Skift Take

The speed of innovation and expectations of customers will only rise in the next year. Travel providers to need adapt and adapt quickly before new technologies take their place.

Tapping into the abundance of innovative tech products is the fastest way that travel companies can gain a competitive advantage, especially with mobile devices now commonplace across the U.S. and western Europe.

Tech is helping travel providers cut through the noise to offer customers relevant deals and accessible customer service. And at the same time, companies are using big data to streamline their operations, cut costs, and boost revenues.

A report by travel research firm PhoCusWright released this week during the World Travel Market outlines ten tech innovations that changed where and how travelers and companies meet .

Too Much Choice Means Less Is Better: Travel providers are able to deliver well-targeted information to travelers due to a growing number of online surveys and search data. The ability to present accurately targeted information is especially important on mobile screens where providers have less time and space to connect with the customer.

Consumers might finally accept the fact that companies know every move they make online once they realize they’re receiving customized offers. It’s creepy, but convenient.

Social Technologies Change the Shape of Travel: Travel agents still haven’t gotten the message that they need be more proactive, and get a personality while they’re at it. According to a 2012 survey by the American Society of Travel Agents, just 39 percent of providers use social media. Of that 39 percent, one-fifth say it is still unproven as a marketing channel.

Meanwhile airlines and hotels invest heavily in bulking up their social marketing and customer service channels. Is it any surprise that consumers are going directly to the source when it is more accessible and more reliable?

New Efficiencies Reenergize the Customer Experience: Technology is making it easier, faster, and cheaper for companies to offer customer service just as the competition for customer loyalty grows. Social media has given a small number of staff the ability to handle hundreds of inquiries a day, automated alerts update travelers on delays, and luggage tracking keep travelers aware of wait times.

As the cost of providing customer service drops, the quality must stay the same.

Cross-Platform Data Access Engages Users:  The number of digital platforms that travel providers must now consider when building or adapting a service has grown to a daunting amount over the past year. Apps and mobile websites designed for every operating system are expensive and time-intensive. And as travel companies struggle to get a grasp on the current set of platforms, wearable tech becomes of increasing interest to consumers.

This is an evolution that won’t slow down.

A Cloudy Future Beats No Future At All:  Travel companies have been slow to realize the cost and speed benefits of cloud computing. Cloud brokers can help travel companies consolidate their operations and, in some cases, sidestep traditional services like distribution platforms. Little growth has taken place in this area, but there is enormous room for growth.

Intermediaries Require Fresh Approaches Throughout the Travel Cycle: The new role of travel agents, travel management services, and OTAs is to bring travelers the most relevant information based on their wants and needs, to transition all information and transactions to digital platforms, and to be accessible via social media.

There are more options and more content involved in the travel planning experience than ever before so travel providers not only have to cut throughout the noise, but provide their own unique view of what’s important.

Big Data Makes Travel Smarter: Travel companies need to reorganize their operations to focus on data instead of transactions, customers instead of trips, and customized products instead of services handed down from distribution services.  Only then can companies take advantage of enormous capabilities of tool meant to track big data.

Better Travel Management Through Predictive Analysis: Travel companies are using new tools to tap into the huge amounts of data to better analyze past performance and predict future business trends. The biggest obstacle will be updating antiquated systems to take advantage of the powerful pricing and revenue tools.

Short-Range Communications Links Improve Processes: Luggage tags with tracking abilities, E-ZPass lanes, and Disney’s new MagicBand are all the result of near-field communication technology. They are leading the way to more automated travel processes, especially in the field of payments where trading currencies is becoming a forgotten part of the travel experience.

New Patterns of Content Challenge Distribution: Global distribution systems to online booking websites to small startups can now employ similar flight and hotel booking technology. This has given customers new and improved ways to filter through their choices and spread out the profits. It’s also led individual travelers to work outside of traditional booking platforms to find their own flights and fares.

The number of booking channels, added content, and new suppliers will continue to grow, although established companies remain largely in control of backend supply.

PhoCusWright’s Travel Innovation & Technology Trends: 2013 and Beyond report can be downloaded here.


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Photo credit: Two travelers walk through Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Nicola / Flickr

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