04 Feb

A tech takeover?

As part of our relationship with the Business Travel Show we asked some of our expert ABTA Partners to comment on the challenges that Business Travel faces. This blog is by Sapphire Systems.

By 2025, the UK’s tourism industry is set to be worth more than a staggering £257 billion. In a sector that’s more competitive and definitely more fast-paced than ever before, the pressure is on travel businesses to find new ways to improve and differentiate their products and service offerings to keep them one step ahead of the competition, all while staying profitable and meeting the ever-changing needs of customers in super-quick time.

In order to address these challenges head-on, many travel businesses are looking to technology for help, investigating the many and varied technologies that are on offer these days, all of which claim to make your business stand out from the crowd. In light of this, we wanted to take a look at the top five tech trends that should be on the radar of travel businesses right across the industry.

  1. Smarter software and Big Data

Delivery of good customer service is the key to securing repeat business time and time again and, these days, customers expect a faster, better, more personalised level of service than ever before. The increasingly digital nature of the travel industry has meant that we’re all dealing with reams and reams of data but, with the right solutions and systems in place, travel businesses can make good use of this data, compiling customer information and insight that enables them to make specific adjustments to their offerings to provide a product tailored to suit the needs of a particular customer. For example, with the right data collection techniques and data analysis in place, it’s possible to quickly and easily analyse a customer’s past trips to record their hotel, airport or airline preferences, suggesting new itineraries based on their travel history.

Corporate Performance Management and Business Intelligence solutions not only collate the necessary data you need, but analyse it too, giving you in-depth insight into your customers and your business performance. Forecasting is another area where the right data analysis can be a real boost, using information about historic activity and past trends to better anticipate levels of demand, which, in turn, enables you to optimise pricing and promotional strategies, all based on accurate forecasting. In short, what matters is not how much data you have, but what you actually do with it.

  1. Mobile Applications

With over 57% of travel reservations made online, the easier travel companies make it for customers to book online, the better. Intuitive mobile applications can give a far superior user experience than websites accessed via a smartphone or other mobile device, providing a good level of customer service from the outset, before any bookings are even made.

It’s not just booking functionality where mobile apps are making a real difference in the industry. Some hotels are making use of mobile applications to connect devices via the Internet of Things to enable guests to control appliances in their rooms. So, with simple mobile access, guests can control the lighting, heating, air con, TV etc, all via a mobile application. Again, it’s this focus on ‘what makes things easier for the customer’ that’s defining which technologies are real value-adds for the travel industry.

  1. Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is really making a difference in some areas of the travel industry, with chatbots, in particular, being put to good use with their ability to deliver rapid responses to customer queries and problems on apps, websites and even self-checkout machines.  When it comes to the aforementioned Big Data too, AI machines can quickly and accurately sort through data, producing insights about not only business performance but customer trends and preferences too. Looking at this analysed information about customer feedback and behaviour enables travel businesses to take the necessary action to address any issues, improving performance and the overall customer experience.

There’s also the potential of AI robots to be considered too, with their ability to operate autonomously 24/7/365. Perhaps not one for this year, but we can expect to see robots in hotels in the not-too-distant future, delivering luggage to rooms, meeting and greeting guests, and handling both check-in and check-out.

  1. Voice assist technology

Something that’s becoming increasingly familiar in people’s homes is voice assist technology. And, as part of a continuing efforts to provide customers with home technology when away from home, we’re seeing more and more travel businesses investing in voice assist technology. This might be facilitating voice assist ‘skills’ to check for live flight info, or enabling voice assist technology in hotel rooms, allowing guests to order room service, get restaurant recommendations, find local information etc, all without having to leave their room or without having to phone reception. Voice assist technology is being used in place of information points in some cases, adding even more ease and convenience to the overall customer experience.

  1. Augmented Reality

A cheaper option than Virtual Reality, one thing that Augmented Reality (AR) does is to enable customers to ‘experience’ physical environments before they actually get there. Unlike other purchases, customers tend to carry out a lot of research before booking, in the run-up to travelling and once they’re reached their destination too. With AR, information is available 24/7 via a smartphone, delivering the necessary information direct to the customer as and when required.

Some airlines are using AR software to allow customers to preview their actual seat and view from their seat when choosing their location online. Similarly, hotels are using AR to give customers a preview of the different rooms on offer before booking. Again, it’s all about enhancing the customer’s experience from day one.

AR is also being put to good use once customers arrive as well, with interactive maps providing extra information on local points of interest when viewed with a smartphone, using technology to boost the customer experience significantly through ease of access to information with familiar technology platforms and applications at the very heart.

 To find out more about how technology can help travel businesses excel, visit our website or contact us.