Travel is an industry that is always changing and evolving. New technologies are opening new opportunities for startups, organizations, and large corporations that are building software solutions.
However, the changes don’t stop there, the way travelers behave is also changing and evolving. TechTravel companies need to keep and eye on the needs, motivations and new behaviors of travelers. Digital nomads, millennials, and female solo travelers are just some examples of a new generation of travelers we are just figuring out.
In this episode you’ll learn about the top travel behavioral trends the team at Tripscout has identified by speaking with hundreds of travelers.
“The traveler’s tastes and behaviors have changed significantly over the last decade – yet the products and services offered to them have essentially remained unchanged in over 10 years.”
– Konrad Waliszewski
Social media and the boom of the share economy has a great impact on how travelers plan, organize, and enjoy their trips. Keep tuned if you want to learn more.
Founder & CEO at TripScout
A mobile app that helps you discover the world like never before. They curate the best recommendations from local experts and provide trip-planning tools to personalize travelers experiences.
Sandra: Hey everyone and welcome to a new episode of People and Business podcast where we talk about challenges companies faced when scaling.
We are very happy to kick off our second season today. My name is Sandra and I’m a business developer here at Nearsoft and here today with me is a new co-host.
Nearsoft: Hi my name is Paulette and this is my first time doing the podcast. I’m really excited about it. I’m a UX designer here at Nearsoft and we are going to be talking about TripScout.
Sandra: Yeah, we are very excited today because we will be talking with Konrad Waliszewski and he is the COO of TripScout which is a mobile application that provides self guided city tours.
So thank you Konrad for joining us today. How are you doing?
Konrad: Great. Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to chat both tech and travel with you guys.
Sandra: We are very excited about it.
Konrad and I met a few weeks ago at a tech travel conference. He talked about some of the travel behavioral trends they have identified. This is one of the topics we will be touching on today.
So before we start, Konrad will you tell us a little bit more about TripScout?
Konrad: Yeah, TripScout is a travel app that curates the best recommendations from local experts and we have trip planning tools so that our travelers can customize their own experience.
And we have audio guides for a good number of our cities. It works completely offline so you don’t have to worry about using your data when you travel overseas.
The idea really started several years ago. I’ve personally been to about 100 countries and I found that there were plenty of great tools to find the right flight or the right accommodation but there weren’t any good tools for exploration which is the whole reason we travel in the first place.
The way most people do it is they take their touristy and outdated printed guide book or they spend hours reading through annoying and often fake Tripadvisor reviews. Or hours of blog and internet research.
So we decided to solve that problem and we decided to collaborate with the people who know their city the best. So those are the local insiders and the local experts.
So we talk to the top baristas, the top chefs, the top bartenders, the top local historians and really work with them about the types of things that they would show their friends around when people came to visit them and what they think people should really see in a destination.
So we put all of that on an easy to use mobile app interface. You can get it on iPhone or Android. Just search TripScout and your store of preference.
Sandra: That’s pretty awesome. You were able to go to a city without having to spend a lot of time planning ahead or trying to find the best places.
Konrad: We try to cater to both sides.
There are two types of travelers that we’ve seen, the people that don’t want to spend all that time. They just want to show up and find cool things to do. And we curate that stuff for them.
Then there is a big portion of travelers who really enjoy having this.. the majority of travelers, they really enjoy trip planning. So we give them great ideas and great content to browse through. And we allow them to swipe through things and say the things they want to go and add their own sites.
That’s why we built a lot of the trip planning tools. So the people that do want to spend time, it’s just a much more efficient way to spend your time.
Nearsoft: How did you identify these two types of users?
Konrad: At TripScout we’ve taken a very unscaleable approach. We like to do the things that are very hands-on that is not always normal in technology companies when you think about how do you scale things to millions or tens of millions of people.
My co-founder and I pretty much from day one reached out to almost every single user that was using our product and reached out to them and tried to get on the phone with as many as we could. And we tried to help them plan their trip.
We also spent a lot of our time sitting in hotel and hostel lobbies and just interviewing people that were traveling.
Now that we have much larger scale, those emails are automated but they go right back to our email so people can reply and they are talking directly to me or my co-founder.
One of the things we saw when reaching out very early on, we saw people using our app, listening to the audio guides, marking sites as visited, saving sites.
So interacting with it just like you’d interact with our app when you are traveling around a destination. And we reach out to them and ask them how is your trip going? Is there anything we can help with?
So many people responded saying their trip isn’t for six months. So we were kinda confused and were like you’ve been using it like you are at the destination and they were like I’m just preparing for my trip and planning.
So we spent a lot of time talking to that type of customer and we realized that I think the industry tries to bucket people in personas. So you are an adventure traveler, you are a foodie, you are traveling with families, you are a luxury traveler, you are a budget traveler. They try to categorize people in a certain way.
