Convenience and efficiency rule, but biometrics and predictive analytics top the future travel agenda for US travellers

25 March, 2018

With disruptive technologies gaining momentum and promising to revolutionise the future travel experience, intelligence provider OAG, has surveyed over 2,000 US travellers to uncover which future innovations resonate most with them.

From artificial intelligence, biometrics and blockchain to supersonic planes and trains, the travel industry has entered a period of rapid change. With momentum accelerating – and new innovations and possibilities introduced to the market almost monthly, OAG questions: Is it time for travel leaders to separate hype from reality and explore anticipated adoption?

It's new report ‘Travel Tech Innovation: Market Report – Evaluating Travelers’ Appetite for Adoption’ says convenience and efficiency are still what consumers crave in their day-to-day travel experiences.

When OAG asked respondents to identify which future development and innovations would improve the travel experience the most, travellers ranked biometrics ahead of many other current and future innovations, from supersonic planes and artificially-intelligent booking and itinerary management systems to blockchain.

In fact, more than 75% of travellers would be willing to use biometrics – such as fingerprints and facial recognition – if they could instantly and easily: streamline customs and immigrations (85%); check-in for their flights (84%); get through security without the use of other identification (84%); pull up their itinerary (79%); and board a plane without a boarding pass (75%)

“Now, maybe even more than ever, the travel industry is closely examining the intersection of travel and technology, with a focus on making the travel experience faster, easier and more enjoyable,” explains Mike Benjamin, CTO, OAG. “While new innovations and possibilities are being introduced regularly, everything always comes back to the traveller experience.”

The travellers surveyed by OAG identified several other advancements
and innovations that would improve their travel experience:

  • 48% of travellers believe supersonic high-speed planes and trains will improve the future travel experience.
  • 43% of travellers believe blockchain-enabled booking sites that eliminate the middleman and let travelers book directly with suppliers will improve the future travel experience.
  • 37% of travellers believe increased acceptance of modern payment methods like Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Venmo and WeChat Pay will improve the future travel experience.
  • 26% of travellers believe artificially-intelligent travel booking and itinerary
    management systems will improve the future travel experience.
  • 24% of travellers believe in-flight or terminal-based virtual reality systems
    that allow travellers to preview destinations and local experiences before travelling will improve the future travel experience.
  • 21% of travellers believe robots that automate the check-in, security, boarding and customer service process will improve the future travel experience.

With travel providers investing heavily in artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics, OAG found that travellers are most looking forward to AI’s role in predicting flight prices, cancellations and delays. In fact, 60% of travellers, and 72% of millennials, said using AI to predict flight cancellations and delays on the day-of-travel would be valuable. Another 50%of travellers want to see AI-driven predictions on delays and cancellations during the booking process, and 73% of all travellers, and 89% of millennials, are looking for AI to improve pricing predictions.

“Today’s travellers crave information, control and convenience. The more information travel providers can put in the hands of a consumer – from when to book based on price, and which flight to book based on punctuality, to what’s a reasonable connection time at a specific airport – the more value they can provide,” says Mr Benjamin.

Looking at transportation innovations just over two in three (68%) respondents said they would be willing to pay more for a cross-country or international ticket on a supersonic jet that could get them to their destination nearly twice as fast as planes today. Its findings show 48% of travellers are willing to pay up to 25% more; 7% up to 40% more; 9% up to 50% more and 2% up to 100% more. OAG notes, unsurprisingly, that business travellers were willing to pay more, on average, than the general population.

The response to usage of autonomous vehicles was less positive. According to OAG’s survey, 27% of US travellers would be comfortable with an autonomous vehicle picking them up or dropping them off at the airport today. Another 41% said they would be willing to try it, but not without hesitations or uncertainty.

While the global travel industry is ripe for disruption and innovation, OAG notes that it’s important to consider the competitive dynamics at play in North America where years of market consolidation have left consumers with less choice, and reduced the urgency for providers to innovate. In general this means the international travel community is ahead of the US when it comes to innovation, and further along with their deployment of biometrics and AI.

But while US.airlines and airports may lag behind their international peers for tech innovation, the push for change in the US, and across the globe, remains
constant. "Travellers are demanding a faster, more informed and convenient experience – from search and booking to the airport, in-flight and in-trip experience. The airlines, airports and travel providers that take the lead – and get it right – will have the upper hand in the market," says OAG.

"To thrive today and in the future, travel providers need to invest in a well-connected ecosystem built primarily on incredible data, deep analytics, partnerships with innovative tech companies and incubators, and an incredible pulse on the evolving needs of today’s traveller," it adds.

READ MORE - view the full OAG report: Travel Tech Innovation Market Report Evaluating Traveler Appetite for Adoption