With technology evolving faster than ever, there’s much discussion in the industry about what the future of travel will look like.
Eight years ago, I was living in Asia and rang my parents in the United States once a week using my Blackberry. It was an expensive call. That same year, Apple and Google made it possible for me to video call my parents for free using wifi, Netflix started delivering DVDs direct to my door, while Uber and Airbnb – established travel services today – hadn’t even launched yet.
The way we interacted with technology back then is completely different to today. Who knew it would so rapidly change our lives and the travel industry we work in? But what will it be like eight years from now? With computing power predicted to be 254 times more powerful than today, it’s anyone’s guess.
But in this sea of change, there are four ways of doing business that have remained constant over the past eight years and will likely remain in future. Having a clear strategy in these areas will help future-proof your business.
1) Invest in the customer experience
At the start of the twentieth century retailers such as Harry Gordon Selfridge of the eponymous London department store and hoteliers such as César Ritz popularized the idea that the customer is always right, and that’s been a staple ever since.
Customer experience is the single most lucrative and measurable growth investment opportunity in the travel industry today. Travel companies can move from customer service to customer experience by focusing on personalising their offerings to a specific individual. Travellers are receptive towards receiving personalised retail offers from travel companies. For travel companies that can give travellers the tailored services they now expect, the rewards will be significant.
2) Be the expert
Although the internet and social media have enriched us in many ways, we still rely on experts to help us out. Travel in particularly has become far more complex, with more travel options and ancillary services than ever before. Piers Morgan’s recent rant about school holiday travel prices is a perfect opportunity for agents to show families how they can find lower-priced holiday options.
It’s not just airlines and hotels that seek to benefit from retailing and merchandising strategies. The increasing amount of content and choice that becomes available as a result of airlines and hotels becoming better retailers provides travel agents with a huge opportunity to become expert advisers to their customers and demonstrate their expertise.
Competition in the travel industry is fierce as travel agents compete for bookings from travellers. Never before has it been more important for agents to differentiate themselves, building new apps and technology that create new experiences for travellers.
Sabre’s developer platform, launched in May 2014 offers more than 150 application programming interfaces (APIs/REST APIs) that enable the global developer and travel community to build new applications and is one of many in the market that can help agents to stand out among their competition.
Today, travellers are swamped with apps, services and notifications; every airline, hotel and online travel agent has its own app and there are so many components within the travel value chain.
Holistically, these provide a lot of value if they could ‘talk’ to each other, but at the moment they are largely working in isolation. The travel industry’s ability to offer an aggregated end-to-end service is what will become increasingly valuable to the traveller. Establishing partnerships that can help offer this full service is important today – work in tandem with travel industry peers and you will add value.
Start putting these into practice now and the future will feel a lot closer.
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