Today, most of us experience increased pressure in our social and working lives, our connected devices are both a source of comfort as well as angst, and it seems that keeping up with change is an unending pursuit. But if we compare our lives with that of previous generations, we have many advantages. Our generation is one that travels more often, more extensively and experiences things that people could once only dream of. Travel allows us to escape the day-to-day, share more time with friends and family, and experience new cultures. However, travel can also come with its own type of anxiety and stress: as the options seem limitless, the booking process can be fragmented, and delays in transit can ruin a trip.
This is why we have a long way to go to make travel more customer-centric so we can all recapture the joy, excitement and romance of travel. Luckily, there is a cause for optimism.
It is hard to believe that within just twenty years we have gone from relying almost exclusively on bricks-and-mortar travel agents to often relying on our smartphone or tablet when searching for and booking our ideal trip. The pace of technology change is exciting and exhilarating and is set to continue unabated.
Technology is delivering inspiration tailored to the traveller
There are times when travel is a necessity and we have no choice of destination. However, more often we travel not just for ‘obligations’ but because we want to escape, experience new cultures or explore new territories. Low cost airlines, online booking and the sharing economy means that affordable leisure travel is a possibility in a way that it wasn’t before. However, now that the world really is our oyster – how do we decide where to go? Currently, travellers visit on average more than 38 travel websites before booking travel, a time-consuming process with many options to consider. Today, advanced technology may help to refine this process, delivering more tailored options, more quickly.
Augmented and virtual reality may soon mean we can get a real flavour of a destination before we visit, to ensure that our trip meets expectations before we buy. While some products are already on the market—such as Google Earth VRs 3D street view—predictions are that this will take off within the next few years, allowing brands to inspire customers with destinations and places they would never think about.
Some travel brands are already pioneering new ways to market their products using smart technology. United Airlines recently partnered with Amadeus to create the TravelCast prototype. Imagine being curled up on your sofa watching a film with a tropical beach scene somewhere warm, exotic and beautiful. You wonder where that place is, and think about how you would love to book a trip there. TravelCast will allow you to call up a dialogue box on your screen or mobile device advising you that the scene is Thailand and offers you flights and accommodation. You book your trip and suddenly dreams of a tropical holiday become reality.
This is the kind of travel shopping experience we can all expect in the future. Despite the pace of change, travel search is still mainly restricted to the traditional ‘to-from’ and ‘date-duration’ box and inspirational search is in its basic form. However, this is set to change.
Overcoming information overload
After a traveller has decided on the type of experience or destination they want, the next challenge currently is filtering the overwhelming number of options. Perhaps one hotel or rental apartment caters exactly to your needs, with super-fast Wi-Fi, access to a spa, and different dining options. But if you can’t find them in the list of 500 results, it is irrelevant. In fact, research from SmartInsights found that the first three search results secured 93 per cent of clicks that consumers made.
Artificial intelligence will allow for a deeper understanding of a potential customer’s preferences, which can result in consumers being presented with their ideal destination on the first page of results. Intelligent choice-modelling algorithms can help travel brands predict the choices their customers will make and tailor the price and mode of transport accordingly.
Already we know that not all consumers are simply looking for the cheapest option available. In fact, Chinese and Singaporean airlines have found that their customers are turned off by the lowest price and tend to go for a trip that is reassuringly expensive. It will be machines that can learn these patterns of behaviour, predict consumer choices and tailor the offer to improve the traveller experience, as well as enhance the travel retailer’s ability to convert searches to bookings.
Removing the pain points of travel
Once you have selected your trip, the time has come to travel. There are significant opportunities for technology to improve this part of the journey too. Whether it is queuing at airport security, waiting for baggage, or coping with disruption, the future holds great promise.
Technologies such as Blockchain – which enables a new way of conducting digital transactions safely and transparently, without the need for a third-party intermediary – offer the potential for a more smooth and continuous journey. The highly trustworthy and immutable nature of Blockchain makes it is ideal for improving the way travellers are identified during their journey. Currently, passports are required at booking, when changing a booking, at security, the boarding gate, duty free shopping and the hotel. Imagine how much easier travel would be if you didn’t need to use a passport at all at these points in the journey. It is possible Blockchain can deliver a much more frictionless experience for proving a traveller’s identity.
Not only this, but Blockchain may also allow us to say goodbye to the fear of lost baggage by giving travellers a single view of where their bag is at all times, perhaps available via mobile app. At the moment baggage tracking is a complex challenge for the industry, involving multiple decentralised components – the airlines, ground handlers and the airports. A shared Blockchain-based system may improve the accuracy and efficiency of tracking and managing bags across the industry.
For me, the future is an exciting destination. We have seen profound changes in how we travel in the last decade. The pace of change is set up be faster in the next decade. With the application of new and emerging technologies, I am confident that we will be able to recapture the romance and joy of travel.
Katherine Grass, Head of Innovation & Ventures. Amadeus IT Group
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