Personalised offers and merchandising could help ease the pain of travel disruptions

Ben Hunt

Group Communications Director, Amadeus IT Group

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Over the course of about six years I was a regular commuter from my home in the English midlands to London’s Heathrow airport. Google Maps says that the journey is 100 miles and should take approximately two and a half hours. The distance never changes, of course, but on the UK’s motorways, time is flexible. At 10pm on a week night the journey is less than two hours, in Monday morning traffic as much as five.

traffic jam

These journeys form one half of my most vivid travel memories: worrying about missing flights or actually missing flights because of traffic. They do so because there are few things more stressful than disrupted travel plans. A missed flight invariably leads to frantic calls to airlines and hotel or time spent in queues in departures.

So imagine a world in which as you’re not going to make the 10.15, and your smartphone – using its geo location functionality and your calendar – recognises you’re late, and sends that news to your provider which immediately and automatically starts looking for an appropriate alternative.

And so by the time you realize that all hope is lost and that you’re going to miss your first flight, your connection, your dinner meeting and probably your hotel reservation, your provider has already sent you a revised schedule. No need to make a call, no need to queue, you push “Accept” and you‘re back on track with at least some of the stress removed.

That is surely apersonalised travelservice that a great many will recognize the value of, probably even enough to pay a few bucks more.  And that’s just one of the countless possibilities opened up by an intelligent and dynamic global travel ecosystem designed to deliver a richer, personalized experience.

The “intelligent” element will be key to making the travel ecosystemdeliver for the traveller: a system understands requirements, preferences and habits enabling the dynamic delivery of the offer or service in the right way at the right time. A combination of loyalty, history and other miscellaneous data can be a powerful combination for a travel service trying to deliver the right merchandising opportunity.

Using another personal example – sadly the missed flights at Heathrow are an actual case study, which is why I know that at least one person would pay for the service described – over the past few years we have sporadically taken family skiing holidays at either new year or during the Easter school holidays. These have typically been fairly late-planned, opportunistic affairs taking advantage of offers. They have also typically taken a lot of research pulling together the appropriate flights, accommodation and transfers.  Getting the first two elements in sync is the key to the decision, and it never seems easy.

But it really could be. Imagine a scenario whereby your preferred agent or airline recognised that at a time you have a history of going to the French Alps through Geneva and recognizes that a combination of flight capacity and hotel availability means that December, for example, is a great time to travel. It suspects you might be open to an alpine holiday before you’ve even started dreaming of red runs and vin chaud. And there it is, in your inbox, with a choice of potential itineraries and even an easy option for hiring equipment and buying lift passes.

This won’t be for everyone, of course. Many people enjoy poring over websites and newspaper supplements choosing the perfect venue – and sometimes I am the same.

The beauty of the global travel ecosystem, however, is that it will have the flexibility to offer each traveler what he or she wants, whether that be the cheapest flight from A to B, a familiar restaurant in an unfamiliar town, a voucher for a discount on Chanel No. 5 in duty free or, yes, a quick resolution to your problem, and an opportunity for travel players to unlock additional revenuewhen a 22 mile traffic jam costs you your flight to Munich.


Traveler Experience, Merchandising