Travel and hospitality is a booming sector world-wide. But how can existing players compete successfully against waves of agile start-ups, eager to plunder their market share?
Travel and tourism is one of the world’s fastest-growing sectors in 2018, according to Deloitte*. It's not a one-off year either. The underlying trend is upwards and the industry now accounts for more than one-tenth of global GDP.
But despite the sunny outlook, there's no room for complacency among travel and hospitality companies. That's because the thundering hooves of approaching competitors is getting louder.
Trampled by new tech?
The uncomfortable truth for many traditional players is that the industry isn't just getting bigger it's changing. Mass disruption is on the way.
Deloitte notes that hopeful start-ups are arriving with bold ideas on how to change the status quo. And they've got the war chests to make it happen, because over the past two years, travel start-ups managed to raise a staggering £30 billion in funding.
That sum nearly matches the total raised over the past 10 years, says Deloitte, adding that: 'The flood of capital investment into innovation across the global travel ecosystem should not be taken lightly. The potential for one of these companies to completely change industry dynamics is likely not a matter of if, but a matter of when.'
So what's the best move for established travel and hospitality businesses?
Who dares wins
Deloitte's analysts have dispensed their own advice: 'Established industry players should stay nimble, alert and perhaps even a bit daring.'
But how is this possible, for example, in a crucial area such as customer contact, where market share can be won or lost in seconds?
For many traditional operators, innovation isn't easy:
- Pressure on margins means there's less budget to refresh IT systems
- Companies struggle to meet the peaks/troughs in calls from consumers
- They can feel defenceless when social media is used to trash their services
This leaves them vulnerable and ripe for attack from new market entrants.
But it's possible for established players to hit back hard.
Firstly, there are ways for traditional operators to transform customer engagement without ripping and replacing their IT systems. Fast-to-deploy cloud services can be rolled out swiftly and cost-effectively and prove a game-changer.
A unified agent desktop can overcome the chaos of agents having to deal with multiple screens and systems, so they can handle customer contact more efficiently. The cavalry can also arrive in the shape of next-gen chatbots, ultra-smart IVR systems and automated payments. With these kinds of 24/7 services in place, start-ups can't outflank you easily on the tech front, or outside office hours and you still manage to keep costs low.
Humans want contact
While start-up competitors may have the latest tech, apps and streamlined business models, they often lack experienced contact centre agents. And here's where traditional players can use their long-established contact centres to force home a clear advantage.
Travel and hospitality is essentially a 'people' business. Consumers aren't buying software from robots, they're purchasing human experiences and are usually investing their emotions in the process ... their hopes and fears. Even the slickest websites and apps can only take interactions so far. Then the clicks stop and sales falter.
Customers crave human contact for reassurance, to answer questions and to provide helpful hand-holding through the purchasing process. This is where existing players can gain the advantage and save lucrative sales by offering Live Chat on their websites, an instant call-back from agents and co-browsing if customers get stuck. It's even possible to add social media monitoring tools so your agents can intervene quickly and turn frustrated posters into surprised customers.
Services like these are easy to use and can be deployed on top of existing systems very quickly.
While the boom in travel and hospitality is attracting new competitors like bees to honey there's no need for established business to go on the back foot. It's possible to take on new entrants and win, using world-class tools they don't have.
The market may be changing ... but customers are changing too. You need to stay in tune with their lifestyle habits, preferences and aspirations. Find out how by getting your free copy of the Definitive Guide to PCI DSS Compliance. Alternatively review our Omnichannel or Self-Service solutions.
If you’d like to know more about how Eckoh can help your travel or hospitality business secure payments or improve customer engagement why not get in touch.
*Source: Deloitte: 2018 travel and hospitality industry outlook
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