The travel industry is one of the most competitive marketplaces on the planet with destinations from every nook and cranny of the globe now competing to attract holidaymakers. This means that the travel industry is extremely fast-paced, and one in which technological developments are utilised massively both for marketing and consumer purposes.
Thus, in an industry which is evolving rapidly, staying ahead of the digital curve is particularly important. With this in mind, here are five important digital trends in the travel industry of which to pay heed.
Mobile Growth and Payments
Smartphones and tablets have already become a massive part of society, and they are particularly important in the travel industry. Recent research from Millennial Media and comScore has indicated that 67 percent of travellers research flights via mobile, with around half later booking via mobile. The fact that holidaymakers are away from home means that targeting mobile devices has become an extremely important part of marketing to tourists.
According to a recent report authored by the marketing company Criteo, mobile bookings of travel are growing significantly faster than the desktop alternative. This will only grow as mobile penetration broadens further still. It is anticipated that by 2018 at least 85 percent of the world population will have 3G mobile Internet access or better.
Meanwhile, mobile payment systems are also set to go supernova in the near future. The introduction of Apple Pay in the iPhone 6 indicates what an important trend this will be, and it has already been predicted by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project that cash and credit cards could be obsolete by 2020. Other mobile technology such as NFC and iBeacons also offers on-the-fly marketing opportunities to travel businesses.
Social Media Penetration
Increasingly, social media is an extremely important way for travel marketers to connect with an audience. Whereas once upon a time marketing a particular holiday destination was dependent on creating an idealised image of it in the collective consumer mind, today travel marketers are attempting to deliver more authentic forms of promotion. Over 60 percent of US holidaymakers report using social media while on vacation, according to TripAdvisor.
This can often be based around encouraging visitors to websites and social media platforms to contribute their own content. The aim is to create a genuine community failing, and to provide marketing material which has more credibility than pure commercial advertising. The importance of this was underlined by a recent TripAdvisor study which found that interacting with customers had a significant effect on the success of travel businesses.
This is one form of technology that hasn’t quite taken off yet, but it certainly has huge potential, and holiday-related businesses are already experimenting with it. With the recent announcement of the Apple Watch, it seems a pretty safe bet that wearable technology will become much bigger in the near future.
There are two prominent forms of digital technology which exist at the moment – smartwatches and Google Glass. The former of these is a really obvious technology for travel businesses to target, as all manner of convenient services can potentially be delivered through smartwatches. And naturally carrying a device on one’s wrist while on holiday will be considered far more convenient than other possible options. Thus, we’re already seeing such concepts emerging such as the smartwatch-based boarding pass.
Additionally, Virgin Atlantic has recently been experimenting with Google Glass at its upper-class check-in facility at Heathrow airport. This reflects the fact that Juniper Research believes that wearable technology will be a $19 billion market by 2018.
Google Glass also feeds into the next key trend in digital travel. Augmented reality is a concept which incorporates and resembles virtual reality, and it is one that offers some intriguing possibilities. At present, two forthcoming virtual reality technologies are in development for computing platforms, and holiday companies are already assessing their potential worth.
Project Morpheus and Oculus Rift are being developed for the PlayStation 4 and PC machines respectively, and travel companies are already developing functionality related to them. The holiday comparison site Skyscanner recently assessed augmented reality technology in an influential report entitled ‘Future of Travel 2024’. This report predicted that in the future such virtual reality headsets will enable customers to effectively try holidays before they buy them.
Decline of the travel agent
The final important trend to consider is the decline of the travel agent. Effectively holiday shops, these businesses have been central to the tourism industry over the last few decades. But while we still see big-name travel agents in most towns and cities, their presence in the British high street has diminished rapidly in the last 10 years.
According to a recent report compiled by the credit reference agency Experian, the number of travel agents in Britain’s high streets has declined by nearly 50 percent in the last decade. This has occurred due to the vast numbers of consumers who are now opting for digital methods in order to both plan and book holidays. Across every strata of the travel industry and related businesses it is clear that more and more consumers are utilising mobile platforms in order to purchase goods and services and less and less need to visit a physical shop in order to do so.
All of these trends are really indicative of the same issue; travellers are opting for digital means to research, plan and book holidays, and also to make purchases during trips. In such a context, all travel-related companies really need to concentrate strongly on forms of digital marketing.