The travel tech ecosystem is getting bigger by the byte. In the olden days Amadeus, Travelport (née Worldspan and Galileo) and Sabre were the biggest on the block and while they continue to get bigger, there are other behemoths waiting in the wings – Expedia Inc’s recent narrative around it becoming a tech platform for the industry arguably the most significant.
New players such as Airbnb, Uber, Lyft are actively investing in developing business travel programs with sophisticated tracking and data connectivity tools. This will be a game-changer, and all will need to reconsider their offers to create more alignment with what is now available from the wider travel marketplace.
In 2018 new technologies could begin to throw down a challenge to the global distribution system providers dominating the travel industry. Although recently there have been significant changes in the way consumers prefer to book travel, “incumbent” GDS providers are still dominant and playing the major role. 2018 may be the tipping point – when new players start to seriously disrupt the travel distribution landscape.
Data security will also be a major issue in 2018. Unfortunately, there are likely to be more security breaches in the travel sector. Companies may try to keep this quiet, but security is still probably the number one thing keeping chief technical officers (CTOs) up at night.
We will see Google and Facebook continue to battle it out in the travel booking space, with Facebook being very aggressive as it tries to level the playing field.
One story which had more water-cooler conversations that most was Ctrip’s acquisition of US-based travel-planning and local discovery service Trip.com. The plan to turn it into an English-language travel agency brand will be fascinating to watch – one more step on its path to global expansion.
Although Ctrip did not make acquisitions in 2017 on the same scale as the purchase of Skyscanner in 2016, we remain excited to see what the next moves are for this travel giant.
Similarly, Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce leader, has teamed up with Marriott – a very smart move for both companies. While Alibaba has successfully expanded into online travel bookings, its customer data and deep understanding of the Chinese consumer will allow Marriott to reach the Chinese market, getting more travelers into loyalty programs and hotel properties across the world.
Another big hospitality player, Whitbread, clearly also considers the Chinese market highly attractive. The company has played a powerful strategic move in gaining full control of the Costa Coffee joint venture in South China as a part of the company’s plan to grow internationally.
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