Technology hasn’t just changed the way people decide where to go on holiday, it’s also changed the way they experience the holiday. A holiday is now a fully integrated digital experience, where we decide which locations to visit and what to do on our phones via a multitude of apps that put the power at our fingertips. Brands such as Airbnb, Princess Cruises and Disney are now looking to enable this journey by offering their own technologies. This will help craft an end-to-end travel experience, where holiday companies shape the future of travel by shaping the nature of your holiday.
Why does the End-to-End Travel Experience matter?
A truly end-to-end experience isn’t just about selling the customer a holiday and moving on to the next person; it’s about catering for the customer every step of the way as they experience the holiday. In years gone by, this may have been known as a package holiday, where numerous activities and experiences are grouped together in one bundle. Those companies not offering package holidays may have offered literature in the forms of brochures outlining activities that aren’t necessarily part of the holiday but which the holiday maker may wish to visit.
Mobiles, apps, wearable technologies and the online marketplace culture have offered a number of ways to expand and enhance the end-to-end travel experience, and brands are now looking to take advantage. Airbnb, whose entire offering has been enabled by the frictionless connection of the internet, is leading the way with a new offering called Trips. As part of Trips, hosts will be empowered to create an all-round experience for their visitor. It’s no longer about finding accommodation in Prague, for example; it’s about finding accommodation in Prague, where you can visit the astronomical clock, see St Vitus Cathedral, or take in a play at the National Theatre.
There are always risks involved in a company taking command of an individual’s overall experience, but the benefits far outweigh them. By creating an end-to-end travel experience, brands can make significant leaps in a number of ways. In marketing, they can sell the emotion of the activities they push, helping generate a sense of authenticity in their promotional activity. In terms of customer service, they can display a sense of understanding to the customer that creates a positive experience and ultimately generates loyalty. And in terms of repeat business, the positive, tailored experience will encourage travellers to keep using the service.
It’s not just about offering activities though; it’s also about finding ways to use technology to help travellers find the activities themselves, as Princess Cruises and Disney have shown.
Princess Cruises Medallion
Princess Cruises is one of the largest cruise operators in the world, and due to the volume of passengers it accommodates every day, there’s a need to enhance the on-board experience through personalisation. After all, giving such a huge number of people a unique and memorable experience is difficult, time-consuming and costly. Finding an efficient way to do that through technology not only makes sense from a customer service and innovation perspective (giving them an edge on their rivals into the bargain), but also a purely business one.
Princess has landed on personalisation as the best way to achieve this, and as a result, it has created the Ocean Medallion and Ocean Compass. Both are portable technologies that remember your preferences and tailor your experience around them. According to the Princess website, Medallion “allows our crew to know who you are and serve you better. For example, your food & drink preferences, or if you love snorkelling, we might suggest a popular snorkelling excursion at an upcoming port of call.” Passengers can also use the technology to pay for items and unlock their room door.
Compass, meanwhile, is described as “a cruise planner meets concierge” that offers suggestions for activities passengers can do while onboard, directions to them, and recommendations for the future. So, for example, if a passenger has shown a preference for a certain kind of food or particular types of shore excursions, the Ocean Compass can tailor recommendations based on those previous choices. “The Ocean Medallion is an amazing use of technology that potentially redefines travel as we know it,” Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald said at CES 2017. “It opens an entire world of experiences, and the personal power it unleashes is huge.”
By creating such innovations, Princess isn’t taking charge of a consumer’s holiday in the way Airbnb is, but the Medallion and the Compass are no less significant examples of the end-to-end travel experience. The power remains in the hands of the customer to decide what they want to do and where they want to go, with Princess simply making it easier through its personalised recommendations. Such simplicity is key to the end-to-end travel experience, and is something that Disney has perfected at its theme parks with its new MagicBand technology.
Disney Parks’ MagicBand
Disney Parks’ MagicBand uses similar technology to the Princess Medallion and Compass, and allows visitors to enjoy a seamless experience. As the name suggests, MagicBand is worn on the wrist, and “enables you to travel lighter throughout your vacation.” In practice, this means you can ditch your wallet, room pass and any of the other things that litter your pockets during a theme park visit and enter the parks, get into your room and buy food, drinks, and merchandise all at the swipe of a MagicBand. It’s like a credit card, room key and ticket all in one.
The MagicBand was a huge investment for Disney, with the entertainment giant laying down $1 billion on it. It’s paid dividends though by enabling an experience that’s personalised in an almost unrivalled way. As Wired notes: “If you’re wearing your Disney MagicBand and you’ve made a reservation [at a Disney restaurant], a host will greet you at the drawbridge and already know your name – Welcome Mr. Tanner! She’ll be followed by another smiling person – Sit anywhere you like! Neither will mention that, by some mysterious power, your food will find you.”
How does it work? It’s all through RFIP chips inside the band that communicate key information about visitors to the right person at the right time. So, when a family descends on the restaurant, and when they’re within a 40 feet radius, their MagicBand sends a signal to the hostess’ tablet device, letting her know that the family has nearly arrived. With the reservation already made, the kitchen knows what needs to be on the menu and the chefs are already hard at work preparing it. So the family just comes in, sits down and their food is pretty much ready to go. Be our guest indeed!
With such seamlessness replicated across, and in almost every aspect of, the park, the end result is a simple and stress-free experience that cuts out the complications for the visitor. For Disney that converts into dollars and cents as a happy customer is one who’s more likely to spend money, return for more and broadcast their positive experience to their friends. Like with Princess, it’s not about ushering the visitors from one experience to the next but making it as easy for them to do it themselves and make the most of their visit.
The end-to-end travel experience can come in different forms, some more hands-on than others, but whatever form it takes, it’s almost certainly a big part of the future of travel. Brands should monitor the progress of companies such as Airbnb and the development of wearable technology to find out how they can tailor a truly personal, truly satisfying, experience that helps build brand loyalty and boost repeat business. Those that don’t are likely to fall behind and struggle to make up ground.
What are your thoughts on the end-to-end travel experience and Airbnb, Princess and Disney’s inroads into it? Tweet us at @mporiumgroup.