Global Travel Trends That Are Catching On

cabin in valley.jpg

Thanks to the internet, there’s more accessible information available on travel, both international and domestic than ever before. And in the travel industry, service providers are having to cater for a more diverse group of travelers of all ages, origins and reasons for travel; some for leisure and relaxation, others for business, the adventurers and thrill seekers. Let’s take a look at 3 global markets that are thriving and find out why they are, and how these trends are going global.

 

1.European Style Hotel Meets Hostels

Backpacking across the stunning European terrain has long been immensely popular for travelers of all ages of origins. Affordable and convenient transportation – both by air, rail and road between European countries may be one reason for the popularity of hiking across the Western region of this continent, but the traditionally simplistically frugal hostel type housing that originally catered for backpackers and students is becoming more popular. Providing basic, practical and useful facilities and amenities with a casual social atmosphere at a low cost is becoming increasingly popular and this trend is spreading across bigger cities in Asia and the US alike such as Singapore, Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York and Miami.[1] This provides much sought after  alternative housing options in  traditionally pricier and mainstream chain hotel type lodging  and attracting millennials who are more cost conscious and make up an increasing segment of the travel industry.

 

  1. Latin America’s Homegrown Brands

Latin America is so diverse – culturally, economically, politically and geographically and the travel and hospitality industry is fragmented as a result of this. While this presents a set of challenges, a lot of opportunity is also created.[2]One of South America’s strengths lies in intimately knowing the local terrain and local consumer preferences – this is how small and medium businesses have an advantage over larger multinational companies. Partnering with local institutions from banks to restaurants and attractions rather than seeing them as competition is important and creates a win-win situation for the community. Smaller boutique type hotels have been gaining popularity as are smaller businesses and unique vacation rental and a lot of small businesses thriving simply by maximizing what is unique to them. Young travelers are looking for unique, undiscovered gems to create unforgettable memories and they don’t have to be 1000 miles away – ‘Staycations’, or staying closer to home are becoming increasingly popular. Latin America’s homegrown brands are an example of how smaller, independent businesses can flourish simply because they know the area better than anyone else.

 

  1. China’s technology and infrastructure advancement

In 2012, Chinese tourists overtook the Germans and American tourists by spending $102 billion on tourism[3] – it’s no wonder that Chinese tourists are much sought after, and such  growth  was a major  talking point of the US Travel show this year. While the habits of the Chinese tourists – good, bad, ugly or stereotypical is a whole topic for another day, let’s focus on how the Chinese get to travel at this rate. The limelight is on the technology and infrastructure present in China. China’s travel market today is based on rock solid foundations of airports, airlines, and traditional distribution methods with well established relationships all across the market. And the Chinese get all the information they need even without websites and apps, for which some of us can barely go a day without using – such as Google (Drive, Maps, Docs- all of it), Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.  But China’s startup and tech industry is exploding and they’ve got their own platforms, and many travel websites such as TripAdvisor have launched their Chinese .cn versions. WeChat, for example is immensely popular and has over 500 million users who discuss and share everything – travel experiences included. China does have the world’s largest smartphone market after all.[4] So if you aren’t already on board and making use of all the innovative technologies for maximizing bookings to providing ancillary services- we suggest you jump on the bandwagon. 

 

What are your thoughts? What are some other global trends we may have missed ? We want to know what you think!

 

[1] Roth, Howard and Fishbin, Michael., pg. 14 EY Global hospitality insights Top thoughts for 2015

[2]  Luke Bujarski, and Hoffman, Colie., pg. 8 Mexico Online Travel Overview Second Edition (January 2015)

[3]  Cripps, Cripps., Chinese tourism: The good, the bad and the backlash (February 2013) http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/09/travel/chinese-tourism-impact/

[4] https://www.tnooz.com/article/heads-up-learn-from-chinese-travel-market/

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Nitty-Gritties of Vacation Rental Insurance

travel insurance

 

You have decided to treat yourself to a well deserved two week vacation. Some of your closest buddies are coming along too.  You’ve saved up 3 months for this trip , and you are just about to proceed to make the payment for your vacation rental that makes your bank account cry a little- then there’s a pop-up suggesting you pay X amount for insurance to cover your trip . Are you going to take it ?

