For the past 16 years I have lived and worked in the gap between emerging technologies and the travel industry. A consistent pattern has developed. A new technology emerges; consumer behavior changes and the travel industry tries to catch up. This was true with the birth of the Web in mid 1990s where travel companies first thought of the platform as a way to deliver electronic brochures. At that time there were few travel companies that employed Web or e-commerce experts, but instead relied on 3rd party Internet companies to develop their Web presence.
Fast forward to 2011 and it is rare to find a travel company who does not employ a Director or VP of e-commerce. But the pace of technological change continues to accelerate and the gap that exists today is in the creation and execution of a comprehensive mobile strategy.Though many travel companies are now employing new staff who often have dual responsibility for mobile and social media, most travel companies are still relying on 3rd party developers for their mobile solution. There is nothing wrong with employing a 3rd party expert, after all I act as a subject matter expert on emerging technologies for many of Travel Tech’s consulting engagements. The problem lies in the gap of understanding about the fine points of the travel industry. This is particularly true for mobile companies that provide services across multiple vertical industries. For example how will mobile and the emerging tablet platforms impact the current distribution battle between the airlines and the OTAs. How will mobile help suppliers such as airlines and hoteliers to become full fledged online retailers? How can travel companies use mobile technology to deliver the right information to the right customer at the right time? What departments of the airline, hotelier, OTA or TMC need to be involved in creation of next generation mobile apps?
The complexities of the travel industry are often missed by non-industry players. We in the industry all know that just being a frequent traveler does not make you a travel industry expert. The vast majority of current mobile travel apps lack true innovation and often reflect the same functionality on the company’s Website. Some travel companies haven’t even re-formatted their Website for the Mobile Web, the first step in any mobile strategy. Few applications truly take advantage of all three key mobile elements – location, personalization and context.
And now we are entering the year of the tablet wars. With over 100 tablets coming to market this year, how will these new platforms reshape the travel experience? What types of applications actually take advantage of the immersive nature of these emerging platforms? As part of my subcontracting relationship with PhoCusWright, I am the lead analyst on the new special report entitled Mobile Hits the Mainstream. This new report will explore these issues and more as we fill the knowledge gap for our sponsors and help them execute a more comprehensive mobile strategy. I encourage you to consider sponsoring this special report to help your travel company fill the gaps of knowledge that inhibit mobile travel innovation.