While travel companies have long sought partnerships that help elevate their services, this year has seen the rise in collaborations with a new kind of offering: language-learning apps.
Last month, Kayak announced a program with Babbel, while Uber linked up with Rosetta Stone in July and American Airlines joined forces with both Skillshare and Rosetta Stone in May.
“These partnerships are responding to pent up demand for travel as well as a spike in interest in online learning opportunities,” Jan Jones of the University of New Haven’s Hospitality and Tourism Management department says. “We have seen an overall increase in the demand for online training opportunities around the world and this is a great initiative in response to that. These partnerships are an innovative and creative way to keep customers engaged with travel products.”
Indeed, each of the companies has approached their programs in different ways. Kayak and Babbel are betting on the integration of language and travel inspiration by launching linGO, a single platform for travelers to discover where and when to go to a new destination, while introducing language hacks with top phrases. “Our hope is to empower travelers to uplevel their travel experience through language and give them the tools they need to feel confident and comfortable while traveling internationally again,” says Matt Clarke, Kayak’s VP of North American marketing.
Travel is one of the top three reasons that Americans want to learn a new language, according to a recent Kayak survey; that statistic spurred the travel search engine’s connection with Babbel. Kayak’s survey also showed that about 24 percent of the respondents craved the comfort of knowing the local language in a destination, and that 46 percent would be more confident traveling if they learned the language. “Many travelers want to live like locals when they get away,” Clarke says. “It’s exciting to help them do that by learning a new language.”
Uber took a different approach with its partnership, focusing on its own team by offering every driver and delivery person the chance to learn a new language for free, right from within the Driver app. Through its collaboration with Rosetta Stone, 24 languages are offered, with an emphasis on words needed during a rideshare. After all, 90 percent of the rideshare drivers in New York City are immigrants. Since the program was introduced in July, the number of Uber drivers that have used the program is already into six figures.
Meanwhile, American Airlines went broader with its efforts, pairing up with Rosetta Stone and Skillshare to offer both services to its passengers as part of the in-flight entertainment choices—and all for free. That means those flying on the carrier will have access to more than 150 classes teaching skills or languages. “The importance of personal enrichment has grown throughout the pandemic, but so have the varying priorities competing for our attention,” Clarissa Sebastian, American Airlines’ managing director of onboard products and premium guest services, says. “We looked for new, interactive ways for customers to engage and learn something new while they are traveling with us.”