August 19, 2013
The digitally empowered traveler
Long before their bags are packed and they’re ready to go, 47 percent of travelers are on their smartphones. According to Marco Reginelli, head of travel at Google, nearly half of travel planning starts on a mobile device. Last week at Los Angeles Tourism’s Market Outlook Forum, Reginelli presented new data from Google’s Travel division that indicates a major shift in travel planning and corresponding opportunities for digital savvy travel and leisure brands. The idea of the digitally activated traveler isn’t new—our 2011 “Rebooting Travel” report focused on tech-enabled travel—but it’s playing a growing role, for a growing range of travelers.
Business travelers are embracing mobile: 65 percent have booked a flight, hotel or cruise from a mobile device (compared with 48 percent of leisure travelers), and 69 percent have downloaded a travel-related app on their smartphones (vs. 52 percent of leisure travelers). Increasingly, digitally savvy travelers are global in origin as connectivity expands. The BRIC countries—which represent $155 billion in international tourism spending power—are seeing rapid growth in Internet penetration. (One segment of the Los Angeles forum was devoted to Chinese visitors, a cohort that’s gaining the attention of many tourism boards, as we noted in a recent post.)
Can you imagine leaving home with a blank itinerary? Thanks to their smartphones and tablets, more travelers feel comfortable making last-minute decisions on hotels—potentially saving them money—and other plans. Expedia found that 70 percent of hotel rooms booked on mobile devices are within 24 hours of the stay; mobile apps like Hotel Tonight offer only last-minute lodging deals.
The experience for travelers doesn’t just need to be mobile-oriented, it needs to transition automatically between platforms, as 71 percent of travelers move between devices (tablet, desktop, mobile) when researching a trip. Beyond providing smooth logistical experiences (bookings, planning, etc.), travel boards and brands must also use digital tools to inspire potential visitors to dream big and to make the customer experience seamless. Ultimately, as Reginelli predicted, mobile-armed travelers will, for instance, bypass the hotel front desk, checking in on their phones and using the mobile device as a keycard.
For more on the latest trends in travel, download our April report, “Travel: Changing Course.”
Image credit: Phil Campbell