By Diane Bouzebiba, managing director of Amadeus UK and Ireland
The arrival of the internet delivered what was arguably the biggest revolution in travel since low-cost air travel. And now, with the number of mobile phones soon set to outstrip the number of people on the planet by the end of this year, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the advent of mobile technology has brought us to the beginning of the travel industry’s next major transformation.
Mobile technology will have a large part to play in giving travellers the freedom to book and manage travel wherever they happen to be; it will allow travellers to shape their travel experiences in ways relevant to their individual needs; and it will also let travel providers engage with travellers through every stage of their journey.
Today, holidaymakers and business travellers aren’t restricted to arranging their trips while sitting at a desk across from their travel agent or manager: the internet heralded a new age where travellers take the reins, and are then able to research and book their own travel.
Mobile technology is taking this trend to its logical conclusion: travellers are able to research a destination and book their travel from wherever they are; they are able to change the details of their flights or hotels through their phone or tablet, without ever having to talk to an agent.
New mobile applications, such as Amadeus AeTM Mobile, will further enable this, making it increasingly easy for both business and leisure travellers to have greater freedom, flexibility and control over their own travel plans.
Additionally, as mobile technology develops, it will allow travellers to shape their travel experiences in ways that are relevant to their individual needs. Familiarisation tools, such as intelligent translation services or applications that overlay information about locations such as airport terminals – letting people know its layout, or where the cash machines are situated – will enhance travellers’ journeys, and improve the ease and efficiency with which they can travel.
And we can expect that technology which tracks baggage in real-time, such as Amadeus’s Altéa Baggage Tracking, to become increasingly popular, enabling travellers to know precisely where their luggage is, and addressing the problem of mishandled baggage.
As well as familiarisation tools, mobile technology will be able to offer travellers different experiences once at their destinations. Game-based or augmented reality applications could make a qualitative difference to travel, such as the current apps that allow travellers to “see” where the Berlin wall once stood. Overlaying a destination with sights, sounds and facts about its history and culture will give people the chance to choose how they experience a location.
Thirdly, mobile technology means that travel providers are no longer limited as to where they are able to interact with their customers. Each point of the journey provides a potential opportunity to engage with the traveller: whether it’s the tracking of expenses that allows a business traveller to purchase approved ancillary services; real-time baggage updates and dynamic information about service disruption; or offering destination-based content once a traveller has arrived at their location, mobile technology offers travel providers a natural way to make the most of the interactions with their customers, and capitalise on this opportunity.
We’re currently only at the beginning of the transformation that mobile technology is making to our industry, and its potential and benefits are endless. Travellers’ expectations will change as fast as the technology: the challenge is not just to keep up, but to stay at least one step ahead – making now a hugely exciting time to be involved in the technology of travel.