Travel could be on the cusp of a “transformative technological revolution” – but companies must take care not to cross the “creepy line,” new research by online booking agency Expedia has found.
If current trends continue, travellers could soon enjoy airports with no queues, hotels which know when to expect their arrival and the ability to book the perfect holiday without needing to specify a destination, it said.
It describes the possibility of a “virtual personal assistant” storing boarding cards, hotel check-in information and updating travel itineraries in real-time as the journey progresses. Passengers, it said, could “glide with their e-passports and smart visas through terminals uninterrupted by checkpoints and not held up by queues.” Would-be travellers, it suggested, need not be constrained by an “origin plus destination plus date” search when booking trips, instead asking online providers to find the best holiday to fit their interests.
But the extent to which this vision is fulfilled depends on how far travellers are willing to go in sharing information about their trips – a limit the report dubs “the creepy line.”
Knowing the tipping point between the two extremes where customers “divulge too much information to a Big Brother-like internet and where they hold back all information so no brand could reach them” is “pretty crucial” and poses a “tough challenge” to the industry, said Tim Pritchard, a director at market research firm TNS, which contributed to the report.
Nonetheless the findings of the report, which centres on the travel habits of the under-30s, point to a future where ever-more information is available.
Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive of Expedia, said so-called Millennials – those born between the early 80s and mid-90s, were much more willing to share personal information “but we are careful not to use that data individually unless it helps the person – like if they call us, so we know exactly who it is and if they are in the middle of a trip.”
The report argues that the travel industry could serve travellers even better by sharing information between companies.
“Big Data isn’t actually big enough as it is often confined within the walls of one travel provider. Customers that go through any one retailer might not only be customers of that brand. So any recommendations it can serve up will be skewed,” it said.
Chris Kroeger, a senior vice president at travel technology provider Sabre, thinks that travellers will be willing to share information as long as it “creates value,” for example, if a flight is delayed and data-sharing means the hire car pick-up time can be extended and the hotel expects a late check-in.
While young travellers are increasingly willing to share data, they also expect more access to travel companies in return, according to Mr. Khosrowshahi.
“We have to make our content available to them regardless of platform, regardless of where Millennials are,” he said.
“They are much more aggressive about adopting technology and they expect you to be available to them if they want to call you on their PC, their tablet on their smartphone. What we’ve got to make sure is we have a very consistent platform that’s available no matter how those Millennials want to reach us.”
He revealed that Expedia is developing software for use in Google Glass in anticipation of the new gadget’s release, expected in early 2014.
“It’s being used experimented a lot and we do expect to have something ready for Google Glass when it hits prime time,” he said.
“We have engineers playing with it right now. I think something like Google Glass is going to be much more about the notification experience rather than booking service. If you’re on your way to the airport for Google Glass could tell you your flight is leaving from such-and-such a gate, whether there is a delay in your flight and when the car is picking you up.
“That kind of notification technology is very applicable to wearables.”