How digital technology has revolutionised the luxury travel industry
Remember the days when planning a holiday involved a visit to the local bricks and mortar travel agent? These days, it’s hard to imagine having to leave the comfort of your home to get that luxury trip booked in, and for many years now the majority of us have been arranging spontaneous dream trips in minutes online, at just the tap of a few buttons.
Thanks to the rapid advancement of digital technology over the past couple of decades, user-friendly apps and high-speed internet mean you can now arrange your next getaway from wherever you are – in some cases, before you’ve even left your previous destination, and are mourning the final days of that Caribbean sunshine break.
What’s more, you can often chat live online with your favourite operators to get some speedy answers to your questions, and most operators – with the help of great digital marketing companies like Passion Digital – have built a good presence across social media, too, making it easier than ever to digest content and gain inspiration for your next trip.
Demand for holidays has changed, and these days, private tours and individual, tailor-made experiences have become the most sought-after ways to travel. As the recent collapse of Thomas Cook – the world’s oldest travel company – proved, the failure to move with the times and meet evolving customer demands has meant that many of the ‘original’ operators are at risk of getting left behind -so, is combining this new style of travel with the latest in digital technology the key to lasting success?
There’s no denying that digitalisation has given us more choice than ever before, and with the plethora of high-end travel companies – from Secret Escapes to Mr & Mrs. Smith – that have risen through the ranks in recent years, that has never been truer for the luxury traveller.
While in 2019, many people chose to design and build their own trips thanks to the endless options now readily available, there is still a lot to be said for letting someone else do the hard work for you. The afore-mentioned Secret Escapes, for example, continues to do a roaring trade thanks to its selection of the best hand-picked hotels from around the world, with unique five-star deals available to book online. With more companies than ever before offering a quick and easy service online, it has never been easier to book that lavish getaway – but where does this leave business in the industry?
Agents have undoubtedly suffered the most, and while many have scrambled to expand their offerings online, their continued reliance on bricks and mortar stores has left many – Thomas Cook included – high and dry. Before it went into administration, the company still had 555 high street stores to its name – and with rent prices and other overheads ever-increasing, it proved to be far from the most cost-effective way to trade.
Make no mistake; the travel industry has been revolutionised in recent years, with online agencies and direct distribution through airline and hotels websites enjoying a large share of the market – but thankfully, that doesn’t mean we’ll have to say goodbye to all of our best loved travel operators.
Today, the majority have cottoned onto the need to evolve alongside technology, and are embracing the online world – something which is now quite evidently vital for their long-term success.
In 2017, a survey by holiday comparison site, Hundredrooms, found that mobile phones had desktop when it came to arranging getaways, with smartphones accounting for 48% of all UK holiday bookings – a number that has continued to skyrocket since – which means offering an online service alone is no longer enough to remain competitive. Many leading holiday providers now have their very own apps, allowing customers to plan, book and refer back to itinerary information with ease.
The same can be said for airlines, which are now expected to allow customers to check in for flights online, access their boarding passes and view flight information updates on the fly – and others must follow suit if they are to keep up with the competition.
Aside from ease of booking, there is a lot to be said for the wealth of options that are now available thanks to the virtues of digital technology, too – and small businesses are reaping the benefits. With smaller marketing budgets, it would previously have proven a far greater challenge to make themselves known to the masses, but online travel agents have changed all that. Now, you’d think nothing of stumbling across a remote rainforest lodge or a tiny island dive resort on one of your favourite luxury travel sites, and it’s all because the online revolution has given them a platform.
Suffice it to say that travel has officially gone mobile – and if you haven’t, well, you might find you’re missing a trick or two yourself. From finding a hotel and checking in, to unlocking your door and controlling the air conditioning, our phones are now at the centre of every travel experience – and, as the industry does its best to adapt and evolve, you might have to, too.