After waiting the entire day for a prospective customer call, the exasperated travel agent was about to take the long walk back home when the phone rang. A customer! After identifying the destinations and the requirements, the agent prepared a detailed itinerary. The prospective traveler heard it and said, “Thanks for your help. Now it will be much easier for us to check on such and such online platform for the prices and other details. We might end up getting some good discounts as well!” and he hung up. The agent was left flummoxed.
Today, the world belongs to the consumer. Smartphone, online virtual assistants, digital databases have permeated every segment from retail to hospitality, and significantly so in travel. Established tech aggregators and virtual chatbots are the new in-thing in travel, and they have immensely facilitated travelers in planning out their trips. Over the next 5 years, certain tech trends can be expected to emerge and transform the travel space completely. Here’s a glimpse into some of these:
Emergence of tech based aggregators
Long gone are the days when ticketing, hotels, and local transport etc., needed to be booked from different agents. With the emergence of large tech-based aggregator organizations, all of these services can be availed from a single entity only. So much so, that travellers can get information about exact destinations and can even book their last-mile transport options, such as cabs, through these portals at the most accurate and affordable rates! The humongous amount of data available with these players keeps them far ahead of the curve and will lead to further consolidation of the travel industry.
Big Data and AI
Virtual Assistants and chatbots are being drilled into every device and app to communicate with travelers and provide precise, up-to-date and real time information quickly. Furthermore, the bots are capable of organically updating their databases by acquiring more information from the conversations, thus providing a much more enhanced and enriched experience moving forward.
Virtual and Augmented reality
VR and AR devices are creating an immersive experience for travellers all over the world, which is further motivating them to explore unknown destinations. These devices are also providing travellers with insightful knowledge about local destinations, which is making the customer more knowledgeable. Thus, the presence of VR and AR devices is pushing travel services providers to rethink their strategies and provide more immersive experiences rather than run-of-the-mill ones.
Rise of the ‘Gatekeepers’
The rising presence of colossal players, or ‘gatekeepers’ such as Google and Facebook who thrive on the non-neutral advertising model in the travel industry, will emerge as a major bone of contention in the next decade. Regulatory bodies and national governments would have to intervene between large airline carriers, mega-meta online travel agencies and direct consumer enablers such as Google and Facebook. The power play between these two entities will also be determined by who gets to acquire the lion’s share of data, and aggressive data acquisition policies might be seen in the future.
As global wealth increases with the rise of the middle class that wants to travel and explore more, the travel industry is bound to emerge as one of the most flourishing ones over the coming decade. The presence of big data, AI and a growing sharing economy based on concepts such as AirBnB will make travelling easier, while compelling travel agencies and aggregators to focus on innovative strategies and put greater emphasis on customer service and experiential quality.