What we’ve seen is that people don’t travel to be the same person that they are at home. So who they are or what they want to do on a trip varies significantly depending on where they are going, why they are going, who they are going with. So a whole lot of variables.
The two personas that we saw held constant was you are either a super planner or a wing it traveler. So you are either planning months in advance or you are planning right when you land or the day that you are in the airport you are starting to read stuff online.
So that came organically and that’s kind of how we see our customers now. We don’t try to say if you are going to Paris you are probably acting more like a foodie. But if you are going to Patagonia you are probably acting much more like an adventure traveler.
So we tended to segment them in those two buckets of planning or not planning.
Sandra: Wow that’s amazing. You’ve really done your research, that’s really interesting.
Have you identified any other qualities about these users?
Like for example the users that used to do all this planning, are they usually planning with friends or family or are they going solo?
Have you been able to identify any more details from your users?
Konrad: The answer to that question is yes to all of the above. What we have seen is there usually tends to be one person who kind of leads the planning within their friend group. But we are seeing a huge increase in solo travelers as well as people traveling with friends.
I think because people are traveling much more often and further than ever, the definition of friends is also expanding where people who used to travel with only their closest friends or their family members or their significant others and now we are seeing a lot of people travel with friends of friends or people they barely know or people from work who just happen to have similar interests and wanted to go to similar places.
One of the things that I think is really interesting that we are seeing in a planning process is that the experience value is what is driving everyone’s travel budgets.
And so what I mean by that, when people are planning for their trips, I think the stereotype in the industry is that the younger generation of travelers don’t spend money when they travel and they are much more budget conscious and the industry is seeing how to adapt to this more frugal traveler.
But what we are seeing is that’s just not true at all. The difference is how they are spending money is changing significantly.
Traditional experiences like where you are staying has been commoditized and other things that add to the experience that’ll give you a really good story or a really good Instagram post afterwards, people are spending much more money on that.
One of the things that we saw when people were planning were trips that really caught our eye was how people would be staying in hostels or shared rooms on AirBnB for $20 a night and then they were eating dinner at restaurants they saw on Chef’s Table.
So they were spending more money on one meal than they were spending on an entire week’s worth of accommodation. And that same traveler would then eat street food for lunch as cheap as they can but then they would pay twice as much to have the local craft beer or the specialty cocktail.
So what we are really seeing is there is this almost death of everything in the middle. It’s either something that’s really experience based that tells a good story that the traveler wants to be a part of or it’s the cheapest, most efficient way to satisfy a need that the traveler has.
So that is changing a lot of things.
So things like hotels which used to be one of the biggest part of your travel budget now are just seen as a commodity, somewhere to put a head in a bed and want to do it in the cheapest, most convenient way possible because you are planning on spending all of your time outside your room so you don’t really care about the historical luxurious and amenities. And you’ll only spend money on it if it contributes to your experience like staying at some local’s house in a cool neighborhood on AirBnB.
Things like that people are still willing to spend money on.
Staying at your big name hotel in the center of the touristy district is not happening near as much.
Sandra: I found that out too when we were researching female travelers, they do not have a limited budget as you said. People have this idea of younger people not spending that much money. But they do, they actually plan their trip according to their priorities.
If they want to spend more money on a meal, then they are going to splurge on a hotel for example.
So day to day they balance out their priorities and that’s how they are going to spend their money.
Sandra: And go for the experience as you said. Especially when the destination is selected because they are doing some special activity there like hiking.
The whole trip revolves around that activity or it could be food. And it’s really interesting how it’s a different perception of what travel companies sell us.
I think because people are having those more unique experience that really opens up another big trend that we’ve seen and that is the fact that what I call posticipation. It has long been understood that the anticipation of your trip causes as much joy if not sometimes more joy than the actual trip itself.
There are studies that have found this, that people really just get passion from thinking about their trip, planning their trip.
What we are seeing now is because people are having those unique experiences, they are actually looking forward to after their trip is over so that they can get back and share their photos, post their photos on Instagram and different social channels and give their recommendations to friends.
So sometimes on their actual trip they are looking forward to the time when they are home where they can start posting. That’s why I play on the anticipation, I called it posticipation.
It’s one of the reasons that Instagram I think is one of the most important companies in the travel industry today because people are doing that behavior, they are also spending hours of time.. We’ve seen this with our users and we’ve watched them do it.. They are spending hours on Instagram ahead of their trip so they can get visual inspiration of how they actually want their trip to look afterwards.
So they are doing their research and it’s also not even what they want to do on their trip but specifically how they want their trip to look.
It’s really interesting and it creates a really cool cycle where because people are sharing more interesting experiences, that is also inspiring other people to then go and have those interesting experiences themselves and continue the cycle.
Sandra: It is very interesting the role that social media is playing on the travel industry as well.
