Gilles Trantoul, Director, Strategy and Transformation, Travel Channels, Amadeus
The past ten years have seen the world enter an age of disruption – with the travel industry particularly impacted by technological advances. Driven by the development of sophisticated mobile technology, and the increasing ubiquity of access to high speed networks, customers now have 24/7 access to travel firms, with personalization and authenticity a demand throughout the travel experience. We’ve seen a dizzying array of successful start-ups spring up to meet demand, with industry incumbents having to stay on their toes to keep up.
As we enter 2020 and look forward to a new decade, we expect travel to continue to boom with innovation continuing to drive the industry forward. Below we have detailed three of the key trends for stakeholders in travel to look out for as we head into the new year.
Machines can’t replace the human touch
Technology provides unprecedented support for travelers; predicting behavior, anticipating potential problems and providing solutions. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be implemented to predict queuing behavior and how this takes place across an airport on particular days, alleviating stress on security and immigration. Self-service desks at check-in or automated bag drop-offs can also reduce waiting times by 30% (Gemalto).
Yet travel companies should be aware that, at many points in the traveler’s journey, people do still prefer to deal with people. A recent report between IHG and Amadeus demonstrates the need for servicing from agents and finds that across every area of the travel experience – from ordering a taxi to making a complaint – people prefer to interact with hotel staff rather than use a self-service option.
At times of urgency, such as when flights are disrupted, business travel agents can become your best friend. In a recent trip, my flight was redirected half way due to a storm and I ended up in another city in the middle of the night with no hotel and no way to reach my destination. Having access to a business travel agent to understand my issue, find me a hotel where I could work in the morning and attend an important meeting, and of course a flight back home was a savior. Technology was a key enabler to provide such a great service on the spot.
The battle for traveler loyalty
Traveler loyalty will be a major battleground in 2020, with technology a key differentiator. With so much choice out there for travelers, travel agencies and sellers will need to be smarter than ever about how they target consumers in 2020 - and technology will be key to their success. Local startups are gaining momentum with innovative solutions that focus on localization and personalization to help build loyalty.
We’ve already seen major brands entering the traveler loyalty space, including Singapore Airlines which has partnered with American Express to create a corporate travel credit card for small businesses that is designed to connect them with travel rewards. Another example is eDreams ODIGEO. The company recently launched Prime, a subscription offering within the online travel booking sector to reduce dependency on customer acquisition and create a long-standing interaction with travelers. Travel sellers of all types and sizes, and other travel brands, evidently will need to understand the importance of ‘in-the-moment’ personalization and take advantage of customer data in order to achieve true success and keep up with the competition.
Super apps to drive travel sales
One new trend which addresses this is the growing popularity of super apps – these are single applications which have multiple functions. In one place, users can connect to social media, shop, order food or taxis, buy tickets, book rooms and more. Asia is seen as a key market when it comes to super apps, with some exciting messaging, ride-hailing and payment super apps from WeChat, Alipay and Meituan in China and Line in Japan and Thailand.
However, it cannot be ignored that Western tech giants are catching on and getting in on the act, with integrations in Facebook Messenger and Google Maps. If we look at Google and Google Maps in particular, the app, which has one billion daily users, increasingly includes explore and social features. The search giant is a digital gatekeeper for all types of storefronts in the brick-and-mortar world (Phocuswire).
As the travel sector continues to change, the most successful brands are likely to be the ones who can build tailored offerings for their customers and take into account the flexibility that travelers have come to expect. One thing’s for sure, it is definitely an exciting time for the industry as we head into a new decade of travel.
Find out more about how technology is changing travel and Amadeus’ travel trends for 2020.