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How Travel is Getting to Grips with New Mobile Technology and NFC in 2012

By Marco Saio
February 8, 2012

According to a recent Google whitepaper, the number of mobile users researching travel via their mobile devices is expected to grow 51% in 2012.  The case is equally compelling for mobile booking in APAC, with more than 15% of travellers projected to book travel products and service by 2013.

And yet, an EyeforTravel survey of over 500 APAC  travel brands in late 2011 revealed that 57% admitted confusion over how to launch, track and achieve ‘mobile success’.

Deciding where to invest in mobile for maximum return is a major challenge right now for e-commerce and product development directors. It is a costly decision and there are numerous pitfalls to avoid, but early adopters are reaping the benefits.

With this in mind, we caught up with 2 Mobile Gurus who are leading the charge for mobile innovation in the travel industry.
Brett Henry is the VP of Marketing for Abacus International and Luis Martin-Domingo is the Chief Researcher of Airport Mobile Internet at
Excerpts below:
1)  What do you see as being the most exciting development in mobile technology for the travel vertical this year?
LMD: This is difficult to say as mobile technology is morphing and bringing us interesting new services almost on a daily basis. However, one very simple feature which I’d highlight is the QR (Quick Response) Code.
Recently, with the rapid adoption of smart phones equipped with cameras, QR technology has exploded. One statistic that demonstrates this rapid increase in adoption is the number of people searching for the word “qr code” on Google:
Google Search of QR code

One of the peculiarities of mobile Internet is the fact that is able to connect the offline and online words with a simple tap or click.  The QR code is a perfect complement for the offline-online connection inherent to travelling.

BH: It would be in the development of the total trip experience for the traveller. The traveller should have the ability and accessibility to his/her scheduled meeting dates, restaurant, hotel, flight bookings and etc from a single mobile point.

2)  How do you see the concept of NFC technology evolving and what are the commercial implications of this?

BH: In Penn-Olson’s findings last year, 69% of Asian consumers are keen to use their mobile for payment. Much of this will rely on Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, which is available in most of the newer smartphones. We should see a shift from barcode swiping technology to the much more encompassing NFC utilization once the infrastructure is in place.
LMD: NFC tech has the potential to completely revolutionise every stage of a traveller’s journey, rendering it much quicker, simpler and more seamless.
In the future we’ll be able to take a train and tap the phone to pay for the train ticket to the airport. While on the train I’d be able to check-in the flight and store the boarding card on the phone. I’ll only have to tap the phone again when passing the airport security check before going to the business lounge, where I’ll not even have to take the phone from my jacket. I’ll also be able to do some cash/credit-card free shopping, eat at café and then board my flight with just my smartphone.
There are clear commercial implications of this technology as it will facilitate the processing of travellers along their trips, especially at airports. The technology company SITA predicts than more than 50% of passengers will use this technology by 2018.
Before NFC technology is commonly adopted, there are some technical standards that need to be addressed. However, international organizations like IATA (International Air Transport Association) are working on this and more and more services are expected to be available with this technology in the very near future.
3)  What would be your advice to travel companies planning and budgeting their mobile strategy in 2012?
LMD: Mobile adoption reminds me of the PC Internet adoption in the early 2000’s: Lack of know-how is forcing companies to outsource to external agencies. This process does not always create a parallel process of building internal expertise and long-term advantage.
Organizational ownership is also vital i.e. Which department will assume responsibility and investment? (e.g. Marketing, Sales, IT, Communication, etc.).
My advice is that companies should learn from past mistakes and experiences from the internet boom;
  1. Consider the mobile channel as a new process
  2. Define some targets for this new channel and keep adjusting them
  3. Define who should ‘own’ mobile, and who do they report to?
  4. Lead this process owner to coordinate with the rest of the organization to achieve the goals that should be tweaked on a regular basis.
It seems obvious to create a solid organization around mobile (maybe a small, devoted team) and I think that may organizations take this approach. The question is how long it takes to take such decision. PC Internet previously and now Mobile Internet are very dynamic and changing environments and you need to invest resources to constantly experiment, define and develop. Experimentation and tracking are key.
BH: I almost always recommend starting with the post-booking experience, then progressing on to development of a mobile specific website, building mobile specific marketing skills, and finally looking at development of mobile apps.  Abacus has a whole suite of solutions to help agencies deliver high quality traveller experiences via mobile such as Abacus VirtuallyThere and Abacus Webstart.
4)  What is your favourite travel app?
LMD: In my research I am very much focussed on mobile solutions provided by global airports.  On a piece of research carried out during November 2011, I discovered that only 37% of airports around the world provided mobile services. Within the airport sector, I especially like the solution provided by Copenhagen airport, which has a virtual reality feature to find your way around the airport.
BH: The first would be Abacus VirtuallyThere. It is not an app, but a mobile specific Abacus VirtuallyThere website using HTML 5.  I travel frequently and just by checking my mobile, I get my latest itinerary, changes to flight schedule, eTickets, etc without having to open my laptop. The user interface is great, easy to view, easy to navigate, definitely something I will not leave home without!

The other is a simple currency conversion app – not sexy but one of my most used travel apps.

Both Brett and Luis will be presenting more insights during the Mobile in Travel conference as part of EyeforTravel’s 8th TDS Asia Summit this May 9-10th in Singapore.

You can see the full Mobile conference agenda and speaker line-up here:

For more information and enquiries on TDS Asia 2012 please contact me at

About EyeforTravel
EyeforTravel is a leading business intelligence provider for the online travel and tourism industry. As well as providing some of the most in-depth research into global online travel markets and trends, EyeforTravel produces a series of senior executive travel conferences on a diverse range of topics including travel distribution, online marketing, social media, mobile and revenue management.  For more information visit


Marco Saio
London, UK: +0044 207 375 7229
US Toll Free: 1 800 814 3459

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