Technology plays a vital role in the travel industry. From improving the customer experience, enabling efficient operating systems, and helping you capture the overseas market there is a technological cog available to fit into every clock of your business.
To keep up-to-date with every emerging technological advancement would be an unrealistic feat. However, it is crucial to seek the best opportunities so as not to fall behind your competitor's strategy and the ongoing mood of the market.
Last week, we visited Travel Technology Europe (TTE) for an inside scoop on how technology is affecting the travel industry. What are the key players in the industry prioritising, in terms of tech, and what will they see for the future of the travel industry?
1) Breaking into overseas markets
The Chinese tourism industry is expected to grow from £150 billion, in 2015, to £200 billion in 2030 1. Although this is some time away, the Chinese travel market has seen exponential growth over the last two decades so a further increase would be of no surprise.
With these staggering statistics in mind, what will travel companies need to be asking themselves to win this overseas market?
“When you break into new markets, it's about having a passionate commitment to understanding, identifying, and anticipating your customer's needs. Understand your objectives and then ensure your potential customers align with them. What are the barriers to breaking into these markets? Can the languages your team speak stop you from communicating with prospective customers? Breaking into new markets is not easy and, often, it's not cheap. But the reward of being diverse and having resilience is something worth considering."
Joss Croft | CEO, UkInbound
In agreeance with the importance of understanding your customer's needs is Sienna Parulis-Cook, Communications Manager at Dragon Trail Interactive. Sienna says tech will have a vital role in anticipating the needs of the newly emerged solo traveller.
“People still think Chinese travelling is group-based only. Whilst that does still exist, it is reducing. Independent travellers are using tech to plan and book their trips, generally travelling in very small groups of 3-4. This is where tech comes in. It fills the gap of not working with agencies or companies. However, the technology that Chinese tourists use is different from the west. It is a whole new range of apps and software that they use that differs from us”
Such apps include WeChat which engages with travellers each time they check in to hotels. The app can provide concierge services, checking in capabilities, and even unlock your hotel door for you.
Easy to use app technology not only provides a decent amount of attentiveness to your customer’s needs but also helps your business gather data on travellers’ behaviour.
2) The New Agents In Town
According to Helen Maher, Director of Market Management at Expedia, 40% of all European travel bookings come from online. But these customers’ journeys don’t just start with a simple Google or Bing text search, it can also come from voice search. Simply put, we are now our own travel agents. Asking smartphones questions such as “Where’s the best destination to travel to in July?” can give us a plethora of results whilst also putting us in the driving seat of our own booking journey.
Voice search is now one of the primary ways we communicate. It’s in cars, homes, and pockets. ⅕ searches on a phone are spoken2, therefore making it hyper-personalised. The evolution of search is evolving and the technology powering it is using previous results to give inspiration to searchers.
However, does this completely eradicate the need for human face-to-face interactions in the travel industry? A long-time iconic aspect of a traveller’s journey is the booking with an experienced travel agent. Are these times long gone now?
“What’s been forgotten continues to be, conveniently, what the consumer wants. It’s not for us to decide how our customers want to hear from us, it's up to them. It’s convenient to talk about channels and to distract ourselves. It’s really about how your customer wants to hear from you.
Do you want to speak to a real person, or do you need to speak to a chatbot? What’s easiest for them. Giving people the choice and giving people the experience and seeing how the customers choose to interact is the way forward.”
Matthew Parker | CEO, babble.cloud
3) Hanging On The Telephone
Whilst digital is preferred for some communications and sales activity, it’s important not to neglect the power of a phone call. When asked if she thought if the phone calls were still a viable channel in 2019, Michelle Noonan, Digital Strategy Lead at Avvio, still sees the telephone as an essential tool.
“There’s a number of alternatives when it comes to booking on the phone. We would see a lot of high-end service users offering contact centres. People want information. But if you do find the same questions coming in via the phone, you need to optimise it. Calls are essential and telephones should be put into your market. They host a valuable time to really connect with your customers.”
Read our case study to see how SAGA holidays saw the value phone calls were having to their business and optimised them to become a powerful asset in their marketing strategy.
4) The Influence Of The Future
The challenges and influences facing the travel industry vary drastically from new technologies to the changing demographics of travellers. This can raise interesting questions in the process. What will truly influence the industry?
“In the future, I see influences being the same today. Very often I’m asked, who are you worried about as a competitor? My answer is, I don’t know. Who is the competitor that will change our model? I do believe the first influence will be the globalisation of the company.”
“The second will be technology. To help the customer make the right decisions on whatever device they wish to use. Whether that be iPhones, Ipads, and such etc. If you want to succeed in business travel, you need to master the technology you’re implementing. If you don't provide tech solutions to your customer's problems, then you don’t have an edge on the competition.”
Philippe Chereque | President, American Express Global Business Travel
Another year, another event that passes us by. What’s important is to take away the key priorities that were on everyone’s lips at Travel Technology Europe 2019. Whilst it’s certain to say that uncertainty is brewing amongst Britain, it’s clear that the travel industry doesn’t intend to stand still.
With so many hot topics to potentially discuss implementing, it's vital that you know what's working and what's not. Failing to do this will leave you spending huge sums of money on guesswork. Start a conversation with Infinity today to discuss the numerous benefits call tracking can offer your business.