WYSE Travel Confederation is pleased to have Phocuswright Research Analyst Brandie Wright speaking at this year’s World Youth and Student Travel Conference (WYSTC) in Montreal, Canada. Phocuswright is a well-known and respected travel research firm delivering insights on global travel markets, trends, and technology. We had a quick chat with Brandie about her work, travels, and what she sees developing on the tours and activities front.

Before joining Phocuswright you worked for several trade publications, can you tell us a bit about your work to date?

Before Phocuswright, I worked with several trade publications in the food and beverage industry and another for NASA and the engineering world. I developed research studies to better understand the readership (their needs as readers and their roles within the industry) and identify how publications could better reach and serve their target audience. In parallel, I’d work closely with clients to create advertising plans stemming from the audience development strategies. After spending a year abroad, I decided to combine my research skills with my passion for travel. I now focus mostly on consumer travel trends, but also spend time on travel operators and suppliers and also market sizing projects as well.

What is unique about Phocuswright events? How could operators in youth travel benefit from a Phocuswright conference?

Phocuswright conferences are the powerhouse of travel events. Operators from all segments (with any consumer focus) learn from the most influential leaders in travel and benefit from networking with sponsors and thousands of attendees. Held in the U.S., Europe and India, Phocuswright conferences are essentially a live research project curated by industry experts.

What are you looking forward to learning at WYSTC?

I’m excited to learn about what’s new and innovative in the youth travel sector, as this generation will make a huge impact on the travel industry for years to come. Hearing from operators that focus primarily on younger consumers is particularly interesting as I spend many hours researching generational differences, and also belong to the youth travel sector myself (albeit the upper end of that age bracket).

OTAs like GetYourGuide, Viator, and TourRadar are becoming more popular for booking tours and activities – especially with younger travellers – are there any interesting or novel developments on this front, in your opinion?

The big tours and activities OTAs work with thousands of partners, but a relatively small percentage of bookings are made online each year. While the larger online travel market is relatively mature, tours and activities remain extremely fragmented and challenging for startups. However, proliferation of affordable, easy-to-use reservations and online booking software is making technology accessible to more tour and activity suppliers, ultimately making distribution easier and allowing OTAs to aggregate inventory quicker. This is especially important in this sector where scale is key. In the coming years, consolidation among startups is likely as the space brings more and more suppliers and consumers online.

What are the next big things for in-destination activities and technology? Are any trends particularly relevant to young visitors?

Five years ago, major online travel brands’ interest in travel activities was lukewarm at best. Now, major online travel brands have also made big investments in tours and activities as they look to the sector as one of the biggest long-term growth opportunities. TripAdvisor has been busily integrating Viator; Expedia transitioned tours and activities onto their mobile app; Airbnb Trips now puts bookable experiences at the center; and Booking.com launched mobile booking experiences where travelers instantly book and pay for attractions via a QR code directly in the app. All of these capabilities make searching and booking activities easier for travelers of all ages, but younger travelers are far more likely to book online and use mobile apps than older travelers, both pre-trip and in-destination.

You’ve done a round-the-world trip to 23 different countries, correct? What motivated you to plan such a trip?

My husband and I have always had a huge desire to travel and experience what the world has to offer. In summer of 2014, the cards played out just right for us to temporarily put our careers on hold, pack our bags and head out. We only had our first destination planned prior to leaving, the rest of the year was planned entirely on the fly as we moved around the world. Oh, the thrill of the unknown!

Join Brandie Wright for Search, Shop & Share: How Youth Travellers are Transforming the Travel Landscape at the World Youth and Student Travel Conference on Thursday, 28 September 2017.