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15 travel tech influencers predict the top mobile travel trends

February 27, 2020

2020 is well underway. But with the bulk of the year still to go, understanding what's going to matter in the world of mobile travel this year is still essential.

Travel brands need to monitor the rise of super apps which connect multiple apps and capabilities into one all-encompassing platform. And while this promises a more seamless travel (and customer) experience, whether super apps take off in the West as they have in the East remains to be seen.

Aside from the super app question, we can see voice technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated. And with Generation Z making up a bigger cohort of business travelers with each passing year, travel retailers need to look at how they’re delivering the experiences these young consumers demand and expect.

To find out more about what this means for mobile travel trends, we went straight to travel industry peers and the travelers who are setting the trends with their needs and expectations. You will find everything we uncovered here.

But that’s not all. We also approached influencers in the wider business travel community and asked them for their take on what will be shaping the mobile travel industry in 2020. The question was a simple one, "What do you think is going to be the next big thing in 2020, for the world of mobile travel?" - and the answers were in-depth and revealing.

From connected experiences, and mobile wallet to hyper-personalization, there's a lot to get excited about. So grab a cup of coffee and dive in.

Mobile will unlock personalized experiences

Dennis SchaalDennis Schaal, Executive Editor and Founding Editor at Skift LinkedIn

Dennis is a business and consumer editor, columnist and reporter covering online, mobile, social travel, and technology. He is a specialist in all things travel with a B2B twist.

Expect to see airlines round out the offerings in their mobile apps with an emphasis on self-service and personalization. Delta is keen on having SkyMiles members being able to upgrade their seats from the app, and wants to tailor all kinds of offerings based on flyer preferences.

Your smartphone is your wallet

Aurélie KrauAurélie Krau, Consultant & Public Speaker, Festive Road LinkedIn

Aurelie is an established commenter, and is frequently a keynote speaker and panelist on topics such as travel technology, innovation, NextGen/millennials, and future of work at many in major business/travel conferences and industry events

“The payment knight rises”. Your smartphone unlocks seamless experiences. And this knight has a name - the digital wallet. Say bye-bye to plastic! Imagine a world where your “wallet” is always with you; where you pay for travel services (public transports, restaurant, snacks, ride, accommodation, flights) with your smartphone, either in-store utilizing contactless payment with your smart device’s near field communication (NFC) capability or in-app, leveraging your mobile wallet. This digital/virtual payment world eradicates cumbersome reconciliation and expense processes, it removes the friction from on-trip business travel expenditure.

2020 will set the path for this new payment reality as the challenges to mass adoption start to be overcome and the most innovative vendors move to digital payment as the norm.

Super apps will enable seamless travel

Charlie liCharlie li, Founder & CEO, TravelDaily China & LinkedIn

With 20+ years of experience in China’s airline and online travel industry, Charlie li is the founder of and These brands comprise China’s leading online publisher and events organizer, and focus on distribution marketing and technology developments in the travel and tourism industry.

With the wide adoption of mobile devices, super apps will become a powerful force in terms of trip planning and booking as more and more travelers are looking for seamless travel. As a result, the competition in the tours and activities sector will soon heat up as big OTA players, hotels, and share accommodations are stepping into this market. But differentiation is always the golden rule to win over in this game.

Passengers want to be in control via their mobiles

Muhammad Ali AlbakriMuhammad Ali Albakri, Regional Vice President Africa & Middle East, IATA LinkedIn

Currently working as the Regional Vice President Africa and the Middle East at International Air Transport Association (IATA), Muhammad has more than 30 years of hands-on experience in Information & Communication Technologies, corporate strategies and transformation and also in Aviation Finance.

