Is technology the real disruptor in the travel industry

In my last article, I spoke about technology and whether it rules the travel industry. Because there is so much talk nowadays about disruptors, I would like to take a look at some of those who are said to currently be disruptors in this industry. The reason for this is I notice for the large part they are very technology based enterprises. So, what really constitutes disruptors and is technology the real disruptor in the travel industry?

Some of the key disruptors

There are a few companies that are cited as being disruptors in the travel industry right now. These are the companies that are supposedly a step ahead of the rest, that are changing things and providing a better customer experience. So let’s take a look at a few of them.

These are all international and largely American based companies so I guess from this point of view we South Africans have a little catching up to do. ‘Skylights’ are offering in-flight V.R or Virtual Reality, a great way to get a real 3D movie experience. ‘WT infotech’ are offering great A.R, or Augmented reality adding to your mobile experience as you travel.

’Zumata’ offer A.I hotel booking solutions as well as solutions to travel agencies. Alterra.ai have artificially intelligent travel assistant messenger bots. It can show users where to go based on a theme or activities.

These are just a few of the companies that are using high-level technology to be a step ahead of the opposition and so earn the epithet ‘Disruptors!’ It posed the question again for me ‘is technology the real disruptor in the travel industry?”

It’s not about the technology

Then I read a fascinating article in Fin24 that spoke about disruptors in other industries and made the observation that it was not the technology that made these now famous companies disruptors, but the fact that they saw a huge need in their respective markets for a better customer experience.

The companies that were cited were Uber, who really found a better way than the poor service and exorbitant fees that other taxis charged. Netflix replaced Blockbuster because of their payment system and having to buy full-length albums actually killed the music industry – not Apple!

It’s still about the customer experience

In essence, then it is not technology that is the real disruptor in the travel industry, but those who use technology to enhance the customer experience. The disruptors mentioned earlier are using very modern state of the art technology, which is not right now accessible to everyone, especially those on tight budgets. There are simpler, tried and tested ways though that travel professionals can enhance the customer experience and be disruptors without the luxury of utilising highly expensive technology.

Being customer-centric is the biggest key to building any business and the travel industry, like any other, need to be especially cognisant of the political, economic, social, technological, and environmental aspects of their environment. Customise your offering to work for your own socio-economic environment – it may be very different to that of other countries.

Listen to people – Customers like to feel listened to. Don’t just install expensive technologies that are not necessary for your own situation. Acting on customer feedback and providing tangible change, can enhance brand loyalty too and create more value for your customers. Notice trends and patterns in customer expectations and meet customers where they are at.

Use the simpler technologies available to you to their best advantage. Create a mobile app that gives customers instant information and contact with your business. Use social media to engage with customers and especially to publically announce any issues or apologies that you may need to give. Also always do something immediately to put it right!

Be a real disruptor

Finally, if you want to be a real disruptor, just come up with brilliant, fresh ideas to offer your customers something nobody else does. Some do it with technology, but others will catch up with them. Fresh ideas, on the other hand, cannot be cloned and they may be the one thing we have that will always be the biggest disruptor of all!LIDIA FOLLI



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