Mobile devices, including tablet computers and smartphones are rapidly becoming the computing and communications device platform of choice for consumers and business users. Messaging, gaming, engaging friends on social media, web surfing, reading e-books, and making payments (m-commerce) are just a few of the activities that consumers are doing on their mobile devices, for work and leisure. Just as the internet / world wide web transformed travel distribution forever back in the late 1990’s by enabling consumer-direct shopping and booking, mobile apps too will again alter how consumers plan their trips to achieve their travel dreams and experiences, and shop for and book travel.
Home PC purchases and usage peaked in 2008 and have been on the decline ever since. And the companies that missed out on the mobile computing wave, like Dell and Intel, are now feeling the pain. It is more likely to find a traveller in a café or at home on their couch using their Apple iPad, connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi, dreaming about their next trip and researching new destinations and the sites and activities that are available once they get there. It took 10 years for smartphones to reach 40 million unit sales, but tablet computers only required 4 years to reach the same level of unit sales. Analysts predict the tablet unit sales will reach 100 million by 2015, so the race is now on to build the next generation of travel apps for mobile devices.
The mobile entrants are both large incumbents and new upstarts. Expedia launched their newly redesigned mobile app for iPhone at the 2012 travel industry expo PhoCusWright in Scottsdale, AZ. Critics hailed it as the best new mobile app for booking travel from any of the large OTAs. Also highlighted there was WeHostels, a Mobile Travel Agency (MTA) app that enables youth travellers to find a hostel to lodge for the night that is within their price range, has availability and is located via their mobile phone GPS geo-location feature. WeHostels is 100% mobile—no call centers, not even a web site— WeHostels is the perfect offering for the wired up, young traveller on the go seeking shelter! HotelTonight is another immensely popular mobile phone app for the adult traveller who may find themselves stranded away from home overnight on business, or wanting to stay an extra day on a leisure trip for that one more day of fun, and needs a place to stay—find it and book it in a few easy steps right on your smartphone!
According to research from Expedia & comScore, 58% of mobile users have already booked air travel on a mobile device, and 56% of mobile users have booked a hotel. By the end of next year, mobile bookings will be higher than “classic” desktop bookings, and not only for last minute reservations.
But what about before making the booking? Travel begins with an experience in mind that the consumer wants to create with whom, when and where they travel. Two thirds of mobile users surveyed spend time dreaming about travel at least once per month. 48% of travellers use their mobile device to research their dream vacations to far flung destinations. The majority of travellers, 49% in developed markets and 66% in emerging markets, are both undecided and budget-focused when they start planning discretionary travel. 78% of travellers planning a quick get away don’t know where they even want to go! 50% of travellers surveyed refuse to stay in a hotel that has no favorable reviews. Travellers are first and foremost looking for credible sources of information and curated content (photos, videos, video tours, ratings, reviews and recommendations) from trusted advisors, including family and friends, travel bloggers and experienced travel agents.
Blue Star Infotech recently announced the launch of a new software product, an innovative mobile app platform that provides a wide range of experiential travel planning capabilities. Mobile Vacation Planner (MVP) is a tablet computer-based app, initially available on Apple iPad, that will enable travellers to plan their itinerary for a trip or vacation to any destination of their choice. MVP enables consumers to search a wide range of curated content and enjoy a highly-interactive user experience for travel planning using destination photos, videos, maps, and detailed descriptions of hotels, activities, site seeing opportunities, and ratings, reviews and recommendations of travel content.
Mobile Vacation Planner (MVP) expedites travel planning and makes the process an enjoyable and hassle-free experience. From the pre-booking stage to pre-travel itinerary management, as well as intra-trip and post-travel sharing, MVP addresses all of the aspects of planning a trip and telling your friends about it afterward. Simply enter the date and the travel destination, along with your desired activity timing and preferences, and MVP will offer a variety of suggestions for hotels, dining, cultural events, and activities suitable for different types of trips, including family, adventure or romantic getaways. MVP also offers an automated itinerary generation feature complete and the freedom to manually select activities to plan, re-plan, add, rearrange, and delete activities until the customer arrives at his or her perfect vacation travel plan.
Mobile Vacation Planner (MVP) is designed to be highly interactive and travel content-rich. MVP includes features for seasonal, context & time-sensitive, geo-location-based, pre- and intra-trip planning and post-trip sharing, and offers APIs to integrate with Google Maps & Places, TripAdvisor, Bing Attractions, a Travel Planning Calendar, including export to Apple iCal. MVP also offers Travel Booking Engine & Commerce Integration, as well as the capability to integrate third party travel content sources. MVP also includes the capability to upload trip details to Social Media, like Facebook, Twitter, and instagram, and the facility to use the app both online and offline, has enhanced user experience, flexibility, and ease of use.
Private labelling of MVP is available to companies seeking to engage and add more value to the consumer in their experiential travel planning, including tour operators, traditional & online travel agencies, youth and adult travel management companies, hotels, casinos & resorts, vacation clubs, event management companies, and convention & visitors bureaus. The business benefits of Mobile Vacation Planner (MVP) include powerful consumer bonding with your brand and increased customer loyalty, increased long-term revenues, increased travel agent productivity by offloading some of the travel planning activity to the consumer, and reduced computing infrastructure costs by leveraging both open source technologies and cloud computing-based hosting services.
Blue Star Infotech also offers other traveller value-added mobile apps including two for mapping routes to destination locations and providing turn-by-turn directions, one at street level (iRoadGenie) and the other inside large facilities for large resorts, convention centers, casinos and other venues with navigational challenges (iMapGenie). The company has also developed mobile native and web apps for booking air, car and hotel services, travel itinerary management, and weather and flight delay information.
The new age of mobile travel apps that increase traveller productivity, enhance their travel and user experiences, and help plan and realize their dream vacations is upon us, and the forecast looks bright!
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