Tag: Technology

How technology is helping to reshape fitness and outdoor recreation

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, people increasingly have turned to exercise as a way to relax and recharge—often in droves. Yellowstone National Park, one of the crown jewels of the National Park Service, recorded its second busiest August ever as nearly 900,000 visitors passed through its gates.

But as with most everything in the COVID era, the usual rules don’t apply when it comes to staying active, whether hiking to Old Faithful or just working up a sweat at home. At this year’s Fast Company Innovation Festival, a panel discussion presented by Booz Allen Hamilton explored how digital innovations are helping to reshape recreation today, and in the years to come. Here are five key takeaways from the event:

1. Trip-planning goes digital

Forget poring over guidebooks and asking friends for their favorite hiking trails. Julie McPherson, executive vice president of digital solutions at Booz Allen Hamilton, says planning an outdoor adventure often starts with pulling out a smartphone. Booz Allen serves as innovative partner and main contractor to the federal government’s Recreation.gov service, which helps people find outdoor activities ranging from backcountry camping to ranger-led tours. The site’s mobile app was downloaded nearly 500,000 times during a three-month span this spring—more than the total downloads in all of 2019. “We’re all used to doing mobile,” McPherson said, “but we’re seeing so much more volume…whether it’s actually making reservations or just getting access to information.”

2. Slowing down, tuning in

As COVID-19 ground regular routines to a near-halt, many people found themselves with much more free time. Kristen Holmes, vice president of performance at WHOOP, which makes a wearable device that tracks fitness, sleep, and other physiological data, decided to embrace it. She has spent more time with family and has a renewed focus on her physical health. “I’ve just been trying to be more aware of the signals that my body is giving me,” Holmes said. “I want to make sure I create space for that during the day.”

Holmes is not alone. While the consensus assumed that COVID lockdowns would lead to less-than-savory habits, WHOOP collected data that showed the opposite: users were sleeping better, exercising more, and improving their cardiovascular fitness. “These are really crazy times,” she said. “We actually saw our cohort get healthier during this time of uncertainty and unrest.”

3. Outdoor retailers have had to adapt

These days, many people are embracing outdoor activities for the first time. Doing that is a process—from looking for inspiration and planning trips to getting kitted out with the necessary gear. Outdoor retailer REI has worked to make the purchasing process easier and safer for customers, from contactless pick-up at stores to more bespoke offerings, such as virtual outfitting and scheduled consultations with gear experts. “They can get the time they need with an expert to talk them through [the process],” said Christine Putur, REI’s executive vice president of technology and operations. “We’re very obsessed about removing friction from that cycle.”

4. Tech tools will help

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Vacation Innovations Acquires Travel Technology Platform and Private Client Pioneer Holiday Systems International

HSI was founded in 1993 by Craig Morganson and has earned its reputation as a leading developer of award-winning, travel-related technology and membership-based discount programs, producing some of the most sophisticated software and user interfaces in the travel industry for enterprise and direct-to-consumer use, including loyalty systems, booking engines, membership systems, employee benefit programs, travel agency booking platforms, corporate travel systems, travel gift cards and more.

“I’m incredibly proud of all HSI has accomplished but also realize the brand is capable of much more with the right partner,” said Morganson. “I have been presented with numerous opportunities over the years, but Vacation Innovations is the right company at the right time. Their expertise in sales and marketing, diverse suite of products and services, and commitment to adding value across its brands make this the right fit. I’m confident that Vacation Innovations will grow HSI with passion.”

The Company’s acquisition of HSI is expected to continue the brand’s forward momentum, further expanding Vacation Innovations’ product offerings and market share by adding 12 brands to the VI portfolio, along with an impressive suite of established travel products and new products in development. To help fuel this growth, Vacation Innovations has already increased the HSI workforce by nearly 20 percent since acquiring the brand in early July and is continuing to hire for new roles.

“We’re thrilled to add HSI to our family of brands,” said Chad Newbold, CEO of Vacation Innovations. “Our goal is to expand upon their previous success by refining existing products and bringing new services and features to market. HSI has a history of developing best-in-class software for the travel industry that’s a step above the competition, and we are prepared and excited to use our resources and scale to maximize the value of the HSI platform and accelerate our collective growth.”

This acquisition will further increase VI’s service of the timeshare market, as well as the broader travel market. HSI’s wide range of products and services will help Vacation Innovations to serve developers more effectively by offering lead generation and customizable technology solutions, while also driving additional tours. Combining HSI’s one-click checkout with the significant traffic—nearly 5 million visits annually—generated across Vacation Innovations’ strategic web presence will help immediately position the Company as a leader in resort rental.

Bryan Rand, President of Vacation Innovations, commented, “HSI is a critical addition to the Vacation Innovations family of brands. This acquisition helps position us to deliver even more value to consumers and our developer and resort partners. We are actively hiring additional talent to add the depth we need to deliver exceptional new products, are hard at work adding new features to HSI’s existing systems and programs, and will have several exciting announcements this fall as we roll out these enhancements. Working with our investment partner, Tritium Partners, we are aggressively evaluating additional M&A and joint venture opportunities that will allow VI to leverage its leadership position in the secondary vacation ownership market across the broader travel market.”

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