Holidaymakers Increasingly Using Technology to Enhance Hotel Stays and Travel Experiences
60% of Air Ticket Bookings in the UAE Made Online: PayFort Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Virtual check-ins, wireless entertainment, online room service requests, and mobile travel upgrades – this is what the future holds for travel and tourism in the UAE, say mobile technology experts.
According to the latest World Travel Market (WTM) Global Trends Report, mobile devices are increasingly key in the travel industry in terms of both customer service and bookings, with mobile reservations expected to reach 35 per cent of online travel-related bookings by 2018. Figures from PAYFORT, a Middle East online payment service provider, show that 60 per cent of air ticket bookings in the UAE are made online.
Today’s travelers are tech savvy consumers who expect hotels and airlines to at minimum match the same level of technology they use in their daily lives, says axiom CEO, Faisal Al Bannai. And with Dubai’s ambitious plan to welcome 20 million visitors by 2020, this demand for mobility will only continue to grow.
“Mobile technology is transforming the global tourism landscape, and the UAE is no exception. Travelers, whether for leisure or business, want to be able to easily scan and compare options, make bookings, and engage with travel agents and hoteliers with the touch of the button,” Al Bannai said.
“Meeting these expectations means the hospitality and travel industry will need to adopt technologies that deliver mobility and convenience. This translates into fast and reliable Wi-Fi connections, hotel rooms equipped with mobile compatible entertainment systems, and easy to use travel applications.”
The UAE is moving quickly to meet the growing appetite for mobility. Dozens of hotels now offer complementary Wi-Fi access, giving guests access to quality, wireless internet connections in their private rooms. On a city-wide level, visitors can top up their Nol card for the Dubai Metro or request a taxi using the Roads & Transport Authority’s convenient mobile applications.
Airlines are also looking to reap the benefits of mobile technology. According to a recent survey by the global payment processing company, WorldPay, 71 per cent of global carriers believe the future of airline payments lies in mobile. Over the next two years, airlines will extend existing mobile services to offer ancillary purchases such as seat upgrades, booking management, and inflight purchases via mobile phones. The number of airlines offering on-board mobile payments will increase from 5 per cent to 36 per cent in the next two years, and 18 per cent of airlines plan to accept e-wallets on-board by 2016, according to the survey.
In the UAE, both Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways offer online check-in services and onboard Wi-Fi access, with Emirates Airline recently announcing that it has extended its onboard Wi-Fi service to nearly half its fleet.
“Whether it is virtually checking-in, requesting room service, or streaming downloaded music videos on a hotel TV, a hotel’s capacity to provide ‘technological convenience’ will play an integral role in overall guest satisfaction,” Al Bannai said.
Connectivity is of critical importance, as many travelers would like to share their experiences with friends and loved ones on social media. A recent poll by booking site Hotels.com that found that free Wi-Fi was the most desirable in-room amenity for hotel guests. And a separate poll of 10,000 business travelers by the International Hotel Group found that free internet was the most important feature of the room.
According to the WTM Global Trends Report, wearable electronics will become an important tool for travelers, who will be increasingly connected to the internet through different types of mobile devices, allowing them to constantly receive notifications and services during their trip, as well as make bookings.
“The industry will need to embrace this technology while building the necessary infrastructure to stay competitive in the marketplace amid evolving customer expectations,” said Al Bannai. “The convenience of self-service is the way forward, and this is the real promise of mobile technology.”