Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Enthusiasm for mobile is all around us

Could this be the year for mobile travel?

Lots of people reckon so and we put a mobile phone article on the front cover of our December 2007 edition, so we're reasonably confident that something is about to happen.

A number of holiday firms - Cosmos, Hotels4u, Pegasus - have been quietly working on searchable content for mobile phones for some months. [Hotels4u announced their effort yesterday]

Others – such as Malmaison in partnership with Mobile Travel Technologies - are dabbling with mobile marketing campaigns.

We already know that in some countries such as Japan, mobile travel is a few steps ahead and simple airline bookings are being made using mobile phones.

And, we are beginning to see movement in the US as well, including Apple’s Arizona Travel Deals on your iPhone or iPod Touch combining searchable hotel and travel content with a webcam.

Travelocity has today also released an application for the iPhone. In fact, there are already around 50 or so travel-based apps for the iPhone!

The applications show off the iPhone’s user-friendliness but it won’t be long for other suppliers to come up with handsets that are just as good – arguably they already exist but haven’t had the fanfare of the iPhone.

Anyway, the point is the phones are improving and so is the content and there are loads of applications for which it will be rather useful:

  • Travel alerts when you are on the go
  • Bar codes for checking-in at airports or with hotel confirmations
  • Marketing messages/promotions with a call to action
  • Using GPS to see where someone is and then pushing relevant travel info. to them
  • Searchable and bookable hotel, tours content
There are more, and as the technology moves from WAP to HTML we’ll probably see ones we haven’t seen much of yet such as social networking on the mobile phone.

WAYN has talked about allowing members to update their profiles from their phones - but it some respects it seems a bit strange to network with people via your mobile phone when you could just call them!

In some respects the extraordinary growth of the SMS message indicated how we feel about communicating with other people on a mobile.

More fuel for those predicting the death of the conversation perhaps?

Linda Fox, lead reporter, Travolution


StreamThru said...

Linda - I think you're right, we are seeing a move towards mobile travel services, although we still have 1 or 2 hurdles to overcome yet - mobile web usage is still relatively niche (although growing) and data roaming charges to access mobile travel content from abroad are a rip-off. I've posted a fuller response on my blog

Bryan Motteram

Travolution Blogger said...

Thanks Brian. Definitely agree about the many hurdles - handsets, browsers, networks...

Can consumer demand can drive it forward any quicker?

Linda Fox, Lead Reporter, Travolution

Craig McGinty said...

I'm particularly interested in the way 3G is going i.e. those little dongle things you can get from Vodafone, T-Mobile and others.

Plug in one of these, or have it already wired in, to a mini laptop like one of those Eeee machines and you have coverage beyond WiFi hot-spots.

Offers full web access, Skype if required and not that expensive even though still in its infancy.

Darren Cronian said...

Is there a demand I think is the question to ask ourselves. Personally, I don't think so.

At the moment networks are simply too slow when using the internet on a standard mobile phone.

Unless 1) they bring the cost down drastically and 2) they speed up download speeds I don't personally think that many consumers would use mobile to search, research and book their holiday.

Travolution Blogger said...

Darren - think we agree with you on the searching and booking side of things via mobile. It's likely to take a while. But, isn't there still room there for other applications for travel? Targeted marketing and alerts maybe.

Darren Cronian said...

I'm not sure how cost effective it would be for a company to implement the technology just to send text alerts to consumers promoting special offers.

On Travel rants I offer a mobile version of the blog, and looking at my stats in the last three months I have had 6 visitors via mobile browsers.

Travolution Blogger said...

Think you're right about the potential cost but there are quite a few companies dipping a toe in water which makes us think it will get there. Also, if you look at what Malmaison did with MTT, it was consumers sending the texts in response to a newspaper ad so perhaps there's potential for convergence there?

Darren Cronian said...

SMS working in conjunction with traditional media could work, where a consumer reads the newspaper on the way to work and there’s an ad for ebookers which says ‘text 4434 with your email address to subscribe to our holiday newsletter’

Let’s be honest some travel companies websites are badly designed when looking on a 19” monitor, never mind a tiny mobile phone, so there has to be a lot of work put into improving the user experience, and also making the technology available for all – remembering not all of us have PDAs and flash phones or devices.

Good discussion.

Joel said...

We are already seeing mapping, booking confirmations, travel alerts and in some cases ticketing delivered to mobile phones.

I also feel that mobile devices are an ideal way for travellers to take destination guides with them. Working in tandem with location based services you will be able to provide customers with mapping, nearby shops, bars and other points of interest. Like the web, these can be updated in real time as opposed to guidebooks which can get out of date quickly. For a demo, drop me a line...

Travolution Blogger said...

Joel - nice to see some positive usage for mobile phones and travel. At last night's Travolution Question Time many suppliers said they saw no value in mobile and that travel alerts could become a nuisance. Our friends at WAYN thought differently though!