Top 3 Takeaways from Phocuswright 2017

Last week our Vice President of Marketing and Global Managing Director attended the Phocuswright Conference in Fort Lauderdale. Every year we look forward to attending this event to spend time with the leaders and influencers in the travel space, and discuss what’s to come in the year ahead from our colleagues and friends in the industry.

We had some great conversations onsite about the shared opportunities to continue getting student product out in the market, and we look forward to further exploring these opportunities at scale with new platforms in the month and year ahead.

If you didn’t attend, or are interested in another perspective on the event, here were our top takeaways. We look forward to seeing everyone at the 2018 event in Los Angeles. If we didn’t have the chance to connect onsite, our VP, marketing would love to connect with you: andre.azer@studentuniverse.com.

  • Purse strings are tight, and will continue to be.  

This was an overwhelming theme at the conference this year. Companies of all sizes are spending less and selling less. On the first day of the conference, it was headline news everywhere that TripAdvisor lost $1 billion as its stock had the largest single day drop ever. That brought a sombering tone to the event, but it’s not just TripAdvisor. Expedia and Priceline are spending less with Google and looking to get more traffic organically and better understand the true value of the traffic they are buying. Trivago and TripAdvisor have seen advertisers spending less with them, and have slashed ad spend themselves. In 2016, Trivago was spending 82.7% of its worldwide revenue on advertising and TripAdvisor spent $70m on the tv campaign with its owl mascot alone. 2018 is going to look a whole lot different. Less facetime with the owl and “Trivago guy” and more creative strategies to push brands forward with smaller budgets.

  • Move over metasearch & OTAs, Google Flights is the new sheriff in town.

The consolidation we have witnessed to date in the metasearch space in 2017 (Priceline buying Momondo, Kayak acquiring Mundi, etc…) is just the beginning of this story.  Google Flights boasts the top monthly visitor count of metasearch sites (its unique monthly visitors more than doubled from the first half of 2015 to the first half of 2017) and its effectively removing OTAs and other metasearch sites from the equation and engaging airlines in a new direct advertising platform. While metasearch sites and OTAs are buying traffic, Google Flights is capturing a larger share working directly with airlines and dominating referral conversion. As shown below, OTAs are capturing just over 20% of Google general search traffic on flights keywords whereas on Kayak OTAs capture 60%+ of referral traffic. The stats presented were pretty eye opening as to just how much of a force Google Flights is to be reckoned with.

 

  • AI and blockchain tech are no longer buzzwords – it’s time to integrate them into strategies to stay ahead.

It’s no surprise that Hopper and other predictive fare technologies are hot, but we were surprised to learn that 90% of Hopper’s sales are tied back to push notifications. After a traveler sets up a fare alert, price prediction technology (through a growing use of AI) provides updates via mobile push notifications. This combination of intelligence and real-time engagement with users is a match made in heaven. It’s not only advances to how AI engages consumers at the right moment that will dominate in 2018, but using machine learning to enhance product offerings through other advances like Blockchain technology for travel payments.


Although there are a lot of barriers to Blockchain adoption, the advances in Blockchain, like the dominance of Google Flights, creates the need for OTAs need to get creative to avoid a squeeze out.

The challenges are many, but we are ready to adapt and get creative as the industry shifts, bring it on 2018.