Insights from our 2019 IATA Global Passenger survey shed light on mobile travel trends predicted for 2020. We found that passengers want much more control and less waiting throughout their journeys. This is facilitated by real-time access to information on their mobile phones. Most travelers (72%) said they want to be kept informed throughout their journey on their personal devices. Millennials also prefer to use their mobiles for almost all aspects of travel, including paying with a wallet on their smart devices

Customers want more from their travel experiences, one-size-fits-all will no longer work

Joseph WangJoseph Wang, Chief Commercial Officer, Travel Daily China LinkedIn

Having 20+ years of experience working within the travel industry, Joseph Wang joined TravelDaily China as Chief Commercial Officer in September 2014. Prior to that, he was Senior Director of Hotel Business Unit at from 2009, focusing on hotel direct sales.

Whether in mature markets such as Europe, North America, Japan, and South Korea, or in booming markets like China, India, and Indonesia, an unprecedented revolution is underway in terms of what customers expect from experiences. This revolution is likely to be one of the main drivers of future growth and development in the travel industry.

However, the fact is that the radical transformation faced by traditional travel companies – such as hotels, airlines, and travel agencies – has placed them under more pressure than ever before. The hotel and airline industry has invested less than many other industries in digital transformation and new technology adoption, while travel agencies’ level of investment in digital transformation is even smaller.

Taking China as an example – as China’s economic development and spending power have increased, it is evident that the country’s travelers are increasingly demanding for travel experiences. The travel industry must move from the one-size-fits-all methodology to a more refined approach, optimize every touch point, and get to details right at every stage. Companies can appeal to travelers’ receptiveness to technology by enhancing their products and services in a technology focused manner that satisfies travelers’ demand for greater personalization.”

“Connected consciousness”

Ian CummingIan Cumming, Founder, Travel Massive LinkedIn

Ian is the Founder of Travelmassive, the world’s largest tourism community, connecting thousands of people who love traveling to learn and collaborate around the world at free events. As an avid traveler himself, Ian regularly speaks at industry events providing insights and inspiration with his passion and knowledge.

The year 2020 will see a new age of mobile called the “connected consciousness” — where apps and services inform, recommend, and connect people in an always-connected state. The ever-growing popularity of subscriptions and in-app purchases will shift consumers towards “journey-based” travel apps that are always-on and ready to serve us. Google Maps will aim to be the "super app" of mobile travel but will struggle to embrace open innovation as they try to protect their old-age ad-revenues — opening up opportunities for new players.

Sustainable travel will increase in 2020

Carl NicholsCarl Nichols Managing Director, the resourcing hub LinkedIn

Carl is the Managing Director of the resourcing hub, a UK based technology recruitment consultancy. Carl has a keen interest in disruptive, transformational technologies and is a proud Tech Talent Charter signatory with a strong commitment to inclusion and diversity.

A key issue for both current and future generations is the environment and consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact frequent travelers might have on our planet.

Therefore I think that we will see even more sustainability-minded mobile travel apps and websites appear in 2020. Travelers that want to be able to explore the world and still manage their carbon footprint will be interested in digital resources that offer them functionality such as finding flights with the lowest C02 emissions or locating sustainably sourced, seasonal food.

This ‘green’ thinking is more than just a trend and something aviation and travel industry operators should pay close attention to in order to protect both their reputation and bottom line.

“Deep digital”

Kevin O’ShaughnessyKevin O’Shaughnessy, Founder/CEO, Cityhook/Indigo LinkedIn

With a background in software development for mobile and web applications, Kevin is the CEO and co-founder or Cityhook, the search and booking platform for airport to city transportation. With a keen interest in the travel industry, Kevin is also a chapter leader for Travel Massive in Dublin.

Time for "deep digital". Beneath the surface of amazing guest experiences are great operations. Until now, an airline could keep up appearances by delivering essential services such as booking and check-in in a lightweight mobile app. The guest of 2020 and beyond will expect more seamless touch-points to be brought to mobile from different parts of the organization. Change seats during boarding? Bag tracking? Aircraft tracking? Gate information and services? Upgrades? Truly integrated ancillaries? Your own customer journey studies will show how meaningful all other aspects of the trip are for your guest.

