“The future depends on what you do today” is a popular quote from Mahatma Gandhi. And looking forward in how we are going to serve the travel industry and our travelers is something I frequently do for the North American marketplace.
So it begs the question: what should the travel industry be focused on today with a view toward tomorrow? It’s as easy – and challenging – as three words.
In order to keep up with the needs and expectations of travelers, travel companies should be focusing on mobilizing, socializing, and personalizing. These trends are undeniably shaping the future of travel and the development of new travel technologies and offerings not only in North America, but around the world.
Mobilization will continue its prominent rise in travel, and across all business sectors, in future years. While addressing the individual needs and expectations of today’s leisure travelers is critical to achieving success in the travel industry, road warriors will also simultaneously expect all things digital, all the time. The continuing growth of mobile and the simplification of the booking process across any type of device will be critical in our progressively connected world. The ability to seamlessly hop-scotch from tablet to mobile phone to desktop or laptop is no longer a nice-to-have but a necessity. And although we’ve already seen meaningful advancements in mobilization, we have only just started to scratch the surface.
Social media continues to evolve and permeate all areas of the travel industry. Leisure and business travelers alike are active in multiple social channels which are having a greater influence on their travel decisions. Social media has been one of the most exciting “disruptions” to hit our marketplace as social platforms facilitate engagement amongst and with customers and enable travel companies to gain deeper insight behind purchasing behaviors and traveler motivations. And as companies “connect” buying patterns with social media and other information using carefully developed algorithms, it will become easier to deliver on specific wants and needs of customers and entice travelers to take advantage of personalized offerings throughout the booking process.
But moving toward the future does not come without its challenges.
As mobile solutions and enhancements continue to dominate the marketplace in North America, seamless integration among websites, applications and devices will remain a top challenge. Travelers want to begin their searches on one device and complete the buying process hours later by picking up exactly where they left off using a different device. Additionally, as new sources of information and data continue to emerge almost hourly, companies must carefully determine how to best source, integrate and deliver that data for effective decision-making all the way down to the individual traveler level. Airline merchandizing is a prime example. It is inherently easier for one airline to merchandize and personalize their offerings to travelers, however, it becomes far more complicated when travelers want to compare personalized offers, public fares and specific offerings (i.e. ancillary services) across multiple carriers. Throw in data from numerous social media platforms and traveler reviews and the process becomes significantly more complex.
Despite the potential challenges, the fact remains that we can learn a lot by looking to other industries. While it’s important to “lead by example,” we can also “learn by example.” Travel companies today are playing in the same digital sandbox as some of the “best of the best” in other industries. Online merchandizers such as Amazon, eBay and Zappos are successfully using business intelligence to create unique and personalized experiences which drive conversion. Other technology powerhouses such as Google and Facebook are commended in their ability to advertise and target the right customer with the right offer at the right time. It is fun and exciting to work with our customers in the industry to enable and encourage new ways to source, search, share and convert lookers to bookers and then keep those bookers coming back.
So if the future depends on what we do today, then at Amadeus, and in the industry, our focus now on mobility, business intelligence, information sharing, collaboration and conversion and the ability to deliver to both broad audiences and individuals will go far in assuring we continue to shape the future of travel.