Digital technology has redefined almost every aspect of society, and travel is no exception. In travel, the digital revolution began with the simple ability to book online, but these days there’s a lot more that consumers can do online to design and enhance their ideal holiday.
There’s no doubt that the internet has changed how we shop for and book our holidays. For instance, around 60% of travel-related searches start on mobile devices, although when it comes to holidays, most people switch between a range of devices as they get deeper into the planning process. When it comes to making bookings, however, people prefer to take advantage of a larger screen in order to make accurate comparisons and prevent mistakes. Whether on mobile or on computer, however, 90% of people research online before booking a holiday, and up to 80% of UK holiday-goers book their travel online.
Digital Touchpoints from A to B
In the six weeks or so before a holiday, the average traveller visits travel sites more than three dozen times. And these days, most travellers use their mobile devices to search for or book at least one attraction while they’re actually on holiday. These kinds of behavioural changes mean that there are many digital touchpoints in the online journeys that people make before and during their holidays.
Amadeus the travel technology experts have identified different digital touchpoints in terms of wearable technology as shown here.
One of the most powerful examples of the use of digital travel touchpoints is the way in which the experience of visiting a Disney park is structured, starting with booking and planning the holiday, and continuing with the visit itself. Starting with a highly responsive website—that provides an identical experience across all devices—which allows the user to plan every detail of the holiday, the experience continues with a mobile app that provides all manner of useful advice for park visitors. For instance, the app provides detailed directions to attractions, rides, shops, and eating spots, as well as up-to-the-minute info on wait times. Visitors can also make use of a Magic Band, a digital device that provides Disney park access, acts as a hotel room key, and can be pre-loaded with currency and used for park purchases.
The seamless experience that Disney provides is unique in that the consumer can access everything they need via the same web portal. In most situations, the experience of planning a holiday is more fragmented, involving visits to multiple sites for a range of different purposes—from purpose-designed travel planning and booking sites to social media platforms, blogs, and news sites—and providing multiple points at which to offer information, capture traffic, and drive sales.
Travel in the Platform Economy
The process of researching and booking online travel has long been notoriously difficult and laborious, partly due to the vast range of airlines, accommodation, and other choices available, but also because the digital technology just hadn’t caught up with what people needed from online booking systems. Now that this is starting to happen, the process by which people book their holidays is looking a bit different. It’s still a fairly non-linear process—with multiple digital touchpoints in the journey from booking a trip, to checking into a hotel, to visiting holiday locations—but it’s certainly not as frustrating as it once was.
Travel is thriving on what’s been dubbed the platform economy, where businesses are based on and driven by digital technology. Recent examples such as Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb are of particular interest to the travel industry, and Airbnb in particular has started a minor revolution in terms of how it’s affected the way people find and book holiday accommodation.
Airbnb has even expanded its repertoire to include holiday experiences, as well as accommodation. Users of the digital service can now book unique activities at their holiday destination, and the offerings are absolutely unique: from learning acrobatic stunts with a movie body double in Santa Monica, California, to shopping for Manga figurines with a professional buyer in the Akihabara district of Tokyo.
This is a kind of travel that Millennials in particular are seeking more and more of, because this generation is one that values experiences over possessions. This has itself contributed to the rise of the platform economy, not just in travel but in general, simply because the Millennial generation is the first to have come of age in the digital era—and their preference for digital-based services and experience-based travel has helped drive the changes that are now taking place in the travel industry.
Amadeus researched key trends which focus on smart, connected consumers; uniqueness of experiences – that’s where the airbnb experiences fit in and social interaction where we tweet, post and share on every step of our journey.