Use of mobile devices in travel has already hit a “critical mass” and will dominate the sector.
Google head of global travel accounts Bernd Fauser said: “Everything Google develops is developed first for mobiles. Mobiles are our focus.”
Speaking at German travel trade show ITB in Berlin, Fauser revealed a Google study in Europe found 10% of searches on travel were from mobile devices.
He said: “A lot of this is maps, but people are also looking for flights, a hotel room, car hire. Mobile use has hit critical mass and it hits all parts of travel.”
He said research suggests people browse on a mobile in the morning, use a desktop computer at work and return to online mobile use on Fridays and at the weekend. Fauser said: “The biggest day for [travel] bookings with a mobile is Friday – from a desktop, it is Monday.”
Mobiles appear to be most used close to the date of travel and while away. Fauser said 38% of mobile flight bookings are made within 10 days of departure, and he reported 70% of mobile hotel bookings made on the same day as clients check in.
However, Christian Boellhoff, chief executive of consultancy Prognos, questioned whether mobile use would extend to all travellers.
He said: “We have a travel landscape characterised by older citizens. The over-45s are not so familiar with technology. People of 70 will have problems.
“Will older people, who have the time to travel, think it’s a waste of time?” And he added: “I don’t have time to look at all this stuff, to learn it, to download it, to use it.”
TripAdvisor for Business president Christine Petersen said: “People will adapt so long as technology allows for using glasses.”
Elsewhere at ITB, Rolf Freitag, chief executive of German-based analyst IPK International, reported research showing 39% of outbound travellers in Europe own a smart phone, of whom more than half use it for location finding and 40% for destination information.
He said 30% of those with a smart phone use it to make booking changes during a trip and 25% check-in at airports using their phone.
However, he echoed Boellhoff’s doubts, saying: “There may be too much [technology] for great numbers of tourists. The day is only 24 hours.”