Travel is back—big time. In May 2022, travel spending hit a new pandemic high of $101 billion, just slightly above April’s $100 billion. And it’s not slowing from there.
With a boom in travel right alongside a potential market downturn, travel and hospitality organizations are under incredible pressure to acquire and keep customers.
But don’t take our word for it. Here are five quotes from travel industry experts that offer a critical perspective on digital experience in travel and hospitality, and how focusing on Digital Experience Intelligence (DXI) can jet-propel teams into prosperity.
Customer experience isn’t just in-person
“The travel industry once set the gold standard for CX, with the offer of memorable journeys and adventures. Travel companies should aspire to bring back the magic of travel by first expanding their view of CX from being human-centered to include digital as well.”
— “Rebooting customer experience to bring back the magic of travel,” a report from McKinsey & Co.
In the “golden age of aviation”—the 1930s and 1940s—air travel was marked by glamour, gourmet food, and dapper passengers. Airlines and hospitality professionals spared no expense for their customers, with copious legroom, sizable aisles, and meal service. In recent decades, flyers have reprioritized efficiency and cost-savings over these decadences.
While that golden age may have waned, it’s time for a new golden age of digital customer experience in travel and hospitality, says the McKinsey report.
“Travel companies can aspire to delight, not just satisfy,” the report reads, and that means reemphasis on each step of the digital customer journey, from exploration (“Can I get a flight to Borneo this month?”) all the way to clicking the “buy” button.
But don’t stop there—in-person digital experiences, including airport kiosks, hotel check-in terminals, and others, are part and parcel of today’s omnichannel travel and hospitality experience.
Digital experience keeps you top of mind
“Although the hospitality industry is inherently physical and in-person, digital has become a key component…that now happens predominantly online. Consider the entire guest journey and move away from the idea that [you’re] simply selling rooms. If the guest can book their entire stay on the hospitality provider’s website, hospitality companies can gather extremely valuable data to help build a 360-degree view of the consumer, which can grow their revenue stream and margins.”
— Urdur Anna Bjornsdottir, consulting manager at LS Retail, as quoted in “What the Travel and Hospitality Industry Can Learn From the Digital Retail Boom.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of travel agents is projected to grow just 5 percent from 2020 to 2030, slower than the average for all occupations.
While the travel agency industry hasn’t outright disappeared, an increasing number of travelers prefer the DIY approach of booking their own travel, reaffirming Bjornsdottir’s point—digital is often the first and only touchpoint someone has with your travel and hospitality organization.
This puts the usability and functionality of websites and mobile apps under close scrutiny. For travel and hospitality organizations, your web presence is arguably the most important component of your brand.
Even the most minor grievances in your website or mobile app—rage clicks, error clicks, and other frustration signals—can cause users to explore competitors’ offerings. That’s where a DXI solution like FullStory’s can step in.
FullStory’s logged sessions and autocaptured data affords insights about what customers are really looking for on your website, and gives product, UX, and dev teams actionable steps to remediate problems and quickly ensure smooth sailing.
More than that, FullStory safely and securely logs information that can inform experiments and transform decision-making across teams, not just inside of individual departments.
The better the app, the better the experience
“There are so many things you can do in our mobile app. Check into flights, pay for bags, change delayed flights—many ways that help flyers avoid lines. We are working to create a seamless day of travel.”
— Sadia Khan, Director, Demand Gen & Digital Marketing, United Airlines
Today, the mobile app associated with your travel and hospitality organization is just as much a part of a vacation as sunscreen and a big, floppy hat.
The better your mobile app experience, the more closely your users will rely on it, to paraphrase Khan. Closer to the bottom line of your business, that means opportunities for promoting key offerings, right when your users need them, alongside smooth, safe journeys.
DXI dodges disasters during downturns
“The evolution of technology can help guide capital decisions, because there are tools available today that weren’t “ready for prime time” a decade ago…Today, these areas can be the focus of investments aimed at productivity, not just solvency. New tools may help build new value from the inside out.”
— “How airlines and hotels can prepare for an economic downturn,” a report by Deloitte
Downturns come and go. The global economy has experienced this before. The truth is, though, that the world of commerce is dramatically different than it was in 2007 and 2008. One case in point: The share of Americans that own a smartphone was up to 85% in 2021, up from just 35% in 2011.
Since the last economic downturn, apps, the explosion of ecommerce, and the ubiquity of digital experiences have taken off.
This only goes to show that Digital Experience Intelligence (DXI) can help teams reframe and focus on productivity—whatever productivity means to you:
Productivity for your team, by democratizing data and sharing insights. (According to an MIT study, enterprises that are data-driven had 4% higher productivity and 6% higher profits than the average.)
Productivity for your users, by removing roadblocks and frustrations along their customer journey.
Today, digital experience teams fly first-class
“We’re now part of the fabric that drives the company forward, and I think that’s the most exciting part”
— Kevin McAuliffe, former VP Digital Transformation and Delivery, Travel + Leisure Co.
While the shift toward a digital-first mindset has been in the works for years, the pandemic gave many organizations a wake-up call to focus on their digital experience. (After all, when ecommerce organizations like The Gap set the bar high for digital experience, all retailers—including those in travel and hospitality—must rise up to the challenge of a streamlined, friction-free experience.)
But those friction-free experiences aren’t willed into existence—they’re a product of the hard work of UX, product, and dev teams who experiment and use data to find bottom-line opportunities.
Almost invariably, travel and hospitality organizations are large and complex entities, and digital teams have been behind the scenes, to paraphrase McAuliffe’s statement. But now, interpersonally and professionally, these teams have an opportunity to be the torchbearers of digital experiences and transformation—and prove real benefit to their organizations.
Case in point: McAuliffe’s team at Travel + Leisure Co. saw a 9% conversion rate increase for a key feature, and an 18.5% drop in time to booking.
Discover more expert insights at the world's first Digital Experience Intelligence conference. Save the date for Spark here.