The Rise of Messaging Technology in Travel Booking: Pt. 2

by James O'Brien + Skift Team - Apr 2016

Skift Research Take

Travel booking is transforming the mobile-first ecosystem. Messaging technology is replacing face-to-face and voice-to-voice commerce with a screen-to-screen conduit that stands to drive returns and open interactions to new levels of customer context and continuity that the travel industry has seldom, if ever, experienced before.

Report Overview

Travel industry experts and analysts are hailing the rise of a “conversational commerce” based on the increasing appeal of messaging technology. The applications range from customer relations and marketing to travel operations — and they loom large for travel brands, agencies, and startups seeking to capture travelers’ bookings in the mobile space.

As travel shifts its point of digital focus from consumers on social media to customers using messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, Slack, WhatsApp, and more, the developers who move the fastest and create the most service-oriented solutions around bookings stand to claim mobile-first advantages. These will lead to increased returns and user experiences that promote long-term interactions with consumers.

From KLM Dutch Airlines choosing Messenger as a go-to bookings tool to Hyatt working with Chinese markets via WeChat, established travel suppliers are leaning-in when it comes to messaging tech. They know the threads of conversation can be saved, referred to, and leveraged for new offers after the first exchange and conversion are complete. Meanwhile, agencies and startups are also partnering to carve out messaging-app bookings — employing technology in tandem with what turns out to be a consumer-base desire for one-to-one text interactions with live support via the mobile screen.

We looked at this closely in a previous report in February, The Rise of Technology in Travel Booking, Part 1, and we’re taking a closer look at the consumer-facing side of the development in this report.

Business travel is also a focus in the messaging-booking space. Corporate travel platforms such as Travel Wire are opening conversations via SMS and other digital avenues to create responsive, high-touch booking capabilities in the moment and on-the-go for travelers saddled with meetings and frequent trip-change scenarios. Along this front, combining automation and a careful mix of efficiency, simplicity, and personalized experiences represents the approach developers say they have to get right.

Messaging apps mean more than just bookings as well. Hotels, especially, are exploring how text-based interactions can allow them to reach travelers with real-time offers that mean more positive responses and more revenue from every stay.

All of this technology fueled development, however, comes back to the power of the human voice. As messaging apps expand their footprint in the travel-booking space — and brand leaders say these are still early days — success and permanency of messaging’s match with booking depends on the context of real human interactions and dynamic dialogues. While these are often no longer face-to-face, but screen-to-screen, the apps and brands that claim their stake will keep that essential experience at the center of every conversation around bookings and travel.