Treasure Hunter: Gamification of travel strikes gold at IATA NDC Hackathon
Who visits Paris, France and fails to see the Eiffel Tower?
Who visits Giza, Egypt without seeing the Pyramids?
Who visits Agra, India and skips a trip to the Taj Mahal?
Travelers who play the Treasure Hunter game will not only get the chance to visit the best places
each destination has to offer, but they also gain fantastic rewards to be redeemed in flight!
Two kinds of USPs for travel destinations
The leisure travel industry often works on the basis of Unique Selling Points (USPs) to sell their inventory. Often, the USP of a popular tourist destination is a single point that far overshadows others in the same locality in terms of experiential value for the leisure traveller. The three cases mentioned above would illustrate this. A quick check: Can a typical individual can name three alternative tourist attractions in the same city as those mentioned above? Probably not.
On the other hand, some destinations have more broad-based USPs. For instance, Dubai is well known as a shopping destination; but there isn't necessarily one single outlet which you can visit to experience Dubai in totality – that would have to be a more elaborate trip. Rome is famous for its historic value, but there are multiple places you must visit to ensure you get the full experience. New York is rumoured to have enough hotels for you to dine in a different one each night for many decades, but the true experience is a collective one made from visiting several of those places whose prioritization depends on whom you ask.
Designing and incentivising a comprehensive experience
As with any sales process, the customer is hooked on the experience and not the specificities of the decisions involved in the purchase. The content of a travel package is ideally reflective of the customer's preferences, despite the fact that it may be designed by a professional travel agent or consultant. However, there is often a problem of information asymmetry. A traveller may typically begin with just a goal, or a broad choice of a country/city to visit, rather than a specific itinerary to be followed on his/her trip. A travel agent, especially one with hyperlocal knowledge of the chosen destination, would typically know better than the traveller how the goals related to the travel purchase may best be achieved. On the other hand, a city administration may wish to spread out its tourism-based revenue across various points in the city as opposed to concentrating it on a single attraction. It is basic business sense to minimize risk by diversifying as opposed to milking a single cash cow for eternity. There must be some kind of incentive program for travellers to have a comprehensive experience.
The IATA NDC Hackathon which recently concluded in Kochi, India witnessed this stunning bit of innovation from IBS called Treasure Hunter that enables exactly this. Treasure Hunter is a unique platform that integrates an element of gamification into the traveller experience, delivering rewards through airline loyalty. All parties involved – the traveller, the destination managers and the airline company – derive a significant advantage from this platform.
How the app works
Let's start with a newly married couple honeymooning on a budget. They may not want to spend a lot of money on their flight, so they choose a basic fare to travel to Paris, the city of love. The moment they land they sign into the Treasure Hunter app and specify the kind of experience they are seeking.
The game then begins! The couple have a fun challenge, which blends in perfectly with what they set out to do in the first place – explore the city in the most comprehensive and enjoyable way possible. This could be the best restaurants, amusement parks, the Louvre museum (hey, it's Paris!) or even the best kept secrets of the city that only a guide with hyperlocal knowledge would be able to suggest. As they check off each milestone on the list which is compiled for them, they gain points through the app.
At the end of their tour of the city, having visited all the key areas of the city as per their specialized itinerary, the couple arrive at the airport ready to check in for their flight. But they are in for a surprise. Instead of the base fare economy seats they had booked, the loyalty points they gained on their trip lets them purchase multiple ancillaries on their flight. This could range from free food/drinks, to better leg room, to better positioned seats and even an upgrade if they have enough points!
Treasure Hunter enables travel agents, as well as the local service provider community, to tap into the destination-based travel experience like never before. In addition to a seasonal adjustment of itinerary to suit local businesses, there is immense potential for partnerships in this ecosystem. And the economics of the gamification model is very clear and simple – customers can be rewarded purely based on how faithfully they follow the designed itinerary, how many milestones they achieve, and the amounts of money they spend at each of the partnering vendors or destinations. The game, as we say, is only just beginning!