Tomorrow’s travel trends

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The rise of the mobile channel, social media and the sharing economy are changing the way we make journeys.

If the words “future travel” conjure up images of hotel check-in robots and virtual holidays, rest assured – there is also a more human, personalized version of modern globetrotting aided by innovation in store.

While technology is the travel industry’s biggest game changer, according to Angelo Rossini, a Euromonitor International travel and tourism analyst and an editor of the annual World Travel Market Global Trends Report 2014, it is also opening up new opportunities. 
 
“The rise of the mobile channel and social media in particular are changing consumer behavior in travel, which in the past focused on the time before the trip when the bookings were made,” says Rossini. “Today the periods before, during and after the trip are all important.”
 
As consumers post reviews, photos and videos on social media, they have a significant impact on travel planning by others, says Rossini, who cites another major shift: the emerging sharing economy.

Mi casa es tu casa

Peer-to-peer services such as Airbnb, with an estimated 30 million users worldwide, and Couchsurfing with 10 million registered users in 200,000 cities have shaken up traditional hotel-based models of accommodation.
 
Couchsurfing, founded in 2003 in New Hampshire, allows users to stay for free in other people’s homes around the world.
 
“Within 5 minutes of arriving in a new city, I’m in someone’s living room and we are really getting to know each other – it’s a totally personal, intimate experience compared with staying in a hotel,” says Thomas Perret, a Helsinki-based entrepreneur and frequent traveler. 
 
Perret also uses Airbnb, which allows users to rent out their lodgings for a fee. “If I’m tired and don’t have the energy to stay up late chatting, Airbnb is a great alternative because when you’re paying for accommodation you’re not obligated to socialize,” he says.

Packaged out?

Experiences such as couchsurfing and Airbnb are competing with package holidays, which are still popular among certain consumer segments and for long-haul travel, according to Rossini.
 
“Shifts in consumer behavior have resulted in the impressive growth of online travel agencies, which saw the two largest players in this sector, Expedia and Priceline, reach the top of the rankings of travel intermediaries in 2013, ahead of traditional players such as Carlson Wagonlit Travel, TUI Travel, American Express and Thomas Cook,” says Rossini.
 
Globally, many tour operators have embraced a hybrid business model between traditional tour operator and online travel intermediary. 

Navigating like Inspector Gadget

In terms of hardware, the launch of the Apple Watch is expected to determine the take-off of wearable electronics, predicts Rossini.
 
“Wearable electronics are going to become important devices within the wider mobile travel trend allowing travelers to conveniently receive notifications and services during their trip, as well as make additional bookings,” says Rossini.
 
“Travel companies will then need to be present with their apps also on these devices to be able to more effectively reach consumers throughout their whole travel experience,” he says.
 
A growing number of apps available for Android and iOS can transform a mobile phone into a travel assistant. Google’s travel-friendly app portfolio includes Google Translate that allows text scanning for instant translation. The most recent update also has a conversation mode that manages English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian. Two people can speak their own respective languages while the app provides almost simultaneous translation.
 
Furthermore, Google Maps also works as a voice-activated navigator, guiding you to your destination. Other apps such as Voice Search (made famous by Siri) allow you to ask pressing questions by tapping the microphone icon.
 
Regardless of how you travel, one thing is clear: as Thomas Perret says, “technology makes new kinds of experiences possible.”
 

Customized for travelers

Having recognized the DIY trend, Finnair is continually updating its service offering to better serve customers.
 
Our website content helps you design your own trips, not just flights but also hotel bookings and car rentals. Our new mobile app also helps along every step of the way, from storing boarding passes to providing terminal and gate information,” says Finnair’s vice president of marketing and product Jarkko Konttinen.
 
New products such as Discover Asia allow passengers to fly to one destination and return from another, which provides more flexibility.
 
“We also have better network connectivity – in addition to new interesting summer destinations such as Dublin, Malta, Athens, Split, Gdansk and Chicago, we’ve also added Business Class on routes such as Ljubljana, Antalya and Alanya,” says Konttinen.
 
Text by Katja Pantzar
Photo by Finnair
 
A longer version of this article was originally published in Finnair's Blue Wings magazine (April 2015). 
 
 

Published April 10, 2015

Category: Collaboration, Economy

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