To be good at mobile means getting "booking" right. To be great requires every relevant part of the journey to be digital, and to deliver these requires the entire organisation — everyone from ops to support and all the third party providers — to be digital-ready.

Travel by design

Robert W. Mann, Jr.Robert W. Mann, Jr.,President & CEO, RWMann LinkedIn

Bob is a former airline executive officer, who founded and has operated as Principal of his airline and travel industry analysis and consulting firm. They specialize in the identification, development, and implementation of structural improvements to productivity, operations, process and distribution efficiency, and enterprise profitability.

Travel will become increasingly self-service, by design, in more and more facets of the business.

Travel suppliers will disintermediate and reduce staff contacts (and staffing levels), enabling customers deep insight to, and self-service control over, formerly opaque and agent contact-dependent front and back-end processes.

For example:

  • Airlines - self-service lounge access; self-service status and paid upgrades, seat changes and check-in; self-service baggage tracking and redelivery when mishandled; self-service flight re-accommodation for mis-connects and in IROPS
  • Hotels - self-service room and amenities selection; self-service check-in and check-out using phone/NFC room keying.

Conversational commerce

Norm RoseNorm Rose, President & Founder, Travel Tech Consulting LinkedIn

A 38 year travel industry veteran with experience in all sectors of the industry, Norm is President and founder of Travel Tech Consulting, Inc. (TTCI) and is a recognized leader on how emerging technologies impact the global travel industry.

It is often surprising to me that as we approach 2020, many companies still view mobile as a customer touchpoint rather than a foundational platform for the connected traveler. Though most will concede that mobile devices are used for planning, many ignore the move to mobile bookings as a sign that the platform is actually replacing other channels. This is particularly true in parts of the world where mobile usage has become the primary device, leapfrogging the use of desktop/laptop computers which never were fully embraced.

Conversational commerce is also a major mobile trend. Rather than defining this trend simply as chatbots, true conversational commerce will enable a deeper understanding of a traveler’s needs through the combination of AI driven chatbots and human interactions via chat. In a world where personalization is a major buzzword, true personalization can only be achieved by understanding the persona of the traveler for a given trip. That persona can only be determined through conversational commerce which will play a key role in delivering more customized content.

Mobile as travel concierge

Daniel FriedliDaniel Friedli, Managing Director and Partner, Travel in Motion GmbH LinkedIn

Daniel is a solution-driven travel industry consultant with deep knowledge of the passenger airline and consumer travel domain. As Managing Director and Partner at Travel in Motion, he aims to drive change in the airline, travel and learning industries.

The potential of mobile in the travel industry is undisputed. It should be my concierge, my assistant for travel. To date, few companies in the travel industry have taken full advantage of the potential of the one channel which almost guarantees constant communication with the customer. While everyone has an app, how many are really, really good? How many let the user easily do what they want and need? How many focus on the user experience as opposed to just offering functionality? I challenge the travel industry to do better – to be brilliant and strive for (app) excellence!

A trusted, mobile-only companion

Philippe Der ArslanianPhilippe Der Arslanian, CEO, Answair LinkedIn

Visionary digital, merchandising, and NDC leader with an entrepreneurial spirit, Phillippe is currently the CEO of Answair, which provides strategic consulting services to airlines.

For an app to really stick, personalization won’t cut it anymore. On the day of departure, palms sweaty from stress, travelers need more than a relevant lounge access discount as they walk across the VIP area - they need a trusted companion who can also reassure them and engage emotionally. Further, mobile travel is set to overtake the web and end up as a true superset of what websites offer today. Beyond responsiveness and mobile-first approaches, mobile-only will become the main strategic vector to transform experiences from utilitarian tools into savvy assistants helping travelers through each decisive moment.

Google, the next big travel brand?

