Massive growth, unprecedented amounts of data and real-time expectations, mobile devices at the centre of the universe: that is how Greg Webb, Sabre Vice Chairman foresees development in the travel industry in the coming five to ten years. The young generation of 2023 will have as much purchasing power as they do today. Signs point to "mobile only." And travel companies need new skills in order to turn data into manageable information and to derive digitally based, relevant, personalized experiences for their customers.
Today there are already two trillion available fare combinations for a flight from New York to London, three billion of which are for the intended day travel – the three seconds it takes the interested party to find the flight they would like to book is today's standard. With a billion additional passengers in 2030, new features on the smartphone and a sudden spread of wearables (75 million today, some six billion in 2023), the amount of travel industry data to be processed will grow exponentially.
"When smart watches are able to notice that their owners have taken them off and put them on, when they can clearly identify them using a pulse, then complicated log-in processes can be omitted," raves Webb. The next generation of digital assistants will interact proactively with people instead of waiting for their requests – they will not only inform us about delays, but propose alternative means and maybe even make direct bookings for us. From virtual 3D previews and holographic projections on smartphones or in-flight entertainment to the digital hotel room key card, from the menu displayed only on a tablet to mobile payment and direct forwarding of digital documents in travel expense accounting: Webb showed a colourful bouquet of innovative solutions already in use today. The Sabre head cited author and artist William Gibson, "The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed." Maybe "future" should be defined differently.