How to build a unified travel experience
July 21, 2023
I’m back to traveling again and I’m loving it. I’ve been connecting with family, friends and colleagues and sampling the sights, sounds and flavors from all corners of the globe. And I know I’m not alone. Anyone who has spent any amount of time at an airport over the last 12 months can assure you that the passion for travel is back, and the flame is more alive than ever. Our latest consumer survey shows that 71% of consumers plan to sustain or increase their current spending on leisure travel in the next year.
And it’s not just travelers who are loving it. Travel companies are also seeing the benefits of this major jump in demand, and are finally reaping the rewards of the investments they made in technology during the pandemic. However, while many of these investments were made to take advantage of pent-up demand as pandemic restrictions were lifted, they quickly became part of a patchwork of technology solutions that have led to a fragmented traveler journey. As a result, many travel companies currently find themselves in a situation where they can only fulfil certain stages of the traveler journey and are missing out on opportunities to add value in other areas.
This is why it’s important for the industry to take advantage of the renewed excitement for travel, embrace the technology and the human passion that abounds, and use this moment to become relevant to its customers.
As the travel industry has learned, disruption is not the exception; rather the rule, and the pace of change we’re experiencing in the world right now calls for a new strategy, one that we call Total Enterprise Reinvention. This strategy prioritizes continuous reinvention built on a firm base of technology. Those that adopt this strategy, (known as the Reinventors), understand that all strategies lead to embracing key technologies—notably Generative AI which is fast becoming a holistic actor in the traveler experience transformation—and this new way of being will see them set a new performance frontier for their companies.
95% of travel companies focus just on transforming parts of their business rather than the whole.
Unfortunately, our research shows that 95% of travel companies focus just on transforming parts of their business rather than the whole and tend to treat transformation as a finite program rather than a continuous process. Currently, only 3% are moving to adopt a strategy of Total Enterprise Reinvention.
In order to make real gains in this space, travel companies need to put the traveler at the front and center of their strategies. By working beyond traditional silos, considering the entire traveler journey, and using data, technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to better connect and intertwine all the customer touch points, they will be relevant at every stage of the journey. This will help them manage customers throughout their lifecycle and create a unified experience.
So, how can travel companies increase their value of and for the Traveler?
Travelers go back and forth dreaming, planning and comparing across different channels, making sales attribution for travel companies almost impossible. And while travelers need to be inspired and informed in a creative, exciting and engaged way, the current media investment model is not scalable for most travel companies. It’s time for travel companies to rethink their business models. Traditional media has been left behind and more attractive channels such as YouTube, TikTok, Meta and Netflix present the perfect option to connect with travelers in the inspiration phase. In fact, our latest Consumer Pulse Survey shows that 1 in 5 Gen Z consumers are creating more digital content today than before the pandemic.
Continuous reinvention in this space calls for a clear strategy that focuses on gaining insights which will help to increase the overall value for the traveler. Reclaiming leisure demand through new sources of inspiration. Growing the corporate traveler segment by thinking holistically about their experience. Breaking down silos to drive value from multiple angles. And proactively capturing demand signals while generating leads and bookings through an AI-powered growth engine for both B2B and B2C segments.
Successful companies in other industries are approaching continuous reinvention by better adapting their offerings to clients, and travel organizations should be no exception. With the demand for travel so high, their focus should be on transforming the direct channel experience; offering a differentiated product and seamless retail experience that surpasses any third-party proposition.
To appeal to today’s traveler, it is critical to unlock the potential of retailing. The creation of online stores and mobile apps that allow travelers to book, purchase and interact with more than just travel-related products and services will address the entire traveler journey in a personalized and differentiated way. This calls for the introduction of new order and offer capabilities that enhance the shopping experience and enable an increase in revenue and margins through price optimization, promotions and discounts that help drive customer demand.
In a world in which travelers shift their needs and expectations more rapidly than we’ve seen at any other time in history, travel companies need to stay close to the traveler, anticipating and meeting their new demands to keep the passion for travel alive.
The travel industry needs to look for new ways to build strong, long-lasting and exciting relationships which help them connect with travelers on another level. It’s time to offer more interesting, valuable and personalized customer service and experiences.
Reinventing the traditional ways that we service customers by creating an omnichannel experience with integrated digital servicing and self-service processes will deliver a valuable traveler experience and improve employee satisfaction. At the same time, travel organizations will see an impact on financial KPIs, helping travel companies drive greater value for both the customer and the organization.
New technologies, automation, data and AI have already had a major impact on the travel industry and continue to evolve and transform the way travel companies interact with travelers, and the way that travelers make decisions.
Building a technology and AI core will allow companies to better access their talent, technology and data ecosystems. In fact, it is estimated that 43% of total working hours in the travel industry can be transformed by generative AI alone1, with the potential for transformation of functional occupations (including commercialization, management, procurement and technology roles) generally higher. At the same time, embedding core AI applications into their business processes will enable travel companies to create personalized experiences, provide real-time assistance, anticipate customers' needs, increase productivity across the enterprise, and streamline operations.
With the appropriate foundation, additional opportunities will become available through generative AI technology—which 99% of travel executives believe is ushering in a new era of enterprise technology1. Generative AI can help advise, create, code, automate and protect as the travel experience is developed and curated. Now, every role supporting the traveler’s experience has the potential to be reinvented with AI dramatically amplifying what employees can deliver for valued customers.
of total working hours in the travel industry can be transformed by generative AI alone
of travel executives believe generative AI technology is ushering in a new era of enterprise technology
Passion inspires energy, and a strategy based on continuous reinvention should take advantage of that energy to ensure it succeeds. Companies that use that energy to harness the best of the latest technologies and let data flow seamlessly between entities will be able to keep up with their consumers and improve their competitive position in the market, providing the seamless journey that the traveler is looking for as they embark on their next adventure.
Source: 1Generative AI impact on Travel occupations. Accenture Research, Growth & Strategy, May 2023