10 Key takeaways from WeTravel’s Tech and Innovation Summit

August 25, 2023
Kathryn Foley (she/her)
4 min read

WeTravel’s 2023 Tech and Innovation Summit brought together travel professionals, industry leaders and tech experts to discuss the trends and technologies that are shaping the future of travel. With key shifts emerging across the industry as well as within multi-day travel specifically, it’s vital for travel professionals to stay ahead of the curve and leverage these trends to their best advantage. Here are our ten key takeaways and predictions from the 2023 Summit.

1) Emerging trends such as the rise in luxury, sustainable, and blended travel show that traveler preferences have shifted

Many trends that were catalyzed by the pandemic such as the shift towards more sustainable travel, the rise in luxury and the emerging bleisure market have continued to grow. Alongside these shifts in preferences, travelers are expecting more flexibility and personalization at every step of the booking process as well as during their trips. While multi-day tours are the last segment of the industry to come online, the technology that’s needed to support businesses in aligning their offerings with these evolving trends is now available. Speakers including Mauricio Prieto, creator of Travel Tech Essentialist, highlighted that every multi-day operator should ensure that they choose a booking platform that supports their business’s unique needs.

2) ChatGPT is a valuable co-pilot, but it can’t replace human experience

The exact role that ChatGPT will play in how we operate our businesses is continuously evolving. But, what we do know is that for multi-day tour operators, it’s an incredibly powerful tool that can support creating, marketing and distributing content. When it comes to using ChatGPT to enhance personalization, OTAs will undoubtedly have the advantage thanks to their vast data sets, but businesses of all sizes should capitalize on the tool’s ability to analyze data and understand customer preferences.

3) AI is changing how travelers search online

With travelers looking for more personalization in the trips that they book, industry experts believe that the shift towards hyper-condensed and personalized chat-based interfaces – search results generated by AI – has begun. AI expert Marc Mekki urged business owners to begin to experiment with AI in their day-to-day operations, as he stated that the industry is currently experiencing a “window of opportunity to gain an unfair competitive advantage”.

4) Automation is the key to unlocking efficiency and profitability

Automation technologies are no longer costly and complex. Setting up simple automations to improve workflow and efficiency are now possible thanks to third-party apps such as Zapier, which don’t require any knowledge of coding. While experts predict that the future of automation will be AI-enabled, this shouldn’t stop businesses from capitalizing on the tools that are readily available and simple to integrate – and can save countless hours on tasks from accounting to updating customer dashboards.

Interested in watching WeTravel's Tech & Innovation Summit?
Access the recordings for all sessions here.

5) The ‘review economy’ shouldn’t be overlooked

Trustworthy word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family play a significant role in travel decisions, a trend which has extended to encompass the wider online ‘review community’. A recent TripAdvisor survey revealed that 82% of travelers deem reviews as crucial when securing accommodation, and as such, marketing strategy should focus on collecting and showcasing positive customer feedback as well as fostering emotional connections and authentic engagement with travelers on social media.

6) Social commerce in travel is on the rise

Social media platforms are being increasingly leveraged as powerful tools for marketing, brand building, and engaging with travelers. Our speakers predicted that for Gen Z and Millennial travelers in particular, e-commerce through platforms such as TikTok and Instagram will only continue to grow. While speakers such as Stuart Greif from Forbes Travel Guide acknowledged that the industry hasn’t yet reached the point where travelers can book their entire trip through a social platform, this is a future that’s coming quickly. Greif advised travel professionals to get on board with the trend sooner than later by prioritizing short-form video content and continuing to follow the development of the trend.

7) Multi-currency payments are the fintech solution that businesses need

An emerging fintech product that our speakers believe businesses should take advantage of is multi-currency checkout, or more simply put, allowing travelers to pay in their home currency and using their preferred local payment method. In order to choose the right product, business owners should listen to their customers, analyze web traffic to understand where payments are coming from, and subsequently find a provider who will offer the desired local payment methods required for their customers. Multi-currency fintech solutions allow businesses to expand the geographic footprint of their tours, increase conversion, and save on each transaction.

8) Sustainable travel is more than a trend: it’s a core value that travelers want

Sustainable trips, which cover a wide range of experiences and incentives, are more in demand than ever before. From experiences that allow travelers to connect with locals or support small businesses to carbon offsetting initiatives that mitigate the environmental cost of a trip, there are countless ways that travelers are choosing to travel more sustainably. With the industry leaders recognizing that the only future for travel is a sustainable one, it’s vital that travel businesses take small steps to align with this traveler demand whilst remaining transparent about their sustainability policies.

9) The bleisure travel market is growing

Blended, or bleisure travel, is a trend that was greatly accelerated by the pandemic as remote working policies allowed professionals to blend leisure trips with work. With workers now adding leisure days to their business trips, thought leaders such as Mauricio Prieto advised corporate travel providers to gain more expertise in leisure travel or partner with leisure travel specialists, and vice versa for vacationers who are also adding working to the mix. By creating flexible travel pages, offering reliable WiFi, providing dedicated workspaces, and allowing travelers to personalize their itineraries, tour operators can cater to the needs of blended travelers.

10) Insurtech products provide travelers with the peace of mind they’re looking for

Travelers have grown to expect flexibility and peace of mind when booking trips – a trend that began during the pandemic but has been cemented across the industry as a must-have. In response, the fintech industry has created innovative solutions to suit the travel industry: providers like Faye and Pattern Insurance enable operators to seamlessly integrate relevant insurance products into the booking flow. This not only offers peace of mind to consumers but increases conversion rates for operators and drives revenues.