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Adoption of 'mobile' as new travel industry distribution channel set to gather pace, says Mindtree expert

Mobile adoption is still in its nascent stage and all travel players should have an appropriate mobile strategy to take advantage of this revolution, according to Rajeev Kumar, senior consultant in the travel and transportation group at MindTree Ltd.

According to Eyefortravel, managing director, Tim Gunstone, “At a recent Eyefortravel meeting Lastminute.com reported that the growth of mobile devices searching their site rose by 300% in 2010. Also, Hilton reported in 2009 that for every US$1 invested in Mobile they are making over US$40 back.”

“Mobile has become more user-friendly, slick and portable over the last few years, said MindTree’s Rajeev Kumar. “It has the potential to reach out to travelers 24x7 making it very good for travel marketers and advertisers, and the increasing convergence of electronic devices such as mobile phone, camera, MP3 player, mobile wallet into smart phone devices will continue to have a favourable impact.”

Airlines have been one of early adaptors of mobile. They use mobile for various functions such as booking flight ticket and self check-in. Some OTAs, airlines and hotels have developed mobile version of their websites, the hotel industry is using mobile for booking and check-in while the car rental industry is using mobile for functions like reservations. Additionally, there are plenty of mobile apps for travel on iPhone and Android platforms like iPhone Trip Planner that allows travelers to merge travel itineraries.

However, MindTree’s Rajeev says there are a number of challenges facing the rapid adoption of mobile in travel industry. These include:

  • For every functionality, travelers need to have corresponding mobile applications that are specific to a particular mobile device / mobile platform
  • There is an issue of data security while doing mobile financial transactions
  • Mobile usage is dependent on the cost of smart phones and the availability of quality broadband wireless network
  • And, the unavailability of context specific travel data and the paid for nature of using/downloading mobile apps does create further barriers for using mobile.

To fully realise the potential of mobile as a key travel distribution channel, mobile apps must enrich the travel experience by providing travel content that is directly related to context and location. Also, travel companies need to deploy mobile versions of websites as well as developing downloadable application for mobile for a set of mobile devices and platform.

Since the mobile has a small screen size compared to a PC, mobile apps must be user friendly and intuitive like supporting touch screen. Also, instead of charging travelers for downloading / using mobile apps, mobile companies need to discover different sources of revenue such as mobile advertising or up-selling.

“Any good software application must be platform independent and support interoperability,” says MindTree’s Rajeev. “Travel companies must strive for the technology that allows mobile apps development on an independent platform. Such an approach will reduce time and cost to market and will also ensure faster adoption.”

“The adoption of 3G/4G wireless network, allowing higher data speed and higher quality of multi-media, will further accelerate the usage of mobile application in travel which is already being boosted by the launch / availability of newer devices like PlayBook – the BlackBerry Tablet and Apple’s ipad.”

Rajeev Kumar is a senior consultant with the Travel & Transportation Industry Group at MindTree Ltd. He has over 12 years of industry experience in Travel, Automobile, Manufacturing and Supply Chain. Since 2004 he has executed and managed various mission critical IT projects for world’s leading organisation dealing in airlines, corporate travel, customs, and betting & gambling. He has undertaken done PGDM, B.E. (Mechanical) and received his PMP from PMI. His current interest lies in online travel and technology.