Top executives from airlines, airports, transportation, hotels and intermediaries are set to meet in London 22-23rd October to discuss how to drive forward strategies to deliver a seamlessly connected travel experience to consumers.
Central to the discussions will be how mobile strategies can be used to provide the travel information, products and services need to enhance the customer journey.
In a recent interview with EyeforTravel, Heathrow Airport stated that they know that 80% of travellers leave home with some sort of smart device.
However, providing consumers with the right information they need via mobile at the right time isn't easy.
"Most consumers now want to receive the appropriate communications throughout their trip. From a company's perspective, a key challenge is to overcome the fact that data is not being shared between the brands that make up the customer journey" says Gina Baillie, GM, EyeforTravel Ltd.
As John Hurley, CTO, Ryanair confirmed at a recent EyeforTravel event, "the biggest challenge we face at the moment is data – getting data and getting data shared". He cited the example of how useful it would be if airlines and airports could share information more readily with each other.
"There is, I think, an absolute recognition across the industry that we need to collaborate and share data more effectively," says Chris Annetts, Director of Commercial Passenger Services, Heathrow, who acknowledges that addressing incidents where customers do not have the information they need are a top priority to resolve.
Sharing data with third parties may sound simple, but it's not. Among the challenges: fragmentation, systems integration, a lack of standards, legal and compliance issues, operational stumbling blocks like service delivery and the list goes on.
Heathrow understands that if you are handing over your core information with the goal of delivering on the promise of being timely, accurate, relevant and personal, then getting those partnerships right is business critical.
"We want to make it as easy as possible to share information, but if you set up a data exchange and it fails, then everybody suffers," says Annetts.
For example, if a shop changes or an airline moves terminal, then it's vital that all partners update that information in real time.
Transport for London (TFL) are making real-time information available on Open Source APIs with, it is reported, positive results
Gatwick Airport is already making better use of data within the airport with new check-in areas which provide real-time data on queues and a real-time visualisation of the queue status in the check in zones.
"This enables the airlines, handlers and airport to have immediate ability to deal with service issues as they arise," says Stephenson, who will be speaking at the upcoming Connected Traveller Event in London
Another core element for discussion, at the event will be that of how ground transportation can also be integrated more effectively into the connected travel experience.
According to Jens Wohltorf, chief executive of chauffeur driven service BlackLane, the biggest long-term issue is integration. Although he envisages a day when a traveller will simply have to enter a meeting in a calendar and be pinged with a complete itinerary, there is still work to do. This will require integration between calendar software, traveller profile information and corporate booking systems.
Cabforce, based in Finland, delivers a new take on the taxi app idea. Rather than working with individual drivers, like Uber, Cabforce works with local taxi providers so that users can book a taxi anywhere. Cabforce works with other travel brands and multimodal travel sites, providing an 'API' interface so that they can integrate taxi bookings with other parts of the journey.
"Our distribution strategy relies heavily on partners," says Cabforce founder Tommi Holmgren. "We believe that we do our job in the best way if the partner brand is strengthened when they can offer better service to their customers. So our service is bookable through airlines and travel agencies but not emphasising our brand as the gateway to the passenger."
While Cabforce provides an interface that connects consumers with taxi providers, CarTrawler connects airlines, hotels and other travel brands to a wide range of ground transportation providers – car rental, limousine hire, taxis and more. Through CarTrawler, ground transportation bookings can be integrated with other bookings for flights, rail journeys, ridesharing or anything else and all managed through a single interface.
"CarTrawler and Cabforce service a growing customer appetite for seamlessly connected journeys," says Joe Farinella, CarTrawler's director of marketing. "As customer expectations extend beyond car rental, we are answering the need for a more comprehensive range or personalised transportation solutions. Whether it's renting a car in Copenhagen, booking a limousine in Los Angeles or a taxi in Taiwan, customers are demanding the ability to pre-book all their travel needs quickly and easily."
For many – and Heathrow is one of them – the basic principles are there and there is positive intent. But it's early days and going forward companies will have to work leaner, more flexibly, with a common focus and far more trust.
Join EyeforTravel for the Connected Traveller 2015 (Oct 22-23) to hear more from Heathrow,Gatwick, BlackLane, Cabforce, Ryanair and other leading travel industry brands
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