Technical issues slowing down the mobile explosion in travelNewsBy Viewpoints | September 2, 2011Share This article was originally published on NB: This is a guest article by Alan Kersley, managing director of Appi Holidays.With 94% of mobiles projected to be smartphones by 2014, handheld devices will rule the world for web access and travel research in the not-too-distant future.Many travel companies have started "mobilising" their product, but still other parts of the industry are running the risk of falling behind in this technological evolution.The fact is that the screen on a mobile device is starting, for some at least, to become the standard browsing window, especially around the home.Furthermore, there is, supposedly an app for everything.But add to this the fact that flight and hotel providers are already doing good business in mobile bookings and those not already in the game need to surrender to reality.You may not want to believe that people will actually book their next trip on a mobile, but it’s just around the corner.But here is where it gets interesting from a technology perspective. Booking flights or a hotel room are probably the simplest products to transfer to smartphones.The data is fairly simple to handle and the booking technology is usually based on more recent and open systems.So where does that leave package holidays or tours, cruises or even dynamic packaging?And what about the "up-selling" of extras, such as car hire, insurance, or excursions? How do we make this product work for the consumer on the mobile?These types of products are far more complex with plenty of legacy systems, product components, complex data structures, multiple APIs (or none!) and payment systems to deal with.Multiply this by the increasing number of suppliers, add-ons and cross-selling that the online marketplace has driven the industry into, and you begin to wonder if it could ever be made to work on a mobile.Those of us working in travel technology have largely dealt with making all this work online as transparently as possible – for both consumers and agents.But we are still working to the legacy structures of data and forcing the consumer to choose very specific criteria to find any product – airports + destination + dates + PAX = limited number of results.Will this translate to mobiles? I don’t think so.I believe we have yet to face the biggest challenge: the simplification of travel purchasing, configured to match the simplicity of smartphone interface and app designs.Expectations will be high and we can’t continue with the same old criteria. Customers demand more choice, more information, more options.We need to think outside of the box and use ALL of the available data – inventory, pricing, rich content and user generated content – to streamline the product selection process in a way that fits the device and is tailored to each customer’s needs.We then need to utilise the features of the smartphone – such as locations services, cameras, messaging – and then tie it all up with social media. And pronto!The end result ought to be a simple, technology-transparent journey for the customer, giving them the ability to research, shortlist, book, purchase and share their holiday joy along the way.And if they want to talk to an operator or agent, then hey, isn’t that what mobiles are for?Travel companies used to say that the holiday experience begins with the brochure; next it was the telephone operator; ten years ago it was their homepage; today it’s the palm of the customers’ hand.They just don’t know it yet.NB: This is a guest article by Alan Kersley, managing director of Appi Holidays.