With the meteoric rise of travel tech over the past few years, travelers now have more freedom than ever before to plan every aspect of their trip down to the tiniest detail. From hotel and airline booking, o unique local experiences and cuisine, the online hospitality and the travel industry have been experiencing an extensive transformation for the greater good.
Smartphones, for the most part, have changed the way we operate, communicate, purchase and travel. Not only that, we are seeing an ever-increasing number of travel technology companies come to exist, the value of travel tech industry companies has also increased manyfold.
“Digitalization has given us more choices than ever before,” says Tamara Lohan, co-founder and chief technology officer at boutique hotels website Mr & Mrs. Smith. “More people are now traveling, and companies like Airbnb encourage younger people to explore sooner, and in a more cost-effective way. Technology has also given us more information on the place we are going than ever before. Want to know if there is an artisan chocolatier close to your hotel in Amsterdam? Well, now you can – in seconds.”
In the digital age, we’ve become a generation of DIY travelers who plan, manage and book travel online. So what does this mean for the travel industry, and what are some of the biggest trends in travel tech for 2018?
TRAVELER SATISFACTION IS A TOP PRIORITY
The importance of traveler satisfaction is quickly becoming a major focus in today’s travel industry. Traveler satisfaction means different things to different people, however, most are in agreement that investing more resources in traveler satisfaction is a top priority.
A cross-sectional study examined the causal relationships between frequent business travelers’ experiences and business travel satisfaction. The results are analyzed on first an aggregate basis and then a generational basis that is comprised of three defined generations: Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers.
In general, it was found that frequent business travelers are a content group. They are satisfied with their business travel experiences (88%) and the amount they currently travel (79%). Forty-one percent would like to travel the same amount; 43% would like to travel more, and only 16% want to travel for work less often. The findings showed significant generational differences amongst frequent business travelers that indicated each generational group has unique needs.
CHATBOTS RESHAPING CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT
In the very near future, travel decisions will be highly influenced by our interactions with AI and smart technologies such chatbots, virtual reality, and the emergence of big data.
Customers expect quick responses and prompt resolutions. They want the service in a seamless way through whatever channel they wish from anywhere and at any point of time. The integration of chatbots possesses the ability to elevate not only the travel booking process but also the customer service experience to a greater extent. When paired with a customer service agent, chatbots can provide a touch of human element amidst the tech, while simultaneously driving meaningful business impact.
At present, chatbots are designed for single uses, such as collecting pieces of info to book a flight and provide date ranges of available hotels matching certain criteria. By being clear and upfront about the purpose of a chatbot it becomes much easier for this technology to automate the key steps in the booking process. As a result, chatbots acts as a new digital touchpoint.
That being said, the question still remains; Is the hospitality industry ready for the Chatbot enabled era?
VR / AR DELIVERING A NEW TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
Virtual reality and augmented reality is also providing new ways for potential travelers to engage with new surroundings by creating artificial sensory experiences. Virtual tours will provide a much better preview of possible destinations, far better than any website can.
VR and AR hold the potential to demonstrate rooms, room views, amenities, and all other aspects of foreign locations prior to ever leaving the front door.
Lufthansa, a pioneer in travel VR made VR an integral component of its strategy. Back in 2015 it made VR and 360-degree videos central to marketing and has also used it for B2B sales events and for staﬀ training in technical departments. Then in July 2016, on a maiden flight from Frankfurt to San Jose Lufthansa organized an in-flight conference called FlyingLab to discuss VR where guests were also given the chance to test Samsung Gear glasses.
In addition, Thomas Cook won a Clio, the Oscar of advertising, for its Travel Compass, a rotatable touchscreen, which it placed outdoors, allowing passers to view a 360-degree view of a travel destination.
BIG DATA TRAVEL ANALYTICS
You don’t have to look very far ahead to see just how powerful the influence of big data has been in the travel and hospitality industry over the last few years. And as we look to the near future, travelers can expect to see even more positive developments.
Big data analytics will have a huge impact on customer experience and the business efficiency improvement. Apart from focusing on customer needs or making the travel more responsive, and personalized, Big Data Analytics will aid in offering better pricing strategies, more convenient booking, and aggregated customer recommendations.
To put it in numbers, the global travel industry is expected to grow to 10% of Global GDP by 2022, or an annual revenue of around $10 trillion. A massive industry that can become a lot more efficient when Big Data is thoroughly implemented in every aspect of travel.
The travel industry as it is bound to undergo even more radical changes in months ahead. Almost all of the fields and technologies discussed in this post such as augmented reality, virtual reality, chatbots, and Big data analytics, will mark the progression of the travel industry in 2018.
One thing is for sure, the travel experience today is far from perfect: from searching through to booking and the in-trip experience and after sales, there is much lacking still. The good news is with the inclusion of new technologies, we will begin to start seeing improvement for the travelers, as well as for the technology entrepreneurs who are keen to change the status quo.