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Monday, July 9, 2012

The new GDS: my smartphone

There are still people doubting that mobile will revolutionize travel. They will tell you that today, it represents only a few percentage of bookings and a very small amount of money.

What I say, is : What is important to see is not where we stand today, but the growth ... and the technology disruption coming. Reimagination is the new key trend in the travel world. Only companies with the right platform will be able to benefit from the growth. If you do not own the platform, then, you have to "buy it" and since the "fees" are smaller and smaller, the business model is hard to sustain on the long run. Expedia spent time and money to unify its back office platforms into one, others like Priceline prefer to buy "teams and technology" for a particular niche and region.

And today, Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft are investing massively in their platform. And investing to attract developpers and new business. Everywhere in the world.

At the same time, smartphone computing power (quadcore cpu) and communication power (4G is coming and wi-fi is already here) is still evolving fast.

So with your smartphone, you own in your hand a mini-GDS. You can access any travel information you want. Buy any trip you want. No need to go through a travel agent. You can even rent a small plane. Look at this innovative company: socialflights. The new 1st class ... No need to go through a GDS then. Domestic travel is changing fast.

Recently, a disruptive announcement was made on each of the major mobile operating systems (Android, Windows Phone 8 wallet Hub and Ios). The capability for the phone to handle and manage natively, cards: loyalty cards, payment cards and also digital boarding pass and digital coupon.

The long tail is now complete, every step of the travel is now digital. More, they created the missing link, the one everybody was waiting for: the link between your credit card, and your identity (through your phone). Technology is called Google Wallet, Microsoft Phone 8 Wallet Hub, or Apple iOS 6 Passbook. The phone can also benefit from NFC technology, but it is not a pre-requisite. All credit card vendors and digital payment companies are also jumping in this bandwagon. Digital money ...

Why is it so important to have that link?

Because soon you will be able to buy travel from Apple itunes or Google Play, using your platform account and to get all trip information in digital format within your phone automatically. No app to install. No email to forward to TripIT. Hundred of millions of people will have it when they will migrate to the new operating systems. The whole travel supply chain in your phone.

Imagine also that a company creates a digital lodged card (a Virtual Card established in the name of your company) for each corporate traveller and that all expense should be paid on the phone. No more hours to fill expense reporting tool, everything is captured, analysed in real time and attached to your cost center. Every digital bill will be pushed to the accounting system (back office) automatically, with the right time and geolocation information. Fraud will be more difficult. And it will be more difficult to make the company pay for your massage, with a bill written in chinese.

I even think that business travellers will soon get new devices built just for them. These devices will offer geolocation, GPS, safety and security alerts, digital boarding pass, digital payment etc. Everything could fit in a watch ... a smartphone is too heavy and people can install the app they want ... But reimagine this on a dedicated small device, may be with the branding of your company ...

Tomorrow, local suppliers (the "LO" of SOLOMO) will be also able to integrate the travel supply chain very easily at a cost to be defined still.
  • Need a taxi now and around you? Use Uber, Taximagic, or one of the new numerous services created (see here for Taxi and here for Black Car).
  • Need a conference room, use Regus, or rent a room directly from the web. I'm sure that sites like AirBnB for business will be created soon offering low cost rooms and small event conference rooms.
  • Need to fly: Low cost carriers (LCC) and private rental planes (like socialflights or Jetbox) are already disrupting the industry. Companies with fairly recent fleets and new hubs like Emirates and Ethiad, are also changing the rule of the game by both offering low fare tickets, but also integrating in their heart DMO (Destination Marketing - all is done that traveller stays sometimes in the hub to spend money).
  • High speed train ... These suppliers always preferred direct buying channels instead of going through OTA. SilverRail is a good example of how technology can provide solutions to local offer fragmentation.
  • Google+, Facebook, Pinterest: these social network will enable the creation and push of a local offer, to a geolocalised customer. Everything available at your fingertip, from what's near to me.
  • In flight wi-fi next generation will enable people to access video, and their favorite newspaper in flight, through their phone or tablets. I do not even talk about the new connected glasses (Google, Samsung, Apple are already working on it).
  • Hotel will morph into a local mall. You will be able to buy everything you want from your tablet. Imagine a small amazon.com in each hotel with local goods and gifts available from the hotel, but also from merchants around (shipping to be done between 15mn and 3 hours).
Question is then: are GDS, OTA and TMC's too big to fail? Is the mobile long tail disruptive enough to destroy the existing ecosystem in the short term? 


Look at what happened for the music industry ... Niches will have to be tackled for enabling growth. Business models will have to be re-invented.