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Forget digital detox – consumers DO want tech on holiday

Holidaymakers want technology to help them save time and money and make their trip more personalised, according to new research.

The study, commissioned by The BIO Agency for a new report on technology in the travel industry. Connected Customers Throw Down the Gauntlet to the Travel Sector asks whether travel brands are meeting consumer expectations.

The independent survey of 2,000 people who took a holiday in the past year identified the three most popular ways people want to help provide a seamless experience during their trip:

1. To save them money (47%)

2. To reduce queuing and waiting times (29%)

3. To provide a more personalised travel experience (27%)

The survey suggests brands should not lose hope with ‘digital detoxers’ – despite a third (34%) of respondents saying they want a ‘tech-free’ trip at all costs, 69% still want free WiFi at hotels and resorts. They also want technology that can track the location of their luggage at the airport (60%), the ability to check-in online or via an app (56%) and translation apps (38%).

There is also a growing interest in virtual reality and other gadgets – 37% want virtual reality resort tours and 38% want to use facial recognition or retina scanning to open hotel rooms and pay for goods. But with technology a part of everyday life and reinventing everything from banking to grocery shopping, travel brands are lagging behind and failing to meet expectations.
The proliferation of mobile technology represents an opportunity that travel companies have yet to truly grasp, with just 7% of consumers using their mobile devices to book holidays – in contrast, 63% use desktop computers for this. With so many other industries already harnessing the power of mobile, there is a clear gap in the market that the most innovative travel brands should be looking to plug.

Fears also remain over data privacy, presenting a problem that travel brands need to tackle – just 3% said they would like to share personal information with brands in exchange for a more personalised trip. Personal data is a valuable currency in the digital world, and travel companies must offer additional value in order for customers to agree to such a trade-off.

While so-called ‘millennials’ are comfortable with technology, this is not true for all ages groups and travel companies must avoid alienating certain demographics, especially as the older age bracket in the UK continues to grow. A third of 18-30s want technology to provide a more personalised experience, with 26% happy to swap personal information – in stark contrast, 88% of the 61-plus group were wary of sharing their data.

A fifth (20%) of this older age group continues to use physical shops and travel agents to book holidays, and would appreciate more ‘human’ technology that recognises them as they enter the store and brings up their purchase history. In comparison, just 7% of 18-30 year olds still use travel agents – instead preferring to consult the internet (74%) and online reviews (12%).
Peter Veash, CEO of The BIO Agency says: “People expect much more from travel companies than they’re getting, so there’s a huge opportunity for forward-thinking brands to bridge this gap by using digital technologies to create a fully connected customer experience – right from the first tentative thoughts about planning a holiday to the moment they touch back down on home soil.

“People want to switch off from the outside world and put their feet up while they’re on holiday, but that doesn’t mean they won’t Skype family to brag about the weather or post a few pictures on Instagram. Travel companies need to understand when it’s right to introduce technology during the trip, without detracting from the seamless experience their customers expect.”

One brand using technology to improve the holiday experience is TUI UK, and Louise Williams, head of customer strategy and CRM, says this allows them to vary their service offering for different segments of customers: “A customer who is new to TUI will have different needs to a customer who has been to the same hotel 20 times – it is important that we can recognise this.”

Survey of 2,000 UK adults that have been on holiday in the past 12 months. Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of The BIO Agency between 28th January and 2nd February 2015.

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