The 1960s witnessed the creation of Global Distribution Systems. These are worldwide, computerized reservation networks that function as a single point access for reserving anything related to travel; from airline tickets to hotel rooms and everything in between. You could plan an entire journey, irrespective of the number of stops or the mode of travel, with one call to your travel agent.
Fast forward to today and things have definitely changed. Travel agents find themselves facing an existential crisis because, for the modern traveler, organizing a trip has never been easier or more immediate. However, today’s travel experience still sports an unhealthy set of customer pain points. Heavy traffic, last minute flight rescheduling and worries about losing their luggage continue to plague today’s passengers.
This is where the digital world, with its endless possibilities for disruption, can create a hassle free travel experience that every person boarding their flight, train, cruise or cab hopes for. Digital technologies can enable a customer’s seamless transition between travel, work and life.
Here’s a video that gives you a look at the possibilities of digital technology making travel an integrated experience.
Taking the lead from the video, we will discuss three areas that the travel industry could focus their digital solutions on, towards an improved travel experience.
All our travels have a purpose that goes beyond embarking at Gate 2 in Bangalore and disembarking at Gate 4 in Mumbai. For every traveler’s purpose to reach fruition, they have to be treated to a journey solution. For example, integrating taxi services and hotel bookings as part of a ticket booking process, ties up loose ends and contributes to a holistic travel experience.
Another example of stress free travel could be an airline allowing you to ‘track’ your luggage. Technology has the potential to make your luggage status ‘inseparable’ from you by leveraging simple technologies. Companies like Serko, a leading online booking tool, believe that customers should be able to easily track their checked-in bags (as they would track their pizza) when they recently announced the launch of a baggage tracking feature for their customers.
There are travel brands who already offer everything from airlines to cabs and hotel services.They need to push for an even better customer experience.
For example, an airline could have a more direct and personalized relationship with its customers. Let’s say there is a traveler entering the airport for a rather early flight and she has about 30 minutes to kill before boarding her flight. Now, imagine her airline app recommending a breakfast counter based on her dietary preferences and the quickest route to it. The happy customer grabs a bite to eat and still makes it to boarding, on time.
Such an application redefines the scope and extent of intuitive technology. It goes beyond disjointed and one off instances. The cohesive collaboration brings together the traveler’s meal history, combines it with the fact that she skipped her breakfast and offers options that fit with her flight schedule, the airport topography and her restaurant preferences.
People are traveling more than ever before. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced global passenger traffic results for the full year of 2014, which indicated that demand (revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) had risen by 5.9% compared to the full year of 2013. This 2014 performance was above the 10 year average annual growth rate of 5.6% and the 5.2% experienced in 2013 and 2012.
With all the traveling people do these days, airports and planes have become serendipitous meeting places. Imagine making the most of this situation by having an airline foster connections and notify its passengers when an acquaintance, friend or colleague is nearby. Such integration could call for an application to dip into a customer’s social network, while scanning passenger lists of flights that are scheduled around the same time the customer’s is. This makes a chance meeting, not so chance anymore!
All of the above examples showcase how digital technologies can seamlessly provide for a user's everyday needs, even as their travel becomes ever incessant. They also draw attention to why it is important for businesses to exploit technology's disruptive potential.
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.