Years ago, planning a vacation involved visits to travel agents, browsing printed travel brochures, and weeks of planning. Once they arrived at their destination, vacationers would send holiday postcards to friends and family back home, featuring images of all the sights and activities they enjoyed.
Now these things are all but obsolete. Postcards have been replaced by social media outlets such as Facebook and Instagram. Lonely Planet, once the traveler’s bible, has been pushed aside by online booking sites like Expedia, Travelocity, and Makemytrip, which have effectively taken travel agencies out of equation altogether.
Sites like TripAdvisor and Priceline offer a plethora of travel advice and reviews of hotels, tours, and restaurants. Travelers can book flights online, access their boarding pass on their smartphone, check in for flights, and even go through automated clearance gates.
The travel industry, like many others, is being disrupted by great ideas powered by digital technology. Here are just a few digital innovations that have changed the way we travel:
- Online booking sites like Expedia, Travelocity, MakeMyTrip, and Trivago
- Wi-fi-enabled mobile optimization
- Targeting and hyper-personalization using Big Data analytics
- Digital discounts and traveler reviews on sites like Kayak and Tripadvisor
- Smartphone apps to research vacation deals and check reviews
- Wearable devices that manage payment, room keys, etc.
- Bluetooth beacons that guide travelers at airports
- Virtual reality that enable users to “tour” locations without leaving home
Travel companies are also using Big Data analytics to hyper-personalize the travel experience for customers. By collecting and analyzing each customer’s “digital footprint,” companies tap extensively networked digital properties and data collected via travel sites, social media channels, and other online sources to deliver content that fits the needs and preferences of individual customers.
Today’s consumers are trending toward spending money on memories and experiences instead of material possessions. Accordingly, travel companies are investing in digital storefronts and omnichannel approaches to keep today’s hyper-connected travelers snapping, sharing, researching, and reviewing on the fly – leaving immense data footprints for marketers to leverage.
For example, Bluesmart is a carry-on suitcase you can control from your smartphone. The app lets you lock and unlock it, weigh it, track its location, and alerts you if you leave it behind in your travels. Travel company Thomas Cook has introduced virtual-reality experiences across select stores. And Starwood Hotels has launched “Let’s Chat”, a feature that enables guests to communicate with front-desk associates via WhatsApp, Blackberry Messenger, or iMessage before or during their stay.
As the travel industry continues its journey from the oxcart to the hyperloop, the future will belong to those companies that use data-based intelligence to offer better a customer experience and build long-term loyalty.
For more insight on how advanced technology is affecting how we travel, see Connected Cars: IoT Disrupts The Once-Humble Automobile.