“Since bigger isn’t better, tourism companies are finding ways to offer travelers the ‘total travel experience’ to win more loyal customers.”

Almost every operator in the tourism industry is trying to win more loyal customers with a bigger loyalty program. Yet, when it comes to development projects in retail and lodging business, investors favor boutique stores and hotels.

What can tourism companies do, then, to win “big” without tying up their investments in big assets? A good number of companies have found solutions through service integration and new partnerships.

Google Trips: The app that syncs everything about a trip

Google is putting all of its travel-related products together and calling it Trips. This app synthesizes Google Flights, Google’s hotel search, and almost “everything” about the travel destination(s) as well as a user’s travel plan into one place.

Travelers will (or soon will) be able to make all the planning of a trip on the Trips app, including:

  • Search and book a flight to a destination (or multiple destinations).
  • Search and reserve a hotel stay in a tourist destination.
  • In the planning stage, receive alerts for price updates based on the travelers’ search history of a flight or a hotel.
  • Check out the local travel guides.
  • Find and book a vacation package.
  • Keep all receipts with confirmation codes and travel information in one place, no matter if the reservations are made through the app or not.
  • Browse the options for activities and other travel “experience” around the hotel with additional information synced from Google Maps and Google Weather.

Feeling excited about this app? It is now live on the web already. Travelers, however, may still need to wait for a few months before they can access some of the above features on Google Maps.

If launched successfully, the Google Trips app will become a new tourism product that offers consumers a “total travel experience.” With Google Maps’ location-based advantage, it appears to me that this app would become a significant threat to online travel agents (OTAs) such as Expedia and Priceline. Hotels too may also need to reevaluate their business relationship with Google.

Hilton Hotels’ and Delta Airlines’ new partnership with Lyft

Lyft just announced a new partnership that allows travelers to earn Hilton Honors points and Delta SkyMiles for their rides. To earn travel rewards points, Lyft users must first register and link their accounts at HiltonHonorsLyft.com and DeltaLyft.com. Afterward, they will be able to

  • Earn 2x Hilton Honors points per dollar spent on shared Lyft rides and 3x Hilton Honors points per dollar on regular Lyft rides within the U.S. and certain Canadian cities.
  • Earn 1x Delta SkyMiles per dollar on most rides and 3x Delta SkyMiles per dollar on riders coming from or going to an airport, regardless of whether the travelers are flying with Delta or not.
  • Lyft riders can even “double-dip” by earning both Delta SkyMiles and Hilton Honors points at the same time.

Taco Bell is opening a new themed resort in August (but only for five days)

The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort is set to open in Palm Springs, California on Aug. 9. Travelers are expected to gain an “ultimate immerse experience” with the Taco Bell brand.

This themed resort will express the Taco Bell lifestyle — something fun, colorful, and flavorful. The following are a few highlights of the Taco Bell experience in the resort:

  • A gift shop that sells exclusive gear and appeal.
  • An onsite salon where travelers can find Taco Bell-inspired nail art and fades.
  • Meals of Taco Bell’s beloved iconic flavors, plus a surprise menu.
  • Daily “happier hour” and saucy snacks.

The sad news for most die-hard Taco Bell fans, however, The Bell will only operate for five days. Plus, no announcement has yet been made regarding the cost of a stay or ways of making reservations, even though the resort may start taking reservations starting next month. Fans can only enter their name and e-mail address for further updates at this point.

Even though lodging may not be the business that Taco Bell is after, this resort can at least be seen as one of Taco Bell’s creative marketing efforts, such as its Forever 21 x Taco Bell Collection and Taco Bell-themed weddings in its flagship Cantina in Las Vegas. It is possible that Taco Bell may partner with other hotels and resorts from time to time in the future as part of the company’s offerings.

Other examples

Let’s not forget about the big players in the market. Soon after its merger with Starwood, for instance, Marriott is entering the short-term residential rental market too to compete head-to-head with Airbnb and OTAs.

Meanwhile, with the new acquisition of HotelTonight.com, Airbnb is marching its way to become a true travel enterprise. While the new contract between Marriott and Expedia does not favor OTAs, they are already ahead of hotels by getting into the short-term residential rental market a lot earlier than hotels.

Overall, when the big players in the market are trying to offer travelers more varieties of the travel experience, it is probably safe to predict more mergers and acquisitions can be observed in the market, or at least more new partnerships will be announced soon. Would you agree?

What is your take on the strategy of offering a more comprehensive, “total travel experience” to travelers that allow them to do one-stop shopping for everything they need on a trip?