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2019 Trends in Travel Technology: What will be BIG this year?

February 4, 2019
Mike Croucher
Mike Croucher

In 2019, travelers have more travel options at their fingertips than they’ve ever had before – from transportation and accommodations to entertainment and extras that provide a memorable, “Instagram-worthy” trip. At Travelport, we share our customers’ focus on traveler experiences and we work behind the scenes to build solutions that will enable travel managers, corporate travel companies and online booking agencies to provide the seamless, end to end experience we know travelers want.

Travelers today are increasingly able to build their own trip itineraries, encompassing airplanes, trains, cars and other ground transportation options. They are able to do this for each leg of their journey to suit their schedule and budget, all within a single platform. This includes the travel options available once they reach their destination, like a tram in Brussels or a trolley in San Francisco. Travelers are also frequently communicating details of their trip plans across the digital channels they use every day, such as email and calendars. As a result, there lies an opportunity to further simplify their experience by going where the customer is to engage and inspire them.

At Travelport, we believe that by applying new technologies to the travel booking experience, we can eliminate points of frustration for travelers, making travel a truly customer-centric experience.

1. Systems of engagement: Taking travel to the traveler

As over 70% of the content shared on Instagram is travel related, the social media platform is one of the most powerful tools in the world for providing travel inspiration. But if you’re being inspired by Instagram, why not use Instagram to book your next trip, too? We’ve partnered with easyJet to offer the first ‘look and book’ booking tool within the easyJet app, enabling a traveler to upload a photograph from Instagram and receive details of the best route to their destination-of-dreams.

We’re not stopping there, either. Through a proof of concept with our partner, Tata Consultancy Service (TCS) we’re planning to roll out a travel booking capability within some of the digital tools that many of us spend hours each day using, like Microsoft Outlook. The majority of business travel details, such as meeting times, locations and the number of attendees, are often mentioned in emails and on calendar blocks. The capability we're building will help ensure the best options are presented to a traveler within their existing workspace. This will ensure travelers get to their destination in time for meetings or events  in a convenient way.

2. Continuation of blockchain for travel: Planning, management and real ROI

Blockchain technology and distributed digital ledgers will continue driving travel innovation in 2019. We believe that in certain use cases, blockchain has the potential to provide travel managers and agencies real ROI. Last year, we described the opportunity to enhance travel planning by incorporating in-destination tours and activities (i.e., “long tail content”), which we know travelers want as they look for insta-worthy moments during a trip without having to make multiple bookings, as additional options within a single booking. With our technology partner IBM, we’ve proven the concept that using blockchain enables us to overcome the fragmented supply chain within travel and incorporate smaller in-destination suppliers into our platform. As we continue to work with IBM on this capability, we remain dedicated to helping agencies get closer to the ability to sell an entire trip, activities and entertainment included, within a single booking.

This year, we’re also working with IBM to provide our agency customers with real ROI from hotel fulfillment. Currently, a large percentage of commissions owed to agencies from hotels for guests’ stays are getting lost or going unpaid due to the manual processes required to fulfill hotel commission settlements. With travelers having endless options for accommodations, a booking alone is not enough to provide a commission to an agent. The hotel must verify that the traveler actually stayed at the hotel; and since the process of confirming the check-in, length of stay and commissions owed is manual, a high percentage of commissions owed often get delayed, or lost – and go unpaid completely. Alongside IBM, we’ve proven that blockchain capabilities enable us to automate the hotel settlement process to ease burdens, improve fulfillment accuracy and ensure agencies receive commissions owed.

With our technology partners TCS, Travelport is exploring how it can better manage digital travel assets, such as flight bookings, hotel bookings, ground transport reservations, tours, or any travel experience, on and off a blockchain. Various travel suppliers and start-ups are experimenting with blockchain and distributed ledger solutions for creating these types of reservations. We have created a proof of concept called the ‘Digital Traveller Wallet’ which can securely store and transact blockchain and non-blockchain based reservations. The Digital Traveller Wallet mobile app allows the traveler to securely manage, transfer, redeem and modify their travel booking, regardless of the source.

In the future Travelport believes that the customer experience will be underpinned by blockchain inspired technologies that provide the capability to link multiple content sources in the travel supply chain in a secure and transparent fashion, simplifying the booking and management experiences for agents and travelers.

3. Virtual reality and the inspirational marketplace for travel

We’re already seeing how innovations in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will provide agencies a unique opportunity to help travelers determine where they want to go and how they want to get there by virtually taking them to beaches, hotels and restaurants across numerous locations before they ever board a flight. As Gen-Z, who have grown up using this kind of VR technology in everyday life, become the travelers of today, not tomorrow, we see the demand for travel inspiration in VR headsets continue to grow. With our technology partner TCS, we’re already working on developing a platform that would allow users to upload VR and 3D content to provide this kind of life-like research and planning experience for travelers.

At the start of 2019, we’re really excited about the way we see technology putting the traveler first. We’ve transitioned into a world where the traveler is inspired to travel when, where and how they choose through whichever means they prefer. At Travelport, we’ve dedicated ourselves to building the technology required to support the era of customer-centric travel. This will enable travel managers and agencies to go where their customer is, making the process of buying and managing travel continually better for everyone.