by Rob Golledge, head of marketing communications and Amadeus UK
Travel is sometimes, albeit incorrectly, decried as being impersonal.
Increased automation tends towards standardisation but that doesn’t mean delivering a one-size-fits-all approach to moving people from A to B.
Travel providers and software developers are realising that travellers value, and are willing to pay for, a more customisable journey.
They now expect a personalised, end to end travel experience – one designed by them to reflect their own wants and needs.
Some travellers, for example, might only consider a trip to be a positive experience if they have video on-demand while on the go.
Others might prioritise a comfortable pre-flight experience, requesting a chauffeur to drive them to the airport or railway station where they will enjoy first-class lounge access.
Still others might want a speedy trip, beginning their travels, with fast track security checks, and priority boarding.
At Amadeus we commissioned the Amadeus Business Travel Insights 2014 report, appropriately subtitled “Business Travel Gets Personal.”
We spoke to over 400 people in the UK and Ireland who travel regularly for business, to gain insight into their preferences.
Efficiency was highlighted as being the top priority for business travellers.
While in previous years, travellers may have looked for more luxurious hotel surroundings, many now prefer a trip focused on allowing them to do business as quickly and efficiently as possible.
For example, travellers want to stay as close as possible to their meeting or conference location to save time and increase networking opportunities.
Technology providers can use technology to meet this demand, for example by allowing travellers to shop and book accommodation from a map display or to pro-actively suggest the location of a meeting by pre-calculating the most affordable and convenient nearby hotels to a particular location.
The second priority for travellers is connectivity, especially the ability to maintain high-speed connections to the internet and corporate network while on the go.
This is closely linked to the third priority, which is the ability to continue to work productively while travelling.
Businesses are increasingly less likely to accept travel as “down time”, and we are seeing connectivity on-the-go increasingly regularly. WiFi on planes for example, is now a reality.
There is an opportunity for travel providers to take these needs into account during the research and booking stages by identifying where such facilities are offered so, for example, they can book a table seat with a power socket on a train, or secure access to an airport lounge where high speed WiFi is available.
Ancillaries, or added extras such as the provision to purchase an airport lounge pass to stretch out in comfort, are key components of the personalised travel experience – whether for business or leisure travel.
A recent report by Amadeus on airline merchandising found that 26% of travellers are more likely to respond to messages tailored to fit personal interests.
While everyone will have different needs, our Business Insights report found there are certain ancillaries more popular than others: approximately 10% of women said they always booked extra luggage allowances (you decide whether that says more about packing habits or stingy luggage allowances) and 9% of all business travellers surveyed would pre-purchase extra legroom seats at the right price.
Airlines such as easyJet should be commended for their willingness to sell ancillary services through travel intermediaries as well as via direct channels.
The scope of travel arranging is widening into a more 360-degree trip planning activity.
For example, the ability to book through to the final destination (such as adding a taxi transfer to the hotel) can help maximise efficiency and traveller security in unfamiliar locations.
As travellers push for more available options, we will increasingly see different modes of transport link to offer an end-to-end solution that accounts for all legs of the journey.
Smartphones will come into play here too, allowing travellers to book ground transfers or outlining the best way to reach a final destination even after the journey has commenced.
The role of technology
Technology is a key element in offering travellers a more personalised, customisable experience.
The booking process is changing, and more travellers expect to be able to amend their bookings with ease.
More than half of business travellers (51%) needed to make changes to their travel plans before departure; 22% had to make three or more itinerary changes.
Only 43% of travellers we surveyed have the ability to use a self-booking tool to amend their booking; most rely on their TMC or corporate travel department to make the change.
As travellers increasingly need to amend their bookings, there will likely be a shift toward them doing so autonomously, particularly as mobile booking platforms are further developed.
Another aspect where technology can help is by bringing disparate content together into a single view.
This is what Amadeus has done with its new hotels market place platform, for example.
Because the artificial boundaries between leisure and business travel are blurring – business travellers are researching and booking trip components on consumer websites.
Even if they’re not booking them on leisure sites, they do want a user-friendly consumer experience using corporate self-booking tools and portals.
That’s why you’ll find bed-bank hotel aggregators in Amadeus e-Travel Management side by side the traditional business chains such as Marriott and budget chains like Premier Inn. This kind of content integration means the shopping options are huge – 690,000 and counting.
Ninety-six percent of travellers say they like business trips or don’t mind travelling for business.
As travellers’ needs are diversifying, providers are increasingly seeing meeting their needs as a way to differentiate.
Whatever the traveller wants, allowing them easy access to it – within reason – should be a priority for travel providers and software developers.
Personalised travel will help to ensure people continue to enjoy travelling and view it as a pleasurable experience.