Technology has completely changed some industries over the previous ten years. And the travel sector is no different.
Yet predicting what’s going to happen ahead of the curve is notoriously difficult.
So to help out our friends operating in the travel sector, we commissioned a report to be produced with the aim of identifying what consumers are asking the travel sector for, and how technology can help travel agents and operators meet these ever expanding customer expectations.
Well, the results are in, and they have caused a few surprises.
One of the clearest take aways from the whole report was that almost half of holidaymakers (48%) are asking for more interactive technology, like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), to improve their experiences of searching, booking, travelling and staying on holiday.
Another key outcome of the report was the interest in artificial intelligence amongst UK holidaymakers. More than one in five (21%) would like to see AI used more extensively so that they’d get more personalised experiences.
So, what’s driving this demand for new technology in the travel sector?
Immersion and Engagement
A big gripe to surface from our report was the amount of people who didn’t trust previous customer reviews, or found existing photography of hotels, resorts and destinations to be misleading.
Rather than resorting to checking out a location as best you can on Google Maps, or flicking through reams and reams of amateur photos on websites that don’t give a lot away, the public are crying out for a better solution. One such as VR.
Being able to immerse the consumer directly into a location to see what it’s like before they make a booking is an immensely powerful tool. And one that a static image or video is never going to be able to replicate.
It’s not ‘new’ technology, but it’s certainly not mainstream. Yet trails of the technology have proven to be very successful.
In 2015, Thomas Cook trialled a VR concept in one of its stores. One in ten customers went on to purchase a holiday through Thomas Cook after using the solution – a conversion rate that many in the travel sector would be exceptionally envious of.
Whilst there’s a challenge to address of how to get VR hardware into the hands of the consumer when not in a store, the desire for consumers to get more involved and immersed in what is ultimately a huge emotional purchase, is plain to see in the statistics. 48% of people want more interactive technology. Travel sector: take note.
Another key outcome from our report was that travellers want to see technology play a greater role in personalising their holidays.
21% of people we surveyed would like to see more use of artificial intelligence and digital chat bots.
The plethora of options available when choosing a holiday overwhelms 27% of our surveyed travellers.
So why don’t companies in the travel sector help out their prospects in this regard? If you know someone is interested in a specific holiday destination, as well as what time of year they want to go, their budget and how many people will be travelling in their party; show them options that meet these criteria.
Don’t make it difficult for customers, or they’ll go elsewhere looking for a better experience from a provider that will be able to personalise their efforts to the individual.
This is where AI and machine learning can help. Any automation tool that can review a massive amount of data, analyse it and then spit out actionable information is a highly valuable addition to any company set-up.
Digital chat bots can also help with personalisation by collating customer requirements and prepping human employees with valuable information so that they can provide the level of customer service holidaymakers expect.
What this Means for the Travel Industry
The simple fact is that the world is changing at a phenomenal pace, and many industries are still running to catch up with the increasing use of technology in our everyday lives.
Our CEO Nick Black explained: “Creating loyal customers is becoming increasingly difficult for companies operating in the travel sector. Competition is becoming fiercer between different travel agents and operators, and customer expectations are changing continuously.
“Our research has found that customers are asking for more innovative technology from the travel sector. Investing in areas such as AI, VR and AR will help travel companies create and maintain competitive advantage, and build that elusive consumer loyalty.”
Download the Report
Get the full details of our survey in our travel report: transforming travel through mobile technology. Download it for free here.