When the tourism industry was designed in older days, there were no information superhighways comparing and booking flights, or securing accommodations. This gave birth to tour operators and travel agents.
Times have changed despite stubbornness and traces of residue material from bygone dinosaur eras.
Digital Savvy millennials and Generation Z consumers demand optimized and customized hospitality experiences, easily accessible price comparisons, guest reviews, booking efficiency, and tailored deals.
Amadeus, a major IT provider for the global travel and tourism industry, predicts there will be 4 billion international air travellers in 2019.
Their findings show that 75% and 67% of travellers from Asia and the Americas, respectively, are interested, for example, in customizing a room where they will stay while travelling.
Digitally transforming travel
According to recent research by Frost & Sullivan, digital transformation programs in the airline industry could generate an incremental value of $5-$10 for every passenger, annually, mainly from improved productivity, cost savings, and new ancillary revenue streams.
Airlines’ digitization efforts are already fostering innovative business models and partnerships with technology solutions providers are driving overall corporate strategies to be the most preferred airline, and sustaining profits.
Where is Digital Transformation taking place?
- Investments appear to be on internal processes like passenger data capture, complaints management, digital call centres and business intelligence.
- Omnichannel experiences, augmented reality/virtual reality and e-commerce.
- Blockchain and tokenizing loyalty programs.
Customizing the travel experience
If the travel trade fails to specialize and sell truly unique, enhanced experiences, customized authenticity, sustainable destinations, it will lose relevance.
It also business smart because, unlike homogeneity, customization creates competitiveness and warrants a price premium.
1. Food before flying
Citilink, the low-cost subsidiary of national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia, wants to allow passengers to choose prior to departure what to eat on the flight.
The new service, named "Dining Experience", allows passengers "Create Your Own Tray", from Indonesian dishes to Japanese, Western and Korean cuisine and comes with lounge access, priority boarding, extra miles, and choice of seat.
2. Giant 4K screens and private rooms
All Nippon Airways (ANA) announced a major revamp of its cabins that includes a new 4k resolution. The razor-sharp 43-inch screen will be the first 4K personal monitor to be introduced on a commercial airliner.
The first-class product is labelled “The Suite”.
Business-class customers Business class will get smaller 4K screens but will see a brand new seat design called “The Room” offering flexible doors for personal privacy that can also be adjusted to sharing a relaxing sofa with fellow travel companions, dine together with the family or conduct meetings with colleagues.
Passengers will be able to customize their entertainment experience before the flight
“The upcoming trend in travel is personalization. Everyone has different interests: some people are into camping, others are into staying at boutique hotels or getting pampered in spas, while others may prefer large beach resorts. All travellers should be able to build their trips around their personal tastes and enjoy experiences that fit their personalities,” he said.
Innovation is often someone’s reaction to archaic practices that don’t work today, and airlines do suffer from red tape, slowing people and processes.
For example, dissimilar baggage allowances among carriers can increase size confusion among travellers and this necessitates a technology fix where a simple app could capture an image of the baggage and confirm it fits or fails to meet airline’s measurements.
Biometrics is beginning to solve boarding and emigration delays faced at airports.
Data sharing among carriers can create a catered and personalized experience to each traveller, based on their needs and wants.
Irene Lee, commercial director, North Asia, ADARA says that with digitalization, consumers are actually empowered to plan their own trips.
“A challenge for the travel industry is that only a small percentage of customers will engage with a single brand at the levels where that brand can adequately personalize their interactions. So even with the most modern technologies, it will always be a challenge to unlock consumer preferences because the data-set is incomplete,” Lee said.
“Asian travellers, particularly millennials, are showing greater receptiveness to sharing their personal data in exchange for personalized experiences, and are also willing to pay more for a personalized experience.”
For more sophisticated personalization experiences, two main components are needed:
- Deep level insights about the traveller
- Machine learning capabilities to predict travel behaviour
Lee added that Business travellers prefer relying on technology versus interacting with a travel agent or relying on an admin, as it is more efficient and reliable, in what is a $1.5 trillion business travel industry.
Digital tools in travellers’ hands
Doodle allows users to create a poll online of possible travel dates and then vote on preferred options. Google Sheets is a decent way to organize options for destinations, housing and more in a spreadsheet and track when and how people will be travelling.
TripIt is an itinerary-building app that allows you to collect details for flights, hotels, car rentals and more into a master itinerary, and Inner Circle allows you to share your itinerary with other members of your group.
Uber Events allows you to set up a code to cover transportation with options to customize the time window, location and pickup radius
Some domestic airlines offer perks for groups booking together.