The Traveler-Centric Future – Part Four – Convergence

The mobile, social networking, and new web trends we’ve discussed are helping to bring about a Traveler-Centric Future. Once upon a time, business travel, leisure travel, and social networks all occupied neat, distinct spaces in the world. Today, these spaces increasingly overlap, and we see all types of travelers using social networks to research trips and stay connected on the road. This convergence makes the travel industry better for all of its participants.

Traveler centric  In the Traveler-Centric Future, a traveler’s information will flow freely across all the different services they want to use, resulting in a profoundly better travel experience. The widespread availability of high-speed mobile internet means that more intelligent services will be available to every traveler when they are needed most. Typically, that will be while the traveler is on the road.

Here are some snippets from the Traveler-Centric Future…

Companies with traveling employees will have dramatically improved visibility into the whereabouts and security of these employees. With the availability of services that aggregate the traveler’s information and share it with other services, people won’t fall off the grid when travel is booked outside a managed program. The result will be a better understanding of spending habits, which allows for better cost control, whether through improved compliance or voluntary changes in traveler behavior. Unmanaged business programs, in particular, will benefit from insight into where people are traveling and how travel funds are being spent.

Travel suppliers will also win, with opportunities for improved efficiency and more personalized service. For example, the free flow of information could mean limo services will always know when travelers are delayed because a driver “bot” talks to an air “bot” for regular updates on flight progress. Also, suppliers today spend millions (or even tens of millions) on highly sophisticated CRM systems that anticipate customer needs and marketing opportunities. Life could be much easier in a Traveler-Centric Future, where a traveler’s portable travel persona can automatically share their preferences (king bed and USA Today, please) and travel needs (I am receptive to New York City offers, because I make 6 trips there each year).

Perhaps the most exciting implications of convergence are those for the individual traveler, who will have all their travel information in one place, and be able to share that information with any service they want to use. When different services can interact with each other, the whole travel experience will be smoother.

Take a typical flight delay, for example. In the Traveler-Centric Future, an alert about the delay will be pushed to the traveler’s mobile device, and any alternatives will be weighed by the different services the traveler uses, and presented to the traveler automatically. These services will also reschedule the traveler’s rental car pick-up and business meetings, and let the spouse know the traveler won’t be home for dinner. After the trip is over the expense report will be a snap, because one click shares the all the relevant travel information with the traveler’s expense solution.

Shopping will also be radically better for travelers. When travel profile information and plans are shareable, the traveler’s experience on travel sites will be tailored to their specific needs. For example, today, Orbitz treats millions of visitors each month in basically the same way. If Orbitz knows automatically that a traveler likes boutique hotels with free wifi, and is 1K on United, and is planning a trip to San Diego, Orbitz will be able to do a much better job of helping that traveler get what they want, with minimal effort.

How cool is that?

Travel is truly one of life’s great joys and I’m excited to see what will happen to our industry as travelers and travel companies embrace the opportunity for innovation and change. The Traveler-Centric Future, powered by mobile technology, social networks, and the new web, is something to celebrate, because it’s opening up a new, and better, world for travelers and all the businesses that serve them.

Read more about the Traveler-Centric Future:

Part One – Mobile

Part Two – Social Networking

Part Three- The Interoperable Web