Technology is now considered to be an indispensable travel aid - so why is the travel industry failing to make the most of the opportunity?
Despite the popular use of technology for travellers, according to a new study travel brands are falling behind social media and reviews sites among internet users' most valued online resources, Marketing Week reports.
The study by digital marketing firm The Bio Agency shows just how vital technology is for travellers. The number of travellers using a mobile or tablet while abroad has now reached one-fifth, while another 28% indicated that they are 'quite likely' to do so.
Almost half (47%) use their digital devices to save money, and this figure is greater among those aged 60 and above, at 52%.
Some 68% of travel consumers use digital devices to research a trip and 65% book their trip via a connected device.
Mobile devices are also used by 30% of respondents to save time and avoid queuing, and more than a quarter - 26% - use digital technology to create a more tailored travel experience. This is especially important for travellers aged 18-30 – a third of these users said that a more bespoke trip would enhance their time away.
Finally, a quarter of travellers also use digital technology to access advice and suggestions from people who have visited the same destination.
Against this background, it seems strange that the travel industry is catering less than some sectors to the growing number of connected holidaymakers.
The researchers found that only eight of the top 20 companies listed by consumers as providing a good digital experience are travel companies. What's more, none of these are in the top five.
The travel companies that seem, at least, to be making an effort on the digital front are Thomson, coming sixth, Expedia in eighth place and easyJet, which took ninth place - these are the only travel brands to appear in the top 10. Booking.com, Thomas Cook, British Airways and Virgin claimed 15th-18th place and Skyscanner came in last at 20th.
For consumers, the best-performing companies in terms of digital experience are reviews website TripAdvisor, which took the the top spot, and social media and messenger brands such as Facebook, which came second, Whatsapp, claiming fourth place, and Instagram, which took fifth. Google Maps took the third spot.
Peter Veash, CEO of The Bio Agency, said: "There is a real opportunity for brands to enhance travellers' experience in a really meaningful way, which they are just not doing today."
He warned: "Travel brands are missing a trick because other brands are already coming in and starting to take that space."
The list of opportunities for travel firms in the digital space goes on: 60% of respondents would use technology to help them track their luggage at the airport, and another 56% would check-in online via an app. More than a third (38%) of intrepid travellers would also use translation apps to help them communicate abroad.
All of these areas could be exploited by travel brands. Travel companies that don't want to get left behind need to start creating more engaging digital opportunities, says Marketing Week.