Digital innovation has paved new paths for all kinds of companies to thrive and succeed in the travel industry. To see its impact, we only must look to a few decades ago when planning a holiday meant getting in touch with a travel agent, tour company, or reading Lonely Planet for reviews and recommendations on where to travel and how to get there. With technology, online travel agents (OTAs) such as Expedia, Booking and MakeMyTrip emerged and changed every aspect of how people plan and book their next dream vacation.
Next, metasearch engines such as Trivago, Kayak and TripAdvisor arrived at the scene. What was the value-added service they offered travelers? It gave them visibility and control by allowing them to easily compare rates and deals, all in one place. Still more innovative ways to book that perfect vacation rental came through alternate accommodation aggregators like OYO and Airbnb, which catalyzed a change in how people travel.
Like Airbnb, several other brands have embraced platforms to become a one-stop digital marketplaces for travel services. Take the example of Marriott’s Moments marketplace, which sells everything from zip-line excursions to sumo wrestling tutorials and cooking classes with master chefs. Even companies that are not traditional travel agencies, such as Google, Amazon and Flipkart, are foraying into the travel sector. Indian e-commerce platform Flipkart now offers offer travel deals on its platform.
Travel digitization through platforms
As tech evolves, so are people’s buying habits, with more people turning to online channels to find what they need. According to Medium.com, 70 percent of travelers plan and book their trip online. Moreover, in a survey by travel and expense management provider KDS, 74 percent respondents said they prefer to use one platform to meet all their travel needs—from booking tours, flights and accommodation to renting cars and more. Clearly, customers expect companies to provide them all they want in one place at their fingertips. Companies are leveraging technology to offer customers convenience and accessibility, from shopping around different travel and rental agencies to finding and booking what they need with a few clicks.
For travel companies that want to stay relevant, the future lies in making life simpler for customers. Platforms solutions can help them become a one-stop shop for travelers. In fact, several hotels and airlines are extending travel products and services such as car pick-ups and drops. Cruise lines, on the other hand, can also arrange hotel accommodation at good rates, depending on the traveler’s departure or arrival city.
A few companies have teamed up with software platform providers to create “super apps” or all-in-one mobile apps that offer a wide range of services and functions. The following are examples of businesses that have shifted away from a single to a multi-use app to combine a host of relevant and useful products and services:
- MakeMyTrip: This OTA now offers every single use case of travel including: all modes of transport for intercity travel, airport cab transfers, all types of accommodations, bundled products, ancillary products like meals, insurance, forex and innovative travel fintech products like Book Now, Pay Later arrangements as well as instant consumer loans.
- AirAsia: This company is one of the first airlines to become a platform player with its super app. With a five-year strategic partnership contract with Google Cloud, the super app offers flight and hotel bookings, e-commerce, food and parcel delivery, ride-hailing, financial and health services, on-demand education and more—all anchored into a rewards program and a mobile wallet. Users can also engage in real-time conversations, join like-minded communities, play games and much more. The app had 10 million monthly active users in 2022.
- Amadeus: This travel tech company has partnered with Rappi, a delivery and commerce company headquartered in Colombia. Together, they use search and automation capabilities that help users access travel products from the same app they would use to order a takeaway from.
Building next-gen traveler experiences
As travelers become more connected than ever, the lines between physical and digital worlds are blurring. Travel players can use the sophisticated algorithms and data power of software platforms to build new capabilities that help personalize and ensure a fluid customer experience.
For example, using extended reality (XR), companies can entice travelers with “try before you buy” experiences. With XR, companies can offer customers an interactive glimpse of a hotel room, a coveted destination or travel activities.
Digital platforms can also combine the power of emerging technologies. From the metaverse to blockchain and a decentralized concept of the internet called Web3, these technologies are set to become the building blocks of tomorrow’s travel experiences.
Banyan Tree Group is one of the companies that are capitalizing on this trend. They partnered with Accenture to create a new and fun family activity for their resort guests. Together, we developed an app-led outdoor scavenger hunt that people can play at their huge beachfront Laguna Phuket resort with multiple hotels on its grounds in Phuket, Thailand. Hotel guests would use their mobile devices to search for digital objects (NFTs – non-fungible tokens) and win exclusive prizes while learning about the services the resort had to offer.
Meanwhile, major airlines such as Qantas and Air Europa have also started investing in the metaverse to build their brand presence and experience. Qantas will be the first to offer loyalty points to the initial buyer of a Qantas NFT for the airline’s frequent flyer program. On the other hand, last year, Air Europa launched the world’s first NFT flight ticket series, called “NFTickets.”
Also, Changi Airport Group teams up with Accenture to launch their digital wonderland ChangiVerse. Metaverse environment brings Changi Airport’s world-class experience online for the first time, reimagines visitor engagement and boosts connection with growing virtual audiences.
These examples are just a few of the many ways travel companies are transforming their operations.
Travel companies to accelerate their platform adoption
One thing is clear. The emergence of platform technology has become mainstream.
Every Enterprise a Platform – By 2023, 60% of the G2000 will have a digital developer ecosystem with thousands of developers; half of those enterprises will drive 20%+ of digital revenue through their digital ecosystem/platform.
Travel companies should ask themselves: what does it take to truly become a platform player? Moreover, how can they build on their existing line products and services while stringing together a network of new offerings?
Having a platform mindset can help how companies redefine the travel experience. That means businesses need to continuously rethink their platform priorities as consumer demands evolve. With a robust platform strategy, they can acquire and retain their competitive edge as they expand into new markets, grow their ecosystems and expand their businesses. A good commerce platform strategy will go a long way in helping travel players quickly identify a range of approaches to achieve specific digital outcomes with the corresponding technology stack, whether for direct-to-consumer (DTC), business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) commerce experiences.
Good examples of commerce interventions are –
“With the acquisition of Celect, Nike greatly accelerates digital advantage by adding a platform developed by world-class data scientists”. said Eric Sprunk, NIKE, Inc. Chief Operating Officer. “As demand for our product grows, we must be insight-driven, data-optimized and hyper-focused on consumer behavior. Celect’s cloud-based analytics platform provides proprietary insights that allow retailers to optimize inventory across an omnichannel environment through hyper-local demand predictions.
BC Platforms and Kaiser Permanente are enabling a unique way of pairing clinical and genomic data on the same platform to advance precision medicine capabilities. BC Platforms and Kaiser Permanente collaborated using Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform to integrate data safely and securely from multiple research centers into a single virtual biobank framework.
As platform-led tech raises the stakes of doing business, travel companies find themselves at the intersection of a rapidly changing industry landscape. Companies must pursue a comprehensive transformation—one that that enables them to develop the right commerce ecosystem partnership and meet the dynamic needs of travelers.
Needless to say, success comes to those who prepare for it. The time for travel companies to accelerate their platform adoption journey is now. That’s how they can not only stay relevant but also thrive in a fast-changing world.