Google asked me to give the opening keynote at the THINK TRAVEL conference a couple of weeks back, which was fun.
The theme of the day was: Experience Matters.
And it does.
But not as much, or in exactly the way, we might think.
My thesis was that travel companies want to promise seamless experiences.
But the travel buy cycle is now incredibly complex, featuring experiences provided by many, many brands at different stages.
And that the dynamic pricing model, coupled with meta-search engines, have created a situtation where people spend 5 hours or more just searching for and buying the flights, because of the sense that different search engines turn up the same flights for different prices, which indeed they do.
[In fact, according the talk given by BCG later in the day - the total amount of time spent sorting out trips, including research and inspiration and buying and reviewing is 42 hours per trip:
"Leisure travelers spend an average of 42 hours in the travel cycle across 17 of the major travel websites, with the majority of time spent outside the "booking" (and revenue generating) phase."
You could spend 42 hours arranging a weekend away.
So the whole travel experience is far from seamless, and that's out of the control of any individual travel company.
But, fortunately, our brains don't record reality like a tape.
Our memories are stories we tell ourselves, which then inform the stories we tell others.
[I just read an excellent, short novel, called The Sense of Ending, by Julian Barnes, that examines this idea in detail.
Alternatively, the TED talk by Daniel Kahneman explains the same thing, gleaned from decades of research.]
And those can be dramatically altered by small, suprising gestures: details can change the story.
Some topline thoughts and the decks from the day are available at Google Think Travel.