Paul ByrnePaul Byrne, Vice President - Business Development, OpenJaw Technologies LinkedIn

Paul is the Vice President of Business Development at OpenJaw Technologies, a global leader in delivering travel retailing technology and services to the travel industry.

As 2020 approaches and we ponder the next big thing in mobile travel for 2020, the canary in the coal mine was the firing of Expedia’s CEO, Mark Okerstrom. In his last earnings’ call, he mentioned that the brand was seeing 'a continued shift of essentially the free links further down the page and ultimately a shift of traffic from the SEO channel over to Google's flight metasearch or hotel metasearch over time.’ He had seen the writing on the wall.

Let’s look at Google: the search engine has the dominant position because it offers better product – particularly on mobile. They have captured the lion’s share of search, using the majority of mobile ‘real estate’. As Ben Evans of tech blog, Stratechry, writes ‘Google has a hotel module that is genuinely useful! You have a map of the city with prices of various hotels, an opportunity to specify your dates, and several options to click through on. Everything in the hotel module is an ad or paid-inclusion’.

The next big thing in mobile travel is simple: how can travel brands capture the customer and more of the value that Google is taking away from them?

Hyper-personalization will be a key theme for 2020

Michael RomillyMichael Romilly, Founder/Head of Marketing, Waracle LinkedIn

Over the past decade, Michael has co-founded multiple technology start ups, one being Waracle, which is now the largest mobile and digital products specialist in the UK. Michael is passionate about data-driven marketing and emerging technology.

The travel industry is now one of the largest and fastest growing sectors in the world, and to some extent this is being driven by new and emerging technologies. These technologies include AR/VR, AI, and intelligent automation, robotics, wearables, and voice, to name but a few. As a new generation of 'mobile-first' travelers come of age, there's never been a better time for travel companies to take advantage of the incredible potential that these technologies have to offer.

Against a wider backdrop of political and environmental uncertainty, the travel industry continues to thrive and is predicted to create 100 million new jobs in the next decade. Some of the key themes for 2020 will include leveraging AR and VR to optimize passenger experience, using AI and machine learning to enhance security and the onset of hyper-personalized service.

Hyper-personalization will be a key theme moving forward. For example, airlines can use seat sensors to track passenger data such as temperature, sleep activity or heart rate and deliver services that are tailored to individual passengers based on their own unique, personal circumstances.

Moving forward, voice technology will also play a crucial role, particularly for generation Z, who will use a 'voice-first' approach for searching travel information and making bookings. Facial recognition and biometrics will also start to emerge as a means of enhancing passenger experience.

Omnichannel is everything

Timothy O'Neil-DunneTimothy O'Neil-Dunne, Principal at 777 partners and Co Founder of Air Black Box Company ltd LinkedIn

A long time travel industry enthusiast, with over 40 years of experience in the travel and distribution technology industry. Timothy has founded a number of companies including VaultPAD Ventures an accelerator exclusively focused on the aviation travel tourism and leisure sectors and Air Black Box an award winning Aviation and Travel Software company.

For 2020 and beyond my thoughts on the evolution of travel is that “mobile” is no longer either “THE” or even “A” thing. Everything is digital and omnichannel. The final barriers to all digital are the payment and settlement functions. Our focus is on looking at how we can improve real time payments and reduce those remaining significant costs associated and other infrastructure challenges. We are being active in the OneOrder space now that momentum is being achieved with NDC. Ultimately, we want to give the customer the true seamless experience not the “faked” versions that have existed for so long.

So how can we summarise the feedback from our thought leaders? Mobile is still big news, but it’s no longer just a channel to reach your customer, it’s now a mindset. Travelers want, and indeed expect, the ease, seamlessness and immersion of a mobile-first experience when it comes to their travel. Just like they do in all other areas of their lives.

For more related insights, articles and downloadable content, visit our Travel Trends 2020 hub here.

Mobile Travel Trends 2020

See the experts take on how mobile travel is shaping up in 2020