Alongside our new Future of Travel 2016 report, we speak to the Director of the Americas at Booking.com about the future of mobile booking tools
The entire travel booking and planning process has shifted from what it once was just a few years previous: our travel agents come in the form of an app and ‘must-see’ restaurants and venues can be determined by a rating system from strangers. While business travelers are searching for hotels that provide them with all of the modern amenities for a work-life environment, vacationers increasingly seek out accommodation that gives them a peak into local culture. Frequent fliers and once-a-year travelers alike are shifting more toward mobile to access things like room ratings, reviews and concierge.
According to Todd Dunlap, Managing Director of the Americas at Booking.com, to meet the needs of the traveler of tomorrow means making the accommodation the destination and designing complete experiences when it comes to travel. In light of PSFK Labs’ recent Future of Travel 2016 Report, PSFK sat down with Dunlap to discuss how travel brands are adapting to meet the evolving needs of a modern traveler, the significance of last-minute booking and on-demand travel tools.
PSFK: What are some of the key challenges Booking.com is trying to solve?
Anticipating and understanding challenges we might face in this space is a key driver in our innovation and determination to deliver the best Booking.com product possible. We’re adapting to customers’ desire for greater on-demand mobile booking tools with our Booking Now app, which allows travelers to secure a room that same day for a discounted rate, or providing access to the widest selection of accommodations online, with more than 21 million bookable rooms in more than 30 different category types—from apartments, to vacation rentals, to igloos—Booking.com has answered the call.
We also learned early on that travelers want the complete experience when it comes to traveling, so we’re always thinking about how we can shape the customer’s experience after their booking—which is why we created our comprehensive city guides easily accessible through our mobile app.
These guides, created by our in-house content team, give you a history of the city you’re in, places to see and eat depending on what you’re looking to experience, and easily accessible maps.
How are you leveraging customer’s personal data to better serve them recommendations?
Tell us about the Booking.com digital experience.
We strive to present travelers with the best selection of awesome, unique places to stay around the world that are right for them in the easiest way possible. Our site offers search by category, search by location and search by activity, allowing for new options and possibilities to be uncovered that travelers may not have realized existed, but are the perfect fit for the trip they are planning. Booking.com also has two mobile apps, one of which offers last-minute deals in the vicinity around where the traveler is located, which makes booking even easier.
Why is a unique travel experience becoming as valuable as a luxury travel experience today?
As you can imagine, the emergence of smartphones has created a huge increase in sharing—whether on social media or directly to friends/family. As sharing becomes ever more prevalent, travelers are looking for unique experiences to post that will set them apart and create that “wow” factor. This is also why we offer such a wide selection of accommodations for travelers looking for different experiences. We have castles for those who want to live like royalty for the week, or we have beautiful farm stays in the wine valleys throughout Europe.
What are some of the key differences you’re seeing in how modern consumers travel versus more traditional travelers?
The largest difference we have seen is the use of last-minute bookings. Today’s travelers are open to waiting to make final plans and also using their mobile apps to do so. When we saw the increase of last-minute bookings through our standard app, we decided to create a platform directly for these travelers: Booking Now.
Booking Now is available for both iOS and Android and provides deals for travelers looking to book a hotel the same day. The app also shows accommodations within the vicinity of the traveler, allowing them to book an accommodation with just two taps.
With 30 different categories for travelers to choose from when booking places, how do you make it easy for guests to navigate through all of the options?
There’s a few different ways for travelers to easily navigate through the options on Booking.com. The first is scrolling to the bottom of the homepage and selecting all property types. From there, travelers can see the wide breadth of accommodations available and cities where they can be booked. Another option is to use the search field and entering the destination and check-in and check-out dates. Once you hit ‘search,’ there will be a sidebar where travelers can select the property type they wish to see and which property types are available in that destination.
What does the Future of Travel look like in 2020?
The travel industry is constantly changing, so it’s hard to know what factors in 2020 will influence the traveler. This is why our focus is to remain agile and pay attention to the needs and feedback from our customers while working closely with our property partners. We assess everything from room ratings, reviews, downloads, time of bookings, and more to determine what travelers are looking for.
Lead photo via Flickr user PortoBay Hotels & Resorts
In PSFK Labs‘ second volume of the Future of Travel, we take a cross-industry approach to identify lessons the travel industry can learn from retail, tech, media, and other travel companies. The Future of Travel 2016 aims to inspire brands as they look for opportunities to serve the realities of the modern traveler. Download the Future of Travel 2016 from PSFK.com and view the summary presentation on Slideshare.