News for the Hospitality Executive
The continuous and stable growth in the penetration of mobile web usage in many travel markets is a clear indicator that mobile browsing is becoming more mainstream.
It is by no means a dominant activity amongst mobile users yet but certainly indicative of the fast changing use of mobile phones.
To date, travel planning on mobile devices has really meant organisation and display of travel logistics---flight, hotel, car, and other booking data.
However, a section of the industry sees a massive opportunity to incorporate rich content into the mobile trip planning arena.
Josh Steinitz, CEO of customised travel experiences planning specialist NileGuide, says planning a trip on mobile phones will become simpler and will be “fun” with the passage of time.
“Instantly browsing and scanning the world’s best guidebooks, magazines, and booking sites to find and organise what’s most relevant for you (will be relatively simpler on mobile phones),” Steinitz told EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta.
Steinitz, who is is scheduled to speak at EyeforTravel’s Travel Distribution Summit North America 2009 to be held in Chicago (September 16-17) this year, feels mobile trip planning is evolving very rapidly.
“The transactional arena is just one piece of the travel lifecycle - albeit an important one - is not the place where the most innovation has occurred. We expect the mobile travel booking market to grow from its current small base. The most utility currently comes from viewing itinerary information organised elsewhere, in a more convenient, portable form. Soon however, that will change as original rich functionality is added to mobile trip planning applications,” said Steinitz.
Steinitz’s company has already made it possible for consumers to access personalised travel guides on their iPhones with NileGuide’s free “Guide To Go” application.
In addition to browsing rich, custom itineraries, users can explore each element of their trip list, whether it’s a hotel, activity, restaurant, or nightlife spot, along with local insights, photos, and contact information. Day maps show all activities for that day and each point of interest is viewable in relation to the user’s current location, making navigating a snap. NileGuide’s Guide to Go also provides full guidebook information for each destination.
“The Guide to Go application was launched to address our customers’ desire to bring their customised trip itinerary with them during their travels, in an interactive form with rich content, rather than just their schedule or logistics,” said Steinitz.
“They always have the option of accessing their trip online or via a dynamically-created PDF, but now they can bring it on their iPhone as well, which is a format that many of our customers prefer,” he added.
In addition, the application is designed to enable any user, whether registered with NileGuide or not, to quickly and easily view suggested trip itineraries near their current location or around the world.
Mobile travel e-commerce
Steinitz believes that in-destination purchases will be at the forefront of mobile travel e-commerce, since they are most location-sensitive and are often planned and purchased during the trip itself.
This includes restaurants, activities and tours, and events.
Over time, this activity will move up the chain, starting with last-minute hotel bookings and slowly moving further upstream, said Steinitz .
“The key is the convergence of a simple, intuitive mobile user interface, a small number of primary platforms, and ubiquitous high-speed data coverage at an attractive price point. We’re not quite there, but in some areas are rapidly approaching these milestones,” Steinitz added.
To date, NileGuide’s focus has been on making its customised guides available on the iPhone, which benefits its existing customers, and on enabling new users to find its brand through its application.
Over the course of the next six months, the company will be rolling out new mobile features with explicit trip planning functionality, and also working with third party partners to deliver its content to other device platforms like the BlackBerry.
Mobile has the benefit of being able to offer location-based services as well as being a personal device that’s with users all the time.
For its part, NileGuide is very focused on proximity as a key factor in helping consumers make informed travel planning decisions.
Location-smart mobile devices offer the opportunity to massively improve the relevancy of content delivery using real-time proximity information.
“This can happen via “push” or “pull” systems, enabling travellers to access content on nearby points of interest as quickly as possible, and even add further relevancy filters on top of that, based on travel preferences and other variables like venue type, cuisine, activity type, or cost,” said Steinitz.
“As far as launching this kind of functionality is concerned, one needs to carefully evaluate the quality of data they can access, since different data types and different geographies have wide divergence in the quality and coverage of geocodes,” added Steinitz.
In addition, one needs to carefully consider the consumer use cases to ensure that content is delivered at the time and in the format that their customers will prefer.
Steinitz says his company has found that travellers like “a good mix of directed search and serendipitous discovery”.