The move away from desktops towards smartphones and tablets is changing how the travel industry uses technology to connect with today’s multi-device consumer, concluded board-level travel industry participants at the recent World Travel Market Round Table into the Future of Mobile.
A dozen senior executives spent more than three hours discussing mobile at an invitation-only dinner in central London, chaired by On Holiday Group CEO Steve Endacott. The event was a preview to the new Travel Tech Show at WTM, which will take place alongside World Travel Market at ExCeL in November.
Google Industry Head Travel Daniel Robb said the search giant is seeing all volume growth coming from searches made on either smartphones or tablets, with 20% of all travel searches currently coming from a smartphone.
Another guest, Andy Crocker Chief Marketing Officer Skyscanner, said this year the metasearch site will get more traffic from mobiles than from desktops.
There are opportunities for travel to use mobile better, guests agreed. Robb thought that “mobile is still predominantly a replication of the desktop.” Mark Maddock Managing Director lastminute.com, added that people now shift devices 23 times a day and check their mobile more than 100 times a day.
“We have to think in terms of device response optimisation,” Maddock said, “because the site needs to render automatically on whatever device the customer is using. And quickly too.”
John Pickles Product Director Comtec suggested that too much attention “was focussed on the device – the real issue for us is the connection.” Etienne de Klerk Strategic Consumer Alliances Blackberry was familiar with the arguments about premium pricing for prioritised web traffic, but doubted that the carriers would ever charge a business for a guaranteed faster connection.
Consistency is also an issue in corporate travel where the use of devices on the road by business travellers is a recurring issue. Diane Bouzebiba, Managing Director Amadeus UK & Ireland, said that “in a corporate context, consistency between the desktop, self booking tool and the version on whatever device the traveller has while on the road, is vital.”
Most guests agreed that advertising on mobile was lagging behind other developments in the sector. Hugo Burge CEO Momondo Group (formerly Cheapflights Group) said that “the return-on-investment model for mobile is different from desktop, and it harder to get a decent one from mobile.”
Endacott remained sceptical about the inevitable dominance of mobile and warned that, in terms of hype and vested interests, the arguments around mobile are similar to social media.
“We all know it’s an opportunity, but so far nobody has found a way to commercially use it to sell holidays, irrespective of the marketing hype it receives,” he said.
Other guests noted the crossover between social media and mobile. Dave Williams Chief Information Officer Feefo pointed out that people were starting to write and post reviews in real-time, and this changed how travel businesses should interact. Ewan MacLeod WTM mobile expert and Mobile Industry Review founder, noted that some restaurants included QR codes on menus to encourage diners to post reviews.
Real-time reviews are likely to become more prevalent as the costs of using a mobile phone abroad come down. John Finlayson Brand and Partnership Manager Weve noted that roaming charges were not only coming down but also now a de facto part of a contract.
Other guests noted that tech-savvy holidaymakers take advantage of free wi-fi access in the hotel or around the resort to get online.
Miceala Juarez, Head of Marketing and Communications World Travel Market, said: “This Round Table on mobile was a great success and is the first of many similar events in the run up to the new Travel Tech Show at WTM which takes place alongside World Travel Market for the first time.
“Travel Technology is a growing segment of the industry which warrants its own stand-alone event and dedicated year-round discussions event, which the mobile round table was the first of.”