Looking to the year ahead, 2015 is set to be an exciting year for the travel industry. As travellers become more savvy, so too do travel businesses keen to meet the mounting expectations of travellers in their quest for adventure, convenience and security. It's never easy predicting what the future holds, but we will give it our best shot in the first of our two-part prediction guide.
Top of the list (perhaps unsurprisingly) is mobile technology. It is an undeniable force that has been driving the travel industry for a number of years – and 2015 will be no different. Travel companies have had to follow their smartphone-owning customers and are subsequently making sizable investment in this area.
It is online travel agencies that have led the way in adopting mobile technology, and we are now seeing airlines and hotels playing a game of catch-up with newly-developed apps and mobile websites. It is widely believed that mobile devices will play an increasing role in travel bookings over the coming year and that customer engagement will improve as a result of mobile technology.
The threat, of course, is that mobile will reach a saturation point – and when this might happen no-on can predict. In the meantime, discerning travel execs recognise that the development of mobile technology is a priority if they are to increase (or even just retain) their market share.
The sharing economy will continue to go from strength to strength over the coming months. These peer-to-peer exchanges cover everything from offering tours and sharing cars to making dinner for strangers and inviting people to stay in our homes – all for a price, of course. Arguably, the most well-known brand within the sharing economy is Airbnb, but they are just the tip of a much bigger iceberg.
The key to the success of the sharing economy is that more and more people are realising that they don't actually need to 'own things'. Instead, all they need to do is access these items as and when they need them. It's a great concept and one that travel businesses cannot overlook.
As part of the travel experience consumers are increasingly relying on relevant, location-specific notifications to make their journey as smooth as possible. Travellers want technology that will allow them to stay connected so they can make a seamless transition from one place to the next.
It is highly likely that this combination of demographic targeting and localised data will continue to increase as businesses are keen to get their hands on the subsequent data. For example, the use of facial recognition software in digital signage (something currently being worked on by NEC, Intel and Microsoft) will provide even more in-depth demographic data. Watch this (advertising) space...
Innovative payment systems
Traditional payment methods will continue be rivalled by newer, alternative solutions. Google Wallet, PayPal and Apple Pay are just some of these new generation payment methods that will put substantial pressure on the existing fee-charging systems. Another effect of this new technology will see better tracking of business payments and improved data that can feed into the business planning process for travel businesses.
Customer loyalty schemes are constantly evolving. In the UK customers can redeem points collected on their Nectar cards against EasyJet flights and Expedia bookings, to name but a few. Today, rewards schemes are seen as an alternative currency and 2015 will bring with it an increasing number of partnerships and practices in this field.