There has been much interest, excitement, even trepidation, from industries concerning the arrival of the fourth industrial revolution. The travel industry is no different.
The change in landscape that is characterised by technologies that blur the line between the physical, digital and biological spheres, is driving automation and disruption, but also progress.
We have been introduced to Blockchain, witnessed the arrival of Artificial Intelligence interfaces, Biometric Technology and even driverless cars. But what does this technological rollercoaster mean for humans?
Vicente Bosque, Amadeus Commercial Director Business Travel Africa, believes the shift augments the potential for more empathetic relationships between brands and consumers, as companies have never had such access to the brains and feelings of their customers.
“Today’s travellers want to be in control of their travel experience, whether travelling for leisure or business,” he says. “They want choice, and expect services tailored to their needs. Technology can help them achieve this and create the ultimate personalised trip.”
IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) has been discussed for a couple of years in the travel industry and has led to many heated debates.
In simple terms, NDC is a set of technology standards which gives airlines the ability to distribute all their content in a more visual way through third parties. Through NDC, the travel industry can move towards creating truly unique, truly personalised experiences for the business traveller.
“NDC brings richer content at the time of booking,” says Bosque. “This means more images and information, of course, but also videos, traveller reviews and even Virtual Reality solutions. Not only are fares displayed, but also bundles of services; and all of it personalised according to the traveller and the trip.”
NDC already allows business travellers to access services such as VIP parking, lounge access and priority boarding directly through online booking tools, simplifying their journey.
Gianni Pisanello, Vice- President of NDC-X at Amadeus, illustrates NDC with a leisure example: “I am a big rugby fan, and next year the Rugby World Cup is being held in Japan. I would love to see some offers that are personalised to me, saying: ‘Here is a flight and a ticket for one of the matches that you are interested in’.”
Thanks to the NDC framework, it will be much easier to receive packages like this. “We can compare it to a shopping cart on Amazon. We are using modern techniques as seen with other retailers in other industries and applying that to travel. In this specific example, the rugby package comes as one document that is all paid at once, and all those payments are passed to the various participants,” says Pisanello.
SEAMLESS AIRPORT EXPERIENCE
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) recently revealed the results of its 2018 Global Passenger Survey, which shows passengers are looking to new technology to give them more control, information and improve efficiency when they travel.
Overall, passengers said that they wanted more airport processes to be automated, their bags tracked throughout their journey and wait-times of less than 10 minutes at security and immigration.
“Blockchain could tick the boxes for each of these pain points,” explains Bosque.
When it comes to luggage, a shared distributed ledger used by all actors within an airport and between different airports would allow for a bag and its ownership details to be automatically logged on a blockchain. This would make it much more straightforward to track your bags as they move with you throughout your journey.
Blockchain could also considerably simplify passenger identification.
“Today, you need to present your ID at booking, when changing a reservation, at security, the boarding gate, duty-free shopping and at a hotel,” says Bosque. “Imagine the difference if you didn’t need to use a passport at each of these points in the journey?”
PEACE OF MIND
IATA’s study also shows that passengers want to be kept informed throughout their journey, preferably via their personal device. It lists receiving information on flight status (82%), baggage (49%) and waiting times at security/immigration (46%) as passengers’ top three priorities after booking a flight.
Amadeus has been working on solutions that address all of that. With Amadeus’ latest notification solution, you can keep informed of any changes to your travel plans throughout the entire trip cycle, from the initial booking until your arrival back home.
The solution provides several different alerts via SMS or email for flight updates affecting your schedules, waitlist confirmation, re-seating, cancellation and many more, as well as airport changes such as boarding gate, baggage carousel, terminal change or delay. Messages are sent automatically and in real-time, ensuring you receive information quickly.
PROVIDE A BETTER SERVICE
Technology has enabled business travel agencies to deliver a door-to-door travel experience to their customers.
Frequent business travellers know that transportation both to and from the airport and in-destination can be costly and confusing, especially for complex trips to unfamiliar destinations.
Amadeus has introduced solutions that allow the travel agent to offer a seamless door-to-door experience by including pre-arranged transfers, negating the need to carry cash for a taxi. No more waiting in queues at stations or airports or running the gauntlet of rogue operators.
Free mobile apps like CheckMyTrip allow travellers the freedom to securely book on-the-go transfers and services, while at the same time providing peace of mind with up-to-date itinerary changes on the go.
THE HUMAN TOUCH
Technology has unlocked a deeper understanding of how people search, book and experience travel. Big Data analytics and machine learning is allowing the industry to absorb and utilise more data than ever before. The ability to ‘anticipate’ and ‘predict’ what travellers want is now a reality.
However, insights based on algorithms and the assumption that travellers are solely rational, are insights flawed with limitations. Travellers have individual idiosyncrasies and subtle personal motivations that need to be carefully understood.
This is where the travel management company comes in, says Bosque. “The human travel consultant will continue to foster deep, lasting and authentic customer relationships with the business traveller. A travel consultant can give you ‘meaningful choice’ to help simplify the booking and travel experience and reduce your stress.”
In the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, with digital channels continuing to proliferate and mobile seeing enormous growth, it’s crucial for travel companies to ‘know’ their customers.
It is only by understanding your needs as a business traveller that travel companies can deliver the type of personalised service you expect. Each corporation, each traveller and each trip is different. This requires greater flexibility and agility in adapting to your needs at all times.