The future of travel: Q&A with Will Daugherty

Will Daugherty

A few years back, UpTop worked on an innovative travel project with Seattle’s Will Daugherty, who was then president of Expedia’s Destination Services & Expedia Local Expert division.

Daugherty is now SVP & GM of DoubleDown Interactive, a social and mobile game company. When we touched base with him recently, we asked for his thoughts on technology’s role in the travel industry’s continuing evolution, now that he has a little distance from the business.

Given how much technology has reconfigured the travel industry’s landscape, what do you see on the horizon?

We will see continued development and adoption of digital and online tools that allow travelers to explore, arrange, manage and share travel experiences. These tools will be increasingly designed for and used on mobile devices. This is especially important because travelers are eager to share their travel experiences when they’re on the go.

Online content related to travel will become more detailed and easier for travelers to find and navigate. Images and videos will become more prominent and vivid. Information will be increasingly tailored to a traveler’s current and planned location. Travelers will find it easier and more rewarding to share reviews and opinions. Travelers will also have more immediate access to special discounts.

And travel suppliers – not only airlines, hotels, and car rental operators but also providers of local activities and services – will have increasingly powerful and easy-to-use tools to help them market and promote offers directly to travelers. Travel suppliers, including small and independent operators, will utilize machine learning and data mining to manage inventory and pricing and to tailor offers to individual travelers.

What do you see as the three most impressive innovations of the past five years?

Mobile, Airbnb and Uber.

I’m impressed by the acceleration of mobile as a major factor in travel. Statistics vary, but it is safe to say that most travelers now rely on tablets and smartphones as indispensible tools for planning and managing travel, as well as for sharing photos and comments about their travel experiences with friends. It is also safe to say that most travel suppliers now recognize that they must think “mobile first” when it comes to online marketing and distribution.

Airbnb and Uber are marketplaces that use technology to make it very easy for suppliers and consumers of a travel service (lodging and ground transportation, respectively) to connect directly. Both increase transparency, reduce friction and empower both suppliers and consumers. It is not surprising that traditional powers in the travel industry find Airbnb and Uber threatening.

If you could wave a magic wand and make one change, what would it be?

I would love to see a global technology platform that makes it possible for suppliers and consumers of local activities and services to transact with each other with the same speed, simplicity, and reliability as is already possible for suppliers and consumers of air transportation, hotels and car rentals.

Uber is already doing this for local transportation (taxis and limos). Imagine a world in which an Uber-like service provides people with information about – and the ability to instantly book tickets to – concerts, tours, sporting events, museums, attractions, and other services. That world is coming, but I would like to see it come faster.

What’s the one word that describes the industry today, and why?

Democratizing. In an increasingly democratic system, more people have a voice, more people have power to shape outcomes, and access to information increases.  We are seeing these trends in the travel industry.

Travelers have more access to information and more ability to control and share their experiences than ever before. Mobile devices and services put information and control in the hands of every person.

Travel suppliers of all sizes also have more ability to promote and provide their services than ever before. Companies such as Airbnb and Uber make it possible for individuals to compete with large and established providers.