With sectors of the travel industry falling behind in the tech stakes year by year, the market seems ripe for a global giant to enter it and shake it right up.
That’s the key warning to be levelled at sectors of the hotel, travel and booking industry in the coming months as consumer behaviour continues to be shaped by the likes of Amazon and Google.
Industry analysts suggest that smaller airlines, hotel chains, holiday companies and travel firms continue to lag further behind aggressive investors like Expedia and Alibaba who are putting millions into cloud technologies and artificial intelligence.
Amazon has already dipped its toe into the online travel market, before quickly retreating and closing down its ‘Destination’ offering in 2015. Despite possessing clear competitive advantages in terms of scale and cross-selling, the internet giant opted not to enter into direct competition with the likes of Expedia and TripAdvisor.
But the huge success of Amazon’s Alexa product could tempt the company back into such markets as the adoption of voice-technologies changes the way we shop for pretty much everything – including travel. As voice-powered search increasingly becomes the norm, Amazon are hugely well placed to apply it to hotel, holiday and airline bookings.
Alexa is already appearing in hotel rooms worldwide as Amazon hooks up with key partners including Marriott and Best Western, and the voice-operated internet boxes now have their own travel division within the company.
The facility to provide guests visiting unfamiliar cities and locations with information and recommendations are huge. Restaurant and car hire bookings, taxi reservations and making telephone calls are natural opportunities for an Amazon Echo box running the Alexa assistant. How providers of such services can get themselves onto Alexa’s ‘recommended’ list offers the company a further revenue opportunity.
Such digital assistants can enhance the hotel visitor experience and via one voice-operated unit guests can order room service, call the concierge or alter the lighting and heating in their room. Where Amazon is leading, Google and Microsoft will quickly follow. But the trend is likely to continue to widen the gap between the tech-haves and have-nots of the travel industry.