Amadeus director of communications Daniel Batchelor highlights the trends that will transform travel

This year will usher in a new decade and it’s set to be a momentous one for the travel industry.

Digital technology continues to advance at a rapid pace. In the short term, we will see technology enhancing and, ultimately, changing experiences at every stage of the traveller journey.

Technology has changed the way travel companies connect with the consumer, creating a 24/7 relationship before, during and after each trip.

According to Amadeus’ own research, 86% of travellers value personalised offers.

Super apps, virtual reality (VR) and human-machine interaction are just three of the trends we believe will dominate the industry in 2020.

The technology revolution

Traveller loyalty will be a major battleground in 2020, with technology a key differentiator. Travel brands will need to invest in technology to connect with customers personally, winning their loyalty in new ways and lowering acquisition costs.

Both artificial intelligence (AI) and VR will be crucial in gaining customer support and speed, autonomy and simplicity.

Many airlines, such as Delta Air Lines and Malaysian Airlines, have been trialling direct bookings and communication with AI chatbots via text and WhatsApp for a few years now, but 2020 promises more inventive innovations in this space.

Likewise, as VR headsets become more affordable, travel companies are starting to use VR more and more – even bringing travel to those who might not be able to go abroad.

Expedia now offers virtual reality tours, while TUI pilots use augmented reality (AR) on excursions and activities.

In 2017, Amadeus company Navitaire launched the world’s first VR travel search and booking experience. VR can truly enhance travel, challenging tradition with a sensory and revolutionary experience.

With so much choice there for travellers, travel brands need to be smarter than ever about how they target consumers, and technology will be key to their success.

Talking on the traveller’s level

In 2019 more than 40% of travel was booked wholly online. From bookings to payment, travel companies need to think mobile-first in all they do.

Among younger generations and in emerging economies, the smartphone has usurped the laptop as the travel research, booking and content-sharing platform of choice – 40% of Instagram users view ‘instagrammability’ as one of the top factors in selecting a vacation destination.

A few brands are already doing this well. Carnival is buying ads targeted to appear when Pinterest users search on keywords that rookie cruise-goers are most likely to use.

Ctrip’s Instagram-like platform links booking capabilities to the posts and attracts one million viewers a month.

Voice software is also predicted to play a key role in the 2020 customer experience as a major shift is taking place between human and computer action. We see it in our everyday lives with voice assistants in our homes and on our mobiles, but in the travel sector the customer experience will be transformed during 2020.

Already, easyJet is rolling out voice-activated technology to make the booking process more accessible, and the Marriot hotel group is increasing guest access to amenities via Echo devices.

These features come together in super apps – a single app that includes multiple apps – which are set to grow significantly in popularity in 2020.

These apps are currently huge in Asia and enable users to connect to social media, shop, order food or taxis, buy tickets, book rooms, and more.

Apps including Line, KakaoTalk, Grab and Go-Jek are expanding functionality to target business travellers and Western tech giants are getting in on the act, integrating Facebook Messenger, Google Maps and more.

Overall, we can expect mobile content and apps to develop further as 5G networks and devices become more prevalent.

The changing traveller

Technology provides unprecedented support for travellers – predicting behaviour, anticipating potential problems and providing solutions. However, people still prefer to deal with people.

A recent report by hospitality group IHG and Amadeus found that, across every area of the travel experience – from ordering a taxi to making a complaint – people prefer to interact with hotel staff rather than use a self-service option.

Travellers are changing – 2020 will be the year of the conscious traveller and companies are adapting their offers to reflect this.

From reducing plastic in hotels, to creating sustainably focused package holidays, consumers are being offered a wide choice when it comes to an eco-stay and are starting to hold companies accountable if they don’t meet requirements.

The evidence supports this. According to Abta, 35% of travellers would select one organisation over another based on environmental records alone, and research found 71% of travellers think companies should offer more sustainable travel choices.

At the same time, the singles population – those never married and those divorced – is rising globally and their needs as travellers are growing.

UK searches for solo travel have increased by 143% in the past three years while almost one in four Americans (22%) say they would travel alone.

Travelling solo does not necessarily mean travelling alone and hospitality brands need to adjust their offer to meet these needs. For example, many in the cruise industry are abolishing the singles supplement.

Overall, 2020 is set to be a year of change for the travel industry. As the relationship between humans and machines develops, the most successful brands will be those that can prove they understand their audiences inside out using permissioned data and build personalised, tailored offerings for them.

At Amadeus, we’ll be working with partners and customers around the world to tackle these changes head on.

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