As a startup providing next generation travel insurance – you would think that the first thing we do want to do is to convince you with a bunch of compelling  reasons why you should purchase travel insurance. But what we really want to tell you about are some flaws of the system, hurdles when it comes to providing and purchasing vacation rental travel insurance and why, in general, travel insurance tends to get a bad rep and how this can be simplified.

 

Travel Insurance…? Nah, I think I’ll pass

While some people won’t leave for a trip unless they’re covered, there’s a bigger group who see travel insurance as an unnecessary expense. Effectively more travelers intend to buy travel insurance than actually do. This was evidenced in recent UK research, where fewer than one in three adults said that they had bought travel insurance in the past 12 months, whereas “almost seven in ten adults (68.9%) said that they would not go abroad without travel insurance.” ~Goodman Fox.
Chances are you are on one of  either end of this spectrum. If you are in the latter, the thought of insurance companies, claims, underwriters are all rather incomprehensible, and daunting to you. You want nothing to do with them, because you are only going away for a couple of  weeks anyway. Furthermore you don’t understand their jargon, let alone their policy’s fine print about what’s covered and what’s not covered. The policy booklet you found online is 20 pages long,  with many policy features that are not relevant you your trip. It’s like they are offering you a one size fits all policy but one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to insurance. So you decide to ignore that pop up ad and go on without insurance on your vacation rental.

 

The Problem

A month or so down the line,  you’ve made additional purchases to your trip – finally booked your flight tickets and a car rental. You are realising you’ve got more money at stake now. Your vacation city is prone to hurricanes, what if one hits and your trip is cancelled ? And will everyone really be alright doing all those extreme water sports you have planned out ? You find yourself thinking about that pop up for travel insurance , and how you’d really rather be safe than sorry. So you go back and try to find out where that ad for travel insurance came from. No luck. So you go on the look up the major insurance companies. Only to find out that they do not sell vacation rental related travel insurance after the final trip payment was made. This, it turns out, is one of the most discouraging hurdles to consumers when it comes to purchasing specialized vacation rental travel insurance.

 

Most major insurance companies will not let you purchase insurance after you have made your initial reservation. For them, it’s too much of a risk- especially  if people are only purchasing travel insurance after they’ve their reservations in response to a hurricane or natural disaster warning or something of this sort. Which makes sense, from their perspective. But this problem in travel insurance leaves many travelers worried, with some unease and potentially uncovered. They may not even be aware of this problem but it’s this  kind of situation leaves both the traveler and the vacation rental manager in an uncomfortable,  what-if situation.

 

The Solution

With our mission to rid the world of suffering in terms of travel insurance – we are working on the solution to this problem. It involved having to get licensed to sell insurance in 50 states in the US – a lengthy and and costly process. And as a B2B2C company, our services cater  to businesses all across the vacation rental industry i.e.property managers, software providers, individual owners, channel managers and more, and effectively offer their clients or guests specialized vacation rental trip insurance via a stand alone insurance website. What makes this insurance different is that  it can be sold all the way from when the original vacation rental payment is made, right up to 24 hours before check in. Thus we are closing the gap and making vacation rental travel insurance more readily available right up till 24 hours before check in.

 

Were you aware of this problem ? What other hurdles are both providers and consumers of travel facing ? We want to hear your thoughts !

 

The Waiting Game

This blog is meant as a follow up to Steve Sherlock‘s article “License to Thrill!”  It is recommended, though not necessary, that you read the article before continuing as it provides context for the following discussion.

