At last month’s PhoCusWright Conference, the travel tech industry’s much-anticipated annual event, some of the most exciting, buzz-worthy attendees were the wunderkinds behind travel start-ups and high-profile online products. Travel + Leisure sat down with select Millennial entrepreneurs—or maybe a better moniker is disruptors?—shaping the next generation of Travel:
Thirty-four-year-old Evan Reece is co-founder and CEO of Liftopia.com, the web’s go-to source for discounted ski lift tickets, equipment rentals, classes, meals, and activities at some 150+ resorts in North America, in addition to detailed resort profiles with trail maps and reviews from skiers and snowboarders. And while the company has been around since 2005, Reece and co-founder Ron Schneiderman (both former employees at Hotwire) didn’t start raising serious money until 2009. Liftopia.com is evolving rapidly.
Aside from its super-deep discounts (some tickets go for as much as 80 percent off!), the company is also working to change the marketplace overall by helping resorts manage and analyze inventory. It's working both the consumer and business angles, which we think is smart. And last year, they launched the Liftopia iPhone app. What’s next?
We sat down with Reece to ask him some questions:
Q: Where do you find travel inspiration for Liftopia.com and in real life?
A: We are fortunate to work in one of the most aspirational arms of the travel industry: Liftopia facilitates both the physical experience of skiing a destination and all of the other components of a trip that make it so fun. Most people think about the differences in skiing from place to place, but I am most obsessed with the "ski culture" of any given area. The food, the people, the local vibe, the snow, and the terrain mean ski areas large and small are worth visiting. It is amazing how much character you can uncover in visiting new places.
Q: Where do you think there’s room for improvement (or an opportunity) in online travel—content, tools, booking engines, etc.?
A: I think that in travel, and in general, the majority of innovation that we see is very skewed in the direction of serving consumers first. It is important to satisfy consumers, but I think the largest areas of opportunity lie with helping the supply side of the business use data to run their businesses more effectively. In the long term, this benefits the consumer, as successful businesses are able to invest more in improving the consumer experience/value.
Q: What are your predictions for where the digitally powered travel industry will go in 2013 and beyond?
A: I expect increased focus on improving the efficiency of what previously were thought of as 'niche' markets. The availability of higher quality (and lower priced) technology to smaller activity providers means that people will have easier access to the products that they consume when they travel, which in most cases are the reasons they travel in the first place. We are starting to see the activity itself (in ski) become much more important in dictating a destination than air or hotel, with 40 percent of our customers buying their skiing products (e.g. lift tickets) before any other component of their trip.
Q: What’s your best travel tip?
A: Find the best food wherever you go. This does not mean the most expensive food, it means the best food. Eating local specialties means you know the actual place better, you get to see more of the local culture, and you ensure that it remains the next time you come back instead of being replaced by something generic. Plus, it is always a good idea to have recommendations for others.
Adrien Glover is the deputy digital editor at Travel + Leisure.