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Travel distribution industry underestimates the speed and scale of the consumer revolution

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Artificial Intelligence, virtual reality and the use of portable technology could change travel distribution as we know it over the next 10 years, according to a new independent study by LSE.

At the same time, industry and consumer pressures will generate more complexity in both content and technology. As consumers begin to expect more personalised content throughout their travel journey, the technology managing the differentiation of airline fares and services will become more complex. Those players who do not innovate fast enough to adapt to these changes will miss out on growth opportunities, says the LSE study.

These are just some of the potential ‘future pathways’ identified in Travel distribution: the end of the world as we know it?, an LSE study commissioned by Amadeus.

The report provides a credible and objective benchmark for the industry. It recommends six areas for industry-wide collaboration:

  • Consumer expectations will rapidly spill over from retail into travel distribution. Players in the travel distribution industry will need to respond with broad collaborations for aggregating, processing and harnessing the big data involved. Otherwise, the explosion of complexity and differentiation of services in the short term could translate into potential confusion for the consumer.
  • The role of gatekeepers, the giant IT companies with major consumer interfaces, in travel distribution will continue to grow, notably through the use of virtual assistants, payment technologies and integration into social media.
  • The size and power of ‘mega-meta-OTA’ hybrids (online travel agents with metasearch capabilities and global brands) are likely to continue growing. Consequently, their influence will penetrate deeper into the distribution chain, with the ability to negotiate better content and conditions, whilst still receiving commissions.
  • The travel distribution industry is rapidly becoming a technology industry. Business models will need a more strategic approach that recognises the value creation of different technologies across the industry.
  • To avoid consumer confusion and lost opportunities, industry distribution need to go beyond bilateral partnerships and contractual relationships. Distribution business models will need to evolve to encompass more shared innovation, a culture of experimentation and cross-industry alliances.
  • Sharing economy platforms will continue to create new markets and erode the market share of suppliers and industry players who intermediate. The industry will need to adapt to this changing market and carefully monitor the impact of competition rulings in different regions as regulators play catch-up.

Dr Graham Floater, Director, Seneca, Director of the Economics of Green Cities Programme at LSE, and one of the report’s authors, commented: “The travel distribution industry is entering a period of unprecedented change - with rapidly changing consumer expectations, advances in data analysis technology and a blurring of the traditional lines between the various players. Our report identifies the disruptive factors that are likely to shape the industry, and eight future pathways for how the industry could develop over the next decade.”

Holger Taubmann, SVP Distribution, Amadeus, added: “We commissioned the London School of Economics and Political Science to take a dispassionate, academic and independent look at travel distribution in order to prompt industry debate and discussion about the future of our industry. This report makes a major contribution towards understanding how consumer expectations, new technologies and shifting market dynamics will shape the future of travel.”

For more information

Peter Carrol, LSE Media Relations, telephone: + 44 (0)207 955 6939, email: p.carrol@lse.ac.uk

Notes to editors

About the report

To download Travel distribution: the end of the world as we know it?, please visit http://www.lse.ac.uk/businessAndConsultancy/LSEConsulting/Past%20projects.aspx.

The report draws on evidence from five main sources: literature, interviews, data analysis and two industry surveys. The literature review covered 1,410 sources, while the surveys received 377 responses in the travel retail industry and responses from 18 international airlines.

LSE’s research included a series of interviews with 37 experts from across the travel industry, including Google, Facebook, Greg Schulze, the Senior Vice President of Commercial Strategy and Services at Expedia, and Kenny Jacobs, the Chief Marketing Officer of Ryanair, amongst others. 

The report was commissioned by Amadeus. The research was commissioned via LSE Consulting which was set up by the London School of Economics and Political Science to enable and facilitate the application of its academic expertise and intellectual resources

About Amadeus

Amadeus is a leading provider of advanced technology solutions for the global travel industry. Customer groups include travel providers (e.g. airlines, hotels, rail and ferry operators, etc.), travel sellers (travel agencies and websites), and travel buyers (corporations and travel management companies).

The Amadeus group employs around 14,000 people worldwide, across central sites in Madrid (corporate headquarters), Nice (development) and Erding (operations), as well as over 70 local Amadeus Commercial Organisations globally and has a presence in more than 190 countries.

The group operates a transaction-based business model. 

Amadeus is listed on the Spanish Stock Exchange under the symbol "AMS.MC" and is a component of the IBEX 35 index.

To find out more about Amadeus please visit www.amadeus.com, and www.amadeus.com/blog for more on the travel industry.

Image: Crowded beach CC BY-SA 3.0

11 October 2016