The Travel Sector – A Digitalised Phenomenon?
New year, new technology. It comes without question that the development of technology has already disrupted industries across all sectors and travel comes as no exception. If you were to look at the industry 20 years ago, it is easy to identify the modifications between the consumer experience of travelling from then, till now. Regarding the process of travelling abroad, the conventional approach required consultations with your TMC (Travel Management Company) as opposed to now where the digitalisation of B2B travelling has resulted to a rise in online bookings, forecasting this year’s global online travel sales to reach $755.94 billion.
Travellers Going Digital
Travel booking has become three dimensional as more online booking platforms are integrating corporate travel into their B2C strategies, such as Booking.com and Expedia. Because these types of sites are dominating online travel it comes as no surprise that the competition between such entities has become even more crowded to what was once a TMC market, proving that consumer buying power is stronger than ever. The transparency that price comparison sites bring to consumers means that more employees are booking independently and changing how they would originally organise trips. This results in a further shift in the market as more people are recognising that they can pay a lower price for the same trip, pushing monopolies out of power.
It is these online platforms who are also providing travellers with the opportunity to preview various images and reviews of potential accommodations, as well as access to online maps. In 2017 we saw the introduction of 360-degree imagery and VR, which is forecasted to take one step further in 2019. Previewing your holiday in potentially your own living room will eliminate any uncertainty that holiday booking previously brought as you can really try before you buy. Although this might be good news for consumers, this could also put pressure on hotel chains to improve amenities and their technologies for VR previews in-order to stay updated against competitors.
The power of social media has been a topical conversation within our previous blogs about how it has influenced purchasing decisions, however, it is important to recognise that social media isn’t just having an effect on how we buy, it is also changing how people travel. Issues regarding global warming and the environment instigated numerous social media conversations last year, from people of all backgrounds with opinions on how we can help. As plans for banning plastic straws are in place for the last quarter of 2019, and 2018 trends were dominated by veganism, and ways to help save the planet; innovative travel corporations should recognise these changes and incorporate them into their strategies to provide a stronger USP. Airlines such as HiFly have already launched their first ‘plastic-free flight’, whereas FlyBe and Alaska Airways are becoming more dominant within the market due to consumers preferring eco-friendly airlines, thus raising the question – can these environmental issues be strong enough to change existing consumer loyalty in 2019?
NCR argues that the lifespan of online banks such as Revolut and Monzo is already ‘over’, stating that only ‘53% of the public would use them’ and ‘Britain’s are not convinced yet.’ However, in 2019 individuals should anticipate this to change. These banks are providing greater efficiency with exchange rates whilst travelling, as opposed to high street banks, therefore the typical business traveller will find this to be more appealing as they will be on the go more regularly and may not have time to constantly change money, resulting to physical money to be pushed to the back seat. Although it is highly doubtful that physical currency will be wiped out completely when abroad, as it can provide a safe haven for new business travellers and emergency uses, more people will start to digitalise their currency similar to how they do at home, simply just because it is more efficient.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Nowadays you must have at least one travel app or technology which benefits your life and makes travelling more efficient. Whether it be online boarding passes or a tracker for your luggage, more travellers are using apps and technology as it is becoming more common to interlink with inanimate objects. The Amadeus graph below illustrates how the IoT is due to disrupt the travel sector within the next two years, proving that this is an element of technology which should not be dismissed.
Personalisation – With reference to Business Insider, passengers have an 80% chance of falling ill whilst flying, and British Airways could be ones to offer a solution. Since 2016 there have been talks in the pipeline for a ‘digital pill’ which passengers can take to monitor their health, so flight attendants can act accordingly on any changes, persuading more individuals to fly and thus increase sales within the sector. Personalisation whilst travelling should also be expected in hotels as more chains will offer guests the ability to adjust room amenities including, temperature, TV control, elevators, lighting and schedule wake up calls, etc. This trend should be anticipated by the hospitality sector as similar facilities are becoming more conventional to the average home and will be expected to be followed by hotels.
Efficiency – The IoT will also bring improved efficiency to the average business traveller as airlines can now provide real-time information about the aircraft parts and systems and when the items need to be replaced or repaired to the maintenance staff. This will provide efficiency to travellers as this can reduce delays between flights and ensure that more flights are being carried out throughout the day to cater to the masses.
Customer Service – Travel forecasts have consistently labelled ‘2020’ to be the year of extreme technological advancements and with the rapid evolution of AI and robots, companies within the travel industry must understand how it will impact their organisation in-order to gain a competitive advantage. The takeover of robots for airline travel sparks debate as there are talks to replace flight attendants and even pilots, due to the benefits robots can have over human’s data retention and the flexibility with languages. Recognising these significant changes to the industry early can allow employees to understand how their jobs could change within the sector giving them time to prepare and ensuring your organisation is always one step ahead.
Understanding, anticipating and embracing the advances of technology should be at the forefront of TMCs and Travel Managers strategies if they want to continue to improve the delivery of travel services, on-trip experiences and keep in pace with travellers ever-growing expectations through digitalised travel. With 2019 already upon us, how else do you think technology is going to change the travel sector?