Frederic Gonzalo’s Blog

Is mobile the next revolution in the travel & hospitality industry?

It seems not a day goes by without reading an article, blog post, or hearing a conference speaker claim THIS is the year of mobile, where this technology becomes mainstream and marketers will finally get it. Funny thing is, I have been hearing this for the past 3-4 years, so one starts to wonder if this ain’t another Y2K-like premonition, or if we are really entering the “mobile era”.

I guess it depends where you live, and how technology has evolved in your neck of the woods, but here in Quebec, and by extension in Canada, it often feels like we are lagging behind on this front. Truth is, on the mobile front, more often than not we are lagging 5-7 years behind Japan, 3-5 years behind Europe and 2-3 years behind our US neighbors. This stems from the rules in place, under CRTC regulations, that have created slower adoption rates for mobile technology in Canada, due essentially to higher costs of use than in any other industrial country.

Mobile Stats That Matter

Having said that, Canadians are just as eager to adopt smart phone usage, with sales spiking as feverishly as in the US. But how are we adapting to this reality in the travel industry? Not so well. First, consider these recent stats:

  • By end of 2011, half of Americans will have a smart phone (according to Nielsen)
  • 19% of all internet queries for hotels are conducted via a mobile device (according to Google)
  • US mobile users who research travel on their mobile devices will climb from 19.7 million in 2010 to 29.7 million in 2012 (according to emarketer)
  • Bookings made through mobile devices will double during that timeframe, from 8.7 to 15.1 million (according to emarketer)

61% of surveyed travel companies say they do not have a mobile-friendly web site, and 71% do not have a mobile application

Yet, according to a recent poll by Eye for Travel, 61% of surveyed companies do not have a mobile-friendly web site, 71% do not have a mobile application. According to comScore, in the top 5 European countries (UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy), 11.3 million consumers accessed travel services through their mobile device in February 2011 alone. Travel application access grew 52% year-over-year. And TripAdvisor developed a mobile version of its site, now receiving over 6 million unique visitors per month!

Travel Goes Mobile

There are countless similar stats coming out on a near daily basis, but how we will react to this new reality is perhaps one of the biggest challenges the travel marketing industry will be facing in coming years. Examples of solutions being developed include BookingBrick, a hotel booking application developed specifically for mobile platforms, or the more classic approach by Sabre, which adapted its legacy engine to the mobile environment.

So, is 2011 the Year of Mobile? Or will we have to wait until 2012 or even 2013 to see this revolution truly gain traction in Canada?