Chris Branagan, chief technology officer at Hotelbeds, picks out the key trends to look out for in travel tech during the year ahead
Are there any non-travel industry technology companies that will have a big impact on the travel industry during 2020?
Out of all the tech giants Salesforce is now the fastest growing and we saw this in 2019. For example, this year they bought Tableau and they’ve been very busy taking over many other companies.
They are working their way towards offering a full-service solution, including both customer acquisition, marketing, analytics and CRM.
Already they are now present in many parts of the travel technology eco-system and this looks set to increase. In 2020 I see more and more travel businesses turning to them to be their technology partner. Watch this space.
As more people book travel online, how is search demand evolving and how many searches does your business now handle daily?
The travel industry ‘look-to-book-ratio’ – the ratio of how many travel offers a consumer sees versus making a purchase – has been exponentially growing for a long time now.
I´d say that it has more or less doubled every nine months or so consistently for several years.
As a result we are seeing from clients more and more demand for search capacity and now that we are in the cloud we are able to support any level of demand – and now see regularly peaks of up to 4 billion searches a day.
What currently is driving the exponential increase in ‘look-to-book-ratios’ and demand for search power?
Historically this has been driven simply by the growth in online purchases of travel. But in recent years this has been driven more specifically by the growth in ‘hyper-connectivity’: everyone is connected to everyone.
Is there a better way to manage the insatiable demand for search data from travel sellers?
As technology improves the cost per search falls, of course, but currently the demand for increased search results means that the travel industry is not benefiting from this cost saving – in fact overall the cost per booking is probably increasing.
At Hotelbeds we are trialing methods of using machine learning to reduce the number of search results required for each request.
How does this work? Right now the industry has a ‘one-size-fits-all-approach’: a search can returns all potential booking options, even though the vast majority of those results are not needed.
Our aim is instead to give our clients a ‘curated feed’ based on their needs, using machine learning tools that look at their prior booking patterns and so on.
We hope to be able to announce more details about this next year and are very excited about this.
Not only will this make us more competitive, clients will benefit significantly because processing search results costs them time, money and resources.
In other words clients will see a reduction in costs, quicker search results, and content more relevant too for their end-consumer customers.