Arguably, three global trends are transforming the future of travel. These include shifting customer behavior, distribution evolution and the changing dynamics within direct and indirect sales channels and the digital transformation. At least this was the takeaway from a discussion at Arabian Travel Market.
One of the first issues discussed was that of fragmentation during the customer experience. “Industry stakeholders – providers, intermediaries and sellers – need to work together to complement each other’s roles and address the industry changes collectively,” said Fatin Said, Regional Communications Manager, Sabre Travel Network, Middle East.
Tabling the defining evolutions of hospitality technology, the panelists addressed the issues that are becoming increasingly prevalent throughout the Middle East travel industry, which continues to evolve, driven by high adaptation of the latest technologies and significant growth in the online space.
“We all need to recognize how data can be used intelligently across the sector to achieve personalization and how to recruit emerging technologies to improve the traveler experience. They need to work towards a less fragmented travel ecosystem,” added Mr Said.
Talking about customer expectations, he explained that it is no secret that today’s travelers want an optimal holistic experience. “They are accustomed to personalized offerings and services from other industries and expect a similar level of personalization, experience and flexibility. Consider Netflix – approximately 75 percent of what people watch is based on recommendation algorithms,” he said.
In a commissioned study that Sabre conducted in the UAE last year, it was found that 46 percent of UAE travelers are willing to be loyal to a brand if it provides them with personalized offers.
Mobile is also key to capturing people’s loyalty and winning the consumer game. Travel suppliers need to deploy advanced mobile and marketing strategies to serve the tech-savvy traveler, who expect to search and book on mobile. Travel players should be able to provide and offer travelers precisely what they want, when they want it, at every step of their trip on the device they choose, advised the panel.
The shift in consumer expectation is changing the landscape of travel distribution. Travel suppliers are increasingly looking for ways to differentiate their offerings – looking to market to travelers in new ways – to maximize their revenues. New standards, such as New Distribution Capability (NDC), are becoming increasingly adopted by airlines experimenting with their distribution strategies.
“NDC standards are just the beginning,” said Jorge Vilches, Senior Vice President – Air Line Business, at Sabre Travel Network.
“Our broad portfolio of retailing, distribution, fulfillment and data and analytic solutions, coupled with decision science allows us to take NDC to a new altitude. When a traveler goes to shop for an airline ticket, the airline is able to identify that person and their unique characteristics and can then sell directly to that person regardless of channel,” Mr Vilches said.