More and cheaper smart devices, an ever-growing number of features and an intuitive user experience… It's all good news for consumers and little wonder that mobile remains a dominant trend in managed travel. Developments in multichannel technology, “power apps” and most recently near-field communication, beacon and wearable technologies dominate the managed travel discussion.
In our survey, mobile technology emerges as the highest-impact trend for travel managers and an important element to include in the travel program for the vast majority of travelers. Overall, travel managers expect mobile technology to make an above-average impact on their travel programs (a 3.43 rating on a scale of 1-5, where 1 = no impact and 5 = a high impact).
Some 92 percent of travel managers expect mobile technology to make an impact (ranking it 3+ on a scale of 1-5), while 72 percent consider this impact to be high (ranking it 4+).
Travel managers' view of mobile technology is clearly evolving, since in 2014, fewer survey respondents expected some impact (84 percent) and fewer still a high or very high impact (65 percent).1
In this latest survey, 61 percent of surveyed travelers say it is important for mobile to be part of the travel program (3+ rating). A slightly higher proportion of those who do not consider it important are infrequent travelers (taking fewer than three trips a year).
This impact is largely considered positive by travelers in terms of convenience and ease of use (Figure 11). Travel managers also consider the impact of mobile technology to be positive in terms of improved traveler satisfaction (Figure 12). However, some concerns remain, such as data security (Figures 13-14).
Smartphone adoption has grown at a staggering rate, from 1.31 billion users in 2013 to 1.64 billion in 2014 (+25 percent). This growth is set to continue, with the number of users reaching an estimated 1.91 billion in 2015 (+16 percent), 2.16 billion by the end of 2016 (+12 percent)2 and more than 4 billion by 2020.3 To put this into perspective, a quarter of the world's population will own a smartphone by the end of 2015, with a much higher percentage expected among business travelers. In a 2014 survey in the United States, 97 percent of air passengers carried a phone, laptop or tablet.4
Travelers are not only better equipped but better connected and able to take advantage of constantly evolving mobile travel services.
Growing buzz about wearable computing devices has just increased with the launch of Apple Watch this spring after the launch of Google's Android Wear last year. It is still early days for these kinds of devices, but the market is almost certain to take off fast over the next few years. According to a recent report by Business Insider, the global market for smartwatches, fitness trackers, smart eyewear and other wearables reached 33 million units in 2014, and should grow by 35 percent annually over the next five years, reaching 148 million units shipped per year in 2019.5
What may make a difference to uptake is how fast smartwatches become fully functional stand-alone devices that do not need to be linked to the user's smartphone. Other factors include how the hardware will evolve in terms of features, usability, battery life and transmission support (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, 4G, etc.).
In any case, airlines, GDSs and hotels have already started delivering mobile services to smartwatches in addition to smartphones. And this is just the beginning…
Many of the mobile services available on smart devices use beacon or near-field communication (NFC) technologies, which are based on the user's location. These are facilitating many of the new trends discussed in this report, from mobile payments to customized services.
New location-based services for travelers include, for example:
What remains to be seen is whether these technologies will simply provide convenience for travelers or whether they will also support the travel program; for example by providing travel managers with previously uncaptured spend data or confirming to travelers at hotel check-outs that their company's preferred rate has been correctly applied.
In 2014, 18 percent of travelers surveyed at an airport were carrying at least three devices (a smartphone, laptop and tablet) and this number will only increase in the future.6 Taking into account internet use on desktop computers as well, consumers are getting used to switching between different devices and they increasingly expect the same user-friendliness and features (e.g. preferences and items stored in shopping baskets) regardless of which they use. For corporate travelers, this could mean looking at flights and submitting an option for approval on their office desktop computer, checking the approval status and booking on their tablets at home, and then checking flight details and status updates on their mobile while on the move — all quickly and easily by logging on to their account each time (or skipping this step if they select the "remember me" option).
For surveyed travelers, convenience and ease of use are clearly the top two benefits of mobile services.
CWT is currently exploring ways to deliver a mobile-first multichannel offering, combining a fast, easy, consumerized mobile experience with online desktop access and support from travel counselors. Considering mobile as the primary channel breaks with the traditional approach in which mobile features are developed simply as an extension of desktop online tools.
More than 70,000 travel apps are available in the Apple App Store alone.7 As the number of apps has increased, so has the need for tools that serve more than one purpose or “power apps” that offer most of the features business travelers need. In this area, the managed travel market has evolved significantly over the last few years.
Five years ago, the best apps offered by TMCs were aggregators that pre-selected the handiest information apps for business travelers (weather, exchange rates, local news, etc.). Then itinerary management technology was introduced, enabling travelers to access up-to-date information on all their travel arrangements from a single app. Mobile check-in and flight status alerts were among the features added next. And now, much-awaited program-compliant booking capabilities are being launched. For example, CWT To Go™ has just launched hotel booking, allowing travelers to see their company's preferred rates, CWT negotiated rates, their previous stays, the most popular properties booked by their colleagues and other information to help them decide and book. Travelers can also access and edit their travel profile from the app, while air and ground transportation bookings are in pilot phases.
This kind of power app is designed to meet demand from both travelers and travel managers, making travelers' lives easier while keeping them within a managed travel environment for bookings. As CWT noted last year in its report Tap into mobile service: managed travel in the digital economy, most travelers and travel managers consider mobile booking an important or even essential service. According to CWT forecasts, mobile could represent up to 25 percent of online bookings by 2017. As an indication, 51 percent of the most frequent CWT travelers (those who travel at least five times a year) have already adopted CWT To Go.
For most companies, the question is no longer whether they should introduce mobile booking (yes) or even when (now), but how best to do it (with the right app and policy to back it up).
For surveyed travelers, convenience and ease of use are the top two benefits of mobile technology services.
For travel managers, the positive impacts include traveler satisfaction, ease of doing business and productivity.
Recent cases of high-profile hacking and credit card leaks have highlighted the risks associated with data and the need to keep security measures up to date.
According to our survey, data privacy/security is the top concern for travelers in terms of using mobile services (See Figure 13).
Similarly, travel managers note data security as the primary concern, although they expect the impact of mobile to be largely positive (See Figure 14).
As one of the very first dedicated managed travel apps, CWT to Go™ remains among the most feature-rich on the market, offering itinerary management, flight status alerts, mobile check in, destination information, profile integration and more. In 2015, the latest addition to the app is hotel booking with corporate preferred rates, helping companies to limit the number of reservations made outside preferred channels.
A number of other new features are also under development:
This award-winning app is available to CWT clients for free on iPhone™, iPad™, Android™, Windows Phone™, Blackberry™ and Kindle Fire™ devices.
1 Source: CWT Travel Management Institute, Tap into mobile service: managed travel in the digital economy (2014)
2 Source: eMarketer (December 2014)
3 Source: ITU Tech Summit (Nov 2014)
4 Source: SITA, Passenger IT Trends Survey (2014)
5 Source: Business Insider, The Wearables Report (2014)
6 Source: SITA, Passenger IT Trends Survey (2014)
7 Source: pocketgamer.biz (May 2014)