THE new Ryanair is not just about smiling desk staff. In its latest efforts to charm customers and make up ground on rival easyJet, Ryanair has launched a series of initiatives to make it easier for customers to book flights and other services. They include a more responsive website designed for tablets and smartphones.
It’s a timely step. The smartphone, in particular, is increasingly the consumer’s device of choice for booking and managing the entire holiday experience.
A recent study on the future of travel by Expedia found the Irish are in the vanguard of this shift, with almost twice as many Irish booking trips with their mobile — at 5.36% compared with the British at 2.76%.
Rochelle Read, senior ecommerce manager for Expedia UK and Ireland, said Irish holiday-makers, particularly those under the age of 35, are also likely to edit their travel itineraries while on the move.
“There is an expectation among young people under 35 that they can re-arrange their bookings on the go.”
The generational split is stark. For exanple, 27% of those 30 years and under use a smartphone and 14% use a tablet to make travel bookings. For over-45s, the take-up is 7% using smartphones and 7% using tablet devices.
In terms of business travel, a quarter of Expedia users under the age of 35 use their mobile devices to make work travel arrangements, while 11% of over-35-year-olds do so.
“Even with all the information at our fingertips, life in general has become more hectic and the expectation for business travellers these days is one-tap itineraries that allow them to make changes on the fly,” Read said.
Travel hubs such as Expedia and TripAdvisor have become the 21st-century version of the travel agent by enabling travellers to keep all their information in one place.
“The key for online travel hubs is to be able to serve customers at all stages of the journey,” said Read. “Being able to edit the experience while travelling is the key trend for the foreseeable future, with the smartphone at the heart of the experience.”
Social media is an increasingly popular aspect of the travel experience and 39% of under-35s regularly share their experiences with their Facebook and Twitter friends, while 28% of over-35s do the same.
Expedia’s research has shown that the Irish are more likely to write reviews of their holiday experiences — good, bad or ugly — than the European average.
“While Expedia is a travel hub, we think of ourselves more as a technology business and so we are looking at big-data technologies to drill down into experiences at a local level and understand what consumers expect,” said Read. “The obvious shift we are seeing is that the connected holidaymaker or business traveller wants to be able to change their travel arrangements on the move.”
The key here is behavioural trends and being able to match the expectations people have in real-time, Read added. If there is a problem with a flight, for example, users will expect push notifications — anything that removes the stress of travelling. And if there is a problem with a booking, like a room not being up to scratch, you can be sure consumers with smartphones will communicate their grievances by video and photos, as well as words.
“Travel is inherently mobile, and smartphones remove a lot of the barriers,” Read said. “Yet they also create fresh challenges that the travel industry needs to keep on top of.”