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Why language app Babbel is moving into travel bookings

Lesson Nine GmbH, the company behind the Babbel language app, is expanding into travel bookings, diversifying its product offering to language learners.

Babbel is a market-leading language learning app, differentiating from its main competitor Duolingo with paid subscriptions promising more premium content. Having captured a huge market, these apps are finding ways to expand.

The company did so last year by acquiring LingoVentura, a language travel site for package holidays featuring language classes and cultural immersion activities. Babbel Travel now runs alongside LingoVentura in Germany.

LingoVentura is now offering free trials of the Babbel app with every booking, hinting at one way that Babbel might plan to integrate its app and travel businesses.

If Babbel can convert app users to travel bookings it will have integrated authentic experiences entirely separately to the app that will generate its own revenue, unlike add-on content from competitors.

The integration will otherwise be tricky since marketing within a paid app is bound to be a turn-off. Even the free Duolingo app was criticised when it recently introduced ads for its other services.

With integrated Babbel Travel, the Babbel App would come closer to offering an alternative to university, with courses and travel opportunities for learners who have left formal education. Babbel surveyed its users in 2016, finding many to be motivated by career advancement and even more to be maintaining skills gained at university.

Career-driven learners will find time spent abroad is often the litmus test for employers assessing their language skills, and the ease of app-based courses undermines their stand-alone value in the job market.

However, if Babbel Travel plans to convert current app users with offers or similar, it must not overestimate the time and money that learners attracted by ease and cost-effectiveness will spend.

Still, compared to university or traditional premium alternatives like Rosetta Stone, the Babbel app plus travel could give Babbel the competitive edge as an all-round and cost-effective option for language learners.

The USP of popular language apps has always been instant gratification: empirically-proven methods for gaining conversational skills as quickly as possible. Now consumers want more authentic experiences to complement courses.

From podcasts and partnerships with media outlets to classroom support and hosting learning events, apps such as Babbel and Duolingo already experiment with ways to incorporate authentic material and experiences into their offerings.

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