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Travel Industry Communications Trends
My, how our dictionary has changed. Podcast, Skype, Wikipedia, Googlebot and WiMax were all regularly used terms during 2005. Podcast was actually Webster's Word of The Year for 2005.
That was then, and now it's today. What was important and functional yesterday may not be the case tomorrow. There has been exponential change in relation to the calendar, in the field of communications technology advancement. What I mean by that is that the changes that have taken place over the past year or two have been far greater than the changes over the past decade, which in turn have been far greater than the changes over the past 20 years.
So let's examine how the changing world can affect the Travel Industry.
The common thread among the terms above is that they either relate to wireless or internet technologies, or both.
John Campbell, a Consultant with Schooley Mitchell in Halifax wrote an article for The Nova Scotia Business Journal that described the experience of a Marketing VP. She was booking a trip through her travel agent and made a specific request for 'hot spots'. As little as three years ago that probably would have meant the best beaches, bars, and restaurants. However, she was requesting the hotels where she could access the Internet through her laptop using wireless technology.
That lesson should be clear to the travel industry. If the loyalty and trust of clientele is to be maintained, a detailed knowledge of properties that provide high speed internet, wireless access, and up-to-date technology facilities will be paramount. The travel advisor that can help customers to provide real time information regarding property technology facilities, which change almost daily, will be a step ahead.
Those new technology advancements include a wide myriad of wireless applications. Whether it's toll booth passes, debit transactions at the gas station, or text messaging updated flight status, the wireless world is upon us.
At a recent presentation I attended hosted by the Gartner Group, predictions included the ability to take temperature and heart rate with the wireless device that will soon be on the shelves, and therefore attached to your belt. Diabetics will be able to monitor blood sugar. You will be able to read bar codes, and check out right in the store. Your earpiece will tell you to turn left so you don't get lost as you drive through the city. Some of these applications might actually free people to travel that have been restricted in the past. I don't think the device will make your lunch or tie your shoes just yet, but perhaps I need to open my mind.
In terms of travel industry applications, SMS technology (Short Message Service), the telecom industry term for text messaging, has current capabilities that will soon be the norm for the mobile customer. Customer preferences are quickly turning to text messages for booking confirmations, last minute travel deals, and gate information for flights. Advisors that can adapt to these needs will have an upper hand.
Additional applications include the ability to provide welcome messages for customers upon their arrival at destinations, including local instructions. A text announcement of special events in real time, translation services advice, and a host of other interactive services will deepen the relationship between agency and customer for those savvy enough to use the technology at hand. It will be the tool to maintain 'ownership' of the customer in a world where web-enabled self-help is a continuing threat.
So does that mean we all have to learn that strange language of the text message crowd. I don't think so. One of my personal pet peeves is the inability to properly use either the spoken or written word in today's tech world. It seems to be a rampant disease. On the other hand, I never would have guessed I'd be using words like Wikipedia or blog. I guess we're at the mercy of the wireless industry on this one.
However, as wireless functionality continues to evolve, it is my belief that screen sizes of the wireless devices we will carry in the future will increase. That in turn will allow for the proper use of the language as opposed to those short forms of words and phrases that are currently in use and mean almost nothing to the vast majority of the population.
Wireless vendors are in the process of initiating strategies to increase the uptake of wireless applications in the travel industry. That should indicate that more change will soon come, and the travel operators that embrace those technologies now will create an advantage. After all, consciousness of our own powers augments them. Ignoring them diminishes them. That assumes that the introduction of wireless strategies for Customer Relationship Management is within the suite of our powers.
In addition to wireless applications, increased Internet functionality will continue to shake the travel world, including Intranet, Extranet, and Enterprisenet, which are all variations of Internet business applications that have become widespread in the recent past to serve the needs of global economies.
We all know what the Internet is. It's that big cloud, that big library, that big everything. It's where the travel industry communicates with the public. Many websites include things like virtual tours, weather reports, currency converters, and special package information.
An Intranet is where a company can provide access to their employees or members to company information that is contained in a secure and private internet site, only accessible by those given access by the company. It's a cordoned off piece so to speak, where only company participants can get in to see what's there. This is where companies can provide information and access to travel industry related applications like the Global Distribution System, Dynamic Packaging, internal software tools, travel safety updates, and any other information that helps each employee to operate more efficiently. It's also where employees can communicate with each other in a group environment to help each other to increase profitability and deal with current issues. It is like putting a company's entire network on the internet and making it accessible to all stakeholders.
An Extranet is like an Intranet, except it includes outside parties and not just the internal company. Sharing information, applications, and communications tools with travel vendors and tour operators in real time is one example.
An Enterprisenet is where you actually transact with customers via the internet.
Interesting applications that are currently available include portals through the company website for customers to E-Book flights, hotels and vehicles. Also included are customer-driven fare search systems through the company site, flight status updates, and flight information and reservation systems. For example, flight status updates can be 'pushed' to a customer's laptop or cell phone, or you can allow the customer to 'pull' the information from your system themselves. Access to Dynamic Packaging tools is another example of building deep relationships with customers, where they can customize their flight, hotel, and vehicle needs through the company's applications.
Some of these examples are Extranet applications and some of these are Enterprisenet. It doesn't really matter what they're called, they simply reflect the new way of doing business that is upon the travel industry.
In a book titled 'The World is Flat - A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century', Thomas L. Friedman talks about the widespread changes to world economies based on technological advancements.
Friedman's message centers around the fact that web-enabled and wireless technologies are 'flattening' the world so that basic business services such as call centers, back room accounting, and HR department management can be provided from India or China, just as easily as Vancouver. Restaurant reservations, income tax returns, and flower deliveries will actually be completed through Shanghai or Bangladesh, as opposed to New York or Chicago. The travel industry must understand the ultimate effects on booking plane, hotel and vehicle reservations in a 'flat' world. Deeper customer relationships will be required to thrive.
It also means that the world is the market and not just local customers.
Friedman's message is not one of dire straits, although it does carry a warning that we need to be prepared, and educated to adapt to the inevitable changes that a 'flat' world will bring. Instead, the message is one of changing opportunities, and better efficiencies, if the reality is accepted, and the reaction is proper.
Yes, it's a brave new world. In order to prosper, we must heed the message that no man's knowledge here can go beyond his experience. In other words, embracing new technologies, and accepting 'flatness' will lead to opportunity. Opportunity, like oxygen must continually be exchanged. Once oxygen is taken into your lungs it turns to carbon dioxide. So as oxygen is the fuel of the body but has a limited life, opportunity is the fuel of success and future achievement. However, opportunity must be used before it turns to the metaphorical carbon dioxide.
So the message is to accept that these changes are upon us. The world will continue to develop more and more Internet applications to make the rudimentary parts of life easier to manage. Wireless applications will continue to develop and will astound us in terms of what can be achieved. And the world will be 'flatter'. If that's a problem it's also an opportunity.
Maybe it's an even bigger opportunity than an economic one for those wise enough to take advantage of the fluid and changing environment. One of Friedman's tenets is that as the world supply chains become more intermingled and interdependent based on these technology advances, then the likelihood to war with each other will become less. If companies in one nation are dependent on companies in other countries to provide accounting functions, travel bookings, and day-to-day services, then it will be an encourager to work it out, instead of shoot it out. Now that's a nice thought.
Many more articles in The CIO Refresher in The CEO Refresher Archives