Yesterday I spoke at the Open Travel Alliance’s Forum on the topic of innovation in consumer travel. This post summarizes the major factors influencing travel innovation, and the top innovations in consumer travel from the last two decades. In my next post, I’ll give some views on where we can expect to see more innovation, and how the industry landscape may change.
Here’s my list (shown above) of the innovations that have had the greatest impact on the travel industry in the last few decades. It’s hard to say which one has had the most influence, but I find it interesting that the invention of GDS technology is the only one on the list that was invented specifically for the travel industry.
All the others are major technology innovations were created, so far as I know, without any one industry in mind. These advances laid the foundation for significant innovations in travel, as well as in most every other industry. Does this list make the travel industry look reactive rather than proactive about innovation? I think so.
Most are very oriented to the search/shop/book role of internet-based travel consumers.
You see early efforts to simplify and standardize important pieces of the industry – e-ticketing, faring and messaging pop out as good examples.
But what about the last decade? I hear industry veterans argue about the extent of innovation achieved in the 2000s, as in “not very much”. Here’s what makes my list:
I see two categories of innovations: Those that face the person in a shopping or booking role , and those that are directed at passengers - folks who have purchased an itinerary and are now in the process of traveling.
Let’s not forget all the new mobile apps. I took a look at the 40 most popular iPhone apps in the Travel category. They fit neatly into three role-based categories: the Shopper/Booker, the Passenger and for lack of a better label, the Tourist – somebody looking for very location-specific information or activities.
As you can see, the Tourist-oriented apps dominate.
There are more dining apps than any other type, followed by those in the See/Do/Learn heading. This covers apps that help you find a movie or show, book a tour or activity, or download a travel guide.
That makes sense, doesn’t it? Mobile phones are ideal for folks on the go, in a new city and who are looking for things to do. It seems the Shopping/Booking functions may require more complex functionality (and so more pixels and screen space), making handsets too small for the job.
In my next post, I’ll highlight some fundamental factors affecting the future of the travel industry, and describe some areas ripe for innovation. You can download the deck I used in my speech here, but fair warning…it’s about 23MB in PowerPoint 2007, and has lots of images but very little text and no speaker’s notes.
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