Technology continues to permeate the travel space at a faster rate than ever, with the online space, social media, self-service options and mobile technologies dictating the way that travellers are choosing to book their holidays. Breaking Travel News sits down with Vipul Doshi‚ Chief Executive Officer‚ InterGlobe Technologies (IGT) to find out whether the travel industry is fully embracing new technologies and to discuss future travel technology trends.
BTN: Is the travel and tourism industry fully embracing the online space?
VD: The travel industry is ever-changing and rapidly growing. In a year characterised by game-changing start-ups, disruptive trends, mergers & acquisitions and leaps in both travel technology and consumer behaviour, keeping abreast of current affairs in the online travel industry is becoming ever more arduous.
The US lead in online travel penetration has come to an end. Online travel penetration in leisure/unmanaged business travel, measured in percentage of gross bookings, stood at around 39% in the US in 2009 compared to around 32% for Western Europe, according to a recent PhocusWright study.
But, by 2013, Western Europe would lead the US 41% to 40%, the study projects. It is interesting that online penetration in Asia-Pacific as a whole is still relatively low at 23%, despite strides in mobile adoption. These figures demonstrate how well the travel and tourism industry is embracing the online space.
We are seeing a similar trend with our customers also, who are urging us to use the maximum potential of online to increase revenues and drive customer engagement and customer satisfaction.
BTN: What are the key trends that are emerging in the online travel space in 2012?
VD: By the end of 2012, travellers will book one third of the world’s travel sales online, according to a new report by PhoCusWright. As online penetration growth in the more mature U.S. and European travel markets realise their full potential, travel companies are looking to the Asia-Pacific and Latin America regions for the next pot of gold. In these emerging markets, macro-economic gains, increased travel and growing technology adoption will continue to fuel significant growth in online bookings.
BTN: Can you highlight some of the key tech trends we are seeing in travel and tourism?
VD: There are three main trends emerging:
Travel is becoming more social
People are using technology and social networks to tap into the wisdom of friends to make good travel decisions. From sharing travel experiences online, to planning vacations based on traveller-generated ratings, there has been a dramatic shift in consumer behaviour in the travel and tourism industry in recent times. The increasing use of various social networking channels for travel planning leaves no doubt that social media is an integral part of the travel business.
Travel shoppers will continue to search for deals and discounts at record levels
In 2012 consumers will again be willing to invest more time in the research process in order to save money – they will look for the best deals they can find, to get the most for their money. Flash sale sites will continue to flourish especially in the travel space.
‘Mobilizing’ the travel revolution
Google projects that 8% of mobile users will be booking travel from their smartphones by 2012. The travel industry believes that with the way bookings have migrated from offline to online over the years, one can expect to witness migration of a certain percentage of online travel bookings to move from desktop to mobile in the time to come.
BTN: What do modern travellers expect from their online experience?
VD: Growing numbers of modern travellers search and consume travel information created by other travellers for their travel planning and then share their experiences when they return from their trips. Given the experiential nature of tourism, the information created by other travellers is even more important and influential in the search and decision-making process than when considering other types of purchases.
Online travel reviews, such as the hotel reviews posted on TripAdvisor, are particularly popular sources of information and those who use them indicate that these traveller opinions greatly influence their accommodation choices. Activity choices and restaurant decisions are also increasingly affected by the opinions of review writers while decisions on where to travel are typically made before reviews are consulted.
To cater to these new age social travellers, we are working with some of the leading airline and travel management brands to offer 24x7 multi-lingual customer support over social media channels like Twitter and Facebook.
BTN: Where are we up to in terms of implementation of cloud services?
VD: Virtualisation and cloud computing continue to attract strong attention in the travel industry. As many as 93% of airlines have, or plan to have, virtualisation technology as a service implemented by 2014. According to the 2011 Airline IT Trends Survey, almost nine out of 10 respondents chose infrastructure virtualisation/service in order to achieve ‘better agility & flexibility’.
BTN: Where will social networks take us over the next few years?
VD: The social media space is blazing hot right now. According to a 2011 Digital Travel Content and User Experience Survey, 72% of the 18-24 demographic said that they would share their travel experiences online via Facebook; twitter and travel blogs accounted for 27% and 26% of usage respectively. 93% of the respondents said that they would look online for information about their holiday destination ‘before deciding where to go.
According to our internal studies for every 100 customer service calls, airlines will attract 96 conversations over social media. With context to the travel domain, people are using technology and social networks to tap into the wisdom of friends to make good travel decisions. From sharing travel experiences online, to planning vacations based on traveller- generated ratings, there has been a dramatic shift in consumer behaviour in the travel industry in recent times. The increasing use of various social networking channels for travel planning leaves no doubt that social media is now an integral part of the travel business.
BTN: To what extent are travellers taking up self-service options? Are these likely to replace agent-led passenger operations?
VD: Over the past decade a confluence of factors including technological advances and the emergence of new business models have contributed to a rapid growth in technology enabled self-service options that allow customers to take on new roles in the provision of services.
Using computer kiosks, airline travellers check in to their flights; on the Internet, passengers book tickets without ever speaking to a travel agent; and using a mobile phone, customers check their flight status, check-in etc. Self-service options continue to become more efficient and more convenient, and, as a result, airlines increasingly operate more productively to better serve their customers. The number of airlines with self-automation capabilities is forecast to rise from 66% to 85% by 2014.
However on the other hand, agent led passenger operations will not be replaced by self-service options as customer relationship management and staying connected with the customer will always be a priority in the travel industry. Kiosks, self-check- in etc are important tools for reducing costs for airlines, but to be available for passengers 24*7 and to serve their travel needs at all-time agents need to be available via various mediums such as social media, live chat, phone calls, email etc.
BTN: How can travel and tourism companies benefit from InterGlobe Technologies services?
VD: Today travel companies are looking at simplifying multi-outsourcing vendor associations to achieve maximum benefits by consolidating outsourcing relationships. IGT’s Integrated IT-BPO solutions operate across the entire value chain of travel, right from calculation of complex fares to migration and management of mainframe solutions, from managing dynamic multi–contact channels to building ecommerce and mobile commerce platforms.
These solutions help travel companies reduce total cost of outsourcing while benefiting from unified governance, enhanced knowledge management, standardised operation, thus achieving faster time to market and staying ahead in this competitive and dynamic travel landscape.
In 2012 we will continue to offer Integrated Application Development and Maintenance’ Contact Centre, Back Office Services and Solution Frameworks to the travel industry worldwide.