How the Transport Industry Can Learn from Hotel Disruption

Friday, April 8th, 2016
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In a fast-changing world, it’s important to learn from success stories such as Airbnb. Similar changes could be coming to your industry…soon.

I spent Easter ‘up the coast’ with my family. We booked last minute. My parents had literally just arrived from the UK, and when nwe got to our destination, our apartment was dirty, dusty and dated. Some furniture was broken and the ceiling leaked when it rained. Fortunately, the ocean view was five star. We completed our customer feedback form as requested. The managers shouted. They said it wasn’t their fault if the individual unit owners refused to carry out necessary repairs.

You may have seen the infographic circulating around LinkedIn quoting Tom Goodwin of Havas Media, who said “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.”

The hotel industry didn’t see Airbnb coming. Their entire industry was blindsided. Platforms like Airbnb have restructured the traditional operating model for the tourism accommodation industry. They’ve redefined value, allowing anyone with a spare bed to run their own bed and breakfast. They’ve redefined quality control, relying on peer curation to decide what’s worthy (and what’s to be avoided) and they’ve redefined behaviours creating a new perspective on what accounts for a traditional holiday trip.

Our world is changing: technology taking jobs, driverless cars, disrupters, the entrepreneur revolution, an ageing population, lifestyle businesses, working from home, co-working hubs and the sharing economy. The Mobility Revolution, a move toward environmentally-aware, quality-of-life enhancing electric, autonomous and shared vehicles is here. It’s going to change how we live, work, move and play.

New South Wales Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance has called on the world’s brightest tech minds to find the next big idea that would shake up transport in NSW. In an Australian first, the NSW Government will host ‘Future Transport’ a 12-month program to uncover the trends and technologies that will revolutionise the way the government and customers plan, build and use transport.

I believe that right now there are five important actions for transport professionals.

1. Let’s pay attention to what’s emerging

A few weeks ago, entrepreneur and online personality Gary Vaynerchuk was in Sydney. He said we all need to look at macro trends and pay attention to what’s emerging all around us. Vaynerchuk ‘trades on attention’ to create his success. He’s a master at figuring out where people are putting their attention right now and, more importantly, where our attention is likely to move to be in the next 12 months.

2. Let’s learn to fail fast

In the world of entrepreneurship, the focus is on failing fast and failing cheaply. Let’s embrace failure so that we can learn from both our successes and the times when we’re less-than-successful. Let’s not think that because we are winners we are perfect, and if we lose, let’s not blame someone else.

3. Let’s seek to understand the real issues

Last week, thought-provoking speaker Dr Rodney Tolley, programme director for the International Walk21Conference series addressed a PedBikeTrans seminar in Brisbane. He said inactivity kills twice as many people as obesity, yet many transport professionals and advocates focus their time and money on combatting obesity instead of inactivity. Tolley says we need to focus our attention on the real, not the wrong, issues.

4. Let’s have meaningful conversations

What do transport users want? What do transport users need? What would encourage more people to walk, cycle and catch public transport more of the time? These questions and others are critical for us to build products and services that people want to use. We know that in the run-up to an election, people don’t want to hear from their council or government. They want to be heard.

5. Let’s make decisions based on data

Data helps us make decisions on how best to serve and manage services. According to @tedgioia, Netflix has eliminated 32 per cent of its titles in the last two years. I love decisions based on interrogating data. Imagine the significant benefits for Netflix; lower operating costs, lower storage requirements and reduced licence fees, to name but a few.

If we want the transport industry to be aware, let’s pay attention to what’s emerging, let’s learn to fail fast, let’s seek to understand the real issues, let’s have meaningful conversations and let’s make decision based on data. That way we’ll be willing to accept customer feedback without getting angry and we’ll be able to carry out any necessary repairs.

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