INTRODUCTION

When Pablow Inc. began as a company in the United States we had a vision of rapidly transforming the landscape of the insurance industry by eliminating complexities and inefficiencies that are so prevalent throughout the industry.  What we did not know is how many of those complexities and inefficiencies we would have to deal with first to try to accomplish our goals (e.g. licensing, legitimization, compliance etc.).  After a couple of years with headquarters in the United States and offices in Australia, we have come to the conclusion that working in the insurance industry can sometimes feel like a waiting game.

RULES OF THE GAME

  1. You may only participate in the game after receiving licensing in each US state for each type of insurance offered in that state, which will cost your company tens of thousands of dollars.
  2. When you want to begin the game and have everything arranged to start, be prepared to wait a significant amount of time before you may actually initiate the first turn.  The amount of time to wait depends on the players, their background, and a variety of unidentified variables, but be assured that this time can not be lessened.
  3. Once you’ve begun the game you may only advance with the most cautious of moves, as any one mistake can revert you to the starting point.  Your opponents and teammates must also play this way, which means that it will take a long amount of time to complete any one move, much less a series of moves.
  4. Once players begin the game it takes longer to develop relationships with other non-players who are cautious about the intentions of players.
  5. Verbal strategy is the quickest way to initiate execution of a plan, but beware that putting moves in writing is almost always required and will take an unexpectedly long amount of time regardless of the type of plan.
  6. The rules of the game may be changed at any time, and players are expected to react immediately or may face a loss of turn if they play outside of the new rules.

PLAYING THE GAME (Startup Companies)

Now that we’ve covered just a few of the most important rules to the waiting game, it’s important to know how to play the game.  For this you will have to rely on your experience alone due to the complexity of the insurance industry, and for those without previous experience be prepared to build it quickly or face yourself playing another game.

Although the waiting game is difficult to manage, particularly for new players, there is hope.  The first important game strategy is to find a sponsoring company whose key performance indicators are linked to your success, in other words they need you!

Once you’ve developed a relationship with a sponsor it’s critically important you continue to move your game piece toward the finish line with regular conference calls and tight timelines, because you want to get into the market as soon as possible.  Within the last year, I’ve experienced a project being killed off at the last minute after six months of preparation because someone decided we were a competitor to their organization; a fate that might’ve been avoided had I better communicated the benefits of our distributor relationship.  Instead of working with the company to distribute their product to a niche market, we entered a partnership with one of their competitors, which will help us ensure we serve a new market niche.  Based on my experience and knowledge of other entrepreneurial ventures, I can confidently say that by getting your product to market you’ve reached a major checkpoint in the waiting game.

The game can be won, but it will take time and will be incredibly difficult for even the most resilient players.  At Pablow, Inc. we’ve been through many situations working with insurance companies that have been psychologically uncomfortable, but as we persist we’ve realized that there’s a sense of thrill that comes with preparing our gameplay strategy in order to advance ourselves toward the finish line.

A NOTE TO THE GAME MAKERS (The Insurance Industry)

“An idea does not survive because it is better than the competition, but rather because the person who holds it has survived.” ~ Taleb
It’s important that you look at startup companies as partners, rather than as competition, when they present new ways to solve old problems.  If you find that you have similar goals and values, then it’s easiest for the players if you provide the rules of play, but otherwise let them decide on a gameplay strategy.  This is primarily because startups are worried about timeliness, especially with technology companies, and when larger companies intervene in the process it tends to delay technology and project completion.  As a rule, entrepreneurs should be given more freedom to solve problems, because they can often get it solved more quickly than the bureaucracy inherent at larger corporations.
Finally, I strongly suggest you consider working with startup companies in the future as your problems need solutions.  If insurance companies embrace entrepreneurial partnerships then they may divert their work from business as usual to an innovative solution that they would not otherwise have thought of or been able to take advantage of.  You never know how an innovative group of entrepreneurs might solve your most complex and persistent challenges.

