The future of travel tech

Written on January 2, 2019 by Campus Life in Professional

From booking flights and check-in to arriving at the final destination, today’s modern traveller expects hyper-personal and frictionless experiences no matter where they are.

Last Month, the IE Technology & Innovation Club had the pleasure of welcoming several high-profile speakers from the travel technology industry discussing how changing traveller demands influence new business models. We had a lively and engaging panel discussion moderated by our club coordinator, Alissa Warne (IMBA ’18)

We welcomed:
• Guillaume Delaître, Sales & Program Management Director, Spain, Carson Wagonlit Travel
• Jose Garrido, Retail & Travel Lead, Adobe; and
• Pascal Clement, Head of Travel Intelligence, Amadeus

We ended with our speakers talking about their career in tech and how they got to where they are, and any advice they had for IE students, before opening it up to the audience for a general Q&A. Highlights included:

Evolution of the traveller experience

Compared to 20 years ago, the traveller experience has certainly come a long way. While there are certainly tradeoffs between better flight technology and better customer experience, there is no doubt that the way we book flights, travel and experience other countries has significantly changed. In 1998, people relied on travel agents, printed tickets and actual maps to make travel plans. In the early 2000s, customisation of the passenger experience was key. And today? Our panellists discussed the importance of leveraging passenger data – when they fly, how they search for and book flights, how much research is done before finally committing to a travel itinerary – to tailor highly relevant, hyper-personal travel experiences.

Airports are changing, too

The entire travel ecosystem is evolving and none more so than airports. The global travel industry has matured and grown exponentially, with the number of travel departures jumping from 600 million to US$1.3 billion over the past 20 years. Both airports and airlines have made good use of passenger data, with airports evolving into retail hubs to encourage passengers to spend more within their terminals, as well as leverage partnerships with airlines – Changi Airport in Singapore, for example, hands out free vouchers to passengers flying on Singapore Airlines transiting through Changi.

Virtual assistants are the future, but won’t replace human interaction… or will they?

One of the main concerns today is that chatbots or voice assistants will replace the human interaction. If yes, how can travel companies can still provide the human touch? How do we ensure customer satisfaction? Guillaume from corporate travel booking company Carson Wagonlit Travel agreed that chatbots are the future, but at this stage cannot replace the more advanced, empathy-driven conversations that humans can provide. Chatbots could certainly book simple point to point trips, or make our lives easier by resolving straightforward questions (with answers from a preset database), but not for complex trips, for example, a round-the-world trip with different departure and arrival destinations.

Another point of view was also offered – if chatbots provide us with better service, wouldn’t we rather use them as opposed to grumpy travel agents or airport staff? Not to mention the labour costs that companies save using chatbots in the long run.

In conclusion…

Thank you to everyone who came to our event and participated in the stimulating discussion, and also to our coordinators who made it: Ashley O’Mahony and Furqan Shaukat.


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