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Why the global travel industry is ready for gamification

Oct 1, 2017

A buzzword it may be, but, as with bleisure travel, the hype around gamification happens to be justified. Gamification means applying game elements in a traditionally non-game setting; it's been doing the rounds in tech circles for a few years, but now it's ready to make a big impression on the travel industry. Here's why.


Gamification is tried and tested now

Gamification has done a full tour around the buzzword block and it's still here. Fortune was among the first outlets to tout the business-boosting effects of gamification in 2010[1], before then asking whether it was 'game over for gamification' in 2014[2] (in an article suggesting that, far from being over, gamification simply requires careful design). Yet savvy businesses continue to invest big in gamified products, from Tinder to IBM-owned consulting firm Bluewolf[3]. But significantly, it hasn't made waves in the travel industry. That's not proof that it won't – it's because gamification is still under-explored in travel. 


Travel can learn from other industries

Other industries have proven the potential of gamification to motivate staff, attract and engage customers and build communities. The sport and fitness market, for one, has cashed in – Nike's success with Nike+ is well-documented as one of the earliest cases of obvious gamification in action[4]. Meanwhile, McDonald's introduced an online training game to boost the efficiency of its service staff[5].

The travel industry in a great position now. Where others have been burned by buying into the hype early on without a full understanding, travel businesses are perfectly poised to approach gamification with all the lessons from early adopters in mind. With a few travel businesses having dipped a successful toe in, the time is right for others to follow.


Life's a game

Gamification is a part of everyday life for most travelers – whether they know it or not. The reward card at your favorite coffee chain? That's part of a gamified loyalty program. Those fun map posters that let you scratch off each country you've traveled to? Gamification. Whether it's the competitive desire to tick off one more destination or earn extra points to level up to Gold status in a loyalty program, travelers already experience gamification in all kinds of ways; that means it can be powerful when applied to other areas, like research and purchase, or even in-flight.


We have the technology

On top of that, gamification's enabling technology is well-developed. Mobile use is growing worldwide, and toolkits are making it easier and more cost-effective than ever to build high-quality products. Meanwhile augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) are closer to widespread adoption, with retailers such as Ikea now exploring AR[6] – travel is fertile territory for immersive game-type products using similar AR and VR tech.


Education and innovation are the key

To an extent gamification is already embedded in travel and there's a huge variety of possibilities, from building customer loyalty to product development. Qantas understood that when it launched its insurance platform, partnering with insurance provider nib to reward customers with frequent flyer miles for exercise logged fitness tracker-style[7] – it's the same principle as wildly successful Nike+ and Fitbit. The only limits are understanding and imagination.

Get the full picture of gamification, its uses in the travel industry and how you can make it work for your business by downloading our ebook, 'Gamification in the travel industry: Why design is key to engaging customers and motivating staff'.

You can find more reports, research and analysis from the leading edge of the travel industry on our research hub.