Small Company, Big Responsibility

INTRODUCTION

While most college students are going to end up working their summers for the parks and recreation department as an assistant manager, for the local pool as a lifeguard, or in the best scenario for a company as an intern in their field of study; few will get the opportunity to lead a department, determine company strategy, or work on their own schedule.  The one opportunity you have to make a real difference for an organization is surprisingly an option that few students apply for, an internship with a startup company.

This blog will cover the intern experience of one of Pablow Inc.‘s most recent hires, Dylan DeClerck, who was hired to lead the company’s marketing efforts this spring and has continued to work for the company this summer.  Among the projects Dylan has helped lead for the company include developing and implementing a content strategy, developing and using sales materials to contact prospective business partners, creating new processes for marketing efforts, implementing a CRM system, directing the work of freelancers, and revamping social media strategies.

DYLAN

“This spring I had an excellent experience working for Pablow Inc. and CEO, Steve Sherlock, on all of our marketing efforts.  What I enjoyed most about my internship was 1) the flexibility of my work schedule, 2) the autonomy of my work tasks, and 3) importance of my efforts on the direction of the company.

  1. FLEXIBILITY

During my internship this past semester I was taking a full course load of 18 credits and traveling eight hours every weekend to play professional ultimate frisbee, a big passion of mine.  Luckily, Steve gave me the flexibility to set my own schedule and work hours as long as it was approximately 10-15 hours per week.  After some discussion, we decided that it would work best in my schedule if I worked 6-7 hours per week in the office each Tuesday, and the rest of the work time I could simply report every two weeks so Steve could input it into the payroll system.

Besides a flexible weekly schedule, Steve was incredibly accommodating with my full academic schedule.  In fact, the week before finals I worked just a few hours and the week of finals I didn’t work at all so I could focus on my tests and projects.  While not all startup companies may be as accommodating as Pablow, I think that a majority of small companies understand the importance of certain personal commitments and are more than accommodating when it comes to flexible working arrangements.

  1. AUTONOMY

In addition to flexibility, I enjoyed the autonomy that working for a small company provided.  In a small company, not only is it unrealistic for managers to micromanage all of the intern’s tasks, it’s detrimental to the organization as a whole because work never gets done!

An example of an autonomous project was when I developed and used sales materials to contact prospective business partners.  At the beginning Steve and I sat down to cover our objectives for the project and potential approaches to achieve our goals, but after a short time of planning and introduction the rest of the project was mine to handle.  First I began writing our sales materials using information I had learned in sales classes and based on my research of the vacation rental industry.  After I had written the script I ran it by Steve and laid out our approach to contact travel system providers and retailers.  Once I had his approval, I spent two weeks reaching out to partners using our sales and marketing materials, and successfully brought on new business partners.  The best feedback I received from Steve that made my efforts feel worthwhile was that my work had “helped prove that this business concept could be a reality.”

Looking at how much autonomy I was given says a lot about the trust Steve had in my abilities to market his product to our target market, and because of the internship’s structure I can say that I successfully completed a lot of important projects for the organization.

  1. IMPORTANCE

I alluded to this in the previous section, but working for Pablow gave me the chance to work on some incredibly important work.  Did it create some pressure that I needed to perform at a high level?  Sure it did, but Steve made sure the pressure was always manageable and kept my projects moving in the right direction.

I felt the most pressure within the first couple of weeks of my internship when I was asked to essentially lay out the marketing direction and strategy for the entire company.  This challenged me to think outside of the box and use my limited experience to develop the best plan of attack for the company.

At the end of my internship I will be able to say I’ve done so many great things for this organization, and that it was an experience well worth my time.  Are there challenges of working for a small company?  Yes, of course there are, but I wouldn’t give up this experience to work for any other company or any other CEO this spring.”

