Technology. It’s all around us. It might be in your pocket right now – or it might even be how you are reading this article. The advances in mobile technology have revolutionised the way we live and the way we do business. The world of travel is no exception. Technology makes it possible for travel agents to work from anywhere, and for travellers to make changes to their itineraries at 35,000 feet.
There are the usual ways we think of technology assisting us when we travel, and then there are some more unusual concepts. Take, for instance, Spencer the Robot at the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. He can help guide wayward passengers to the right departure gate either by taking them there or giving them the guidance they need. Other airports are expected to follow suit soon.
Then there is the rise of the everyman hotel – Airbnb. Without mobile devices and the internet, Airbnb could not take off like it has, linking people with spare rooms to travellers looking for a more personal experience while travelling. Airbnb is so popular, there are more rooms available to rent there than you would find on Hilton.com. You can even rent islands through the service. To be certain, not as many people end up staying in Airbnb rooms each year as do in hotels, but 37 million people did use the service in 2015, and that number will only continue to grow.
Major hotel chains are also bringing travel technology to work for them. Hilton has pioneered a way for loyalty members to use their account and their smartphone to work together as their room keys, a step going way beyond other chains that currently let you check in on your phone much like the airlines do. While Hilton has only tested this concept in a few hotels thus far, expect to see it at a Hilton near you in the not too distant future.
Speaking of mobile check ins, airlines are constantly updating their apps that allow travellers to check in on their phones and create a QR code for their boarding pass, making the entire process completely paperless and more advanced than the self-check stations that seemed so radical when they were introduced 15 years ago. Passengers can even use their mobile devices to check seating availability for their flights and upgrade while waiting to board.
All of this is helped by wireless carriers lowering or eliminating their roaming charges, making it possible to connect for less. 4G phones are now the norm, and throughout the world they are revolutionising travel. They become travel guides that weigh next to nothing and instant information sources when you come across an historic site you want to learn more about.
Taxis are being supplanted by services like Lyft and Uber, which are completely handled by apps and the internet to match riders with drivers. Paying for taxi service and other services is being driven by mobile payment technology thanks to Apple Pay and Android Pay, services that let you leave your wallet behind and just use your phone to tap and go. Other credit card services and banks are catching on and introducing their own versions this year.
Airlines are tapping into the use of wi-fi and mobile devices to allow streaming of the in-flight videos on your personal device. The airlines are able to save some weight on their planes by removing the headrest screens, while still giving passengers entertainment to while away the miles.
Plus, if you need to make an itinerary change on the fly, so to speak, you can do that through the wi-fi on the plane. In-flight changes are no match for the power of travel technology on a mobile phone.
Corporate travel agents are appreciating the advances in technology by companies like TTS that give them booking solutions no matter where they are thanks to the mobile app. Since their clients can be anywhere in the world in any time zone, it makes sense that they need to have a way to help out even when they are not in the office.
The widespread availability of high-speed data means corporate travel agencies are able to make changes and book full trips fast, which is a major customer service bonus in these sometimes troubling times we now live in. Cloud storage gives travel agencies access to data no matter which branch needs to have it, and multi-stop trips are no problem at all. Converting trips with just flights into full packages is much easier with travel technology.
But more than that, TTS Corporate allows agents the ability to customize the service to meet their needs so they can use it how it best suits them and fits into their business practices. TTS Corporate also means that corporate travel agents are able to help their clients comply with their own company’s business travel policies, even when they are on the road.
It’s not just the leading economies that are capitalising on this trend, either. With the Olympics coming to Rio this year and economic conditions improving rapidly in South America, technology-based travel solutions are gaining in popularity. Overseas bookings through internet booking sites are proving to be a growth market for South America according to the Global Business Travel Association. This in turn is spurring further growth in the Latin American economy.
Technology growth is also enabling tourism to boom in the Middle East. Just Abu Dhabi and Dubai alone plan to have 125,000 hotel rooms available this year with nearly 80% occupancy rates. Nearly 50% of Middle Eastern travellers used their smartphones for all or some of their trips, and this number climbs to 85% when you look at business travellers as a unique segment.
The impact of technology on travel cannot be underestimated. It puts power and freedom into the hands of the masses, unlocking doors that once could not be opened, and unleashes untapped economic potential. The cost of travel is held steady and travel professionals have tools at their disposal that can help them make a real difference.