Apps and mobile-optimised websites are playing increasingly important roles in the marketing strategy of companies in the travel industry.

TripAdvisor reported that nearly half of UK hoteliers offer mobile booking with 40 percent utilising mobile-friendly websites. At the same time, the mobile market for travellers remains largely unexplored because 70 percent of mobile users routinely switch off service when they visit international destinations.

However, regulatory changes in Europe this summer aim to make international bills more affordable and easy to understand for consumers. This will allow travellers to use their phone, apps and mobile internet abroad in EU countries in the same way that they use them at home, without fear of an expensive bill arriving on their doorstep a few weeks after they get home – the so-called “bill shock” phenomenon.

As travellers start to use mobile data abroad in the same way they do at home, travel and tourism companies have a significant opportunity to tap into the capabilities of mobile to add value and make travel more convenient for their customers.

They can do so by using real-time mobile context – that is, insight into subscriber information, usage and location – which is available to mobile operators, and which can be offered to travel companies to improve their customers’ end-user experience. Mobile context data includes everything from information on a subscriber’s device location, to the amount of data services a subscriber uses, to the amount of roaming they do and more.

Personalised convenience

With mobile context, travel companies can improve the travel experience for their customers by personalizing it and making it more convenient.

For example, when a business traveller lands at an airport in a new country, an automated response is triggered from a car rental company to allow the traveller to check in via text message. The traveller replies yes, so the rental company follows up with a vehicle upgrade offer, which is also accepted by the customer. After the confirmation is set, the customer receives a validation with the number and location of the parking space where they will find their car. By using mobile context in this way, a routine customer process that usually requires a lengthy wait in a line is significantly faster and easier, delivering much more value to the consumer via their device.

Shopping without borders

Mobile context offers more than improved customer convenience. As people increasingly use their mobile phones abroad in other European countries, travel companies can use mobile to encourage spending throughout the trip by partnering with other organisations to provide timely, location-specific offers via mobile. These offers could range from tickets for an upcoming show that has unsold seats or discounts at a nearby restaurant that has open reservations.

Retailers that partner with travel companies or consumer finance providers (like credit card companies) can also connect with travellers through targeted special offers delivered to their mobile phone. Retailers can strike reciprocal deals with similar brands in other cities and countries to offer international discounts for visitors via their mobile.

For example, Bon Marche in Paris could partner with Selfridges in London or El Corte Ingles in Madrid, so that store loyalty card holders receive a ten percent discount coupon via a mobile device when they arrive in the UK or Spain.

Taking context a step further, the reciprocal data could allow each store to access the purchase history of consumers from their partners to ensure that special offers complement customers’ purchasing preferences.

Privacy and permission

End-user permission is critical to delivering personalised consumer experiences. The fact that mobile users can use their apps and data abroad in the same way as at home isn’t an open invite for companies to flood consumers with irrelevant and unwanted notifications and promotions. People have a deeply personal relationship with their mobile phone. It’s critical that any notifications or recommendations they receive are useful and relevant to them personally. Any message that doesn’t meet these criteria will almost certainly damage the brand of the company that sent it and their relationship with that person.

To succeed, it’s critical that travel companies, brands and mobile operators work together to not only properly use mobile context but also – and most importantly – to ensure consumer opt-in at every stage. Operators’ trusted relationships with their subscribers means they are ideally placed to gather preference data for sharing with travel providers, brands and content providers – but only on a strict opt-in basis.

Setting expectations

The end of data roaming fees between European countries is set to have a major impact on mobile users’ ability to roam in other countries across the globe.

As business travelers and tourists are increasingly able to roam anywhere in the world just as they do in Europe, the travel industry – airlines, hotels, tour operators, events companies and retailers – has a significant opportunity to incorporate mobile into their customer relationship strategy.

As more economical roaming options open up, those in the travel industry can use mobile context to engage more closely with customers and provide them with an improved quality of service, wherever they are in the world.

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