By: Mike Putman & Dennis Payne
The travel booking industry is far from stagnant. Prior to the Internet generation, the primary mode for booking travel was through a personal, local travel agent. Booking travel outside of this method was rare, and, for most individuals, virtually impossible. Of course, the local travel agent gave way to the revolution of online booking. Individuals, for years, wanted to take control over their travel needs. Today, we’re on the brink of a whole new paradigm shift leading away from online commodities and towards the travel club.
The Rise and Popularity of Online Travel Booking
For the past decade, the travel industry has been dominated by online entities that allow individuals to shop around for their choice of flights, connections, vacation packages and accommodation. In many ways, this reflects the rising connectivity and availability of the Internet. Anyone with an Internet connection is able to see the same choices, and each person can customize their travel itinerary according to budget and personal preference. Although this was groundbreaking more than a decade ago, today it can feel overwhelming and far from convenient for many travelers. Indeed, the sheer number of options is a challenge to weed through, and availability can actually change within minutes. Many travelers find that they spend hours looking for availability, convenient flights and accommodation within their budget, all of which detracts from this booking method.
The Appeal and Promise of Travel Clubs
Travel clubs provide a stark contrast to the labor-intensive, time-consuming process of booking individuals elements of a trip online through various entities. The entire process is streamlined, requiring only a minimum amount of time from travelers. The idea behind the travel club concept is one that lets travelers make a single decision, where and when they want to go somewhere, and leave the details up to someone else. Everything from dining to hotel rooms to concierge service may be included, making it a relaxing and stress-free getaway. If anything does go wrong, travelers don’t need to spend hours on customer service lines with multiple hotel providers, travel booking entities and airlines. Instead, they connect directly to their travel club concierge, who can resolve the issue with a single phone call.
Reasons for the Travel Booking Paradigm Shift
Clearly, there are substantial differences between the two methods of travel booking. Currently, the travel industry is standing on a precipice between the two, but there is no doubt that a paradigm shift is on the horizon. As an increasing number of travelers, particularly young professionals and retirees, experience frustration with the time-consuming aspect of individualized online booking websites, they will be eager for an alternative. That alternative is clearly the travel club. This likely won’t be a slow evolution of travelers realizing the appeal of the vacation club. Instead, it will be a tipping point where word-of-mouth and a loyalty program will increase club membership numbers and retention rapidly.
An abrupt change is coming for the travel booking industry. It reveals a need for a faster, more streamlined and more efficient way to vacation, and it will almost certainly lead to the adoption of the travel club as the preferred method of booking travel.