The media spotlight has been firmly on the travel industry in the past few weeks, with the demise of high street giant Thomas Cook and the surprise store buy out by Hays Travel (saving over 2500 jobs) filling newspaper column inches. In preparation for the IQPC Exchange for Travel and Hospitality, Webhelp Business Development Director, Kellyann McCafferty, looks at 5 significant trends for 2019 and reveals strategies for brands to stay at the top of their customer experience game.

Biometric travel

With the rise of the smartphone and tablet in our homes and pockets, travellers are becoming more familiar with using ‘on the go’ fingerprint and facial recognition software on a daily basis. This technology will soon be seen at all stages of travel, from booking to boarding.

Big players have already been trialling new identity systems, with British Airways introducing biometric gates at Orlando, New York and Miami airports. London Heathrow has invested £50 million in ‘the world’s largest deployment of biometrically enabled products’ taking passengers from arrival to plane seamlessly, reducing journey time by a third.

We work with some of the top players in online identity; processing millions of IDs per year in regulated sectors. Our services cover the whole KYC (Know-Your-Customer) solutions chain for B2B & B2C, so we are well placed to guide brands into this fast developing arena.

Impulse booking

Last minute bookings are on the rise, with a recent tourism survey showing that 39% of responding businesses regarding this as a common trend, especially when it comes to tours and activities. On average, these bookings are made 13 days in advance, but significantly when booking by mobile, this window narrows to just 5 days.

Research suggests that emotions and feelings play a decisive role in impulse purchasing, which can be triggered by exposure to the right message. The Travel Industry leads the way in adopting digital solutions, however many brands face a challenge in knowing how and when to add a human touch. Our expert teams can create truly emotional connections with customers which can significantly increase spend and loyalty.

The solo traveller

According to polling experts Eurostat, the number of people deciding to tie the knot across Europe has been steadily declining since the 1960s. This, coupled with rising divorce rates, means that many professionals are staying free and single for much longer, and choosing to spend their hard-earned cash on solo adventures.

A world away from the student travels and backpacking culture of previous single travellers, this new trend embraces immersive and authentic boutique group experiences.

Personalisation is key for this demographic, particularly for the younger end of the market. Our recent survey commissioned with YouGov, found that 18-24 year olds prioritise personalisation over availability, when rating customer service.

At Webhelp, we deliver a range of personalised customer journeys, to help firms capture this lucrative audience.

Back to the future – fast!

The good news for many is that after a tumultuous few years on the global stage, favourite destinations like Turkey and Egypt are back on the holiday map. Travel commentator Emma Coulthurst agrees saying:

“Hurghada (Egypt) has seen an 81% increase in interest from Brits in going there in 2018, compared with 2017… …Turkey is also back in the frame, with many families and couples going there in 2018 from the UK.” Source Travel Weekly

But, firms seeking to capitalise on these returning markets should be aware that 2019 holidaymakers may have high benchmarks as consumers – and speed is at the top of everyone’s list, as our recent study shows. We found that the most valued type of customer service is fast issue resolution (39%) followed by a fast response (16%). So, we are committed to decreasing response times for customers while delivering a high quality service for our clients. Making sure that nothing stands in the way of progress.

Emerging destinations

Despite what the media may say, the travel industry is booming and in 2018 global tourism displayed its highest growth since 2010. Moreover, this was largely due to a new player in the sector – Africa.

Surprisingly, Africa’s tourism sector has been steadily growing for years, as the chart below shows.

Source: Data: World Tourism Organization

South Africa has emerged as Africa’s top tourist destination, with SA contributing 1.5 million jobs and R425.8 billion to the economy in 2018, making it the most significant tourism economy in Africa. With a considerable 64% of this generated by leisure visitors alone. Interestingly, Webhelp has collaborated with youth employment organisation Harambee in SA with the aim of driving the economy forward, covered in a previous blog by Webhelp’s Chief Commercial Officer UK, India & South Africa, Craig Gibson.

According to other unexpected destinations showing rapid growth last year were Vietnam (19.9%) Uganda (31.9%) Iran (49.95) Ecuador (51%) and Ta-jikistan (reporting an incredible 190% after visa restrictions were lifted!)

This reinforces the importance of a strong global outlook and international resourcing for travel brands.

We take this seriously at Webhelp, operating from 140 plus locations in 36 countries; our people speak more than 40 languages, serving in excess of 500 clients. Across the world, over 50,000 people make up the Webhelp family. We have quality hubs in the UK, India, South Africa, Morocco, Portugal and Lisbon to name a few.

Why not join the team at the IQPC Exchange for Travel and Hospitality on the 22nd & 23rd October at the Hurlingham club in London, to find out more about the future of Customer experience and the travel industry.