Katherine Grass is Head of Innovation and Ventures at Amadeus, the travel distribution giant. She has recently published a paper on innovation, identifying six key trends which Amadeus sees as having a lasting impact on the travel industry. You can access her article online.
At number one, Katherine Grass puts a technology trend, blockchain; and at number six, a number of technology innovations, including self-driving cars, space travel and virtual reality. These are not surprising to see on the list, as the DNA of Amadeus is essentially technological. Item five is operations and performance, from baggage handling to airplane maintenance, where the benefits for both airlines and consumers are evident.
Items two to four are, however, less evident – and they speak to tourism professionals that are more interested in the social changes that drive innovation. In these three cases, Amadeus is looking for solutions, to respond to consumer trends and behaviour. They are:
- improved conversion – meaning how airlines and travel sellers can better personalise their offers, i.e. better target individual consumers
- extended content, meaning richer offers for consumers. Anyone who has recently booked an airline can see this in action: the pages of offers of insurance, car hire and so on which, it would appear, do not put the consumer off – although we are now beginning to see ‘quick booking’ features on some airline sites, where the consumer can jump directly to payment
- messaging platforms – where Katherine Grass cites chatbox technology
In each of these three areas, we can see that Amadeus is making a fundamental assumption, that is shared by most technology companies – that consumers want more content, in an ever-more personalised way. This may, indeed, be a safe assumption: complex tasks like travel booking are surely made much easier if all the information that matches one’s needs is made available in a way that is easy to use.
Tourism professionals, however, may have some nagging doubts when it comes to leisure travel. Our experience tells us that people do surprising things and take unexpected decisions. Opinions and fashions change quickly; the unlikely can succeed, and the new and different can charm and influence. Not everything can be tracked and pinned down. It may be that big data and artificial intelligence will get the better of all that, and become able to track down and forecast all human foibles. That day, however, may still be some way off.
6 February 2018