The combination of strong economies around the world and
rapid developments in technology are causing significant, fundamental changes
in the business of travel.
That was one of the key messages from speakers last week at
Travelport Live in Las Vegas to an audience of agents and suppliers.
According to Jeffrey Rosenweig, director of the global perspectives
program at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, “Travel expands faster
than economies when economies grow, and the economy around the world is growing.”
“And in very populous Asian markets the economy is booming.
This is going to transform the entire world of travel.”
India has the fastest-growing economy - at a rate of more
than 7% per year - and Rosenweig predicts it will have the world’s biggest
population in seven years, surpassing China. Indonesia and Vietnam will also
gain prominence in travel.
As economic confidence spurs more people to travel, advancements
in technology – most notably the ubiquity of mobile devices – are changing the
ways brands and travelers interact.
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“We’re witnessing the beginnings of a tidal wave of change.
The pace is accelerating, and that acceleration is driving more and more
pressure and more and more disruption,” says Fergal Kelly, Travelport’s chief
At the core of this change is travelers' growing desire –
and demand – for personalized experiences at every step of their journey.
“In the past … it really was all about making the sale and
packing people off,” Kelly says.
“But increasingly, what people expect from their travel
brands is a more joined-up view. This expectation is here now today and understanding
that and what your response to that is an important part of your competitive
mix going forward.”
Noting how mobile has changed every type of communication –
from television to books to music – Travelport’s senior vice president and managing
director for hospitality and digital, Niklas Andréen, says it is also changing the
way people plan and experience travel, moving every process to a more real-time,
“Where before people used to research travel before you went
on a leisure or business trip – where is my hotel, how do I get to my meeting –
we do a minimal amount of work before we leave now,” Kelly says.
“What mobile gives us as intermediaries in the channel is
the ability to interact with our travelers not just when they choose to
interact with us but when we want to interact with them.”
Mobile has equipped consumers to be always on, always
connected, and they expect their brands and services to be accessible on demand
By using data analytics, artificial intelligence and
machine learning in conjunction with mobile, brands can better meet travelers’
needs and ultimately build trust and loyalty.
“When I started in travel 12 or 13 years ago, people used to
talk about the stages of the travel life cycle. It was a very linear thought
process,” Kelly says.
“What people need to be thinking about now is increasingly inspiration
is something that can happen at multiple points in the journey. Think about how
persistent mobile is … there are hundreds of points in that process where you
have the opportunity to inspire, to advise, to personalize. These are no longer
discreet phases. … These are persistent themes you need to think about.”
Andréen shared examples of how hotel brands are using mobile
solutions to improve the guest experience, with everything from digital room
keys to much more personalized interactions for guests willing to share data.
“It might mean that it has gone and checked what is the temperature
set to in my home, what is my playlist at home, so when I walk into my hotel
room it has my favorite playlist on Spotify, and it has the temperature set to
74 if that’s what I want to have,” Andréen says.
“Or it has picked up the information from your mobile about
your meeting schedule so you have the business names on the TV, it has set the
alarm clock. … This is where the hotels are working to make that in-room
experience seamlessly tied to your mobile device based on the fact they will
know you before you arrive.”
* This reporter's attendance at the event was supported by Travelport.