Turning free-spirited digital nomads into travel brand ambassadors

A host of travel brands are stepping up their efforts to exploit remote workers and digital nomads.

Many are trying to develop new apps or features to build loyal communities, evolving their proposition to include digital spaces as well as physical spaces. It’s a classic case of turning your customers into brand ambassadors. Marketing and customer acquisition costs go down, retention goes up.

It’s a risky commercialization of a demographic that essentially represents the free spirit, but the travel industry can’t ignore the potential for more profits.

Remote workers are arguably one of the fastest growing markets; just this week, the Dutch parliament approved legislation to establish working from home as a legal right, while more and more governments are offering nomad visas (including Indonesia which is considering a five-day option). years non-taxable).

Here are three ways travel agencies are responding.

1. Connect solo travelers

Travel companies seem eager to portray themselves as social connectors, and even the solution to loneliness.

As borders reopened earlier this year, online travel agency Hostelworld was quick to launch a networking platform called The Solo System for its app and website. Before the pandemic, about 60% of its customers were solo travelers. He is now building a platform to help clients work together and organize events.

Selina also updated its app last month with a new “guest login” feature. After confirming the reservation, guests can choose who else is staying at the Selina property during their trip. Those who attend can see the first name, photo and nationality of other guests before they arrive, which they say is a useful icebreaker.

“Our entire platform is designed to inspire meaningful relationships, and by adding the ability for our guests to connect with each other and build relationships leading to their stays, we are creating the opportunities for them to ‘have even more impactful experiences that lead to lifelong friendships,’ said Elad Nir, Global Chief Marketing Officer.

The company has also just published a research project on social ties and remote work.

2. The entry point

Another position taken by travel brands is that of reinsurance. Remote Year (a division of Selina) revamped its business model this week with a new community-driven, Facebook-like platform called RY Nation Hub – “designed to respond to what we have learned from our customers: there are strong demand for community building among remote and hybrid workers,” the company said.

Its new entry-level “community subscription” is designed for beginners interested in the resources, events and community connections organized by Remote Year, the company said.

“We’ve brought together a number of different platforms and technologies to support this one (hub),” Shaun Prime, CEO of Remote Year, told Skift.

3. A way to start a business

However, perhaps the strongest proposition is to capture the wandering entrepreneur. Startup Draper House caters specifically to the founder market and may have the most authentic digital proposition — but it’s not selling it.

The accommodation startup is encouraging bookings by touting the hostel infrastructure it has in place to help entrepreneurs connect with investors and attend workshops. But its founder also told Skift he was surprised at how active his Slack group had become.

“I always wondered if it was possible to create a physical community alongside a digital community,” said Vikram Bharati. “It’s a difficult thing to do. What binds you to this digital community? »

His Slack group already has thousands of members. “People come to space for a reason, and business is a journey of a lifetime,” he added. “Because we have the ecosystem, people want to engage with us.”

It’s an upstream approach compared to other travel brands, but one that may work to its advantage as it seeks to grow through a franchise model.

A word of warning

International travel agencies may be embracing new models online, but need to be careful not to reinvent the wheel. They are not the only ones to successfully combine offline and online.

Other players include Wifi Tribe, which charges an annual subscription of $500. Chapter events cost from $1,200 to $2,800, depending on the destination, season, and quality of accommodation.

Nomadbase offers a professional quarterly subscription starting at $30 per month. As expected, its online community features a skills directory, “Nomadbase Academy” content, and a global community chat with business, travel, and location channels.

Regarding Remote Year’s new venture, a source familiar with the company’s business model overhaul said there is nothing new.

“Digital nomads don’t work like that, they’re more independent,” he said, preferring to keep his name. “It is true that some communities exist, but they are mainly used to tell people where to go next, not so much for the sentiment of the whole community.”

He added that Wifi Tribe, for example, has been charging community membership fees for three years now. “I’m not surprised Remote Year is doing this, it makes sense to them as a business decision. For the digital nomad community in general, and for the world, this is nothing new. »

Another membership platform, Nomadlist, had also been operating for several years, he added. Nomadlist operates as an “Open Startup”, which means it is completely transparent and shares metrics such as revenue and traffic.

A quick look at its earnings chart (below) shows a booming market. With a trajectory like that, it’s no wonder travel brands want a foothold in the market.

Notes

The description of business travel is being redefined, just take a look at an agency’s offer to use the title “travel leader”.

The word “meeting” itself should also be redefined, according to a future of work consultant. “What does the encounter mean?” With the intentionality of every moment of this hybrid process of designing the future of work, what is intention? asks Darcy Marie Boles, architect of culture and designer of remote experiences.

“We need to change our mindsets to save our workplaces because our workplaces are collapsing,” she added.

Boles, a former Airbnb executive, was speaking as part of meeting platform Hubli’s latest video interview series, where she discussed how to build trusting and meaningful relationships when teams meet in person.

She argued that many companies are in transition as they adapt to new remote or hybrid ways of working, and that they should really invest in “redesigning” the way people meet. She believes that the same amount of investment that goes into the “customer journey” when purchasing an organization’s products should also be invested in the “employee journey” during a time of Great Resignation.

With so many people scattered around the world and experiencing so many new things in new places, she urges companies to consider how people feel at every touchpoint when actually interacting with colleagues, whether asynchronously. or in real time.

10 second catch up on business trips

Who and what Skift covered last week: Air France, Akasa Air, Bizzabo, Expedia, Hong Kong, Marriott, SAP Concur, SAS, SITA, Spirit Airlines, Star Alliance.

In short

Corporate Travel Management opens an office in Japan

australia Business travel management launched CTM Japan, which is a further extension of the global travel management company’s Asian footprint. It joins existing offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Taiwan. The new Tokyo location will meet “increasing customer demand for domestic and international travel in the region,” the company said. Local customers said they wanted hands-on service from Japanese companies and international customers operating in the region, said CTM Asia CEO Larry Lo. The expansion follows the acquisition of Singapore’s Safe2Travel in April 2022.

Travel startup TripStax acquires TapTrip

TripStaxthe online booking tool from the business travel agency ATPI, acquired TapTrip — another platform in which ATPI had previously invested. TapTrip will become an additional module within the TripStax offering, which already includes travel management applications such as analytics, approvals, content, profile management and tracking. Two of TapTrip’s three co-founders, Tom Young and Jack Timblin, are joining TripStax in leadership and development roles. Neil Ruth left the company prior to its acquisition.

Sixt adds the Jyrney taxi platform to its transport app

Launch of the mobility platform Jyrney teamed up with sixth to give the car rental giant’s customers greater access to pre-bookable private hire, taxi and chauffeur options. The Sixt app already offers an on-demand carpooling service, but the addition of Jyrney will give Sixt customers better access to taxis in major UK cities. Over the past two years, startup Jyrney has added ties to established taxi companies and recently collaborated with Advantage Travel Partnership to launch Advantage Mobility Hub, which allows members of Advantage corporate travel agencies to offer taxis on demand via a single booking platform.

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