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Four Travel Industry Takeaways from Mobile World Congress

March 21, 2014 Conferences No Comments Email Email

In early March, 85,000 mobile executives from across the world gathered in Barcelona for a week of mobile innovation and merriment. EyeforTravel’s Gina Baillie was there.

morefuninthephilippineFrom last-minute trends to wearable technologies and how to target the next billion smart phone users, it was all happening at MWC. There was plenty to take in but from a travel brand’s perspective, here’s our take on what you missed.

1. Mobile is not just for the last minute

Speaking at the EyeforTravel@Mobile World Congress conference, Amy Sawyer, Global Product Manager – Mobile, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, revealed interesting data from CWT and Worldmate on the evolving mobile booking lead times for hotels. In 2009, 55% of hotel bookings via mobile devices were within 24 hours of the stay. In October 2013, this had fallen to 35% with 40% of travellers booking more than a week in advance (compared with just 14% in 2009).

2. Wearable technology – the world is your oyster

From smart watches to high-tech tracking of children, wearables were the hot gadgets at MWC this year. Still in their infancy, and primarily focusing on fitness and healthcare, the one to watch from a travel perspective would be Sony’s SmartWatch 2. Its built in Garmin navigation could allow you to know where your customers are even without them turning on their phones – though there may be privacy issues.

SmartGlasses were much talked about. Aiming to overcome the issue of the lack of a keyboard or controls, the Lumus smartglassesintegrate EyeSight gesture recognition, using hand and finger commands to touch icons in the air. Although there is still no news on when Google Glass will be launched to the public, travel brands are finding great uses for them already. The beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel in Florida for example saw fantastic results from inviting Google Glass explorers to their destination as can be seen in this case study.

3. Clutching at straws? Can a mobile phone case compete with iBeacon?

Launched last December, and recently featured on Tnooz, Apple’s iBeacon technology for iPhones uses Bluetooth Low Energy technology to push notifications and deals to people’s devices as they walk within range. Hotels, airports, destinations and airlines could take advantage of this on-the-go technology, which is an alternative to – if not a direct rebuff of – the near-field communication (NFC) technology included in most Android devices today. When Apple launched iBeacon, many wondered if this sounded a death knell for NFC, which is typically built in to Android phones to allow for tap-to-pay functionality at certain major retailers. This hasn’t taken off. Now, however, a California based mobile accessories brand, Incipio, seems intent on keeping NFC alive. It has developed a case, which was given away free to MWC visitors, that gives iPhone devices NFC functionality. Should you be worried about which technology to develop for? Watch this space.

4. Surprise, surprise: Nokia launches Android phone to tap the next billion

Nokia was acquired by Microsoft in 2013 for €5.44 billion purportedly effort to challenge the dominance of Apple and Google. So, perhaps the most surprising development of the week was the launch of an Android phone by mobile giants Nokia. The Nokia X comes in three versions and is available for just €89 in Africa and other growth markets.

Keen to emphasise that this was not just another Google phone, Nokia claims the new Android smartphones aren’t aimed at those who already own a smartphone. Instead, they are targeting the next billion smartphone buyers – most notably in Africa and Asia. As price points for smartphone devices continue to fall, a widening audience, particularly in these emerging markets, is opening up. In Africa, for example, smartphone penetration today sits at just 18% but that is expected to at least double by 2017. For savvy travel brands this presents an opportunity to target the new, rapidly growing middle class traveller. Watch out for an upcoming story on the rapid growth of online travel brands in and into Africa on EyeforTravel.com.

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