July 31, 2018
European summertime is a notoriously busy period for the travel industry, as travellers all over the continent jump at the chance to book flights to seek out sunnier destinations. In the UK, some airports have claimed that 2018 will be the “busiest summer ever”, expecting millions to pass through their doors between July and September.
Though there continues to be a mass desire to travel during the summer holidays, what’s changing is that travellers no longer want a one-package-fits-all approach to their holidays. Instead they are opting for more personalised and exotic ‘experiences’.
Indeed, across many industries, we’re now seeing a shift in consumers prioritising experience, rather than price. And companies within the travel industry are taking note. For example, hotel giant Aloft, has invested in artificial intelligence (AI) to transform the hotel room experience by providing customers with a voice-controlled personal assistant to regulate various features in the room.
But it’s online travel agent (OTA) giants such as Booking.com who are really changing traditions and setting the bar for customer experience (CX) that other travel agencies and hotels will be forced to meet.
Booking.com drives innovation by continually looking at what customers want from the site, as well as how they behave online. Through data analytics, they are constantly introducing new features to their technology stack to improve the online experience. An example of this is their focus on delivering personalised messaging even after the traveller has booked their accommodation. Now, travellers are encouraged to interact with the Booking.com site on their way to a hotel, after check-in, and even while they are out and about visiting tourist attractions.
The rise of the solo traveller is also driving this shift to better experiences. The once daunting thought of travelling alone has now been embraced by more travellers. Over 10% of UK holidaymakers took a holiday on their own in the past 12 months – double the number of six years ago. This new phenomenon allows OTAs to tailor offers and packages to solo – think smaller hotel rooms, solo cabins on cruise ships and tourist activities that help individuals meet new people.
The benefits of personalisation and great customer experiences can only be delivered if there are enough destinations and travel options for travellers to choose from. In fact, research eNett published last year showed that there is a strong correlation between the number of destinations offered by OTAs and the quality of CX they deliver. eNett’s Virtual Account Numbers (VANs) can be instrumental in expanding destinations and supplier sets for OTAs, as well as making their supplier payments fast, easy, and safe.
With the summer now in full swing, and winter sun purchases just on the horizon, travel companies must provide travellers with exceptional experiences to keep them coming back for more. If they don’t, you can bet they’ll lose out to competition who prove they can do it better.
 ABTA’s Holiday Habits Report 2017