I predict that 2015 is the year big data will revolutionize the way we conduct business in the world of corporate travel.
While every reservation--from airline to hotel to car to train--has always (and necessarily) left a data trail, the increasing use of smartphones and widespread availability of Wi-Fi has brought with it an avalanche of data in the form of online reviews, social media "check-ins," and website tracking, to name just a few sources.
Furthermore, as technological horizons widen, so do traveler needs and expectations. As analytic capabilities and travel-related technology continue to improve, we have a remarkable opportunity to enhance both the travel experience and the tools that make it possible. A new landscape for the modern road warrior is beginning to emerge.
Here are five glimpses into what the future looks like:
While big data allows us to extrapolate the needs of the modern road warrior, personalization is fast becoming the vehicle for fulfilling those needs. Booking travel is a complicated juggling act with a lot of moving parts, including choosing an airline, seating preference on the plane, hotel location, preferred amenities, and required technology interfaces. Imagine the stress relief involved in seamlessly booking a business trip without having to continually regurgitate preferences for a morning flight with a window seat and in-flight Wi-Fi, and the need for a hotel with an in-house restaurant that will cater to dietary restrictions.
Now imagine this is followed up with a notification for a tremendous deal at your favorite tropical vacation spot. With the amount of time saved both in searching for various deals and in continually communicating your needs, you may actually be able to take that vacation.
2. Airports and self-service
As the concept of personalization continues to trend, it isn't surprising to find increasing customer-driven focus in other areas of the travel industry. A recent study by SITA found that 86 percent of airports plan to implement more self-service options for travelers by 2017, with assisted bag-drop and self-boarding kiosks listed as top priorities.
Similarly, programs for expedited airport screening, such as TSA PreCheck, are also growing. In the fall of 2013, 40 airports participated in the program; as we begin a new year, the number has jumped to 120 airports, with over 725,000 members enrolled in that time period.
3. Rise of the hotel app
The American Hotel and Lodging Association recently published results of a survey of 9,600 respondents indicating that only 11 percent of hotels charge for the internet. This conveniently corresponds with a rise in booking, check-in, and concierge mobile apps and online-services opportunities. One year ago, the latest innovative technology could be found in companies like CheckMate, which allows you to check into your hotel room via your mobile phone. Now, the bar has been pushed even higher, with many hotels beginning to utilize a mobile app as a hotel room key, thus allowing guests to bypass the front desk altogether, if they prefer.
While the ability to book a flight and reserve a hotel room online is nothing new, the switch to and focus on mobile capabilities is. While only 2 percent of passengers preferred using a smartphone for booking travel in 2012, that number is expected to jump to 70 percent in 2015.
Because travelers are rarely separated from their phones, the larger value of mobile technology may reside in its ability to provide a seamless experience while in transit. With the advent of geolocation, you now have the ability to receive status updates based on what part of the travel process you are in, from security lines to flight delays to full itinerary changes. Presently, half of U.S. airports offer mobile updates, and, based on your personalized preferences, they can even direct you to a good place to eat during your layover.
5. Data security importance
Finally, some of the biggest news stories of 2014 involved data breaches in such companies as Target, Home Depot, and eBay. While the potential theft of such information as credit-card numbers and home addresses is unsettling at best, the information typically held by those types of companies pales in comparison to the wealth of information that travel necessitates. In addition to addresses and credit cards, business travelers--particularly on an international trip--must contend with frequent flyer numbers and ID cards or passports, not to mention confidential business-related data that may or may not need to be part of checked baggage.
As the creation of new travel opportunities increases, so does the responsibility to keep travelers (and their information) safe. Ultimately, while there is always risk in navigating uncharted territory, the opportunity to do business and expand your horizons to see the world makes it all worthwhile.