The huge and growing power of the device in our pocket, and what this makes possible for the road warrior, is going to be increasingly disruptive. But those that grasp the opportunities will be in for the ride of their lives, writes travel industry mentor Don Birch
People might laugh at me but when they talk about the role of mobile in travel I immediately correct them with a curt: “Surely you mean ‘mobility!”
So why my impatience and lack of courtesy?
Firstly, I want people to forget the idea that what they are holding is a telephone. Instead they are holding truly awesome computing power which just two or three years ago would have been more than sufficient for PC-based deskbound activities. Let us not forget, after all, that the Americans put a man on the moon with a 64k processor.
Couple this multitasking processing power with:
great high definition screens
lighter, funkier devices
better and more functional operating systems
better battery life
And coming very soon, voice instructions - voice-based navigation that is, and not calls to your stockbroker. What is more the technology platform is ready to deliver.
Secondly, while tablets finally came of age less than two years ago, the gap between the smart phone (oops I mean ‘smart mobility’ computer) and the tablet is rapidly closing. Effectively, the new Samsung Galaxy III and later this year the iPhone 5 means that for the road warrior moment-to-moment, always-on engagement with the world via the web has arrived. Expect to see the tablet receding into the background, becoming more of a couch device, and the Generation 5 smart phone becoming the preferred tool of ‘mobility’.
Thirdly, by ‘mobility’ I mean the active three-dimensional verb. With this technology platform we will behave in a very different way. Everything we do will be more immediate and decisions will be more of a flow than discrete, individual events. Because we will not have to pause to collect and analyse data and assess relevant circumstances, we will be more comfortable with this change of behaviour. We will, so to speak, be ‘wired’ in.
In travel, we are already seeing a rise in the number of last-minute bookings; whether this is driven by last-minute discounting or a change in core behaviour remains to be determined. Largely I believe this is down to the quality and quantity of the ‘information-of-now’ which means that we can feel comfortable making late choices - or should I say late manoeuvres? In the past, arriving in town late at night without a hotel reservation was asking for trouble. Today at the tap of the screen, you have hotel availability and pricing for miles around ~ there are even systems that warn you ahead of time if a particular location is going to be busy.
Finally, by being engaged or always on, we are much better informed about what is possible. Two hours to spare before your flight? Not all that long ago this meant a date with the airport bar and that book you had always wanted read. Now it becomes possible to visit the museum that you had always planned to visit because your mobility platform tells you which bus to catch, which exhibits to see and where in the time you have available. All this before heading back to the airport while, of course, reading that book on a ‘mobility’ device.
To my mind this means a deeper travel experience and more satisfaction in general and, hopefully, more productivity for the business traveller.
The dream, research, transact, experience and share phases of the travel cycle will become much more jumbled and interconnected, because it will no longer be necessary to do these in sequence. This means more turbulence, the need for more out of scope interventions by different travel providers and more opportunity for model disruption. And the objective? The chance to create value in a different kind of way.