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What Netflix Can Teach Group Travel

It’s been a long time since I’ve switched on a hotel room television.

Last spring, in anticipation of the birth of our daughter, Daisy, my wife and I made the difficult decision to discontinue our cable service at home. In its place, we began subscribing to Netflix and Hulu, two online streaming video services that offer a multitude of programming choice at a fraction of the cost of traditional cable or satellite service.

Our total bill for these services each month is about $16. But perhaps even better than the price is the fact that these companies offer on-demand programming, meaning that we can call up any show from their libraries at any time of day or night — a feature that I really appreciated during late-night shifts when Daisy was a newborn.

Once Daisy got a little older and I started traveling again, I discovered another huge benefit of streaming TV: portability. Where traditional subscription TV could only be used on your home television set, Netflix and Hulu offer apps for a variety of devices, and users can access their favorite programs on their favorite devices from all over the country — all you need is a Wi-Fi connection. Since my queue of programming on both services is more than I could ever watch at home, I now spend hotel room evenings using my iPad to catch up on shows and movies that I want to watch.

Today, I learned that the television landscape is about to be rocked again, as Dish Network announced a new service that will make a raft of popular cable channels such as ESPN, TBS and Food Network available for online streaming for $20 per month — much cheaper than traditional cable and satellite subscriptions.

As I watch this evolution in entertainment unfold, I can’t help but draw comparisons between the media industry and the tourism industry. Like cable TV, traditional group tourism was built on a model of packaging goods and offering them to the consumer all at once. There is no room for a la carte menus or discounted pricing — your only choice is to take it or leave it.

Just as TV is undergoing a metamorphosis, group tourism is going to have to adapt in order to stay relevant to consumers. We have to find ways to deliver individual, valuable a la carte experiences instead of asking everyone to buy the same trip.

People cancel their cable subscriptions every day because they’re tired of paying for 100 channels they don’t want in order to get the 10 they do watch. They want entertainment tailored to their tastes and delivered in a format that they find most convenient. And as they become more accustomed to this level of personalization in their entertainment, they’re going to look for it in other areas of life.

Group travel is not dying, but it is changing, and organizations that cling to old ways of doing things are going to find it harder and harder to stay in business. In 2015, it’s time to get serious about finding new ways to deliver great, personalized experiences to every one of your travelers.

If you don’t, you might find yourself going the way of the hotel room TV.