Mike Croucher, Travelport’s Chief Architect, recently addressed over 200 business leaders at Travelport LIVE Europe on the topic of digitally re-imagining travel. During his presention, Mr. Croucher revealed the five technologies he believes are transforming the travel experience. This article, penned by Mr. Croucher, summarises the views he shared.
The whole notion of what today’s hyperconnected travellers want, and what they value, has changed. While cost, choice and convenience are still significant, booking decisions are now based on the experience.
Right from the moment that a traveller thinks about a trip, to planning it, booking it and living it, we in the travel industry must deliver a convenient, personal, all-encompassing experience.
Competition in the industry is fierce. Disruptive businesses like Airbnb and Uber, adept at delivering these new kinds of inspirational experiences, have torn down longstanding monopolies and caused brand loyalty to erode.
We believe the future of creating experiences lies in the transformative impact of five key technologies. These technologies are powering the travel industry to offer more than just a trip. We call this evolution in travel retail ‘Distribution 4.0’ – the travel industry’s implementation of Industry 4.0.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
The IoT relates to the interconnection – via the Internet – of computing devices that are embedded in everyday objects required to send and receive data at speed. Growth in the technology is impressive, with experts predicting that there will be 26.6 billion IoT devices globally by 2019.
Human beings, however, do not interact directly with the IoT. We haven’t been chipped. What we do have is a mobile device, through which we can digitally exchange information.
It is via this connection that travellers can personalise their travel experience. This could be as simple as adjusting the temperature in a hotel room, pre-ordering room service prior to arrival, turning lights on and off or getting real-time updates on the status of a flight.
According to the GSMA, more than two-thirds of the world’s population, 5 billion people, are now connected to a mobile service.
Our own research conducted with 11,000 respondents from 19 countries revealed just how vital the mobile is for contemporary travellers. Not only do 33 percent of travellers book their trips on a mobile device, but 62 percent say digital boarding passes and e-tickets make travelling much easier and 46 percent say a good digital experience is important when choosing an airline.
The mobile acts as a personal travel companion. Right through from the point of search to the point of return, it determines the traveller’s experience of certain products and the overall journey.
It offers a means of continuous, one-to-one engagement, enabling different offers and the availability of services to be tailored to an individual’s specific preferences or geographical location. But in order to act intuitively, a mobile device needs intelligence.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Advanced AI solutions eliminate the need to be reactive, allowing businesses and to become more proactive and strategic through predictive capabilities – i.e. recommendation engines that suggest the best time to buy a flight, book a hotel or the time of year to go to a particular destination.
By constantly informing a travel AI, training it and providing it with access to the richest, most extensive real-time data sets, opportunities to deliver personal, frictionless travel experience become seamless.
According to IBM, 90 percent of all data has been created inside the last two years. The ways we share, analyse and absorb information through technology have now exploded to the point where big data’s usage is far more commonplace.
Aside from the benefits shaping individual travellers’ experiences, businesses can also leverage data to better understand what is/isn’t working. Data is the fuel that powers twenty first century commercial intelligence. In the travel industry, specifically, by analysing a complex set of data points like travel history and demographics, predictive analytics can essentially plot travellers’ next moves before they even know what they are themselves.
To utilise this data, we need access to significant quantities of computing power. Some of this can be provided by cloud-based infrastructure.
It is the glue that holds the travel industry together by enabling data and content to be moved with relative ease, as well as computed and delivered as close to the point of consumption geographically as possible.
Cloud technology ultimately provides the bandwidth to scale and perform efficiently, even during intense peak periods, whilst simultaneously delivering cost efficiencies for travellers.
We should be excited about what the future of the travel industry holds. In the fourth industrial revolution, delivering the right kind of travel experience is going to rely on practically applying the technologies described here. The onus now falls on us to be enterprising enough to grasp the opportunities gifted to us by technology.
Travelport is a leading technology company and operates a travel commerce platform providing distribution, technology, payment and other solutions for the global travel and tourism industry. The company facilitates travel commerce by connecting the world’s leading travel providers with online and offline travel buyers in a proprietary business-to-business (B2B) travel marketplace. Travelport offers airline merchandising, hotel content and distribution, car rental, mobile commerce and B2B payment solutions. The company also provides critical IT services to airlines, such as shopping, ticketing, departure control and other solutions.