Friday, March 18, 2016
Personalisation is the way forward
Thanks to the Internet and lightweight laptops and tablets we can, without leaving our favourite armchair, book a whole holiday including a complex tour with a full itinerary and multiple hotel stays, several flights, plus all the other add ons such as travel insurance and car parking.
Factor in online check in, the ability to book specific airline seats, and even choose whether to have an in-flight meal or not then we might feel technology has pretty much reached its ultimate.
This is actually only the beginning as far as the travel industry is concerned. The way ahead is the ability for holiday makers and travellers to pre book even more and cut out various traditional steps - for example, physically checking into hotels - and generally personalise far more of the travel process.
Advances in technology influence the initial online steps we might take when considering a holiday or planning a trip. Search engines base their results partly on your previous searches and return more personalised results; chances are two people searching for the same holiday destination may possibly receive different results even from the same search engine based on their past preferences.
Along with being able to book most if not all elements of a trip online, companies providing services are offering a more bespoke service to their customers. Choose from basic long term airport parking to a full valet parking service including a car clean while you’re away. It’s all about choices.
With travel insurance, instead of a basic ‘cookie cut’ policy you can specify a policy that suits you and the trip you’re taking. For example, travel insurance specialists exist who can cater to travellers in certain age brackets such as the over 50’s and people taking cruises. All this can be done within minutes online.
The advances of ‘Big Data’ have revolutionised personalisation so - along with search engines refining searches - other companies such as TripAdvisor and hotel comparison sites provide results based on data you may have previously supplied even through other avenues such as social media. If you have never supplied data before, no problem - the sites will ‘model’ you based on similar previous customers to provide results to suit your tastes and requirements.
The buzzword is “relevancy” - companies aim to provide targeted information which helps the customer and enables them and associated companies such as travel agencies to make more bookings.
Your personal hotel experience
Hotels - even the large chains - are keen to personalise your stay, and smartphone technology is a key to this. As with airport checking in online before your trip, so Hilton and other hotels will enable you to pre-book your exact room in a choice of hotels. If you’ve stayed before, the system will know your preferences even down to how many pillows you like and the general temperature you maintain your hotel room at.
It won’t be long before an ‘advanced warning’ system - data taken from your phone alerting the hotel that you’re on your way as it monitors your geographical position - means your room will be waiting and set up just the way you like it. Room temperature will be pre-set, your preferred radio station or music will be playing, and your schedule for the next day will appear on the television amongst other things.
Infrastructure to match
One of the problems with this mobile-led tech is the existing infrastructure, in particular the cost of roaming charges overseas. Using one’s mobile or tablet online so extensively such as with apps where you’re permanently connected online can potentially run up a huge data use bill.
The European Union has set a date of June 2017 to scrap roaming fees within its borders, and mobile network 3 has already taken steps to make data use cheaper for customers with data charges similar to those in the UK in 18 countries including Australia and North America.
Smartphones are notorious for low battery charge life, and presently battery technology is behind that of the smartphone. If you’re using a smartphone all day long to make bookings, interact with your hotel and identify your geographical position, then making your battery last for the duration can be a challenge. However, with the advance of solar powered chargers, this may all change - it is predicted that soon we will be able to keep phones fully charged all day using just sunlight.
While some smartphones have grown in size to facilitate larger screens, people still want their phones to be pocket size and at present the only way to increase battery life is to have a physically larger battery.
Power management is a key area of research by smartphone manufacturers to ensure the hardware doesn’t limit the advances being discussed here.
Protecting your technology
Relying on a smartphone or tablet to help make your trip ‘work’ is all very well but what if it gets damaged or lost? This is where an insurance policy geared towards your needs is very important, and is something to consider carefully when booking all elements of your trip.
Internet of Things
The technology of objects being able to talk to each other from fridges to cars will likely play a part in travel. A suitcase that can be easily tracked and report its position will be a big help in the event of lost luggage, for example.
Maybe pulling your smartphone in and out of a pocket, remembering where you put it and generally making sure it’s to hand is becoming a chore? If so, how about a smartwatch such as the Apple Watch?
Being able to glance at your wrist to check your position and use apps to book taxis, restaurants and pay for things with systems such as Apple Pay without having to take out a wallet and use cards could be the next step for many travellers.
…You might need a holiday to get over all this tech overload, though.
Laure Reeve is the Marketing Executive at Avanti Travel Insurance, who specialise in travel insurance for those with pre-existing medical conditions, and are one of very few that have no upper age limit on their policies.
License: Image author owned