When you're processing as much as "1 trillion" transactions globally in a year, emerging trends for the booking and planning of trips, as well as what experiences enrich the overall journey are a given.
For Travelport, a leading travel commerce platform headquartered in the United Kingdom, facilitating this many queries as a business to business travel platform or technology enabler for their B2B customer-centric bases, it remains essential to keep evolving.
Global Distribution systems' (GDS) have seen vast hi-tech reservation networks revolutionise booking systems before the age of the internet. Travelport, as the first travel commerce platform to be fully IATA New Distribution Capabilities (NDC) Certified for the multi-source era in distribution, says its main aim is to ensure a unique and highly personal experience for its clients.
Speaking at their annual Travelport Live conference hosted in Hermanus in the Western Cape this week, Travelport Managing Director Mark Meehan says, "Efficiency is what we do at Travelport."READ: Where to head in 2019: Growing destinations for South African travellers
"We're aligned to spending our time and money in creating value for the customer - from search and booking, to cloud to getting a faster response time and choice, but importantly relevant choice, and intelligent options to suit the travellers needs."
Meehan contextualises this through current service levels via the platform's mobile app for travel agents. "Trip Assist allows them to update their customers about booking changes and delays." He explains how workflow and automation and process flow can now be seamlessly automated, right up to reporting and booking changes all being handle "much better", he says.
As a result, they've making it their mission to develop digital solutions and mobile technology that allows travel agents, travel management companies and large corporations to not just search and book airline seats, hotel rooms, rental cars, and other travel related items but to reversed-engineer the process to be more relevant.
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Ian Heywood, Global Head of Product and Marketing for Travelport says the move to API bookings via the NDC will see a decline in ATP code transactions. However, as operators and airlines align their system, it will mean a couple of months of 'disruptive chaos' as the systems sort out the new tech dominance or preferred method - with Haywood estimating about an 18-month lag for any airline fresh in the game wanting to create their own system for API offers.
And while terminology has seen changes from listing fares to using the reference of "offers", meaning with the new capabilities - airlines can make unique deals available to its distribution partners, it is still some time off before a Smart Point NDC plug-in will be fully available to offer integrated and aggregated solutions - as trip servers alpha and beta testing is set to take place in the first half of 2019, says Heywood.
But for Travelport the way forward remains engaging the traveller in the most natural way, ultimately speaking from a point of inspiration before practicality, first. It's about assessing what experiences travellers are looking for and connecting them to it in the most appealing and affordable way. They believe this not only brings together the remaining nuts and bolts of how to get there and where to sleep but also more fluidity connects travel buyers to more than 280 ancillaries available from its airline partners - and growing.
Travelport Architect Mike Croucher unpacked how platforms have become systems of intelligence in a unique and exciting opportunity in the business of travel. Uber and Airbnb remain core examples of intelligence platforms without actual bricks and mortar structures, per say.
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"I believe the way travel tech is changing, companies need tech partners. Many travel agents and OTAs need partners that are bringing them new ideas and the engines to allow them the capabilities to be uniquely positioned in the market place. This frees them up to be the experts in selling travel."
"We have to be tech leaders in this industry, we need to give them the technology that allows them to be specialists, to interact with the traveller in a unique way. It's not just about selling the journey, it's about being available throughout the journey. To sort out in-journey disruption as much as before the actual journey problems."
AI is an assisted human being, says Croucher, is about "taking away the mundane" for machines to complete and allowing the human side of things to "add only valu" in the consumer chain. All this innovation will certainly bring about more affordable travel, he believes. For Croucher it is encapsulated in the Golden Journey - in what he describes as the multi-modal travel experience.
Whether a journey requires two flights and a bus or taxi trip - the total cost of the trip needs to be transparent to the traveller.
"Lufthansa is already selling route tickets, allowing access to 91 stations once you land. This sort of disruption is about combining the compatibility of journeys. High-speed rail and key routing is going to become essential to the traveller going forward," he says.
"People love going on a trip, the journey is part of it, the experience is crucial into shaping this."
Croucher says it boils down to four key things. What's the comfort level of the trip, the predictability of the elements, pricing or what it will actually cost the traveller overall and then ultimately the cost in time to plan as well as experience.
Croucher believes it’s a trade-off of these elements that needs to be transparent to the traveller so they're fully aware of the overall cost at all times.
In doing so, agents can not only ensure loyalty but repeat book-ability, he says.
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