Hello and welcome to our latest installment of this week. Many of you would have heard about the pending Olympic games and the effect it will have on the travel industry, as well as the new retina display technology released in Apple’s iPad 2 last week. Of course with this still hot in the press, this week looks at how the two are combining to revolutionise the future of technology in travel, for all this and more read on.
To help you catch up with all of last week’s top travel and technology news, we’ve picked out the most substantial stories in the news for your reading pleasure.
CWT Digital News:
New NCL Websites - CWT Digital have successfully been working with NCL since July 2009 and have recently released four new European websites. Namely NCL Germany, Italy, Spain and an English EU version of the site. These new sites have been developed and moved onto the CWT Digital NCL platform. Intuitive functionality has also been added to the sites including country specific translation, Euro pricing and a comprehensive content management system that allows all content to be translated including cruise ship content.
Teletext Cruise Comparison - CWT Digital has recently released new cruise comparison technology within the Teletext Holidays website. This new development is entirely built and powered by CWT Digital technology, allowing customers to compare competitive live pricing from major UK cruise agents in one search. In addition, CWT Digital were also able to implement bespoke design within certain areas of the site allowing for better customer experience.
Airlines warn of 'severe delays' during Olympics - Leading UK airlines have warned of "severe delays and disruption" during the London Olympics if heightened security measures combine with poor weather.
British Airways, BMI, EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic called for "urgent action" to prevent delays in a letter to Transport Secretary, Justine Greening. They say potential chaos can be avoided if airlines and controllers at the National Air Traffic Services can operate differently from normal during the Games. The carriers also raise concerns about increased airspace traffic caused by non scheduled flights and business jets. They want to prioritise scheduled flights ahead of other aircraft.
In their letter to Greening, the airlines say: "The industry believes there is a significant risk of severe delay and disruption at all of London's major airports unless urgent action is taken." They insist a failure to respond "would be foolish and reckless".
The letter, published ahead of a meeting with transport bosses this Thursday (22nd March), warns: "Time is running out to ensure that any changes to procedures and the appropriate training is in place prior to the Games and we urge both DfT (Department for Transport) and CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) to support and agree to the proposals that the industry, including NATS, have put forward.
A DfT spokeswoman told the Press Association: "The government is committed to delivering safe and efficient transport services for the 2012 London Olympic Games, and aviation is clearly a major part of this. That is why we have already announced a range of special measures designed to protect scheduled air services from disruption during the Olympics period. We are confident that the majority of these additional issues have now been addressed and we look forward to discussing them with the airlines concerned at a meeting next week.”
Online travel reviews encourage bookings - Travel reviews still encourage holidaymakers to book despite recent rulings about their legitimacy. Travel review site TripAdvisor was told in February that it could no longer claim to offer "trusted and honest reviews" after an investigation by advertising watchdogs found the site could not guarantee customer feedback was genuine.But according to the eTravel Benchmark study, 75% of consumers still think that the majority of travel reviews are ‘mostly genuine’, whilst 61% are more likely to make a booking after reading a positive review.
Travis Katz, CEO and Founder of review website Gogobot said: "We need to help holidaymakers get trusted advice. By creating open online communities, people can choose who they want to follow, and ensure they get advice from people they know rather than anonymous strangers"
The eTravel Benchmark study, carried out by eDigitalResearch, found the highest level of customer satisfaction in over two years. Holiday camp Haven came highest with score of 84.5% for interactive search features, appealing home page. Virgin Atlantic made the biggest improvement, jumping 21 places due to a much more responsive telephone customer contact. ‘Staycation’ site Hoseasons and online travel agents Last Minute and First Choice all complete the top five.
The study found that online travel firms achieving lower ratings were criticised for poor levels of telephone or email customer service.
Derek Eccleston, Research Director at eDigitalResearch said: "The eTravel Benchmark results have often shown over the years that those brands that invest in their websites and offer a bit of ‘inspiration’ with interactive features and richer content, as well as support customers with a responsive and helpful telephone and email customer service repeatedly perform better than their rivals".
Tablets at Sea: How iPads are transforming the cruise industry - The cruise industry is embracing tablets in a variety of ways, incorporating devices into restaurants, virtual tours and even selling them at sea. With all cruises now featuring satellite Wi-Fi throughout sailings, passengers are opting to get in touch with home or work more often with iPads and other tablets.
“The emerging tablet market has opened the door to a great deal of flexibility with how we are able to interact with our control systems. Tablets are lightweight, relatively inexpensive, and very versatile with respect to the features that they can provide. The app market continues to grow, and we often find that available tablet applications satisfy our needs without the need for costly software development.” said Eric Merz, Director of Guest Technology at Carnival Cruise Line.
