Tuesday, 19 February 2013

There’s “No I(T) in Team” For Travel Companies, Is There?

It’s not actually that often that we hear from the IT and Tech folk within a travel company. Ie, the people who really make buying decisions on solutions and technologies. The focus of so many travel conferences, including most of ours, is upon the distribution, pricing and marketing functions of the business. With that in mind, I’ve spent the last six months talking to people working in this integral part of the business. It has highlighted a number of opportunities and challenges in this space which I truly hadn’t anticipated (perhaps naively, but still).  

With the launch of the first ever Smart Travel Technology Conference imminent, I thought it would be interesting to outline my top 6 current issues as described by CIOs and CTos in the travel sector. You’ll be surprised I think, as I was, at how many of these issues are shared across hotels, airlines, cruise lines, car hire companies, OTAs and more. So here’s the list.
  1. Who Owns The Data! This is something we covered at our recent Smart Travel Analytics Conference in NYC. It’s a big issue for IT professionals in the travel and hospitality sectors, largely because often they own the rights to systems, and they often act as “gatekeepers” to the data (although many dislike the term). This leads to internal aggravations when it comes to who has access to various databases and what actions they can take. The IT team are often in the centre of this web, and it’s a difficult position to moderate.  
  2. Innovation in The Future: In general, travel IT execs are pretty up to speed with new technologies for the travel sector. But! What about futuristic consumer technologies outside of travel like 3d printing, hologram TV, Google Goggles, ANW and interactive advertising screens? How can you stay ahead of the curve and your customerr
  3. Internal Struggles: It’s the name of this blog post and it’s a huge issue for IT execs. What exactly should the role of an IT professional working in travel be, and how can IT increase boardroom awareness of technology and IT related issues? These questions are just a few which came up in the research. Others include recruiting IT talent (and keeping it), working with other teams and more.
  4. SAAS Based Solutions: We’re Not There Yet! I remember back in 2009 when I started out in the travel industry that Cloud companies were everywhere, and it was the next big thing. Over the last year or so, conversation in this space has lessened at our conferences and other trade shows alike. However, the issue has never been more important as it is right now. With data warehousing becoming more difficult to find and more expensive, businesses are slowly starting to transfer to the Cloud. But with this transfer, come a lot of headaches- think moving databases in real time, privacy laws, hacking concerns and escalating Cloud rental costs for a start.
  5. Wifi and Bandwidth: Despite large scale technology expenditure in this area by most travel companies (particularly affecting hotels, airlines and cruises), wifi and bandwidth issues are still unfortunately very much afloat. IT professionals have been asking us, “how do you re-align your HSIA infrastructure for better customer service and also a fully backed up internal system?”
  6. Payment and Transactional Efficiency: Significant changes are afoot in terms of the way travel companies can sell to their customer. Compliancy and PCI regulation, plus strategic planning for payment related deadlines are all hot topics for 2013 and beyond.

I’ve covered here just a sample of things IT professionals are talking about in 2013. I have already admitted that I was extremely surprised to see not just so many new issues that I hadn’t anticipated, but also some issues which had perhaps “gone out of the limelight” in the news, but topics that were absolutely, wholly, still affecting travel companies on a daily basis. I’m excited to see what happens at the summit this October, and to meet CIOs and CTOs alike to discuss these topics in more detail.