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The experiences travelers demand: The IBM Travel Experience Index

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IBM Travel Experience Index shows new travel landscape

Travelers’ expectations are set by their last best experiences—whether or not they occurred with a travel provider. Travel industry executives should take note. This means customers are comparing their travel experiences with those of innovative, digitized companies outside of the travel industry, like Netflix, Spotify, Venmo and the list goes on. Personalized, mobile and instantaneous have become the norm, and traveler expectations are only rising.

To meet the expectations of today’s traveler and in turn boost loyalty and profits, travel providers such as airlines and hotels need to deliver exceptional digital interactions, which are essential to providing a differentiated end-to-end travel experience.

IBM is conducting a first-of-a-kind study on airlines and hotels across the globe to measure the traveler experience according to these new and rising expectations.

The study, the IBM Institute for Business Value’s Travel Experience Index, deployed a team of “mystery travelers” with clear criteria to rate their digital interactions, their service experiences and travel providers’ capabilities across channels of communication.

Study findings include digital opportunities

The IBM Travel Experience Index shows that both airlines and hotels have work to do to meet travelers’ digital expectations, though they both have a solid foundation with in-person service interactions.

As seen in the chart below, 89% of hotels and 91% of airlines achieved higher scores for service delivery than for digital interactions. Neither hotels nor airlines were seen as particularly innovative; only 39% of hotels and a mere 11% of airlines qualified as “innovators.”

On the whole, hotel brands earned noticeably better marks than airlines.

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Three recommendations to improve the travel experience

1. Prioritize mobile capabilities

Hotels and airlines need to learn from their competitors and leading retailers to improve digital interactions, especially on mobile. Customers have become accustomed to seamless mobile interfaces, and they bring those same expectations to travel. Airlines and hotels should focus on flawlessly delivering essential capabilities, and making mobile apps a key primary resource for day-of-travel support.

Who’s already there: Air Canada Rouge has already made mobile a priority by offering passengers the latest iPads for use in flight.

2. Empower employees and engage travelers to improve two-way communication

Hotels and airlines should empower employees with systems that help them capture traveler preferences, and apply them during future interactions. Travel providers should also create touchpoints that are compelling enough to attract travelers, so they can harvest extra insights about the patterns and preferences that make each traveler unique. This helps to create a continuous flow of two-way communication between employees and travelers, improving customer relationships.

Who’s already there: Paradise City in Korea is already pairing premier personal service with cutting-edge guest technology

3. Apply personalized insights to traveler interactions

Personalization can delight customers across all phases of travel, including awareness, booking, day-of-journey experiences and post-journey interactions. Targeted, personalized offers based on an individual’s history and trip context can significantly increase conversion rate and revenue. Getting this right at each interaction and for every customer, not just frequent travelers, is critical.

Who’s already there: Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide is using personalization as a differentiator to improve customer engagement.

The next step in the journey

These are just some of the key points from the IBM Travel Experience Index, which emphasizes that hotels and airlines need to shore up weaker channels like websites and mobile apps, and also map strategic improvements to build personalization across all travel touchpoints.

For more findings, details and charts check out the hotel study (video and report) or the airline study (video and whitepaper). You can also request a private briefing about your hotel brand’s results or about your airline’s results in the IBM Travel Experience Index.

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IBM Travel Experience Index

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IBM Global Travel & Transportation Marketing Manager

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