Hari Nair, SVP, Lodging Partners of Expedia Group, walks us through why now, more than ever, consumers are looking for more personal user experiences
Guest Post: How the needs and wants of travellers are becoming ever more personal
Throughout my two decades with Expedia Group, both as a company and as an industry, we have experienced more transformative change over the past three years than in the previous 20.
Impacted by a global pandemic that has transformed the way we travel, the accelerated technological innovation we have seen in the industry both feeds and satisfies the ever-increasing customer desire for more personalised travel experiences. Tech provides customers with a greater level of information, choice, and uncertainty than ever before. This is coupled with new environmental and social expectations of travellers, which means that the needs, and wants of our customers are becoming more fragmented and personal to them as each day passes.
Breaking down the priorities
Travellers’ needs are fluctuating more than ever before across age, gender, ethnicity, location, market, and services. For example, the pace and requirements of airline travel are different across different geographic markets. For example, domestic travel has been strong in Latin America; in Asia international flight levels are still catching up to pre-pandemic levels; and in the UK and Europe some flight strikes and extreme temperatures means travellers' holiday destinations can change right up until the last minute.
In terms of specific demographics, according to Skift the average global traveller is now in their early 40s, as we see the continued class in emerging markets and an aging population in developed countries. In fact, the Brookings Institution, reported by the WEF, Statista, Hotel Management, said that by 2023 it’s expected that 2 in 3 members of the middle class will be Asian. This could drive a to a new level of expectations for travel.
When it comes to sustainability, travellers no longer just want affordable holidays. Some are willing to pay extra for assurances that they can travel, live, rest and relax in a sustainable way.
Making booking platforms accessible for everyone
Outside of customer choice, there is also growing fragmentation in terms of booking logistics and making sure travel platforms and our partners can be open and accessible to everyone. For instance, the preference for e-commerce options in Brazil differs from other markets. Customers are used to and expect to pay in installments, and travel partners can expect stronger conversion rates when offering this option. When finding one’s dream holiday destination, people are taking more time than ever when researching travel options. Expedia Group's Path to Purchase research this year found that up to 45 days before travel, people visit 180 web pages on average, which remains a great opportunity to better understand and advise travellers.
All this rapid change means we are now entering an era of customer fragmentation that makes the role of the travel provider imperative in understanding each customer's needs.
Creating a personalised booking process
As a travel provider, the ability to track and understand more and more data points is key to creating a personalised searching, shopping, and booking process that empowers customers by putting them at the centre of the journey.
The advent and introduction of new technology solutions, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), could be transformational in helping to address key areas of fragmentation and making travel accessible for everyone, everywhere.
The use of new services, such as ChatGPT, for example, and its ability to provide personalised service at an automated speed – utilizing the data points to understand the customers' prompts to help recommend and book trips on their behalf in a matter of seconds - is revolutionary.
These technologies help to directly avoid commoditisation by focusing on creating travel platforms that showcase the most suitable products for each individual, providing the best solutions for their needs, and helping to support and advise them through the booking process.
Leveraging AI and machine learning to build smart products and services and ultimately deliver better experiences for their travellers can now be applied across any aspect of the booking experience. AI for shopping can help travellers design personalised trip options, improve price tracking to find the most affordable deal and payment process for them, and improve customer service to quickly resolve issues such as booking cancellations.