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Disruptors: The travel challenge
Thought Leadership 4 MIN READ

Disruptors: The travel challenge

by Alasdair Bell

In our ‘Disruptors’ webinar series, we look at industries undergoing major changes, inviting experts to explain key trends and what insights and intelligence professionals can do to tackle them. Here we concentrate on the travel industry. 

The webinar ‘Tackle travel industry disruption with faster speed to insight’ brought together expert panellists Caroline Bremner, Head of Travel & Tourism at Euromonitor, John Flesta, Vice President at Ipsos, and Martin Rückert, Chief AI Officer at Market Logic.

The speakers identified major trends shaking up the global travel sector. Caroline kicked off the session by reminding the audience that the travel industry has been in disruption for the past twenty years and that yesterday’s disruptors – Expedia,, TripAdvisor – are now the disrupted.

“The latest Euromonitor research tells us that disruption is the new normal. Tech giants such as Google and Amazon hold huge power over travellers and consumers, and the more they invest in the travel and tourism industry, the more disruption we’ll see.

In addition to this, more P2P interactions will lead to new customer experiences and business models that will consider the increasingly higher expectations of today’s consumer.” She posed one fundamental question: where will disruption come from next?

Technology as a key driver

There are 8 billion smartphones in the world right now, of which half are connected to the internet. By 2030 all mobile phones are expected to be internet-enabled. This is empowering growing players like Airbnb and the Chinese Ctrip to really challenge Expedia and Booking’s dominance in the market.

For end users, this means that messaging apps can offer a truly seamless booking journey. Once again China leads the way – explained Caroline – for example with the multi-purpose messaging, social media and mobile payment app WeChat, which has become an all-in-one travel companion on the go.

Disruption is also happening at a destination level. Dubai is a great example of a region which is investing heavily in innovative, cutting-edge technology to build smart, highly connected cities.

By 2030, 25% of all transportation in Dubai is expected to be driverless. And through blockchain and biometrics, they aim to provide a seamless, enjoyable customer journey across the whole airport experience.

Changing consumer values

Caroline then referred to a recent survey by Euromonitor where over 15k consumers worldwide were interviewed.

Customers want their experiences to be simpler and seamless, but are also keen to try new products, want choices and flexibility, access to curated, premium, personalized services. In all this, the desire to spend more on experiences rather than goods is evident.

From mobile to wearable

By 2022, smart wearables are set to reach 65 million units. Apple Watch is currently the world’s leading wearable, with 34% share in 2017. Not all launches are successful though. Google Glass for example never took off, but other projects such as Intel’s Vaunt and Apple Glasses are now better placed to take smart glasses into the mainstream.

But there’s more. Consumers seem ready for an emotion-led wearable like mood sensors. AI and machine learning are instrumental in the delivery of such personalised services, where computer headsets record brain activity and register different emotions from gestures and sensors.

Brands are using it to A/B test, improve in-store/online experiences, tailor services, ultimately create stronger relationships.

Facebook, Apple and Amazon – concluded Caroline – are serious threats for the big travel players because of the immense power of their technology, the vastness of their data, and their ability to keep pushing boundaries. Amazon Prime, for example, can leverage on 66 million members spending 1.5 more than non-members. Will they disrupt the travel sector and perhaps offer a subscription model? Don’t rule it out!

Personalization through innovation

John Flesta then delved deeper into some of the travelling trends Ipsos identified with their latest market research.

Travellers demand personalised, curated experiences, and brands have varied, blurred client profiles in from of them. This is creating a lot of change across the travel and tourism industry.

John shared many great examples of innovators taking personalisation forward:

  • Thomson – the UK-based travel operator is testing a facial response service which will select travellers’ perfect destinations;
  • GrubHub – a delivery service company just released a digital map featuring women-run restaurants;
  • At your gate – a new service to deliver items to travellers anywhere in the airport, including the gate!
  • China Southern Airlines – passengers have their faces scanned instead of board passes;
  • Dubai Airport – they will soon replace border controls with a tunnel aquarium. By encouraging passengers to look at the fish, 80+ cameras will capture people’s faces better than the current system and speed up the process too.
  • Well + Good – The NYC-based lifestyle blog has recently launched a program of highly curated wellness retreats;
  • PFLAG Canada – live since January 1028, this LGBTQ site visualizes how safe cities are across the world;
  • Emirates + Spotify – a collaboration between giants to match music preferences with travel destinations.

Leverage AI technology for speed to insight

Finally, Martin showed the audience how Artificial Intelligence can tie all these trends and innovations together, helping insights managers and marketers make fast, winning decisions that accelerate growth.

By demonstrating Market Logic’s Insights Platform, Martin was able to illustrate that:

  • With the Insights Platform, all research and data (primary, secondary, panel, business intelligence, social, news feeds, CUX etc.) is ready on one platform, with AI to make sense of it.
  • Because the platform automatically retires old data and obsolete information, newer research is pushed to the fore, so professionals stay relevant in a fast-moving landscape.
  • With cognitive intelligence dashboards customized to business priorities, researchers can focus on topics of interest and screen out noise, without becoming overwhelmed or distracted by incoming information.

John Fiesta’s summarized outcome

“Let’s embrace the change and the technology on offer to deliver the best possible experiences to our customers! Businesses can now connect the dots across multiple tools and platforms like never before. We need to stop looking for information, and instead, learn how to make sense of all the data and insights we have at our disposal.”

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