Travel Apps You’ll Want To Use

 

travel apps

Travelling should always be an exciting and worry free experience, right ? Well, if you are anything like me, whether you are travelling alone or with a group you might feel somewhat stressed  or overwhelmed and maybe a little lost along the way. For one thing, like many millennials I tend to be a rather spontaneous traveler due to the occurrence of breaks or holidays or budget constraints and so my trips aren’t always planned that well in advance. So I’ve compiled a list of innovative apps and websites some of which I have used and some I’m excited to use in the near future all of which I believe will make the travel experience simpler and less stressful.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and I am learning as an intern at a travel tech meets insurance tech and financial tech startup that these industries are definitely in full bloom and there’s no loss of inspiration here. While there’s no perfect way of grouping these apps since many serve more than one purpose, I have tried to categorized them below.

1.Where to go and where to  stay ?  TripAdvisor, Yelp, Airbnb, Tansler

TripAdvisor, founded in 2000, continues to be the world’s leading travel websites with the freshest and most relevant information and reviews on hotels, restaurants, attractions and the like. They’ve vastly expanded over the last decade, acquiring a number of startups and gaining new and improved functionality in the process that can help you to decide what to do on your trip based hundreds of real reviews. Yelp hosts, develops and markets smaller businesses within local areas using crowd sourced reviews . Airbnb, which has taken the vacation rental market by storm by offering thousands of private accommodation listings from the most economic to most elaborate.  Tansler is a relatively new, multi award and rapidly expanding platform that allows travelers to set their price and chose at least two homes. They then send the offers to those homes creating an auction. The first host to accept the offer wins the travelers stay and the auction ends. The traveler then has 24 hours to accept the bid before it expires.

 

2.How to get there?  Rome2Rio , Uber

Rome2Rio provides comprehensive and informative information on how to get from one location to another by train, bus, plane, taxi, ferry, walking and driving route, and links from the transport companies. Uber, which has inevitably changed the way we travel is an ultra convenient, on demand taxi service all from the convenience of the Uber app. And it’s cashless and there’s no tipping necessary. Uber automatically deducts the trip fare from your credit card.

  1.  Make your travel itinerary. TripIt , Travefy Personal

TripIt creates a beautiful online itineraries available on all your devices with all your trip details – all you have to do is forward all your confirmation emails to the app. Your personalized itineraries can be emailed and shared with family, friends who might need to be on the loop about your whereabouts. TripIt also gives real-time alerts for connecting flights – so that’s less panicked running for monitors at airports for us. What about group trips ? It’s rarely an easy task to get everyone on the same page on what-to-do and what to see and travel group chats often end up with a lot of spam and irrelevant links. Travefy Personal is an app that lets groups plan trip itineraries with things to do from 8 million plus restaurants, activities, deals and more. You can also discover and make reservations for hotels and vacation rentals from Travefy Personal. Payments can be set up by card or cash so that no one gets stuck with the bill.

  1. Money Matters. Currency, Splittr

Splittr is wonderful for group trips when each of you paid for different things, and it the end , no one is sure exactly who owes what to whom. Splittr makes it simple so that you can add expenses,  who paid for it and who benefited from it. Uneven splitting and all currencies are supported by Splittr. At the end of the trip, PDF documents can be generated and sent to everyone in your group. You won’t have to worry about tedious calculations and excel documents for trips any longer. Currency is a super simple but powerful conversion app and is perfect if you are traveling abroad. It provides up to date rates of over 150 currencies and countries.

  1. Navigation. Google Maps, Waze , Maps.me

Google Maps is pretty basic , but oh-so-essential for your directions in getting from one place to another and they have some capacity to be used offline. Maps.me though, is a mapping system available offline once the maps are downloaded. And they seem to have maps of pretty much everywhere. The maps at Maps.me boasts having incredible detail right down to statues and water fountains and even dirt paths. A must if you are traveling without data or don’t have a wireless connection near you. Just don’t forget to download the map when you do have Wi-Fi. Waze is one of the largest community based traffic apps that works in real-time with real people giving live feedback about the state of roads and routes you are trying to navigate. Super helpful for road trips , especially in big cities.

So there you have it, apps designed to make your traveling  experience as stress free as possible. Are there any we forgot to mention ? Let us know your thoughts!