Innovative Tech Will Make Travel More Customer-Centric

by Sohini Bagchi    Jan 14, 2015

bernaad

Tourism in India accounts for 6.8 percent of the GDP and is the third largest foreign exchange earner for the country. The sector over the years have relied on technology to significantly improve time-to-market while lowering operational costs and improving customer services. In an exclusive interaction with CXOtoday, Bernaad R Chetty, Assistant Vice President, Sonata Software elucidates the technology trends and opportunities in the travel domain. The Bangalore-headquartered company delivers application frameworks and solutions to some of the biggest airlines, tour operators, OTAs, corporate travel groups, hospitality and logistics organizations. Toward this end, Chetty also explains the role of a CIO in the travel and tourism sector.

What are the latest tech trends in the travel industry? How is it different from say 5 years ago?

Consumerization of IT has continued to have a significant effect on the travel industry. While Travel has been ahead of the curve in the e-commerce shift even earlier, the increasing penetration of mobile and internet has further accelerated change. The challenge now is in ensuring a seamless experience across multiple channels and stages of a travel experience with technologies such as omni channel commerce and mobile enabled content & tasks.   In-depth analytics based on big data tools helps precisely target the customer giving him the right information at the right time. Personalization and convenience are the objective. Geo and location based technology, wearables and near field communications is leading to a new level of targeted on-time and on-spot services. Increased customer satisfaction which would ultimately lead to customer loyalty needs creative use of these technologies to deliver a better travel experience.

Where do you see CIOs face the maximum challenges?

CIOs and their ‘X’ level counterparts essentially face challenges on two fronts. The immediate primary challenge of course is to have a strategic and creative understanding of how new technologies like mobility, analytics and social can be applied to redefine customer experience, value and in some cases even business models.

The rapid pace of technology change and specialized solutions further means that making the right technology choices is an important aspect. Incumbent leaders further face an added challenge of integrating these solutions appropriately to existing legacy systems. A proper plan for which application need to be upgraded or replaced can impact both the final effectiveness and cost of IT systems to support the way ahead. We see significant scope for CIOs to take the lead in making a stronger contribution with technology on these counts.

How can companies such as Sonata help them address these challenges?

Travel IT providers like Sonata with a long track record of experience in this industry can make a difference to CIOs wanting to innovate and stay ahead. With our experience supporting some of the world’s largest travel companies across multiple segments like Online Travel, Tour Operators, Airlines and Corporate Travel, we have a view of multiple technology applications, business processes and channels. From front end omni channel & mobile commerce solutions to GDS in mid office, on to support in running these systems, we can give seamless support for innovation and operations.

We also have a substantial portfolio of IP based solutions that can add competitive advantage to customers. A case is Rezopia, the first cloud based SaaS ERP system for travel. This award winning platform provides complete end-to-end travel reservations, back office, packaging and distribution system integrated all-in-one. With its technology innovations, Rezopia allows travel companies to gain flexibility, faster time to market and lower TCO in meeting customer needs.

What are the top three ways predictive analytics can help travel companies address customers better?

Travel being a very customer centric industry, predictive analytics is an important and widely used tool in the industry. Predictive analytics helps travel companies in offering the right products and packages for customer and in demand forecasting to plan in advance their inventory of flight tickets, hotel reservations, etc. Predictive analytics also helps in right product pricing by measuring and modelling yield. This not only helps in maximizing revenues but also helps in optimizing inventory utilization.

How is e-commerce changing the travel sector? 

The pervasiveness of ecommerce thru mobile and geo based services has seen aspects of travel such as niche local attractions and last mile travel services such as taxis being more effectively integrated into a travel offering these days. Social media and online service offering comparisons, which are now increasingly available even on mobile, has impacted buyer search and decision making process significantly – giving customers more competitive choices. Emerging payment systems are making travel impulse purchases more convenient.  However, the interesting thing is that the continued shift to digitally driven commerce has changed the focus technology as a transaction enabler to a travel experience enabler!

 What are Sonata’s plans for this sector for the next 2-3 years?

We want to continue to be a leading edge provider of IT solutions for this industry. And like our customers, we are doing so by focusing more closely on their end consumers and how technology can give them a wow in their travel experience. We are developing a range of front end solutions integrating multiple technologies like wearables, omni-channel commerce, analytics and mobility that come together in particular customer use scenarios across the buying and service consumption cycle to define the ideal customer experience. We are looking to be ahead of the curve in helping our customers define and achieve the future of travel.

Strengthening our core IT services to develop and sustain the larger IT systems that anchor business is another aspect where we want to be relevant. We believe customers can rely on us taking this load so that they are better placed to tackle the challenges of innovation with a clear mind. A stronger focus on IP led services such as Rezopia and our hybris Travel Plus solution is another key aspect of our strategy.

What are your tips to CIOs venturing into the travel and tourism sector?

Travel continues to be extremely exciting and dynamic business where technology continues to play a very vital role. CIOs need to wear the business hat and play more impactful and important role in the change and lead their company to face the challenges - by making information technology a core part of the business strategy. Another important area where the CIO needs to play an important part is in the development of a comprehensive technology roadmap that provides systems across the traveller’s lifecycle giving them a seamless and personalized experiences by leveraging new technologies such as mobile, cloud and analytics more comprehensively. They need to be able to think ‘customer’ more strongly.