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Earlier this month we launched our first ever magazine, “Megatrends Defining Travel in 2015“, where we identify the global trends in travel in 2015 and beyond, and focus on three emerging key themes: Mobile. Seamless. Experiential. Below is an extract from the fourth trend.
The most successful travel companies have always focused on the transaction, and the ability to book is becoming even more ubiquitous, central, flexible and mobile.
Driven by mobile’s omnipresence and the proliferation of devices from smartphone to tablets, from laptops to wearables, as well as the desire to provide more elegance to the user experience in order to capture more bookers and revenue, new companies such as metasearch players are scurrying to get involved in the booking process, which is becoming ever more streamlined, efficient and quick.
Hipmunk, TripAdvisor, Trivago, Skyscanner, and Top10.com, all metasearch sites that traditionally merely provided hotel, flight and car rental results from third party-online travel agencies and suppliers, are increasingly giving their users the option of completing bookings on their own websites or within their apps instead of requiring users to navigate to the online travel agency or hotel or airline site.
With the quality of those third party sites running the gamut from awkward and poor to excellent, too many travelers were getting lost in that meta-to-supplier dance and others were capturing the booking. So now it’s an era of convergence with the metasearch companies offering the bookings right within their apps, although online travel agency or hotel partners, for example, are processing the bookings and handling the customer service in the background.
Kayak pioneered these in-app bookings several years ago but now, owned by the Priceline Group and having sister booking sites such as Booking.com, Agoda and Priceline.com, Kayak is running away from the practice. Virtually all of the rest of the pack of metasearch players, are hurrying to get on board with these “facilitated bookings”. The metasearch companies are not becoming online travel agencies themselves — they are not building customer call centers, for example — but to the consumer it all looks the same.
Meanwhile, companies such as Expedia and Hipmunk are investing in and develop more seamless search and booking from mobile device to PC and back again to handle consumers’ propensity to start their searches on one device and pick it back up again on another.
Transactions thus are getting more nimble and social, too, as the booking revolution gathers momentum in 2015.
HotelTonight led the way a few years ago by offering a hotel booking in just a handful of taps on a smartphone compared with the dozens of taps it took to complete a similar booking through online travel agencies with their legacy technology.
Uber, which like HotelTonight stores customers’ credit card information in its apps, makes reserving a ride and completing the transaction even easier than HotelTonight. Customers can scope out the wait time and cost of an Uber ride in the Google Maps app, and navigate to Uber to provide the pickup location via GPS. They can do the whole thing in the Uber app, as well. Then when the ride is complete the payment, including tip, gets charged to the customers’ credit cards. No taps necessary from the passenger side of things.
Twitter is conducting a pilot of a buy button which could one day be used to book a flight or other travel service. Stayful, a travel app focusing on independent and boutique hotels, began taking hotel reservations on Twitter (with an employee handling the booking via the Stayful app in the background), which for now is gimmicky, but point to possibilities.
New players you wouldn’t have thought of being in the travel booking game, too, are getting into it. Yelp, for example, entered into a partnership with Hipmunk so that Yelp customers scouring restaurant and other business reviews can access hotel booking options through Hipmunk.
And OpenTable, who until recently was only a reservation tool for consumers, is now enabling users in certain markets to settle their restaurant checks with the swipe of a smartphone.
With the proliferation of Wi-Fi on airlines and increases in their broadband capacity, booking a tour on the plane for your time at the destination or changing a flight will become increasingly more commonplace, as well.
This is an extract, get this and all the other trends, download the magazine for full trends for 2015.
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