I was just reading about a restaurant and the main thing on the restaurant is that the plates are great for Instagram pictures. They have a special lighting and when you look at their plate you can take the best picture and post it.
Konrad: I think if you are someone who is in the travel industry as a restaurant or a hotel or anything like that, one of those in destination providers, I think if you don’t realize that aspect, you are going to have a very hard time winning and staying relevant.
The restaurants that are realizing that the photogenic nature of their food and sharing that story.. And it’s not just what the food is but who they are and why they exist and why someone should take time out of their valuable trip is really important. And people need to invest a lot of time in that.
So we have seen in the last decade that some companies like AirBnB or social media such as Instagram has changed the way we travel or the way we experience travel.
What are some of the technologies that you see that are coming that also people in the travel industry should keep an eye on because they might change something.
Konrad: I take a different approach to that question. I think if you go to any travel conference or read any travel article, of course they are going to have millions of articles and top discussion points about how blockchain and AR and VR and AI are really going to change the landscape of travel.
But in many ways I think a lot of times the industry right now, and I see a lot of emerging tech companies there, they have a technology and they are looking for a solution for it. It’s almost like a hammer looking for a nail.
I like to start it from the other angle and just focus on what the traveler is doing and what they want. A lot of times sometimes there is a relevant application for it and sometimes there is not.
I think the biggest thing that is driving the travel industry is the fact that it’s more cultural. I think it’s the fact that travel has become the new white picket fence. People are seeing travel as more of a lifestyle than just a one or two week vacation that you’ve earned after a year’s worth of work.
So a lot of technology of being able to effectively collaborate and communicate remotely. So things like remote year and digital nomads and remote work are huge.
Things like adult gap years and mini retirements and world schooling, a lot of these more cultural trends I think are changing travel more than anything because people are traveling much more frequently. They are often sometimes travel full time and that’s an increasing number that I think is growing significantly.
That’s going to change the landscape because people are going to then travel slower. If they are going to spend longer in destinations and they are going to stay there for weeks and months instead of just days or maybe a week and that changes the pace that they travel. It changes what they want to do. It changes what it is like in destination when you have a lot more travelers. It’s going to cause some over tourism in some places but it’s also going to bring some travelers to places that traditionally haven’t experienced a big influx of tourists.
I think that’s the biggest change in the industry.
You mentioned AirBnB, I think AirBnB is the one exception to this. But if you look at travel over the last ten years and you think not from an industry perspective but you think about it is an actual traveler..
So think about booking a flight, booking a hotel, taking a flight, taking a hotel, finding something to do in destination and doing it. That hasn’t really changed at all in over a decade.
That entire process pretty much looks the exact same except for the fact that what travelers want, their behaviors and their preferences, that has changed significantly.
We’ve talked about a lot of those already and the experience value and the evolving view on food and coffee and local experiences. And so I think the biggest thing for the travel industry is going to be when the old antiquated system starts to adapt to those more modern behaviors and preferences.
Sandra: This is right. I remember when I was younger, I used to travel with my parents and the only time we could travel was when they had vacations from their jobs.
But now we can work remotely from many places. So we as travelers are having more options or more things that we can do when it comes to traveling.
Before being in the travel business, I had a few different companies and a few different careers but I was able to always combine that with traveling. And sometimes I did it completely remotely and I was traveling full time. Other times I would take entire months out of the year to work remotely.
Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been able to visit 100 countries or so in the last handful of years without ever taking any kind of break from my businesses or my work just because the ability to do that is much easier.
As long as you have a phone and a computer, you can pretty much do most knowledge based jobs anywhere you are.
Sandra: Definitely something that is changing. I’m sure the coming generations will bring us something that we aren’t expecting.
Sandra: Something I really like about your company TripScout is all the effort that you as co-founder spend paying attention to the user.
Could you tell us a little bit more about how it helped you shape the product or how it helped you grow when you were just starting?
Konrad: Absolutely. I think that was core to our early active users.
One of the things that we heard more than anything even when we launched.. When you launch a product, it’s never going to be as good as you actually want it to be. And it takes time to continue to build and evolve the product.
We very much took the approach of launching an MVP and learn from it. And so rather than assume that I knew everything or assume that we could predict it based on what people said, we really observed what people actually did with the product and we spent a lot of time talking to people using the product.
We had two cities and a MVP. So there was a lot to be desired when we first launched. But the reason people started liking us and using us was because of that hands-on approach.
So there were many times where people would sign up for the app and not use it and we’d ask why not, and they were like you only had ten cities and this is where I am going and you don’t have it.
We would get back to them and say, ‘I have been there and here are a bunch of tips I have. I’ll send you a bunch of recommendations. What else are you looking for?’
There was no way we were monetizing it. There is no way they could even be a customer because we didn’t have what they needed. But by doing that, we built a lot of loyalty and we were able to get a lot of future customers and a lot of word of mouth.
