Geeking Out: Travelshift Shifts The Travel Booking Experience
Written by Jaillan Yehia
Anyone who has ever visited Iceland knows that on top of the well-deserved reputation for jaw dropping scenery, the small island nation is quirky, cool and cutting edge with a totally unique take on the world around it.
I remember visiting Iceland for the first time in the aftermath of the economic crisis – and as someone with a passion for politics and economics, as well as travel, I found the situation frustrating as well as fascinating.
These days Iceland is of course booming – and I’ve learned about a local travel tech company which is reinventing the way the travel industry sells self-packaged holidays, so I decided to find out more…
My long-standing involvement with and interest in online computer software as well as my background in the travel sector mean I really am doubly geeky; I’m always Googling trips like crazy, but I’m also interested in the technology that powers bookings behind the scenes.
As a blogger I’m also really passionate about helping ordinary travellers to get authentic up-to-date information about trips so they don’t become bogged down in the planning process to such an extent that the holiday itself is marred – which seems to happen all too often judging by the experiences of my non-travel-industry friends.
As a blogger I also get at least one email a day about some new online platform or app which is going to revolutionise the travel sector, and if I had a penny for each of those which don’t go on to to anything but disappear from the internet I could probably retire.
That’s because almost all these travel technology platforms – like anything else techy and consumer-focused – rely on critical mass, which as a start-up is hard to achieve. It’s a classic chicken and egg problem.
So I found it pretty interesting to read a case study about an online travel agency software product which was conceived in Iceland in the years following the economic crisis when the country was focused on tourism as a major income generator – and when tourism was rising quickly and the government was investing heavily in marketing the destination.
What tech firm Travelshift has done is design software that creates a virtual online marketplace for any destination or sector within the travel industry which enables even smaller suppliers to sell to a larger audience and compete on a level playing field with the big guys – all supported by blogger and customer-generated reviews and content.
In real terms this means that as a holidaymaker you visit one website and can read about the destination or sector, look at different accommodation, car hire and other suppliers, and put together a whole bespoke trip without leaving this marketplace.
They have apparently made a success of this model with a focus on amazing customer service, which is something so often overlooked in this day and age, but also by building into the idea from the start a plan to work with bloggers and embrace social media, not just as a bolt on but as an integral part of the platform, and this seems to be absolutely key.
It probably didn’t hurt that nature photographer Iurie Belegurschi was a founder of the platform, meaning that as well having access to suppliers and reviewers, the pioneer site which focuses on Iceland itself as a destination has a body of some 100,000 stunning images all of which draw in customers – research has shown great images get you 94% more views than the same info without images.
Sometimes when our backs are up against the wall we can achieve more than we imagined – and the mother of invention is of course necessity, so it isn’t surprising to learn that the reason this company has succeed where many others in its place have failed is simply because it had no choice but to make it work.
I remember my first visit to Iceland in the aftermath of the financial crash and immediately after the eruption of that unpronounceable volcano which grounded flights across Europe. I was not only enchanted by the landscapes, because who wouldn’t be, but I was drawn in by the unique entrepreneurial spirit of the Icelandic people and this seems a good example of that. It may sounds trite, but if you visit for yourself you’ll see just what I mean.
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