Monday, 11 March 2013 10:37 AM
The internet – increasingly accessed through mobile devices – has established itself as the preferred place for people in mature markets to book and research travel, according to a new report by the hotel company IHG.
The report by IHG and The Futures Company, identifies the trends set to shape the next 10 years of travel and the new categories of traveller that are emerging.
A decade ago, only one in three UK internet users had made a holiday or travel booking online, according to the report, and many weren’t comfortable with online only as a channel.
Now, however, 80 per cent of travel products in the UK are researched or purchased online, the highest figure for any country in the world.
How Brits plan travel has also been affected by the use of digital technology.
The development of social networking and photo sharing means we now dream about travel more often – and these dreams are made social.
Previously, planning a trip was a purposeful activity: it involved leafing through brochures, finding hotels and researching flight prices before booking. Now, however, as people browse friends’ and acquaintances’ photos on Facebook, they are being stimulated to think about travel all year round.
“Ten years ago, there were three distinct stages to travel: pre-trip, during trip, and post-trip. Now, however, with the rise of social media we have a new stage – what we call the ‘dreaming stage’, which happens every time someone sees holiday photos uploaded onto a social networking site or reads a friend’s travel-related update. Social media is stimulating people to constantly and consistently dream about travel, even when they haven’t made any travel plans,” Dr Miguel Moital, School of Tourism, Bournemouth University said.
However, the report claims that the ‘death’ of the traditional travel agent are exaggerated. While it is true that their share of bookings has decreased in mature markets, they are still behind one in three bookings globally. Even in mature markets, where trips have become more complex, “getting specialist support can be valuable”.
In the future, travel agents across all markets will need to keep up with the changing demands and expectations of travellers as they get savvier, more sophisticated and more independent, according to the report.
A new phenomenon highlighted in the report, describes a guest who could potentially travel without touching the sides, and may never interact with hotel staff. From planning to booking, check-in at the airport to check-in at the hotel, room service and even concierge services, some travellers are already opting for an entirely independent, human-free travel experience – thanks to the use of digital technology.
The report claims that “these possibilities, however, do not lessen the opportunities for service – they create new ones. We need to capture the experience and insight of staff and find the right channel to share it with guests.”
Richard Solomons, IHG Chief Executive comments:“This report shows how the world of travel is constantly evolving and identifies the trends that are set to influence the industry over the next ten years.”
Other trends in the report include the rise of the ‘laptop and latte’ traveller – who “prefer creative coffeehouse-style environments where they can be inspired by meeting other travellers”; the rise in adventurous travellers over the age of 50; and the rise in Asian travellers from countries including China and India.
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