Five rules of running a travel start-up

New tools, platforms, tourism markets and destinations have meant huge shifts in the travel industry. While this disruption has caused challenges and setbacks for established organisations, it has also created exciting new opportunities where start-ups with new ideas like Tripr, Nekst and (of course) Airbnb can gain a foothold.

On top of this, things in the UK travel and tourism industry are starting to look up, with stronger economic confidence expected to positively affect all areas apart from offline sales and domestic travel.

But what must a travel start-up do to succeed in this current climate?

1. Understand consumer purchase points

One of the biggest mistakes any business can make is not having a full understanding of their consumer purchase path way. This is no different for travel and indeed the effects of mis-targeting are especially prominent due to a wide range of price points and infrequency of purchase.

A consumer might spend ages searching for a good flight deal, but then make more rash decisions on purchases which seem cheaper in comparison even if, as a standalone product, they are actually not good value.

2. Know your place

Twenty years ago guide books, travel agents and tourism offices were the most trusted source of information when it came to travel. Today this is no longer the case and consumers rely on user generated content whether it through comparison sites, blogs or social media.

Start-ups must understand the importance of monitoring and promoting their good image through these avenues first.

3. Be where your customer is

Another key area for success is being where your customer is. Brian Jones, Managing Director at Simply Holiday Deals, an online discount travel service, believes for businesses to be successful in today’s digital landscape they must have a multi-screen and channel strategy, something that some older, more established companies are struggling with in their attempt to catch up with the disrupters.

He said: "From the onset we took a customer-centric approach understanding the importance of allowing consumers to interact and engage with us through their preferred channel, as opposed to forcing them to use one or two channels that are better for the company itself.

"In that respect we offer multiple ways to receive our content and offerings whether it be through search, mobile apps, social media or email. The current digital and consumer environment is very complex and individuals may want to use their mobile phone on the way to work, then browse on their desktop during work hours and then through their tablet or Facebook in the evening hours while watching TV."

4. Adopt a mobile-first strategy

79 per cent of people in UK have a smartphone which is a penetration higher than both Europe and the US. On top of that of all those who interact with online travel content, the majority are smartphone users.

Start-ups who can enter the market with a mobile friendly or mobile only site, will have the competitive advantage over more traditional companies who are rolling out a rushed reactive strategy.

5. Embrace innovation

Brian Jones adds: “As a small online travel start-up we believe innovation is our competitive advantage. The traditional players are slow to innovate. We release updates to our site every two weeks using agile web development and project management. We make small consistent changes constantly adding more value.

"We use analytics and data to drive the business. This includes qualitative and quantitative metrics. We regularly review analytics reports and determine what type of content our users prefer. In addition, we use qualitative measures such as regular surveys to gather feedback to make business decisions. This way we can make better business decisions that aid our success."

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