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Travel Industry Empowers Small Biz with Tech and Opportunities for Growth, Prosperity


Travel Tech on November 16, 2018

“Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy.” We couldn’t agree more with this old adage and believe that small businesses are vitally important to travel and tourism in this country. While it is true that many of our members are not small businesses, they each have a story to tell about how their position in the travel marketplace positively impacts America’s small businesses.

This Small Business Saturday, the Travel Technology Association is telling the story of how the online travel industry works for small businesses, empowering them with technology and opportunities for growth and prosperity.

The technology and tools that global distribution systems (GDSs) provide to small business travel agencies allows them to be able to access virtually all travel supply in the world to better serve their customers. GDSs have created dynamic tools for travel agents, from desktop shopping engines to mobile platforms that allow them to service their clients while they are on the road, America’s small business travel agents rely on the GDSs to be their technology providers. When a business has limited resources, that can make all the difference.

GDSs are innovating more than ever in ways that will support small business travel agents into the future. Beyond providing the technology backbone for small travel agencies, GDSs are leveraging data science and big data from Amadeus, for example, to support small businesses that can now know in advance what type of travelers will be visiting a given area and at what time of year and then tailor their offer to the travelers that will be nearby in the coming weeks and months.

Online travel agents (OTAs) give small business independent hotels, inns and bed & breakfasts the opportunity to compete with major hotel chains by showing up in search results right alongside the world’s largest hotel brands, without having to spend millions of dollars to reach travelers through expensive advertising. In addition, OTAs give small tour operators exposure to the world, just by being listed on these global platforms. Perhaps the greatest contribution that OTAs provide to small businesses is the OTAs ability to inspire people to travel. OTAs have made travel more accessible and affordable by creating a marketplace where suppliers have to compete and the user experience that is easy and convenient. When people travel, small businesses benefit.

Travel management companies (TMCs) help companies save time and money using innovative technology, helping small businesses stay on budget and remain efficient. Carlson Wagonlit, AmEx Global Business Travel and BCD Travel offer tools that allow small businesses access to negotiated rates from travel suppliers, extra savings, dedicated customer support and an enhanced traveler experience.

Short-term rental platforms turn ordinary homeowners and small property managers into entrepreneurs and connect visitors to areas outside traditional tourism zones. From Hale’iwav to DC, Airbnb has made a practice of bringing its community together for merchant walks to showcase the best of local small businesses. These merchant walks have also provided the opportunity for small business owners, like Matt from Mission Beach, to voice their thoughts on the local importance of short-term rentals. Matt says, “99 percent of my customers said they wouldn’t visit Mission Beach without vacation rentals — they would find another city to visit instead.”

These testimonials are important for city officials to hear city so they opt to work with the residents and business owners to ensure their tourism economy thrives. HomeAway, and our other short-term rental platform members, also advocate for policies that allow the booking of short-term rentals in areas outside the traditional tourist area of town, so that smaller mom-and-pop shops and hidden neighborhood gems are able to reap benefits from tourism.

Short term rental platforms have created an entire new generation of micro-entrepreneurs, from property managers to contractors to cleaning companies that service and support the short term rental ecosystem. And as we see more and more cities and states in the U.S. grapple with how to evolve policy alongside innovation, it is key to remember a flexible short-term rental environment can mean the difference between shops thriving – or shutting their doors.

When people think of Small Business Saturday, they think about visiting locally owned shops in their favorite neighborhood – and the online travel industry is helping to connect small businesses with more people in many different ways. We are proud to support the backbone of the American economy.