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When we look at and explore the major consumer industries which have undergone the most extreme changes and upheavals in their history, it is nearly impossible to ignore the vast majority of ways that the world of travel has had to change and adapt in order to meet and keep up with the demands of the consumer. Once something which was encapsulated in a coach ride between major cities – a journey which would have taken weeks if not months – the travel industry today is something that consumers enjoy across a vast scale of experiential levels, from the classic staycations to the package holidays, five star travel experiences, business trips, long holidays and short weekend breaks. Travel has grown not just in scale but in its global reach, now giving consumers all over the world access to areas they could once only read and dream about – and it doesn’t end there.
Even today, where global travel is possible and the travel industry has developed packages to suit all budget levels and payment terms, innovation is still happening and new ideas are still being brought to the forefront of the industry’s attentions; using new technologies and finding consistently new ways of elevating user experiences and provider capabilities.
A great deal of the travel industry’s success comes as a result of its own growth and innovation. To look at the travel industry as global holidays alone is somewhat narrowminded – in fact, the earliest examples of travel are as old as time itself, with human beings stretching their own boundaries to discover new places all the time – no matter what version of the creation story you believe in. In terms of leisure travel and the growth of travel as a consumer industry, it seems as though exotic ideas that were planted in the ideas of consumers came as a result of books and literature, as well as products shipped to new countries via overseas container ships. By introducing consumers to concepts and ideologies about places they had never seen, so the travel industry began to establish itself without even trying – planting ideas and sprouting the very earliest feelings of wanderlust as consumers from all corners of the globe made it their mission to discover these new and exotic places mentioned in literature that nobody really knew about.
And that is where the earliest expeditions and travel adventures were born. Explorers like Christopher Columbus who crossed the Atlantic, and James Cook who travelled to the Pacific Ocean, paved the way for travel to become first a commercial venture and eventually something which consumers were able to partake in – with cruises providing some of the earliest forms of leisure travel to wealthy consumers who could afford to buy tickets on board the magnanimous ships.
Leisure travel’s real dawn came during the times of the Greek and Roman empires, coinciding with the creation and development of cultural exploration and artistic and scientific learnings. Again, this was confined to the wealthiest individuals in society, often travelling for cultural and religious experiences – stopping at various destinations on their travels as they searched for greater meaning than that which could be found in their own locality. Religion, believe it or not, played a big part in the growth of leisure travel and even today forms one of the reasons why some individuals choose to visit certain destinations and tourist hotspots – seeking resolution and deeper understanding through pilgrimages and religious festivals. Back in the Middle Ages it was religion which set the tone for long and lengthy pilgrimage journeys, taking leisure travel to new levels as poor and working class consumers looked for ways to gain the same experiences for their own lives.
The next big step in the evolution of travel was called the Grand Tour – inviting young men leaving education to travel and expand their cultural knowledge before being released into the world of work – something which appears to have been done in a similar vein to the modern concept of the ‘gap year’. These trips were designed, just as they are now, to utilise and take advantage of technological innovations – and eventually led to the boom in travel which soon saw multitudes of consumers finally able to travel for leisure and their own worldwide education.
The implementation of the railway systems aided this, and in the 1840’s the first ever travel agency was founded by Thomas Cook – presenting consumers with deals and packages which gave them free access to travel by their own means, but gave them access to food, accommodation and travel expenses for a set period of time during their travels. This meant that travellers could move around of their own accord without worrying about accommodation or food costs – providing the earliest example of what we today refer to as the package holiday. And it seems that every then in the 1840’s, package trips were still designed to save the consumer both money and effort – making it a good deal all round.
This last piece of history which explains the evolution of the travel industry introduces Thomas Cook – still one of the leading providers in the travel industry even today. Travel in the modern world is so monumentally important to the world as a whole that it is now recognised in a series of subsections and more targeted market provisions – including family holidays, business travel experiences, backpacking, ‘gap year’ interrailing, historical tourism and ecotourism. A great deal of destinations rely on the influx of tourists that they see every year, who are eager to experience the local culture and spend their hard earned money on local business provisions and experience. Tours exist primarily for the travel and tourism market, and a huge number of gift shops and eateries exist to provide for the anticipated travellers arriving every season.
