Digital will continue to transform travel in 2019. You may still be selling holidays, flights or accommodation but the way you do so has significantly shifted and will keep doing so.
The most advanced travel companies are continuously harnessing digital more smartly every day to evolve what they do faster than ever before.
What does this mean for everyone else in 2019? Here are five steps every travel company can take:
Be open and collaborative
You may be in competition with other travel businesses but collaboration is critical for success in 2019. You can’t win on your own.
Like the global giants Booking and Expedia, every travel company can benefit from consuming and sharing data, inventory and digital services.
Some operators have already implemented metasearch on their own sites, showing different purchasing options and even competitors for transparency and to prevent travellers searching elsewhere. Triptease makes this easy for hoteliers of any size.
Consumers will tire of searching dozens of different sites to find the perfect holiday. The demand for consolidated services will rise.
Another technology we’ll see more of is blockchain. Winding Tree uses a blockchain platform for travel operators to share their inventory, lower distribution costs and raise additional revenue.
Being open and collaborative can add value to your existing customers but also cast your net wider amidst stiff competition for consumer attention.
Embrace new pricing models
Price is a major driver in leisure travel. Even once travellers choose a hotel or flight, they’re hunting around for the best deal.
Price predictors are already used by the likes of Kayak, Hopper and Google Flights but will be seen more widely in 2019.
After booking, services like Pruvo help travellers rebook at a lower price point, adding pressure on travel operators to sell more of their inventory on deal.
We’ve already seen a shift away from free cancellation offers as accommodation providers incentivise a paid booking over a free ‘maybe’.
New models are emerging to counter reduced loyalty and the race to the bottom like BeRightBack’s fixed monthly subscription, which entitles its members to three mystery holidays a year. Surf Air goes further to offer unlimited flights for a flat monthly fee.
Consumers like the flexibility of free cancellations but are also attracted to deals that give them more. Embrace new pricing models or be left with squeezed margins and unsecured bookings.
Stay connected everywhere
From the moment a prospective customer touches your brand, you’re exposed to a continuous stream of data about them – their preferences, frustrations and transactions before, during and after they travel.
In 2019, travel businesses will act on that rich data to grow repeat bookings, increase ancillary sales, improve the customer experience and reduce costs.
Hotel apps give direct access to rooms, allow guests to adjust the temperature before they arrive and instantly stream their favourite shows. Similar services are provided for rental cars and managing appliances and security remotely back home.
There’s a battle for data as OTAs maintain direct interactions with customers rather than giving away control to travel operators.
Find ways to regularly collect permission implicit and explicit customer data and use that data to create and personalise valuable experiences.
Continuously mining and acting on data enables travel companies to stay connected with their customers everywhere.
Use digital to be human
Travel companies are increasingly turning to technology to support and add value to their products and services.
KLM has pioneered the use of automation and machine learning in its customer service.
More than 50% of its online enquiries are now supported by artificial intelligence. This isn’t just an efficiency drive. KLM is able to serve customers more quickly and with greater insight this way.
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There’s still a gap that bots are expected to narrow in 2019 – empathy. We’re seeing a shift from mere personalisation to more human interaction.
Further trials of 5G will take place in 2019 promising speeds 100x what we experience on our mobiles today. The possibilities for travel are exciting, including far richer augmented reality, autonomous transport and real-time translation.
Harness the growing power of digital to be more human and deliver enhanced experiences for your customers.
Travel the world and beyond
Intrepid travellers are always looking for somewhere new to explore. Digital technology continues to open up the world in ways that would’ve been impossible in the the past.
In Mongolia, nomadic reindeer herders are inviting guests to stay in their mountain camp using Airbnb and what3words to pinpoint their exact location.
Commercial space travel will get one step closer in 2019 with Virgin Galactic expected to be first to take off.
If this sounds a bit out of reach, virtual reality (VR) is enabling armchair travellers to explore destinations, like Tourism Authority of Thailand’s ‘Amazing VR’, and flight passengers to view the landscape below in real-time via Lufthansa’s VR Moving Map.
You can travel back in time with Rome Reborn and attend live events with your friends from around the world with Oculus Venues.
In 2019, the world is no longer a limit to travel.
Digital is already deeply embedded within our lives and our industry. 2019 is less about simply ‘doing digital’ but harnessing it more smartly to deliver rich experiences for travellers and greater performance for travel businesses.
With 2019 just around the corner, are you ready to board? This is your final call.