2019 was certainly an action-packed year for the travel industry. With the launch of the world’s longest direct flight between Sydney and London amongst the highs, and the collapse of high profile brands such as Thomas Cook amongst the lows, there’s a lot for us to reflect on from the past year. So, what should travel companies be considering in 2020? Here are some of my thoughts:
- Tap into experiences to stay relevant: The travel experiences market has boomed, becoming a USD14.8bn-strong sector, with leaders including the likes of Airbnb which expanded its offering again by launching ‘Adventures’. Consumers now want to be able to book experiences, alongside holidays, flights and hotels at the time of their first booking, as well as in-trip. Companies wanting to capitalise on this trend will need to provide customers with the convenience, flexibility, and diverse experiences options they want.
- Invest in mobile and data to drive engagement: Whether making a quick booking, receiving notifications on travel disruptions, or using voice search, most consumers would be lost without their mobile devices. Travellers increasingly want to book on their terms (instant and with preferred payment method) and have up-to-date information at their fingertips. With Travelport finding that 85% of people are more likely to book a trip with a brand that had a good mobile user experience, travel companies should invest in technologies to deliver the slick experiences consumers expect, use data-rich insights captured to inform future tactics, and have efficient B2B processes to underpin them.
- Protect against supplier default: As the industry grows, so too does its volatility and competition. We’ve seen this increased pressure on businesses cause many well-known brands to file for bankruptcy in just the last year alone, including Thomas Cook and WOW Air. It’s important that travel organisations take a proactive approach to safeguard themselves – and their customers – from the potential of future supplier and partner failures.
- Keep on top of fraudulent tactics: Cyber criminals are increasingly targeting travel businesses with their scams, given the rise in bookings and payments being made by consumers online and via mobile. With attacks expected to cost the travel industry more than US$25 billion in 2020, travel companies must ensure they have steps in place to protect sophisticated and persistent cybercriminals, and processes to aid recover should they fall victim.
In just the first few weeks of 2020, we’ve already seen major stories break that will impact the travel industry in some shape or form. For example, the Travelex breach, the rescue of European airline Flybe, the bushfires in Australia and the new virus in China as people in the region begin to travel to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The year ahead is sure to test the travel industry. But one thing travel companies can be sure of is that investing in back-end processes will be critical to supporting innovation and protecting their business.