Ask corporate travellers today what the one thing is they couldn’t live without, and many will answer: my smartphone.
Mobile technology has fundamentally changed the way we travel, and this disruption is not about to stop or even to slow down, according to a recent London School of Economics study, Travel distribution The end of the world as we know it? commissioned by Amadeus.
Mobile devices have different roles in different parts of the travel life cycle. In North America and Europe, mobile tends to be used for background research and last minute deals. Relatively few consumers use it for booking, though airlines have set up online check-in on a mobile app. In contrast, mobile is rapidly becoming the primary means of booking in emerging markets such as China and India.
The favoured apps used by African travellers are those that help travellers orientate themselves and which act as a virtual tourist guide, the latter providing an opportunity for travel agents in Africa to offer a more concierge-style service while travellers are on the road.
Last year, Amadeus commissioned a study into the travel habits of over 2 500 people in Angola, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, which revealed that 36% of travellers polled take control of their travel bookings using online tools. The study shows that African travellers are increasingly demanding mobile and online services from their travel agents, as smartphone penetration across the continent continues to expand.
So, what can travel agents expect from the year to come from the mobile revolution?
Micro-Moments are expected to grow
“Micro-moment” searching and booking is likely to grow, with consumers taking advantage of short moments at the bus stop or during a coffee break to glance at their mobiles through the day. These “micro-moments” have implications for targeting advertising when consumers are in the right place and the right mood.
Travellers will expect 24-hour service
Consumers are connected to the internet throughout their journeys and increasingly expect to be served continuously. With smartphones, consumers can expect 24-hour services during travel and at their destination. Travel agents should offer their clients shopping, theatre tickets, tours, car hire and restaurant bookings at the touch of a finger.
Mobile will become the traveller’s virtual assistant
The development of more sophisticated voice technology will allow travellers to use their mobile more easily as a virtual assistant. Especially in times of travel disruption, when a fligt is delayed or cancelled for example, a virtual assistant could ease the traveller’s discomfort by automatically booking a hotel room, informing the car hire company of delayed arrival or rescheduling meetings.
Geolocation will open up possibilities
The potential for geolocation to tailor mobile services is substantial. Consumers are interacting constantly with their smartphones, which is paving the way for beacon technology.
In the travel industry, the best known examples are airports or hotels using beacons to target travellers with special offers as they pass by. Other location-specific services include special offers at the airport, automatic hotel check-in on approaching the hotel, seamless automatic translation, or suitable restaurant suggestions at the right time and location when on a trip.
Websites and apps need to be flawless
Travellers today expect complex transactions to be reduced to a couple of swipes and a fingerprint. For many, the ease and reliability of websites and apps plays a more determinant role than brand loyalty.
Without a doubt, in 2017, there is room for travel agents to extend their product to their consumers through mobile technology. Experimentation along these lines will be constant for the most successful retailers.
This blog forms part of a series of blogs looking into the study ‘Travel distribution The end of the world as we know it?’, which will be published in the following weeks on the Amadeus Africa Blog.