Saturday, August 13, 2022

How travel apps are adapting to the new normal

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Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

Founder and CEO of Apptopiathe app data insights and intelligence company, with clients such as Google, Zoom, Visa and NBC.

Yes, travel can be torture: the long lines, the sardine effect of pushing about 500 people into economy class, the need to buy legroom and, lately, the chance of your flight being cancelled. And yet, even with all this in the past two years, who wasn’t about to escape?

Some call it revenge travel while others simply go on delayed honeymoons, finally meet relatives, or decompress from the effect of staring at the four walls of a home office for far too long.

This is why, according to our research by my company, downloads of the best apps from US airlines, hotels and online travel agencies have increased by 45% year after year. This was especially true for airline apps, which rose by as much as 70% in both April and May. All this mobile volume translates into fierce competition, and in the travel industry, traveler loyalty is the price.

We recently found that the airlines with the highest cancellation rates are used more, but are losing market share of new users to more reliable airlines. While other categories in the travel industry don’t face the same customer experience threat as airlines, we’re still seeing a shift in market share, meaning travelers are open to trying new services after a pandemic.

This could explain all the recent innovations from travel companies, including Airbnb first redesign in ten years, which reflects new consumer behavior from pure search to findability, as the app uses AI learning to surface suggestions. Airbnb also brought in “splits,” where the algorithm offers a combined package of multiple locations, shifting stays over its current limited supply, and encouraging people to stay longer. Their competitor VRBO has spent a lot on advertising and is capitalizing on the group vacation trend by enabling collaborative searches by multiple bookers.

There’s also an increase in cross-platform integration among travel industry players, including’s Snap’s beta testing Dynamic Travel Ads and Marriott partner with Yahoo. These are indications that travel promotions are becoming more experiential and, following in the footsteps of retail, are using influencers and video to give consumers a “wish you were here” vibe.

Innovation, coupled with consumer expectations, has led to remarkable and surprising growth. I realized in June that it was a big deal when Hopper, the mobile hotel/flight booking app Hopper, surpassed Airbnb’s lead in market share by monthly active users. growing 494%, but VRBO took over the market leadership position from Hopper in May and is still ahead of Airbnb. Continuous investments in both back-end technology and user experience are required to stay ahead. Apps like Hopper not only optimize their algorithms to find the lowest prices on the dates you select, they also suggest a better (ie cheaper) time to fly.

New consumer expectations

I believe the travel industry is finally exploiting the full potential of mobile, leveraging built-in GPS functionality and taking advantage of the immediacy of portable devices, smooth transactions and browsing on the go. To that end, New CEO of Southwest AirlinesBob Jordan, said mobile has been a priority from day one and that the company is investing in better technology such as self-service and reliable Wi-Fi.

However, everyone is still demanding the same flexibility we were given during the pandemic. As the number of infections rises from time to time, it has become a good idea to expect penalty-free cancellations, purchase protection and mobile check-in so that everyone can bypass human interaction at the front desk. In return, key players reduce support costs and make all interactions traceable by encouraging customers to download their branded app.

For example, I needed customer support on a recent trip and became extremely frustrated. Finally, a rep informed me that I couldn’t get into the live help queue unless I was logged into their app.

The new nomads

Of course, the biggest shift for the travel industry is that for many of us, working remotely has become a reality. The promise of always-on connectivity, cloud-based tools and mobile-first technology has enabled Gen Zand others to expect liberation from hell and hit the road. Travel isn’t just for downtime anymore.

Millennials and Gen Z don’t all do #VanLife. Some of them even sail the seven seas, which some may consider a few decades ahead of their time. Cruise expert Carolyn Spencer Brown told: City and Country magazine that “younger people who can work anywhere are in play”, and booking trips like the 218-day Oceania trip with overnight stays in places like Kyoto and Buenos Aires.

While those unencumbered by mortgages and parenting may find it easier to embrace the nomadic lifestyle, it’s not just young people who are following this trend. With employers easing location control and reducing hours worked in favor of tasks performed and revenue posted, the travel industry today is increasingly similar to e-commerce.

A growing percentage of the younger employees in my company now travel a great deal of the time. In fact, our top sellers spent six months in Costa Rica and continued to crush it in terms of revenue. I’m pretty sure one of our leading customer success representatives has moved permanently to Mexico. Allowing this kind of mobility can be a real selling point for employees.

As a CEO or business leader, I think the best decisions you make are those that don’t negatively impact the business, but have a fantastic impact on employees. Vacations, mini breaks or the ability to work anywhere has become a no-brainer differentiator for smart companies these days. With continued investment in mobile-first experiences, the travel industry can make up for some of the devastating losses of the past two years and we can all look forward to a brighter future. Business Council is the leading growth and networking organization for entrepreneurs and leaders. Am I eligible?

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