The swift adoption of mobile across geographies puts pressure on travel suppliers of all stripes to develop cutting edge travel apps.
Consider this: In 2016, mobile devices will surpass desktops as the booking device of choice among travelers who book online, eMarketer reports. By 2019, it predicts, mobile bookings will account for 46 percent of U.S. digital travel sales. The world is moving beyond mobile-first to mobile-only.
Euromonitor International calls the rise of mobile "a new revolution" and equates its impact on the travel industry to the shakeup created by online travel. A recent TripAdvisor study found that today's mobile-connected travelers see their smartphones as "essential trip companions," with a near-majority - 42% - using smartphones to plan or book travel.
With all that in mind, developers working on travel apps should focus on making applications that streamline the experience, reduce traveler hassles and offer ways to personalize and customize one's travel experience.
Streamline the experience
Smartphone users spend 85 percent of their phone time in apps, according to CNBC.com. In travel, it's no longer enough to offer apps for pre-trip shopping and booking or to focus solely on a website. With life's growing digital complexity, travel apps must help people stay organized, especially in business travel.
Travelers will look to apps to coordinate and integrate the full travel experience (itineraries, flight updates, calendars, confirmation emails, loyalty programs, restaurant reservations), while also pushing personalized recommendations alongside timely reminders. That's why travelers have been flocking to apps like TripCase, which puts all the travel information into one cohesive interface.
Reduce traveler hassles
Travelers will look to mobile apps to alleviate the hassles of travel, too. They are looking for things like expedited hotel check-in, keyless room entry, mobile payment tools for business travelers and streamlined rewards management and redemption.
One sweet spot is anything that eases airport worries. This trend is addressed directly by popular apps like GateGuru and lounge finder LoungeBuddy, two apps that focus on putting the "experience" back into travel. These apps help travelers mitigate airport-related stresses, such as airport security and navigating airport amenities. Consumers will continue to gravitate toward apps like these that alleviate annoyances, while also offering intuitive an easy-to-use interfaces.
Personalization and customization
Travelers expect practical assistance from apps, with information, inspiration and ideas related to their interests. Travelers are also looking for help finding their way around new places, like with choosing restaurants and activities - and finding the best deals for these activities. TripAdvisor and Foursquare are longtime players in this space, offering recommendations and reviews. Foursquare recently expanded its travel planning focus, launching Trip Tips as a way for travelers to plan trips with friends.
New entrants like Headout are carving out a niche in helping users find great things to do wherever they're traveling. By integrating location-based technology, user behavior and predictive analytics, this category of travel apps can anticipate traveler preferences and deliver personalized and timely recommendations in real time.
Localeur is another example of an app that connects travelers to insider experiences recommended by locals. Going forward, local, personalized and curated will be key concepts to consider, as travelers seek out authenticity.
Developers can tap into the zeitgeist by designing travel apps that facilitate unique experiences and exclusive encounters. As consumers prioritize experiences over things, memorable travel is essential. Whether the focus is minimizing disruption or enhancing the positives, immediacy and relevance are vital. Consumers expect travel apps to deliver real-time pricing, recommendations and availability — all tailored to individual tastes and immediate needs.