Always a bit of a risk to ask the masses at World Travel Market to help validate a business strategy, but that's what Comtec did recently with its plans for an iPad app.
Chief technology officer Humphrey Sheil says the company was playing around with the basic elements for a B2B application which could eventually be used by some of its travel agent or tour operating clients, but was keen to discover what expectations the market had around tablet and other mobile devices.
Around 100 surveys were completed over the course of the event to shed some light on the four areas around handheld functionality in relation to the travel industry.
These are the topics and Comtec's findings:
1. Ability to search, cost and book holidays/vacations on a smart phone
People agree that searching and booking holidays on a small screen device like a smart phone is not attractive to consumers - but more enthusiasm on a tablet). However, there are interesting ways to push personalised, targeted search results onto smartphones and, as Comtec admits, is something the company is now looking into.
2. Ability to push in-resort offers to holiday makers based on geolocation
Post-booking management and actively encouraging post-booking add-ons like insurance and excursions generated a huge amount of interest. The participants gave these capabilities the top score, so Comtec intends to now prioritise the development of these features.
3. Ability for holiday makers to perform tasks between booking and travel date
Pushing relevant travel information to the holiday maker is critical, the study found. Flight schedule changes, in-resort and country information all add value and help the consumer plan ahead and make relevant adjustments.
4. Ability to push relevant notifications to holiday makers (eg. flight time/status changes, suppliers)
The survey showed that the industry has not figured out how to leverage the alternative methods of selling add-ons to customers - from the pre-travel/being sold something by a qualified agent to just in time/self-service/minimal vendor type. Comtec says it intends to monitor the next 12 months to see if anyone grasps this "new selling opportunity".
Shiel argues that despite various attempts at "toying with mobile", the industry has not really established any standard forms of working as yet.
"The iPad, and other tablet devices, seem a much more logical home for highly interactive travel functions, with smartphones more relevant for “just in time” notifications and location-based services."
He now admits that some of the feedback within the survey has led it to "re-validate" the internal development roadmap, rather than impose its initial mobile vision on the industry.
Wonder how many other companies would be so transparent...