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With mobile e-commerce predicted to reach over $278 billion by the year 2015, the mobile payments is one of THE hot topics in the eTourism arena. Smartphone penetration in Europe and the US is reaching market maturity and abolishment of roaming charges will only increase the web-usage of travellers on-the-go. At the same time, major players moving towards integrated travel solutions – e.g. Google Wallet or Apple Passbook – fuel the hopes in the travel industry that mobile technologies are the cure-all recipe for travel distribution and the only way to go forward in future. This applies in particular to the airline industry (Hotelmarketing 2013).

The transition to mobile has yet to happen

Although user surveys suggest that technology assists airline travellers when travelling (a staggering 90% of airline passenger confirm that technology helps them when travelling), a look at actual usage rates paints a different picture. Despite the finding that ca. 75% of passengers carry a smartphone according to results of the 2013 SITA/Air Transport World Passenger IT Trends Survey, only 5% make use of services such as booking and check-in via their smartphones.

Boundaries to adopting mobile technologies

The vast majority of users argue that the main boundaries to adopting mobile technologies for booking and/or check in are usability concerns and limitations of the device. Especially research intensive tasks like comparing prices and flight times across multiple channels are difficult to carry out with small mobile screens. Secondly, hesitation to transfer payment information over mobile phones are present, as the devices are not equipped with anti virus and malware technology.

Enhancing value to foster the shift towards mobile

The SITA survey however indicated that self-service technologies are accepted amongst consumers, with 69% booking their flight via a website and 20% using a self service kiosk to check in on the travel day. To extend this acceptance towards mobile services and persuade travellers to adapt their behaviour, service providers need to ensure that the mobile experience delivers superior value. The report cites information services such as flight search (63%), and flight status (58%) as travellers’ main priorities. However, so far mobile applications by travel companies have failed to make use of the unique capabilities of mobile technologies. The main opportunities lie in using location services along with the possibility to provide seamless and highly personalised experiences. Given that the vast majority of travellers carry mobile phones, this technology provides the unique opportunity to deliver the right information at the right time and the right stage of the journey.

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