How to book a holiday without knowing where you're going
Monday 11 April 2011
Would you trust a 15-question survey to identify the perfect vacation for you? It may sound like a leap into the unknown, but travel and finance giant American Express is betting that's what some people like - and it's set up a new travel agency in the US to prove it.
Nextpedition is the US company's plan to encourage young professionals in their 20s and 30s to take a walk on the wild side by allowing them to sign up for a holiday without knowing any of the specific details.
By going to the brand's website, travelers can take an interactive questionnaire which Amex believes can identify the type of travel to which they're most suited.
Answer the questions, and the service will assign a "travel sign" based on your hobbies, interests and social media habits - according to the firm, these include types such as "adrenalista" (outdoor adventurers that love to travel), "tasteblazer" (foodies always out to explore new places and flavours), "technologian" (travelers who explore the world with high-tech toys) and "trengineer" (style gurus who seek inspiration from their travels).
After being profiled - and this is where it gets fun - consumers consult with a Nexpedition specialist who plans a trip according to the travel sign, budget preferences, personal interests and travel history.
A few days before the traveler is set to leave, Nextpedition delivers a specially-programmed loan smartphone, preloaded with the traveler's itinerary, guidebook content from Lonely Planet and restaurant recommendations, meaning all that's left is to pack and go.
Although the program offers the same sense of mystery as the "opaque" sales pioneered by travel booking sites such as Priceline, where travelers pay for a hotel without knowing its exact location, that's about the only similarity.
For a start, with opaque sales you can select the city, amenities and comfort level, but there's none of that here, just a lot of faith in the person at the end of the telephone (ironic for a company which offers cards with the tagline "don't take chances").
American Express is offering Nextpedition as a tool for premium travelers, so there aren't any budget deals either - domestic trips in the US start at $1,000 and international trips at $2,500.
There's also considerably less flexibility, as each trip lasts at least seven days and must have two participants, with the firm saying that limited trips will be available in the initial months ahead of a bigger rollout later this year.
Despite all that, it's a unique idea, and for consumers who fancy venturing into the unknown, it could be just the ticket.
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