In the 90s, Expedia turned the travel industry on its head by unlocking travel agent information and bringing it to the mass market. The question, as Expedia approaches its 18th Birthday and Expedia Inc.’s business travel company, Egencia, turns 11, how do we meet the needs of these future travellers? How will the generations who grew up in this new travel world plan and book leisure and business travel, and more importantly—how will the two converge?
In a world of rapid technological innovation, businesses such as ours must anticipate and innovate with great velocity: staying one step ahead of our customers to cater not just for their needs today, but for tomorrow and the trips they will book in the future. Collaboration is critical, as our businesses connects travellers with our partners.
Communication across the industry and with our partners is key to understanding the future of travel, both the challenges and opportunities. We know it’s important to take a holistic view of the behavioural patterns of our current customers, and those who may turn to us in the future. That’s why we have commissioned Harris Interactive to examine the needs and preferences of our global travel audience to understand how Millennial generations differ from the previous ones.
We see the traveller of tomorrow operating in an ever-more fluid space, a world of blurred boundaries. They expect to move seamlessly from device-to-device; from online to offline and back again; from business to leisure and vice versa. Mobile is their personal assistant helping them to plan and book travel; change plans, especially in business travel; connect with friends and colleagues. Their office may be on the plane, at the airport or in a hotel room, and Wi-Fi is more important than extra legroom or upgrades.
We realize that keeping pace with Millennial generations demands significant focus on mobile in order to sustainably engage them with the right information. Their priority is to cut through the clutter, preferring brands and services, which save them time, and ones that make life and “life on the road” easier and more enjoyable.
Millennial generations have high expectations, but contribute heavily, creating content and sharing their experiences. The responsibility for business is to facilitate feedback in a structured format, and combine and interpret in conjunction with other data – making Big Data, smart data. Our commercial imperative is to work with customers to make sense of this data and to return their trust in sharing feedback and personal information with real value.
In a world where you can virtually walk down city streets from the comfort of your armchair or see the Seven Wonders of the World cascading across your screen, many travellers are shifting priorities from seeing to “experiencing.” For a large proportion of the Millennial generation, leisure travel is about authenticity, getting under the skin of a destination, learning a new skill. For these travellers, traditional origin –destination – date search forms are redundant. These travellers demand that we answer broader questions, harder to define by traditional search parameters: “I want to learn about a new type of cuisine?” or “I want to try a new outdoor activity” even just “I want a real adrenalin rush”.
At the same time, we need to offer the flexibility to cater for those with a specific destination, budget or date frame in mind. For these business and leisure travellers how can we offer deeper insight to assist with questions like “how do I easily get from point A to point B?”, “How do I find things to do that match my interests—food, recreation, local history?” And “how do I navigate changes to my itinerary during my trip?”
We see new a wave of travellers emerging from the markets like the BRIC countries—many of whom are seeing the iconic tourist sites for the first time. We must work together with our tourism partners to ensure that in our efforts to support the authenticity and experience seekers, we don’t undervalue the allure that seeing the places in the flesh still holds. This is equally true for business, where travel is a core accelerator in driving emerging economic growth. How can we work with our partners to ensure that business travellers are effectively supported in becoming part of the new economy?
In the 90s, we empowered our partners and our leisure audience to create their own travel packages, and over the last 10 plus-years we have given business travellers better choice and access to familiar and user-centric travel solutions.
We remain committed to providing added value for our partners in the future by helping them to flex and adapt the way they market their services so they are just as relevant to a travelers from Mumbai as they are to those from Manchester to Miami.
As we plan for the future of travel, our role is to delight all our customers as they plan their next vacation or business trip. Let’s engage them with the “best ever” travel experience—which is personal and collaborative, fluid and flexible, and of course… mobile!