Travel Tech

In a companion article, the Digital Tourism Think Tank looked at the Skift State of Travel Report with regard to Chinese travellers and travel marketing and technology. This article will look at two further themes from the same report, ‘The Mobile Traveller’ and ‘The Silent Traveller’.

Those familiar with the Digital Tourism Think Tank should know already that mobile is becoming a very important platform for digital marketers. And the latest Skift report emphatically confirms this, indicating that in the United States, over 55 percent of surfing related to travel is carried out on mobile devices, as opposed to traditional computing methods.

Mobile demographics

This indicates that mobile is an important audience, but the Skift report also takes the time and effort to split this audience into demographics to more diligently assess trends related to it. What this immediately shows is that, firstly, the overwhelming majority of this mobile audience is comprised of relatively young people. Sixty percent of the US mobile audience related to travel is aged 44 and younger, and over one-third of the audience is comprised of people aged between 25 and 34.


These are seen as particularly key demographics for any business, so this is interesting and noteworthy. Additionally, the mobile audience is an affluent demographic. Over 62 percent of the mobile audience had income of at least $25,000, meaning that the core elements of this mobile audience have significant amounts of disposable income.

Additionally, the Skift report broke down some statistics related to mobile users with regard to how devices are utilised. There was actually a significant divergence in the types of travel-related services and products that mobile users were seeking.

By far the most popular were hotels, with around 80 percent of smartphone and tablet users combined utilising their devices to search for and book hotels. This figure was elevated further still when looking at merely smartphones, with 83 percent of those surveyed utilising a smartphone for this purpose.

Flights and rental cars were also extremely popular, which would be consistent with the previously discussed figures, as it suggests an affluent and mature audience.

Other elements of travel which would be more associated with a budget and affordable approach were considerably less popular with mobile users. Package deals and train and bus bookings all hovered around the 20 percent mark for both smartphone and tablet, suggesting again that the demographic involved in seeking travel via mobile platforms is a largely affluent one.

Importance of mobile-friendly websites

Finally, of particular interest to digital marketers would be the section where Skift surveyed participants regarding what they valued most highly in travel-related businesses. By a considerable distance, mobile-friendly websites were considered desirable, ahead of such other elements of travel searching and booking as special offers for mobile users, and branded apps for smartphones and tablets. This evidence suggests that digital marketers and travel-related businesses should be extremely adroit in ensuring that any website content is mobile-friendly and easy to navigate via mobile devices.

mobile use

The final area of the report that the Digital Tourism Think Tank would like to examine is that of the section on ‘silent travellers’. This concept refers to “the travel consumer who turns to their mobile devices first” rather than seeking traditional customer-service staff to deal with their requirements.

It is perhaps not surprising to learn that the overwhelming majority of people in this category can be identified as young people. When Skift conducted a survey on the number of individuals who prefer to search or utilise social media to resolve a travel problem, they found that an overwhelmingly younger demographic favours digital solutions.

The number of 25 to 34 year-olds who opted for social media and search-related resolutions to problems was double any of the categories comprised of people older than the age of 45. There were also strong showings for the 18 to 24 and 35 to 44 year-old groups in this respect. Again this indicates that travel information of a helpful variety should be leveraged at young people.

Mobile check-in floated

Another interesting aspect of the assessment of the so-called silent traveller group was related to check-ins. The Skift survey aimed to establish whether the personal touch remains important in the check-in experience, or whether people would be willing to seek digital means in order to achieve this crucial part of any trip.

Relatively speaking, people still enjoy the idea of the human touch, with eighty-one percent of respondents agreeing that the check-in desk is an important personal experience during travel. However, it is clear that respondents were also willing to contemplate the notion of a digital future in this respect. Fifty-nine percent of respondents stated that they'd be willing to use an automatic or self-service check-in if it was perceived that it saved them time.

Digital marketers may wish to pay particular heed to this result, as the increasing convenience of digital check-ins could make this a major issue in the near future. All over the world, airports are now working at updating their check-in procedures, and the Digital Tourism Think Tank has previously reported on experiments taking place at major airports with regard to the concept of a smartwatch-based boarding pass.

The mobile future

Overall, the report paints a picture of a travel audience which is enthusiastically embracing, and becoming increasingly reliant on, digital and mobile technology for a wide variety of travel-related issues. Not only is this an important trend to note, but it should also be considered that this will only accelerate further in the future. It is a primarily young demographic which is getting on board with this technology, and those that are weary of it are usually of an older generation. The children of the mobile generation will almost certainly be even more enthusiastic about it than their parents, and this technology is therefore going to be magnified in importance in the coming years and decades.

Failure to heed this trend will be simply disastrous for any digital marketer, travel-related business, or even potentially for many destinations.

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