For example, at Carnival, iPads play crucial roles in the new EA Sports Bar aboard the cruise ship Carnival Liberty. The video game and sports bar boasts Xbox 360s and a full catalog of EA Sports games. Carnival is adding the bars to additional ships over the coming years. “We’ve also programmed other iPads for our entertainment crew members who run our trivia and game tournaments,” said Merz. “I like the opportunity to provide information and entertainment content directly to the guests in a way that is personalised to them. This takes quite a bit of work on our side to create architecture to support the right content distribution. But in a way, our job is easier knowing that the display device will be one that we don’t have to provide, nor is it something we’ll need to instruct the guests on how to use.”
Activities are also a popular way for cruise employees to take advantage of the portable devices, which are quickly replacing laptops at sea. “Tablets have helped to streamline the Youth Programs registration and check-in processes on Norwegian Epic, making it a much smoother and faster process for parents to get registration done so they can start enjoying their family vacation,” said Janet Kim, Fleet Youth Program Supervisor for Norwegian Cruise Lines.
Other cruise lines are taking different approaches to tablets. Celebrity Cruises actually sell iPads aboard its Solstice and Millennium class ships in the iLounge. The program launched with iPads and was upgraded to iPad 2s. And, with the launch of the new iPad, passengers will be able to not only purchase the new tablets but also learn how to use them. “One of the great things about Apple is that it is cross generational,” said Dominique Bonavita, Director of Product Development at Celebrity Cruises. “Our guests have a love of Apple products and software because of its ease of use, quality and innovation. We’re able to build upon the products and enrich our guests’ lives with the classes we offer.”
Although there are now plenty of land based restaurants that have upgraded to tablets for menus, that concept actually debuted at sea aboard the Celebrity Eclipse with the specialty restaurant, Qsine. At the restaurant, each table is handed an iPad that has an app that features a full menu from drinks to desserts. Guests are able to mail recipes and wine labels to themselves or friends through this app while dining. “We’re seeing more and more guests come onboard with their own devices, so we’re looking at this as another channel for communicating with guests and providing information the way they want to receive it,” said Bonavita. “The cruise industry has a record number of new ships launching in the next few years, each trying to top the competition with new technology. Tablets are now at the centre of these advancements, as the cruise industry has seen how tablets have helped revolutionise the hotel and resort industry and is eager to push things forward at sea.
Technology tools that will shape the future of how we travel - Succeeding technology in the travel industry demands keeping up with “new things”, evolving social trends and where they intersect with the business models for planes, trains, automobiles, cruise liners and hotels; often leaving people wondering “what’s next?”
Whilst the foreseeable future does not promise psychedelic futuristic apps, there are some significant technology “power tools” poised to profoundly change the travel experience and the businesses that create it.
For example, travel and travellers will always confront security. Checkpoints and passports will always remain, but advances and wider integration of biometric technologies may render today’s check-in processes obsolete. Facial recognition software, capable of continuous scanning of crowd flows, can automatically check you in and allow you to proceed to the gate, without ever having to show an ID to an agent. The system will know who is supposed to be where, and who is not, keeping lines moving quickly up until the flight attendant closes the cabin door. Other technologies, such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), that have a proven track record in other industries are starting to show up at airports. In addition, the accurate and immediate tracking and identification of luggage can greatly reduce baggage handling errors, eliminating millions in costs to air carriers and millions of frustrations in weary travellers.
The key, of course, is integrating personal identification, biometric and PNR data into check-in and departure control systems, an endeavour that will keep technology consultants busy and potentially will sound privacy alarms. The phenomenal growth of smart phones, location based apps and social networking, however, suggests that the privacy hurdle is one the travel industry could overcome in time.
Social media will continue building the travel landscape and experience, too. As smart phones and other connected devices become more ubiquitous, where more travellers will tag photos, share reviews and otherwise document the experience of their trips.
Technologies will evolve to make better use and presentation of all user generated content data so that it is more easily accessible and useful to travellers visiting new locales or seeking new experiences. Corporations will also benefit from this information. Understanding traveller behaviours and preferences will help travel managers and procurement specialists tailor travel policies that meet with higher traveller satisfaction. Savvy travel managers have known for years that traveller satisfaction is directly linked to corporate productivity.
Better organised and integrated recommendation content presents opportunities for travel agents, too, potentially giving them an expertise edge when building out and serving niche markets. Information from intelligent recommendations will help change the role of the travel agent from an “order taker” to an information specialist, consultant and trusted advisor.