GUEST: Iqbal Jumabhoy, Founder/CEO at BlackBook Technologies
“If you collect 10 nights, you get one free night. And guess what? Only 3% to 5% of the world actually stays in a hotel more than 10 nights a year.”
COVID-19 may not be the end of the world… But after, the road warriors will still have reason to celebrate. That’s because travel and hospitality are changing for the better.
What we talked about:
- What people really want from hospitality.
- The problem with rewards programs.
- Hospitality under COVID-19 and beyond.
Iqbal, who has represented Singapore as a polo player, fell in love with travel at a young age.
What he didn’t fall in love with: The complexity of making travel arrangements.
In his research, he’s found that the average traveler makes over 700 touchpoints over 150 days to plan a trip. They look at flights, transportation, rooms, insurance, attractions… The list is exhausting. And all along the way, they need to be cautious when it comes to the possibility of trip changes and cancellations.
Oh — and they end up handing their card details to scores of people.
It’s an ordeal.
“What people want is choice. They want trust. They want to know that pricing is optimal.”
That’s why Iqbal founded BlackBook.
As a former CEO of a hotel chain, he knew the ins and outs of travel arrangements and knew there was a better way. With so many using disparate apps for every airline, hotel and transportation arrangement they made, his idea was to aggregate it into one seamless experience.
On one app.
Rewards should be rewarding
One area Iqbal saw a desperate need for improvement in was reward and loyalty programs.
For grizzled, seasoned travelers — or, at least, those of us who were before the pandemic — it’s easy to see why most rewards programs are useless. The most common is the free night after 10 stays.
Nobody wants it.
If you are a veteran traveler, chances are, your company is paying for your accommodations and that free night doesn’t reward you at all.
“The road warrior is on the road for a hundred days a year. The last thing that person wants is a free night. What they really want is a teddy bear for the child who hasn't seen them in two weeks.”
But even if you are a regular person, one whose travel plans don’t read like a Zeppelin world-tour, those rewards are even less likely to benefit you.
Most people don’t even stay in hotels for more than 10 nights per year. In fact, at least 95% of people never get to benefit from that free night.
So, seeing this problem, Iqbal has worked out a different way to offer rewards.
And it’s simple.
You cash out your rewards whenever you want and use them for, well, whatever you’d like. Whether that’s sending flowers to your tolerant spouse who puts up with you being on the road all year or just getting yourself a drink at the end of a long day traveling…
It’s entirely up to you.
COVID-19 and travel
It’s no secret that travel was one of the first things to feel the full force of the pandemic. And there is a long road ahead for the industry to reach any sense of normalcy again. But maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.
Companies like BlackBook are changing the hassle of travel and emphasizing user experience over anything else.
And with the digital revolution sparked by social distancing, people — even older, less tech-savvy users — have adopted new technologies and new ways of doing even the most mundane tasks.
It’s unlikely that after implementing food and grocery delivery, mobile banking or remote work that everyone will just go back to business as usual when the pandemic is over.
And when it comes to travel, that means people will be more likely to adopt newer tech like BlackBook.
Whether you’re missing your road-warrior adventures or you’re afraid to go back, that can only be a good thing.
Travel hasn’t been fun for a long time. Hopefully, the pause has given us time to think about fixing it.