A battle is raging between Apple, Nokia, Amazon, Google, and RIM to develop a platform for the travel industry, and it has been reported that Apple has filed a patent for their version of such a travel application – iTravel. This application will book flights, hotels, and cars, as well as provide paperless airline check-in.
Robert Rogers, senior product manager for Nokia said: “Through our Ovi services, which allow easy access to key functionalities both on PC or mobile, we are able to give our partners in the travel space presence via both channels. Given that travel is generally planned on a PC, but it’s your mobile that ultimately takes the trip with you, I think this is a key differentiator.”
From the airlines’ perspective, too, the going continues to be strong.
For instance, Lufthansa has taken several path-breaking initiatives over the last year or so when it comes to using mobile phones for improving passengers experience. Last year, Lufthansa launched its mobile boarding pass service for the first time on a long-haul route (between Frankfurt and Vancouver).
Stefanie Heucke, IT manager of mobile services for Lufthansa feels that there are still two issues that need to change: there need to be more standards over the whole industry so that development is easier and faster, and the network providers need to reduce the data rates especially for roaming but also the flat rates in their home markets as the customers are afraid of unknown costs for the usage of mobile services.
Airline mobile web services have centered around making available flight schedules, fares, plus destination and airport information for all mobile phone users.
“As an airline these are the traditional information customers are looking for. A new trend will certainly start around the options new devices provide like location-based services, as well as integration of other services like social networks,” Heucke had said. And this has been the case of late.
Earlier this year, Progress Software announced the launch of what is being described as the air travel industry’s first real-time, location-based social networking solution for frequent flyers.
Launched by Lufthansa, MemberScout enables its users to instantly swap, share, or exchange knowledge and ideas. The application, available as an iPhone and soon also BlackBerry app, was developed by match2blue, the mobile application specialist, using the Progress Apama Business Event Processing (BEP) platform.
One of the major developments this year has been the availability of a free navigation system on Nokia’s handsets. Also, mobile mapping services continue to be in the news, be it for their potential for integration with other location-aware services or the location-based advertising market.
The industry witnessed a 68 percent increase in the use of mobile mapping and direction services across Europe in the last year. In February, more than 21 million mobile users (age 13 or older) in five countries –the UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy – used their mobile handsets for navigation. The highest growth, according to comScore, was seen in the UK market, with an 86 percent increase to 5.7 million mobile map users.
For their part, hotels believe that booking – especially last minute bookings – along with pre-stay planning and in market arrival can be natural fits for the mobile channel.
“Our statistics show that roughly 70 percent of mobile web bookings are same day compared to 11 percent via the web,” said Bill Keen, director of product development, IHG. Keen believes that one of the key areas will be in the utilization of location-based services that trigger contextual information or messages to guests and properties.
“For example, if we detect a traveler’s arrival, we could trigger messaging about check-in and have their portfolio prepared while they are in transit and ask [if] they needed [a] particular hotel service such as room service,” said Keen. It again points to the fact that location is the holy grail of the mobile experience. And the way applications are mushrooming around location-based services, one can only expect more excitement in this arena.
Mobile in Travel will be a key topic at this year’s Travel Distribution Summit, taking place on June 17-18 in London.