28 Jul

Airlines, Hotels: Why are you giving away your mobile customers?

I make no apologies for getting back to the subject of mobile. It is simply the most important issue that is affecting travel right now. It is vital to get your strategy right and properly address this channel unless, of course, you are not bothered and are happy to watch the new entrants continue to flood in and steal market share.

Two events in the last seven days have catalysed my thinking.

Firstly, I travelled to India for a few days. I was prepared to only use my mobile on the hotel’s or my client’s wifi, making sure I switched off data-roaming and diverted calls to my office in the UK. Just out of interest, I took a look at Vodafone’s website to see what horrendous phone call and data usage charges they would levy. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that India is one of Vodafone’s World Traveller countries and that for £5 per day I could use my UK contract. I am familiar with this capability in Europe paying £2 per day for the privilege. I didn’t expect this to be available in India for a few quid more.

Secondly, I have just been finalising Travel Technology Initative’s latest newsletter. In there is an article by Janet Butler of The Working Solution. This describes a survey Janet has undertaken about our changing habits when using our mobiles overseas. Janet mentions that her research illustrates that travellers are increasingly feeling more relaxed about booking many elements of their holiday when they are abroad. These key aspects include car hire (35%), attraction tickets (53%), restaurants (50%), museum passes (15%) and onward train travel (41%).

This sounds like a money-making opportunity to me. In India, I would have welcomed having an app on my mobile that provided destination information and services. I would have been happy to have purchased attraction tickets, restaurant vouchers and so on.

Who ought to make money from me? It should be the businesses that I know and trust, the ones who transport me to my destination and who look after when I am there; the businesses that already know my destination – the airline that flew me there and the hotel where I stayed.

I am flying to Berlin in October. The flight is booked and the airline app shows my flight. Am I being offered a single destination service? No; lthough I can choose my seat for £10. The app of another airline is offering me hotel accommodation and car rental. This is a start but it is very limited.

I have a hotel chain app that does link to another company’s city guides as if they are happy to give their customers away.

Here is a question that airlines and hotels might like to ask themselves: “We own our customers. They are travelling or staying with us. We know where they are going. Are we doing enough to service them in-destination or are we giving our customers away to new entrant mobile businesses who are offering the destination services that we ought to be selling?” You already know the answer!