I had the chance to participate in the Enter 2008 Conference held in Innsbruck, Austria last week.
“Organised by the International Federation for Information Technology and Travel & Tourism (IFITT), ENTER 2008 offers a unique forum for academics, industry and government to present and debate state-of-the-art research and industry case studies on the application of information and communications technologies to tourism and travel.”
There were several trends that emerged as I listened to and engaged in some of the presentations. The trends I identified spanned across all three tracks; industry, research, and destination. This means that the trend was not unique to a specific track but rather had a sector wide influence. These trends are in no particular order:
1. Adoption of mobile travel apps will increase. With the release of the iPhone, Nokia N95, and other multipurpose phones, we will begin to see more technologies developed to enhance the traveler experience through mobile technologies. Location based services and other on-demand systems will become more popular as travelers turn to their mobile devices for directions, recommendations, destination information and more.
2. Niche Social Networks will sprout. Now that Facebook and MySpace have helped to establish the mainstream credibility and effectiveness of social networks, expect to see more niche social networks emerging. We have already seen sites like TravBuddy.com, WAYN, and other emerge in the travel space, but I would suspect that we will begin to see niche networks either emerging on their own or breaking out of these other more mainstream platforms. One example might be a social network for travel suppliers and travel sellers to meet and join trusted groups, create buying relationships, and perhaps even rate and comment on each other.
3. The Big Three will not go anywhere. Don’t expect Sabre, Amadeus, and Travelport to go away any time soon. Pundits have argued the demise of the GDS for years, but they continue to be the force behind much of the new innovation coming of the sector. In one presentation for example, it was revealed that Amadeus spends over €300M a year on R&D. Given the budgets of many travel startups I would predict that it is probably more than all the travel startups in the last year combined.
4. Start of Intelligent Agents. No, I’m not saying that travel agents aren’t intelligent. I’m referring to software agents, specifically to recommendation capabilities. I wouldn’t be surprised if we begin to see applications that can help you pick a destination or activity based on previous buying history or demographic data. Since social networks are so popular and the demographics are so readily available, it would surprise me in the least if we saw these recommender system start showing up on the Facebook platform first.
5. The Long Tail will start to shift. Expect to see more and more the long tail of travel suppliers adopting on-line booking capabilities. The fat end of the tail, represented by the more technologically advanced suppliers, has already adopted the technology and has begun to set the stage for the smaller players. These smaller players, who up until now, have had very few web booking solutions, now have a number of solutions to choose from. Regardless of the technological solution they choose, the important step will be the one they take on-line.
Now imagine a mobile capable social network and booking platform for long tail travel suppliers that provides intelligent recommendations and is funded by a GDS. Now that would be a winner for sure!