In the era of modern marketing, social media is at the “centre of changing travel trends,” explains Mieke De Schepper, executive vice president for online travel and managing director for Asia Pacific at travel technology specialist Amadeus in a blog post on travel trends.
It is perhaps no real surprise given that travel has inherently always been a social activity, not only because it involves friends and family, rather because everyone likes to share their experiences with others. Long before the dawn of social media, travellers would share feedback about their travel. Now those photo albums or slideshows have been replaced by blogs and Instagram posts as technology usage has risen.
“Passing travel experience or information has evolved from word-of-mouth and reading brochures, to leaving reviews on online travel sites and picturesque posts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter,” says Ms De Schepper, highlighting that TripAdvisor has moved to a social-media-type platform to maintain their booking capabilities; Ctrip’s Instagram-like platform now links booking capabilities to posts; and Lonely Planet acquired TRILL Travel, which turns Instagram posts into bookable experiences.
Today social media platforms such as Instagram have more than 500 million active users sharing an average of 85 million photos a day. “About 40% of Instagram users under 33 voted that travel photos incite new wanderlust, and ‘instagrammability’ was one of the top factors in selecting a vacation destination,” notes Ms De Schepper.
In Amadeus’ Digital Footprints report series, offering insights into online traveller trends, it was found that 68% of travellers in the North American region and 74% in France looked to travel blogs, vloggers or influencers for inspiration or information when planning a vacation or trip away.
“With social media taking an increasing hold on society and smartphones usurping laptops as the primary travel research tool, travel companies must think mobile-first throughout the user experience,” says Ms De Schepper.
She notes travel companies are eyeing platforms like Facebook Messenger to develop chatbots that can provide simple answers to FAQs. Elsewhere, London Gatwick airport, Aeromexico and SITA are using chatbots for baggage, Malaysia Airlines and WestJet for bookings, and Marriott for tours and activities.
The rise of mobile has also led travellers to juggle with many apps for airlines, travel agencies and hotels that provide a rich source of travel content. “The challenge is how to combine relevant travel content from multiple sources, so it can be used by both travel vendors and travellers alike,” acknowledges Ms De Schepper.
This is where the concept of super apps comes in. It is a single app that includes multiple apps. “This one-stop-shop can give travellers the ability to book, make changes, upgrade, get an itinerary, claim expenses, connect to social media, shop, order food or taxis and more,” explains Ms De Schepper.
Through such technology, corporations, travel managers are able to get a complete view of their customer’s behaviour and additional ancillaries booked through the app, while easily enforcing their travel policy through push notifications. Certainly a big opportunity for travel sellers.
Ms De Schepper describes that as consumers get comfortable with the use of their personal data, travel companies can “dole out content that is better targeted, more personalised and localised”. WeChat has been pioneering the super-app concept for years in China and other key Asian companies, including Line, KakaoTalk, Grab and Go-Jek are expanding their functionality by the day based on user data, according to the executive.
“They’ve added food delivery, media, payments and travel, targeting business travellers to their apps. Similarly, western tech giants are getting in on the act, integrating Facebook Messenger, Google Maps and more to further personalise travel,” she adds.