4 Ways Mobile Technology Is Enhancing the Travel Experience

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Millennials are one of the most travel-savvy demographics, traveling roughly 35 days each year—more than any other generation. This desire for travel often stems from this generation’s exposure to adventure at a young age. According to research from airport lounge provider Club Aspire, 61 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds first flew before the age of 10.

With this sense of wanderlust coupled with increasingly affordable international flights, it’s become more common for younger adults to take to the skies several times throughout the year. This has only been fueled more with the help of social media, which drives discovery of unique, off-the-beaten-path destinations around the world.

Technology has changed the face of travel in a number of ways, enabling travelers to research trips via millions of online reviews or make a booking using voice commands or navigate destinations through augmented reality (AR). Today’s innovations are geared toward producing a wow factor, impressing even the most tech and travel-savvy consumers.

Today’s younger travelers are exposed to what seem like perfect destinations on social media. With this comes the expectation that their vacations will be trips of a lifetime—wonderful experiences that can then be shared online. Yet before the Instagram posts, these picture-perfect experiences can ultimately begin from the moment they are booked.

With this in mind, some savvy operators in the airport industry are already tapping into this desire for friction-free travel experiences and are delivering innovative options to flyers that allow them to manage their experiences almost entirely from their mobile devices. Here are a few ways they’re doing this:

Food delivery services: The food delivery industry is valued at $13 billion and estimated to grow to $365 billion globally by 2030. As more millennials start families, 90 percent of parents are ordering takeout at least once a week; roughly three-quarters of millennials without kids follow the same patterns. Now this convenience is extending to the airport. Food ordering services, such as Grab, a mobile app and self-service kiosk provider, allows time-pressed, hungry travelers to pre-order their meals and pick them up from a variety of airport restaurants before heading to their departure gate. This not only saves time but offers travelers a convenient way to enjoy a fresh meal from one of their favorite eateries.

Wayfinding apps: Many of today’s airport terminals seem to resemble the inside of travelers’ favorite malls, offering shops and restaurants galore. With so many options out there, having a way to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible is an attractive proposition for many.

Technology companies such as LocusLabs use beacons to underpin wayfinding apps in airport terminals, offering passengers real-time information to navigate to nearby restaurants, airport facilities, and their departure gates. Priority Pass’s in-app airport maps also uses this technology to help members locate available lounges and other airport amenities, providing hassle free travel experiences.

Mobile boarding passes and loyalty cards: Mobile boarding passes not only cut down on the amount of paper used by airlines, but they are also extremely convenient. Whether accessed via a traveler’s mobile phone or smartwatch, mobile boarding passes make getting through security a far more streamlined experience. Tech-savvy passengers can simply breeze through boarding gates with a turn of the wrist. Advances in technology mean that biometrics could soon do away with the traditional boarding pass entirely, with passengers’ faces becoming their ticket to travel. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security says it expects to use facial recognition technology on 97 percent of departing passengers within the next four years.

The rise of the virtual loyalty card is also helping travelers to not only streamline their experiences but also earn or redeem valuable miles and points when they make in-airport purchases. The use of mobile boarding passes and loyalty cards allow passengers to efficiently go through security, make purchases, collect loyalty points at their favorite shops and restaurants, and access airport amenities including passenger lounges or spas, right at their fingertips.

Personalized shopping: Some airports and vendors are tapping into customers’ data to personalize their shopping experiences. It is becoming more common for travelers to receive preflight emails days before their trip that offers discounts at airport shops and concessions. Furthermore, as data insights advance, flyers will increasingly find these offers in the form of push notifications sent directly to their mobile devices as they move through an airport terminal.

As more travelers look for perfect experiences, airports are investing in their broader eco-system to meet consumers’ rising expectations for technology-filled journeys. Whether that is in the form of robot concierges or touch-screen shopping, advances in technology are bringing more and more innovation to airport terminals—and more friction-free travel experiences for flyers.

Phil Seward is the senior vice president of loyalty strategy for the Americas at Collinson, a global loyalty and benefits company. Combining agency and client-side experience, he is responsible for driving devoted customer relationships for Collinson’s clients across the U.S. and Latin America.

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