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Evoloving Technology Trends in Travel

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Vikas Rana, CTO, HolidayIQ.com Established in 2004 with the sole aim of helping Indian travellers plan holidays and share their travel experiences, over the years, HolidayIQ has grown with more than 50 lakh travellers planning their holidays every month and provides information over 30,000 Indian hotels and 1500 Indian destinations.

Technology has a hand-inglove relationship with travel. Travel has been an early adopter of new technologies. It shapes a lot of our travel experiences. We can hardly imagine a trip without our GoPro and Uber-booking smartphone. As travel companies, hotels and consumers leverage technology to elevate their experiences, 2018 promises to bring a new set of technological trends at disposal. Here's a look at some of the key trends shaping the travel industry.

Social Media marketing
As everybody spends more time on social media sites, Travel marketers have taken notice and have been shifting more of their spend there. A large part of the travel inspiration content has already gone social. As travellers share their experiences inspiring more people, brands have taken the route of influencers.

With rapid advances in machine learning and big data analytics, we are going to see the advent of more personal communication. Based on previous bookings and buying behaviour, travel companies have enormous data at their disposal which they are using to segment customers better and market personalized offers via social media. As soon as you tell your friends about your upcoming travel, you’ll start noticing custom travel deals in your feed!

Social media is also crucial for brands to maintain a direct relationship with travellers. This has become a necessity as damage to a brand’s reputation is one viral video away as we recently saw with Indigo Airlines. By having a direct relationship with travellers, brands can have a control over the messaging.

Automation
Artificial Intelligence is evolving as another key technology with the potential to impact our lives in a big way. And this is giving rise to bots replacing a lot of
operations that have required human touch till now.Customer support and some part of sales and lead generation have already started to be powered by virtual assistants and chatbots.

Chatbots promise to be smarter than their human counterpart tapping into the personal information available with the company and give pinpointed solution without asking a lot of questions. They can be very efficient avoiding multiple phone calls, hold times and annoying "dial 1 for…" experiences. Chatbots can communicate with customers in their language which has been very challenging for call centres to operationalize.

As travelers share their experiences inspiring more people, brands have taken the route of influencers

Call centres are a big part of the cost in the travel industry and chatbots promise to give a superior service at cheaper costs. According to a report by Gartner, 85% of our relationship with enterprises will be managed without human interaction by 2020. Going forward, it is going to be harder for consumers to find call centre numbers for travel companies and many of the simpler interactions with travel companies are going to be powered by chatbots. WhatsApp opening up for business is going to accelerate this trend in 2018.

Complimentary smartphones in hotels
One of the first things that we do when we reach our destination is to buy a local SIM card to stay connected -be it for booking an Uber, finding a restaurant, booking museum tickets on the go or to stay connected with our loved ones. Many hotels have tapped into this behaviour and started providing smartphones to their guests - free to use during their stay. These phones are ready with a 3G connection and many essential apps like Google Maps and Uber preloaded as well as offer free phone calls to local and some international countries.

These smartphones, termed "Handy", provides a quick way to accesshotel services. It also offers deals and promotions from nearby places. These devices not only provide convenience to travellers but also save cost and increase guest’s satisfaction. Hotels in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia are leading in this trend. Expect more hotels to follow soon.

Drones
Travellers have never shied away from spending on gadgets to make their travel memorable, be it wireless portable speakers, high-end DSLR lenses or GoPro set. Now travellers are fast adding drones to the list.

Drones have become smaller, lighter and more affordable in last few years. It gives average traveller access to a technology that has been available only to professionals. Drones costing Rs 10k can now shoot 4K videos and deliver a live feed from a kilometre away. Now travellers can record a bird’s eye view of their adventures giving a sublime touch powering hundreds of likes on Facebook. Today’s drones have the ability to capture breathtaking aerial shots of beaches, jungles and waterfalls from a new angle, taking us to places we normally cannot reach. Many top-end resorts are now offering drones for their guests.

Selfie is making way for dronie. You are likely to see more of drone foot age in your Facebook and Instagram feeds in 2018.