Throughout 2018, PhocusWire brought you in-depth coverage of some of the critical topics impacting travel, organized by a different theme each month.
As we prepare for 2018 to end and a new year to begin, we are revisiting these themes.
We’ll look back on key developments of the past 12 months and look ahead, with additional perspective from the topical experts we interviewed throughout the year.
In January our theme was retailing and ancillaries.
Three of the month's major pieces involved detailed analyses of the airline sector.
Dave O'Flanaghan of Boxever asked what are the critical trends that carriers should be watching out for with their ancillary revenue strategy.
McKinsey wrote two excellent articles for PhocusWire outlining how pricing and merchandizing (key components of retailing) should be at the core of any airline's ancillary program.
Airlines, let's not forget, do not have the world of retailing and ancillaries to themselves, with tours and activities playing an increasingly important role in the minds of hoteliers; they're also part of the reason why intermediaries have ramped up their interest during 2018 in the sector.
To explore what lies ahead for retailing and ancillaries in relation to travel next year, we asked a company at the sharp end of it all to share some ideas.
Robin Hopper - president, Guestlogix
By all measures, the travel industry is booming as we head into 2019 and beyond – and travel technology is a big reason why.
Passenger volumes for airlines will double by 2035, according to IATA, and only new technology investments will make it possible to move more people, more efficiently.
If you think travel stress levels are bad now, just picture 20 years from now with double the number of people - and half the patience. But airlines, hotels and other travel companies are starting to think proactively and strategically about their technology investments over the next 12 to 18 months to prepare for present and future growth.
More airlines are investing in passenger apps, hotels are making significant investments in the digital guest experience and even car rental companies like Hertz are adopting biometrics for a faster and less stressful travel experience.
Not only are they becoming more efficient by empowering customers with tools for self-service, they’re also strengthening their direct channels and laying the foundation to become more effective as retailers and merchandisers.
What matters most urgently, however, is the digital experience itself. This is the one area that unites all travelers – they’re all carrying mobile devices and expect to use them for a better passenger, guest and customer experience.
With that in mind, here is my travel technology outlook for the next year or so…
Connecting passenger experience with ancillary revenue
Airline technology investments will continue to be driven by the overwhelming need for ancillary revenue.
Airlines are the “gateway” to the travel experience, since most journeys start with the flight, but between the time of booking there are abundant opportunities to engage travelers, offer the other relevant services (hotels, car rentals) through the airline app and build a consistent relationship that doesn’t just start or end at the airport.
The digitalization of guest experience
With so many booking options available to hotel guests, including Airbnb, many hotels are on the cutting-edge of travel technology simply by sheer necessity.
Travelers want to get off their flight and feel instantly “at home” with all the amenities, digital and otherwise.
More hotel rooms feature Alexa for Hospitality as well as basic conveniences like mobile check-in, but guests are also looking to be "connected" to the world beyond their room.
The more "utility" hotels can provide through their apps and other digital channels, the more income they can generate beyond room revenue.
Delivering a stress-free travel experience
The key to delivering a better overall customer experience is to help travelers experience the world stress-free – whether this means getting them through the car rental process faster, offering them relevant merchandise during their flight or having a special offer waiting for them at check-in.
And while there are many exciting technologies now being introduced, travel companies will have to stay focused on the overall digital experience.
They don’t have to do everything at once, just start with the basics like simple personalization and offering more relevant ancillary merchandise.
This is the best way forward to greater customer satisfaction and airline revenue in 2019.