Sizing the Appetite for TravelTech in Adversity

Joshua starts by setting the scene. Right now, we are facing a catastrophic collapse in demand.

Joshua starts by setting the scene. Right now, we are facing a catastrophic collapse in demand and the honest truth is that the impact of that is mass unemployment, businesses going from really impressive turnovers to almost nothing. We did see a glimmer of hope with recovery in the summer: we saw that happening not in the cities but in nature, unfortunately resulting in more issues than real benefits.

Joshua starts by setting the scene. Right now, we are facing a catastrophic collapse in demand and the honest truth is that the impact of that is mass unemployment, businesses going from really impressive turnovers to almost nothing. We did see a glimmer of hope with recovery in the summer: we saw that happening not in the cities but in nature, unfortunately resulting in more issues than real benefits.

The impact of poor behaviour of people has massively affected Scotland during this pandemic, experiencing a new wave of visitors, who haven't respected the nature and general environment: as people seek to stay isolated but enjoy travel at the same time, this phenomenon hasn't spared the destination from wild camping and waste left around.

Joshua talks about a '2020 Digital Rush', with a wide range of examples of how businesses have rushed into digital, from venues and reservation-based solutions through to health-based solutions such as test-and-trace apps. He talks about a fundamental change to current business models, with existing businesses transitioning to virtual tours, for example, whilst others have recognised a change in the market and responded through technology-driven solutions. Another big investment in technology is in contactless visitor experiences: those businesses that responded to the need for contactless experiences will not only succeed but they will also help the whole sector grow faster.

If we think about where we are seeing other secondary shifts, we can notice there is a growing understanding of other big issues, for instance, sustainability. There is ever-growing consideration of concerns related to climate change, community and the impact of tourism. If we think about climate change, we have to turn our attention to 'community consent', working to avoid a backlash from local communities. When we think now about the impact of the pandemic, and concerns about so-called 'super-spreaders', we know that this is an area where technology can help us prioritise the right response, whether providing transparency or visualising data insights to get a better understanding of what's happening in real-time.

One of the key opportunities, but also challenges for the sector, is 'data collaboration' and this one of the key areas that Traveltech for Scotland focuses on. An example of this is a partnership with farms: this allows to combine data and technology in farming with collaborations and partnership in tourism.

Thus, with many opportunities in this area, we must, first, define what we think of Traveltech and how we can tap into these opportunities. Scotland feels that it has got all of the components to tap into a growing technology sector with world-class AI and data research taken in one of the world's most popular destinations. An example is Skyscanner, a company that Scotland has been able to retain since the value of a talent pool is instrumental to its growth and competitiveness as a travel tech player. The key to finding major advantage is the combination of brilliant academic research and talent, things such as data, AI and technology together with the beauty and attractiveness of an interesting and diverse destination, which can be used as a collaborative testbed.

But how can we find a competitive advantage as a destination when it comes to attracting travel tech and talent in a way that can support sustainable growth? Joshua points to some of the key differentiators which make Scotland's travel tech scene an interesting opportunity, highlighting a number of specific niches such as golf, festivals and food and drink, where the country is a hotbed of opportunities to test and prototype ideas.

So if we think about the opportunities, there are a number of considerations which are important to keep in mind. Firstly, it must be led by the community: it is important that travel tech and tourism talk to each other. It is important to keep in mind the role of facilitating collaboration, develop a clear focus and converge the efforts on collective problems.

The other is discoverability: creating a marketplace for travel tech in Scotland is one of the key tasks for succeeding. This is both promoting Scottish travel tech and some of the brilliant innovations coming out of Scotland, but also connecting Scottish travel tech with new opportunities within and outside the industry.

Key Takeaways

1. A good cluster for tech and innovation needs to be led by the community and focused on the collective problems that the community shares.

2. If we want to grow and develop, we need to learn and talk to each other, even with competitors.

3. The cluster needs to be accessible and understandable. We need to make it easy to find fundings and collaborators, access investments or data, solve problems surfacing from the tourism organisations that are actively playing a role in making the destination a better place.

4. It is key to speak for the whole sector to governments or at events of conferences, creating unity and inclusiveness and making the role each of us plays transparent and as a service for others.

Published on:
November 2020
About the contributor

Joshua Ryan-Saha


Joshua Ryan-Saha is the Director of Travel Tech for Scotland, a business cluster organisation getting behind Scotland’s Traveltech pioneers.