Travel-tech: technology redefining travel

In the old days, travel agencies had loyal customers who relied on them for everything related to their plans and experiences, while today, the introduction of digital tools and technologies created ‘the online traveler’ who does everything on the World Wide Web. One of the primary advantages of using online systems for travel needs is the ‘experience economy’, with 95% of all leisure travelers reading an average of seven reviews before reaching a decision  egarding their plans. In today’s world, 27% of all bookings are made through online systems, which shows how the customers direly demand online information to make travel plans.

The introduction of ‘Big Data’ into the game has given birth to the ‘Demand-side Platform’ method that allows customers to access a multitude of advertisements and offers through a single interface. The huge amount of customer data at the disposal of online travel companies is allowing for more indepth predictions and behavioral analytics than ever before. New digital mediums like chatbots have opened an advanced dimension, leveraging technology to take the customer experience to the next level. Chatbots are already helping airlines and online travel tech firms handle some of the simpler customer transactions, bookings, boarding passes etc, so that human agents can focus on more complex interactions. Past search, booking, transactions and the click streams can help create user profiles which further help build cohort of customers and essentially create a wholesome view of each user. Travel-tech entrepreneurs now attract funding from the investors. It has become graciously accepted in western world, especially by the millennials and spilled over to the other parts of the world quickly.

India’s lucrative travel-tech space

India has made a significant stride towards integrating technology in travel sector. The travel-tech industry of India is offering impressive facilities like virtual reality tour, drone photography, cloud passport and help of artificial intelligence. They created a platform so versatile that it offers services starting
from flight booking, hotel reservation, comparing and discovering best place to travel, tracing status of transportation to online payment for these services,
which is the best substitute of travel agents. These facilities are easy to customize according to users and customers can go for tailored purchase from
this platform. Also, they introduced travel chatbots for sophisticated customer experience, backed by artificial intelligence which will assist the traveler like
a real travel guide.

A Google India-BCG report says that, the country’s travel market (both online and offline) is expected to become USD 48 billion within the next three years.
As per an India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) report, the total online space is likely to account for 40-50% of total transactions by 2020. MakeMyTrip is the most prominent travel-tech in India, which expanded the services of OTA to online ticketing, hotel booking, comparison, homestay service, bus ticketing service, cab service, gift cards and so on. Of late, last year in October, the Indian startup ecosystem saw one of the biggest mergers in MakeMyTrip and Ibibo, a deal with an estimate of USD 20 million.

Maruti Techlabs is utilizing chatbots in hospitality. It changed the way of booking and visitors are converted to patron customers. By amalgamating artificial intelligence in the hospitality industry, hotels can create significant opportunities to deliver excellent guest-friendly services ranging from matching guest preferences, suggesting books or music, nearby sports club to complement customers’ taste, all the way to automatically alerting hotel staff for personalized meal choices, special privileges and complimentary services, etc.

The start of a new era in travel in Bangladesh

Travel-tech started in Bangladesh with the emergence of Flight Expert in 2017. At present, few other startups are racing in this space, Go Zayaan, Vromon, Trippin, Jovago etc. The common services under travel-tech include ticket purchasing, hotel reservation and tour packages.

A report by World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) reveals that travel and tourism industry contributes BDT 296.6 billion which is 1.9% of the total GDP of Bangladesh. Relying on the available data,  he report explains that the industry is expected to grow as much as BDT 556.3 billion which will be almost 2% of the total GDP. Therefore, in such a promising industry travel-tech based companies have a lot to accomplish.

Aggressive social media marketing could be a way to make these travel-tech platforms to become talk of the town like ride sharing services. Massive digitization is yet to happen in Bangladesh and inception of 4G service is a fore step. Average mobile data consumption has touched 1 GB due to rising popularity of mobile app based services. Travel-tech companies can introduce user-friendly mobile app to capture more of customers in their radar. Bangladesh Tourism Board data demonstrates that among the visits made by foreigners to the country: 46% had tourism purpose, 41% had business, 2.4% study and 3.4% had religious causes. So, hassle free payment mechanism e.g. payment through credit card should be there to attract foreigners to avail services using travel-tech platform.

Paving the way forward for travel-tech

  • Although travel-tech is at quite nascent stage, this time is appropriate for the startups to bring new features in their services. They can provide the customers comparisons of different tour packages for the travelers to have a holistic approach in one platform.
  • Chatbots can be the new digital medium to bring superior customer experience.