What I have learned from travelers and the digitization of travel

Francesca Benati

Executive VP Online Travel Channels, WEMEA and Managing Director for Italy

Just like fingerprints, no two travelers are alike. It’s that diversity that makes working across the Western Europe, Middle East and Africa region so fascinating. Not only are travelers unique, but so are their aspirations when it comes to creating the perfect trip.

Individual travelers seeking tailored experiences means the possibilities are endless. It also enables our customers to develop their own differentiated and unique selling propositions to compete in the online market.

Here’s my top takeaways for travel companies striving to meet the needs of travelers with their increasingly digital behaviors and experiences:

1. Innovative services create differentiation. When a traveler’s flight has been disrupted, one metasearch company sends an email notification that introduces travelers to firms that can help expedite compensation claims. In an unrelated move, a mega Online Travel Agency also introduced a way to provide flight cancellation guarantees that allow customers to cancel up to 24 hours before departure and receive a substantial refund of the ticket price.

2. Get personal with smart recommendations. Companies like Netflix have demonstrated the benefits of personalization, raising consumer expectations in the process (reportedly, 75% of content consumed via Netflix is curated based on individual viewing habits). This is a big topic among online travel retailers that Amadeus is helping them to address.

3. Be a source of inspiration to keep people coming back for more. Many travelers start searching without even having a destination in mind. Many Europeans remain price-sensitive, according to a cross market European study which showed that for 77% of French respondents budget was a primary factor in research and booking. However, price is just one dimension among many, and price minus context can be a real turn-off.

4. Rewrite the rule book with ambient browsing. More and more consumers are in a constant search for the next big vacation idea. This phenomenon is known as ambient booking and it is leading to a reduction in booking lead times, according to a survey by Carat Manchester. While travelers used to start the search for their summer holiday at a set peak booking period, 22% of 25-34 year-olds in the UK now book leisure travel within three weeks of departure.

5. Consumers are platform hopping – are you ready? Although the majority of online bookings are made using desktop devices, various studies published in 2018 have put the level of bookings from mobile devices in EMEA ranging from anywhere between 20-50% depending on the market. But they all agree platform hopping is here to stay with the increase being attributed to larger screens and user-friendly mobile apps.

6. The end justifies the means in human versus machine. An international survey of 18,500 people indicated that 80% of holidaymakers prefer to self-serve to get the information they need. 50% even admitted they don’t mind if queries are answered by a real travel consultant or chatbot – as long as their questions get answered quickly and correctly.

7.  Young, tech savvy consumers accelerate online adoption. While digital maturity in Europe means modest growth, online travel in the Middle East is really taking off. Saudi Arabia, for example, saw its online flight bookings grow 14 percent in 2017, according to recent estimates. Use of smartphones in the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf states is also among the highest in the world. That explains why just five years ago there were only a handful of regionally-based online travel agencies — today there are around 40.

The diversity within this region is clear to see. But there are commonalities too. Successful travel companies are centered on customer needs. That’s why I’m excited about the Live Travel Space. It delivers the flexibility and adaptability required to meet the changing needs of today’s travelers and the online travel companies that serve them.


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