With the 2018 travel industry conference season in full swing, conversation in the innovation halls and booths of technology providers would indicate a notable optimism for new solutions to address traditional inefficiencies, both in customer experience and payments between the plethora of different parties.
A candid conversation with Lee Hayhurst, head of news at Travel Weekly Group and editor of Travolution, however, indicates that there is more to the world of travel than meets the eye. Here are some of his key observations:
Wanderlust growing among all ages: Despite challenging economic and political undercurrents, travel bookings are up 6% for summer 2018, according to official industry figures. While families and the generation of Baby Boomers are largely driving this growth, millennials too are becoming a valuable market as – despite more limited disposable income – they choose to spend their money on experiences.
Need to get it right and peace of mind: There is evidence that people are getting more adventurous, looking for more complex, multi-faceted tours, which are complex and time-consuming to manage across multiple websites and different sectors. Anecdotally we hear that high-profile collapses such as Monarch and Lowcost Holidays in recent years have seen people turn back to high street travel agencies and local specialists to ensure they have peace of mind, and that they get it right.
The return of personalised service: Despite the advent of AI and the rise in popularity of voice assistants, the online travel search experience is still overly prescriptive and waiting on the big change that mirrors the real-life travel agent. The local travel shop, call centre agent or homeworker is filling the void and remains – at least for now – a popular choice.
Payments under the radar: The payment process and efficiency and cost gains to be realised through automation is still largely overlooked by OTAs and high street travel agencies. Recent banning of card fees, however, has brought this to the foreground, prompting a focus on more efficient mechanisms for payment.
The dynamic of the travel industry is changing. Disruptors like Airbnb with its simple platform model is disrupting a complex process that has typically seen the holiday hotel bed pass through several sets of hands. New regulation and a significant squeeze on margins make it an imperative for all companies specialising in travel to take fresh stock of their business models, and invariably also the way in which they handle the treasury function.