Increased mobile connectivity and the rise of digital devices will continue to drive emerging travel tech trends in the year ahead.
Thanks to new technology and 24/7 connectivity, travel brands, airlines and hotels must integrate new customer engagement strategies to maintain critical aspects of human interaction and ensure positive, personalized traveler experiences.
Here are five tech trends shaping the travel industry in 2017:
1. Humans will continue driving positive customer experiences
When “smart tech” fails, the concierge downstairs must step in to create a better, more personalized experience. Booking.com analyzed user data, travel reviews and other unique insights and found that 42 percent of travelers would not choose an accommodation that lacked friendly and helpful staff. Happy travelers are more likely to write reviews or tell their friends about the cool and easy hotel check-in process, and how helpful the agent on the phone was when they called for some extra help.
Although the age of smartphones and wearables allows 24/7 access to the web, that doesn’t mean human interaction will fall by the wayside, especially in the travel industry where experiences are at the center of everything. Authentic experiences are again becoming an important aspect of travel as technology continues to be integrated with booking, planning, creating and capturing great trips.
2. User device data will help travel brands create more personalized experiences
Today’s approach to connected travel also allows hotels, airlines and booking companies to collect insights from user devices to improve the overall experience. With technology quickly integrating into business, luxury and leisure travel, the importance of quality human interaction will be even more important.
3. Hotels, airlines and travel companies will invest in more powerful mobile apps
People can go anywhere in 24 hours with the tap of a finger, and today’s connected traveler wants instant gratification. According to Booking.com’s survey, 44 percent of travelers expect to be able to plan a trip with a few taps on their mobile phone, while 52 percent expect to increase their usage of travel apps in 2017.
Today’s traveler – millennials especially – want the ability to personalize their experience with one tap on their smartphone. This means airlines and hotels will continue building and improving powerful mobile apps to simplify booking and check-in, allowing guests to customize their experience during their trip or stay, and even providing destination information and reviews on local attractions.
4. AI and virtual assistants will become integrated in hotel travel
New developments in artificial intelligence, along with Google’s entrance into the travel apps market, means that “smart butlers” may be able to predict traveler needs and deliver services and amenities. Think: "OK Google" and "Hey Alexa" could soon be greeting you and sharing weather updates in your next hotel room.
5. Virtual reality will take travelers to a whole new world
Virtual reality has the power to truly change the travel industry by transporting people to another world. Emerging capabilities like virtual and augmented reality are on the brink of permeating nearly every aspect of daily life – including travel.
One rising tech startup has already introduced its robot butler to several leading hotel brands, including Marriott International and Starwood Hotels and Resorts. The robot is used to deliver small items such as toiletries and snacks to guest rooms. Hilton has also developed its own robot concierge, powered by artificial intelligence technology from IBM’s Watson.
The bottom line: Customer experience is ripe for the travel industry
According to a 2016 Tempkin report, customer experience ratings are declining across the board as the percentage of “good” and “excellent” companies across all industries dropped from 37 percent in 2015 to 18 percent in 2016. During the same time, companies with “poor” and “very poor” ratings grew from 28 percent to 46 percent.
While the drop in customer experience rating might be concerning for some organizations, a notable number of hotels, airlines and rental car companies actually outperformed their industries by 10 or more points. This means there is a promising future for the travel industry to continue creating positive, engaging customer experiences in 2017.
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