The biggest names in the travel industry are not merely those who facilitate the travel itself but are also those who provide the experiences that consumers look for and expect across a wide variety of price points and destinations. These include the resorts, package holiday providers, hotel chains, airlines, cruise lines, and all of the small local businesses which support the experiences of consumers in their own local area. Some of the biggest and most influential names across these areas of the industry as a whole include:
This list captures some of the biggest names in the travel industry in terms of airlines and cruise lines, as well holiday providers both destination and local, travel agencies and online booking providers and package deal sites. One of the biggest things to note is that without all of these types of travel provider, the industry as a whole would not be able to operate and so we tend to find various partnerships forged across the different sectors of the industry.
As previously explored, the travel industry does not exclusively apply to the airplanes and package holidays that we book year on year in an effort to get away for a family or couples’ break. The industry applies to all of the areas which we associate with travel, whether it be a staycation or a holiday abroad; thus, the top products in the travel industry include but are not limited to:
It is also worth noting for consumers that travel expands even further to include the businesses they visit during their holidays and the stores that they purchase from as part of the full airport experience – including the provision of duty free goods and car hire.
The travel industry is one which is heavily influenced by innovation – both in the technology industry and in the ways that consumers are able to experience more on a global scale while staying safe and contained as part of a holiday package. There will always be travellers who look to go outside the boundaries of package deals and organised holidays, however the vast rise in companies which are popping up all over the industry and introducing new and exciting travel deals and ideas has meant that consumers are consistently being presented with holiday options which utilise the high value of a discounted package – and thus more and more captive consumers are going down the package holiday avenue.
Of course, one of the problems that is presented by package holidays is that if one area of the holiday deal falls through, the rest can come crashing down behind it. Over the years, many consumers have fallen foul of airlines facing bankruptcy or being unable to fly to certain areas or destinations due to wars or natural dangers across parts of the world. What this means on a consumer level is that should a holiday be cancelled for whatever reason, they often find themselves facing a long and arduous process with regards to securing a refund – mainly because the package provider is simply a third party organisation responsible for pulling a variety of other suppliers together to create a discounted convenience holiday bundle. In light of this, the travel industry has seen more and more compensation companies popping up on the scene, however as the 2020 pandemic demonstrates there is still work to be done in tying the holiday package experience up with regards to its response to issues.
Another trend within the travel industry, and one which is making huge waves both as a response to consumer demand and as an innovative way of updating and elevating the consumer experience, is the rise in personalisation and the provision of experiences and options which defy the norm and create something more exciting and unique. For many providers this starts right at the beginning with the booking process, where loyal customers and return flyers or holiday bookers can benefit from extra deals and discounts which give them more for their money and which enable them to move through various stages of the booking and even check in process much quicker and easier. Some great examples include automatic recognition for business class passengers, tailored menus and meals dependent on dietary requirements and preferences, and robots which are designed to streamline every customer touch point and ensure that a passenger or consumer can get access to help and assistance at any time regardless of local times and working hours.
Of course, with the rise in technology within the travel industry itself comes a change in the way that consumers are choosing to interact with travel companies and book their trips and experiences. The rise in online booking for holidays has seen huge growth over the last few years, with the birth of booking sites like Expedia and LastMinute.com providing consumers with options that allow them to browse holiday packages and individual price points at their own will; ascertaining what it is they want and where and when they can get the best deal. For the industry, this requires a shift and adaptation in the way that they use various resources, with less call for high street travel agents among younger and more technologically advanced travel groups – however at present there is still a place for travel agents who can keep up with the modern travel trends and ever-changing prices.
Picking up a bargain within the travel industry has never been easier – it simply requires research and an understanding around when to book your trip. Some consumers choose to book early and get early bird deals, while others lean on last minute savings and discounts. For the best array of current deals to make the most of, head to our Travel voucher page.
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