. As Chen mentioned, all of these need to come into the picture the moment a user interacts with any travel app or website.
Airbnb China, akin to what it does globally, too, is also in the process of strengthening its relatively new offering, Experiences. This product is about activities designed and led by inspiring locals.
"China has thousands of years of history in culture and arts, which provide amazing sources (for the Experiences product)," mentioned Nathan Blecharczyk is Co-founder, Chief Strategy Officer, and Chairman of Airbnb China.
Citing a couple of examples, he said one could learn how to cook soup dumplings, a local cuisine that represent Shanghai the most. "You can also learn about the Chinese opera, a traditional art form in China, and even try on the makeup," said Blecharczyk.
Airbnb is currently taking submissions from China, could be urban or rural.
"We want to show the world a different side, the local, authentic China through different hosts and their perspective," added Blecharczyk. He added that this product is still in its nascent stages in China, and there are around 400 "Experiences" in China.
Digitizing the storytelling
Other aspect of how people plan and buy travel is related to crafting superlative digital products - be it for web or an app.
Travel e-commerce companies, be it for hotels, airlines, online travel agencies, trip planning sites etc., are well on their journey of introspecting into the same. The way their digital products are being designed is increasingly demonstrating the fact that travel isn't just about finding a destination and booking an itinerary from A to B. Rather a diligent effort is being made to understand the real reason behind one's decision to travel and how the same should be reflected in the user interface being used. Brands today want to leave an impact in every phase of the booking funnel.
Chen asserts that the entire user experience on Mafengwo.com differs from other platforms, that tend to be transaction-oriented.
"A majority of digital interfaces currently being run by OTAs or even airlines, hotels etc., tend to be transaction-oriented. Buying a package in one-click may be an e-commerce player's strong point, but is it really what travellers are looking for? Going early into the booking funnel - inspiring people, understanding their intentions etc. is where it all starts. Creative ways like storytelling and alluring interfaces along with commerce capabilities is the future," mentioned an executive. "This would be key for sellers of a product category like travel to remain relevant. Otherwise, as part of a non-frequent product buy like travel, this industry wouldn't make real progress."