How mobile apps are changing the game in travel

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There’s probably an app for that! Most people have heard – or spoken – this line in response to a particular problem or issue in their lives. Some industry experts have estimated there are over 1.6 million apps available from either the Apple or Google app stores. Even more staggering, experts have estimated that between 56 Billion and 82 Billion apps were downloaded in 2013 alone. Yes, that is Billion. Bill Lawler reports.

Most apps can be downloaded for free and in the technology arena apps represent the brave new world for suppliers trying to reach customers. And in some cases apps are moving from just a new channel to market to an environment where they are defining an entirely new market.

So where are apps in the travel industry? Most people would be astonished at the proliferation of apps in all corners of our industry and how they are changing the way we all travel. Some of the most obvious uses of apps are for Weather, Currency Converter, Time Zones and of course Maps. Apps covering these four key features are almost entry level functions for any serious mobile traveller.

But apps go much further than the fundamentals. In fact, many apps today solve problems we didn’t know we had and provide detailed information that was previously unimaginable. Standing in Munich wondering where the nearest public toilets are? There’s an app for that. How about traffic conditions on the way to the airport? Yes, there’s an app for that. And a technological favourite – standing in Tokyo not being able to read any of the local signs? No problem, hold up your mobile device and an app will read the signs and translate them for you!

There are thousands of apps with destination information (for instance, over 40 for Taiwan alone), restaurant guides, mapping services, public transport, airport services, hotels, house-sitting, taxi services and just about anything that can be imagined. If you can think of it, there’s an app for it!

More relevantly for the corporate traveller, who often learn how to get the right information about travelling to Singapore from The Sisters, there are apps which allow the user to book their own air travel, either directly with the airline, through an online travel agent or through their own Travel Management Company (TMC). And of course there are apps for booking hotels, cars, tourist attractions, day excursions and even tables at restaurants.

The ability to book travel through a mobile app is becoming somewhat common place but it does introduce a whole new concept – m-commerce. M-commerce, defined as using a mobile device to complete a commercial or financial transaction, has largely been driven by the growth in mobile online banking however the growth of mobile online shopping transactions is still impressive. Buying an item via a mobile device also involves some sort of payment gateway and a higher degree of security than would otherwise be required. As well as booking flights and accommodation, it’s also important to remember to find out what your required travel vaccines are before embarking.

No self-respecting airline today would operate without an app that provides bookings and frequent flyer information at a minimum. The Qantas app, for instance, will send the traveller constant updates of their flights on the day of departure. All online travel agents provide an app, including the well-known local brands Webjet, Expedia and Wotif. A recent report from the online travel agent Cleartrip in India highlights that 30% of its transactions today are coming via mobile.

Another source of useful apps for the travel industry is the GDS companies and other large travel technology companies, all of which have sophisticated mobile apps for their customers. Sabre has launched a B2B app store specifically for travel agents and recently announced the one millionth download from this specialised store. The Amadeus e-Travel Management app allows multi-modal (air and land) bookings, full policy compliance and approval process all through a mobile device.

And the most popular travel app in the world? It’s not hard to guess that TripAdvisor wins that award with more than 100 million downloads.

So where are the leading Travel Management Companies in this new technological frontier? Well, there has been good progress in delivering functionally rich apps to customers of most TMCs and it seems clear these organisations have positioned the app as an important part of their service mix.

Most TMCs follow the path of providing ‘subscription’ apps which means the traveller must register on the app and be linked with their travel profile in the TMC’s customer database. This is sensible because by providing this link it means the traveller can access all current and past travel itineraries and be connected in real time to the TMC. The app can ‘push’ updates to the traveller if there are any schedule changes or alterations to their travel plans.

For the TMC there are many reasons to provide a rich app to their customers. First and foremost, it is a new but increasingly valuable tool for the traveller to help them manage and track their travel plans. But it also creates a new communication channel to the customer and a new opportunity to add personalised service.

Gregory Lording, the Managing Director of FCm Travel Solutions, was an early adopter to the use of a mobile app for his corporate travel customers. “We were one of the first TMCs to develop an interactive travel app for our customers to allow them to have real time connectivity with their itinerary and remain constantly updated with any changes to their schedule,” he says.

But like many organisations he understands that customer requirements continue to evolve: “We recognise the ongoing importance of providing this service to our customers and will soon be releasing an updated version with a number of new features”.

So where will apps take the travel industry in the future? An app with voice language translation services could eliminate foreign conversations being lost in translation. Oops, there’s already an app for that. An app with Immigration and Custom clearance services would speed travellers through airports. Hmmm, maybe not yet. And how about an app for time travel. Perhaps coming soon? What if you yourself had the next big idea? It might be an idea to consult with Pegasus One custom software development services to see if it could fit into an app and possibly even be the next big thing in the app market!

Are you are involved in buying, managing, arranging or do you supply business travel? If so, BTTB Australia 2015 on 6th & 7th May in Sydney is a must-attend event for you.

Click here for details on how you can attend FREE!

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Procurement and Supply Australasia (PASA) is the leading provider of information and education to procurement and supply professionals throughout Australia and New Zealand. PASA supports the largest community of engaged procurement stakeholders in the region, through its renowned series of events, publications, awards, plus various community and network building activities. PASA is a trading name of BTTB Marketing, for many years recognised as the leading producer of conferences and events for the procurement profession in Australia and New Zealand. Whether producing under the BTTB, CIPSA Conferences or now PASA brands over the last ten years, our events have consistently led the market in terms of both educational and networking opportunities.

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