Our idea of a blog is to write weekly updates about the outdoor travel industry and present our opinion, while also include some facts and figures that might come in handy. In this blog post, I would like to open up a debate about a topic that seems to occupy my mind for the past 5-6 years, yet somehow, I felt like there was never the right moment to talk about it. Since the current situation put so many things into another perspective, I think this is the right time.
I want to talk about travel platforms and their place in the outdoor travel industry. These open sales and distribution systems, which are connecting various travel companies with 3rd party companies have been the main driver of growth in the travel industry in the past decade. The idea behind it is that a travel platform speeds up the sales process of an individual travel company and enables travel companies to sell more and quicker than they would otherwise on their own. But at what cost?
In my opinion, travel platforms and APIs (application programming interface) overruled the tourism market mainly due to the unstoppable growth of the Internet that brings a great amount of information into our lives. The vast amount of choices leads to almost impossible decision making, and consequently, factors such as design, speed, and practicality of the webpage count the most. But is it really that what should be our prime focus when choosing an active outdoor holiday?
While looking at our beginnings, I can say that quality was the number one priority on the active traveler’s checklist. Local connections, people with deep tourism & sports knowledge, and quality services were what counted the most. We’ve set up our European outdoor travel company more than 15 years ago in our home country Slovenia, and started organizing outdoor trips around the local area. We were among the first ones in the outdoor travel market, so our B2B and B2C relations were very strong back then. Later on, we’ve also included the neighboring countries of Austria, Croatia, and Italy, plus an idyllic village in the French Alps, which soon became our second home. A similar story goes for when we moved to NYC and set up another outdoor company, Bike Hike Tours, which offers outdoor trips and holidays around NYC, Dominican Republic, Canada, and Europe.
What is common for both our companies, is that they are led by a passion for outdoor sports travel. Our team regularly vets all our destinations and is in constant contact with the locals. We pride ourselves on being able to provide a unique and responsible outdoor travel experience to our guests. So, everything we organize, from booking to execution stays within the local area and provides the much needed personal touch. What is more, all the activities, and services that we offer, are led by our team of expert sports enthusiasts with vast sports knowledge. To sum it up, our team consists of outdoor travel lovers and there are no unnecessary intermediaries included in the price of our programs or services.
The outdoor travel market changed a lot in the last couple of years with travel platforms becoming extremely dominant. Nowadays, it is all about who has the most attractive webpage design, the best SEO and thoughtful marketing decisions, or the most user-friendly booking system. I am not saying these factors are not important, but the priorities changed completely. Suddenly, it is not really important who and what experience is behind that shiny cover. In reality, travel platforms usually employ good marketing and sales team that know how to do their job well-meaning marketing and sales. But what about the outdoor travel experts? What about the local people who know their destination the best, or guides who visit the place and practice the activities frequently? These are the people who know every detail of your holiday and they should be rewarded accordingly.
Therefore, if you are deciding for your outdoor holiday based on trip activities or a specific country, my suggestion is that it is better to scroll to the end of the first Google page, or even visit the 2nd or 3rd page and spend some more time for research. In the end, you will find real experts in specific fields who can provide a better outdoor experience and probably even cheaper one than the #1 outdoor travel platform on Google.
What I wanted to present in this blog post is my view, of how the outdoor travel is evolving. Also, I wanted to express my opinion of what a great outdoor travel experience should be about. That is a local, responsible, professional, and personalized experience. In my opinion, that’s what outdoor travel is all about. I think if when it is now the right time to stop for a moment and think about who can provide us that true outdoor experience… and maybe have a look at that 2nd page. Let’s refocus our priorities and start supporting direct local tourism!