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Published on Monday, January 7, 2019

Comment: Six digital trends to watch closely in 2019

NIIT Technologies  expects six digital trends to shape the 2019 travel industry. Madan Mohan, the company's global head, transportation, explains more.

"With more travellers taking to the skies than ever, 2019 looks set to be a bumper year for the sector.

Though fluctuations in oil prices and currencies will be a source of continued uncertainty, a slew of new technologies will bring opportunities for savvy companies to boost revenues and lower their costs.  Here are six we're watching closely:

The data dividend.  Huge amounts of data - and the means to mine it for insights - can help travel businesses of all kinds optimise their operations and take the guesswork out of identifying high-margin sales opportunities.  Using data, intelligent analysis and digital integration they can improve merchandising and take the 'retail' model to the next level. Technologies like machine learning and natural language processing are increasingly within the reach of travel companies; many of them are likely to embrace them as they look to realise the considerable value of their data. Meanwhile, voice interactions, virtual assistants and chatbots will greatly improve and enhance customer service.

Personalisation.  Emerging 'Smart Airport' technologies like IoT, biometrics, One ID, Movement Management and Collaborative Identity Management will mean that players at all levels will be able to deliver seamless customer journeys from check-in to the arrivals hall.

First 'killer applications' of blockchain.  Distributed ledgers have been heavily hyped in many sectors, but travel could be where the first truly successful applications emerge.  We recently launched a blockchain-based system for ticketing reconciliation and are looking now at applying the technology to passenger identity management, security, and baggage handling.

Travel gets 'agile'.  Market disruptors like Airbnb and Uber have been able to disrupt large sectors of the travel business thanks to their mastery of 'agile' techniques.  Instead of only launching products once they've undergone extensive scrutiny and testing, 'agile' places an emphasis on fast launch, iteration and incremental improvement.  Expect incumbent players to increasingly embrace the emerging, turning the tables on the disruptors as they make greater use of automation, machine learning, cognitive computing and natural language processing (NLP).  They will help the industry automate routine tasks, enable better decision making and improve operations.

A revolution in distribution.  IATA initiatives like One Order and New Distribution Capability are bringing consistency and transparency to data across the industry.  That's a boon for travel agents and operators alike, as they now have access to the data they need to put together truly tailored packages based on customers' preferences.  They also mean far lower distribution costs for airlines and hotels: the ability to distribute on a truly global level could give them the confidence to hold prices higher for longer.

Cybersecurity demands close attention.  News that Marriott subsidiary Starwood Hotels suffered potentially the largest corporate data breach ever will focus executives' minds closely on security and data governance.  With fines for undisclosed breaches of up to 4% of revenues under GDPR, executives are likely to insist on the highest levels of cyber risk assessment before signing off on any new digital investments.  Security and compliance must be factored in 'by design' and not added as an afterthought.

2019 promises to be a defining year for the industry as new technologies shape every stage in the travel value chain.  We're looking forward to working with our clients to address these new opportunities - and manage the risks."


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