Gone are the days when travel providers alone shaped the travel experience. With the rise of digitization and the widespread adoption of mobile technologies, people on the move now expect to tap into a wealth of personalized information and services from a wide variety of sources at every stage of their trip – without having to switch between apps.
Going forward, this kind of real-time, one-stop access to actionable facts, figures, and advice will become pivotal in the travel space. But to make this seamlessness a reality and reap the associated business benefits, travel players must first master a number of challenges around data sharing, data privacy, and interenterprise collaboration.
End-to-End Information and Insight
From up-to-the-minute traffic information on the way to the airport, to real-time notifications on gates, waiting times, and flight delays, right through to baggage tracking at the destination, today’s passengers want a wealth of actionable information at their fingertips. Location-based services (LBS), coupled with widely used tech like GPS, Wi-Fi, RFID, and Bluetooth beacons offer highly effective ways of providing travelers with data of this kind.
And this is not some far-off ideal: These technologies are already delivering tangible benefits for passengers, airlines, and retailers alike. The following are just two examples of LBS in action:
At Munich Airport, Lufthansa uses Bluetooth beacons to make passengers aware of special offers and provide a range of services, including booking and buying access to the airline’s business lounge.
Likewise, at London’s Heathrow Airport, Virgin Atlantic trialed beacon technology designed to enhance passengers’ experience by helping them find shorter lines and access electronic boarding passes, as well as offering services such as currency exchange information.
How Your Journey Can Come Apart at the Seams
But while the combination of wireless tech and LBS can deliver valuable information wherever and whenever it’s needed, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee the seamlessness that today’s travelers crave. To understand why this is the case, consider the following scenario.
Your plane has just touched down at an unfamiliar airport and you’d like to spend some time in the lounge before going on to your connecting flight. You click the link to the lounge in the airline’s app on your smartphone, but all you get is an error message. The problem? The separate systems run by the lounge operator and the airline are not talking to each other. Of course, you could always fire up your browser and call up the lounge operators’ website – but that’s hardly seamless information access.
Pooling Data from Disparate Sources
Even apparently minor glitches like this can seriously disrupt the travel experience. To achieve true seamlessness, the data collected and siloed by a wide array of players – from airlines and lounge operators to retailers – must be aggregated and made available to all stakeholders across the entire journey. Only in this way, can customers enjoy the one-stop, end-to-end data access they demand.
Collaborate or Standardize
Broadly speaking, there are two main strategies for pooling this data. On the one hand, the different stakeholders who gather data at various stages of the customers’ trip can join forces to deliver cross-player information and service offerings. On the other, they can develop open standards for exchanging information between their various systems.
To avoid the kind of communication breakdown outlined above, service providers and metasearchers should therefore start evaluating their technical platforms’ compliance with commonly used standards and determine where changes may be needed.
They should also investigate smart ways of interacting with other players in their near ecosystem with an eye to delivering mutually beneficial joint offerings. This is a particularly important factor when it comes to fostering willingness to collaborate.
Safeguard Customers’ Privacy
Bringing together location data across platforms is key to seamless travel. But because this inevitably entails sharing customers’ personal details, it also raises thorny data privacy issues. Solution developers should therefore ensure they have a firm grasp of the relevant rules and regulations – particularly in light of the stringent demands of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
It’s also extremely important to underscore data privacy and security when presenting seamless travel offerings to customers. Highlighting the tangible benefits for travelers in a clear and convincing way can help win customer buy-in. And it goes without saying that users of travel information and services should have the option to opt in or out of sharing their data at any time.
Start Planning Investments or Reviewing Readiness
There can be little doubt that seamless travel holds great potential for enhancing customers’ experience – and with it travel players’ revenues. So, if you’re not already active in the area, I’d strongly recommend drawing up a plan for investment in location-based services. And if you already have LBS initiatives in place, you may want to review these in light of the collaboration, standardization, and data privacy considerations presented above.