And then by monitoring what they were doing and talking to people, that’s how we really built almost everything we have in the product today and into our road-map. It’s just come organically from that experience.
It also has evolved our view on the industry. Instead of reading reports and listening to industry experts, we just focused on the actual traveler who either is or one day will be using product.
Sandra: If we are doing all of this research which is amazing everything that you found out, how did you realize I need to start listening to the people and this is the right way to go.
How did you realize these facts?
Konrad: I don’t think anyone out there thinks that listening and talking to your customers is brilliant or revolutionary but the challenge is the actual execution of it. Like when you are busy, are you really taking that much time to have these phone calls?
Some of them are not really that helpful. You either have ten calls and one of the calls you might find such golden nuggets in there.
So we had a travel product so it was what we love talking about all day and what our customers love talking about.
So if we were selling some enterprise SaaS product, maybe we would be less excited about sitting there chatting about it all day.
But for us, we loved doing it and we quickly saw the value in those conversations.
I think once you force yourself to do it and you force yourself in the beginning because you know that’s the best way to learn about your product and then you just see how actually valuable it is and realizing that is a good way to spend time as a founder of a business.
We just kept doing it and we still do it today. We still regularly are talking to customers almost every single day and just trying to be helpful and really trying to put the hospitality back into the hospitality industry as at the end of the day that’s what travel is, helping people experience things better. And hopefully growing as a person and learning new things from doing it.
So we feel very privileged that we get to do that for a living.
Sandra: What else do you think any company or any travel company needs to stay relevant besides hearing their users and learning from them and monitoring them? What would you recommend?
Konrad: I think we touched on this earlier, focus on what the travelers are actually doing and what they want to do and what pain points they have. And then finding ways to solve that and finding ways that technology can be a solution to that. Rather than focusing which is easy to do as people who love technology and I’d include myself in that, it’s easy to say these are cool technologies and this is how it could apply to travel and coming at it from that perspective.
I think always put the traveler and their needs and their pain points first. And I think you’ll be OK.
There is a lot of people solving problems that are actual problems but if you ask the customer, they don’t really see it as a big enough pain point.
In the travel industry particularly, most people are not traveling every single day, so you really have to do something significantly better for them to remember you and to continue to use you.
So you have to make sure that it’s an actual pain point for either the customer or the same goes for if you are trying to sell products to hotel operators or airlines or things like that.
Sandra: Definitely if you are solving a user’s pains, then they will be very excited about the product and be the ones to help you especially in the beginning.
So what is next for TripScout? What are your plans for the future?
Konrad: We are spending more and more on building the features that help people plan their trips.
We’ve built great guides in the past and made great recommendations and now our focus really for the past few months and will continue for the next few months is to build out tools to really help people make their own great guide.
So relying on our content but really personalizing it and sharing that content with their friends. So some of the features that we’ve launched recently, now you can search across 20,000,000 points of interest that are not recommended in our guide.
You can search by pretty much everything you would do in a normal search, location or type of reference.
You can also share your trip afterwards. So if you go to Paris and you save a bunch of sites, mark a bunch of sites as visited, then when your friend is going to Paris, instead of saying what do you recommend and you having to read through your notes and look through your photos and try to remember what you did and type up a 20 minute email or comment on a Facebook post, you can just hit share from TripScout and you can share a map and a list of everything that you did and what you thought about it.
So we are going to continue to build out that personalization piece and the ability to share great recommendations with friends very easily.
Sandra: Before we go, I wanted to ask you do you have any words of wisdom that you wish to share with our audience?
Konrad: Good question. The thing that I would recommend, if I look back at every single great idea or company started or life change that I’ve made, it has almost always come from a really cool travel experience.
I look at travel as almost this form of meditation where you are in a new place and you don’t understand the sounds, new smells and sights, it almost makes you feel like a kid again where everything is new you don’t know what people are saying half the time.
I think being in that mindset really stimulates your creative juices. And so I would recommend, it might be a little cliche but travel as much as you can and get out of your comfort zone and go to places that are very different than the culture that you know or have ever experienced.
For some people, that might mean going to the next big city and that’s totally fine and there shouldn’t be any limit or judgment on it. And for someone else that might mean really going off the beaten path in the jungles of Papa New Guinea or the Amazon or doing something really extreme.
I think just constantly pushing yourself to experience new cultures and get out of the comfort zone I think is one of the best things you can do, not just to make yourself a better person but also to help your perspective on the world, to help your career, to do an infinite number of things.
I guess just travel far and travel often.
Sandra: One thing we all want, right? At least I do.
Sandra: Thank you Konrad for sharing your insights and your experience with us. Definitely travel is an industry that is changing and we as travelers are changing as well.
So companies need to keep that communication very close with users who understand they are evolving.