The UK travel industry has been urged to follow Japan’s example and adopt the mobile phone as a major mechanism for booking travel products.
Mobile phone service provider O2 travel manager Nancy Lyndhurst told delegates at the Travolution@WTM conference that booking travel on the mobile had become a serious proposition in Japan.
She said that on the i-Mode network alone, one travel agency takes a booking every five seconds, while one of the country’s airline gets 5% of its sales over the mobile.
Lyndhurst admitted there is some scepticism from European players, although KLM, Korean Air, Cathay Pacific and Accor Hotels have all started project to offer mobile bookings in Europe.
She told delegates mobiles can be used to support other distribution mechanism by giving people information during “downtime in the pub or on the train” which can then lead to booking through more traditional channels.
Lyndhurst though warned against underestimating the potential the mobile for booking travel highlighting it has a secure payment system illustrating by Lastminute.com taking a £3,000 booking over the mobile.
However, some companies’ legacy content management and back office systems aren’t compatible for mobile bookings.
Despite this Lyndhurst said: “Travel companies are much more interested in mobile than they where two years ago.”
Internet Advertising Bureau chief executive Guy Phillipson agreed mobiles would play an increasing important role in travel, however he saw them as “travel buddies” to help people make in-resort decisions.
Lastminute.com already offers a similar service where customers can search for leisure and entertainment options, for example restaurants, cinemas, based on where they are.
“The mobile is essential to the travel industry’s arsenal,” Phillipson said.
Phillipson, who used to work for Vodafone, added the mobile has great potential for travel companies to market to customers.