Travel planning involves four activities: Determining the travel timeframe (when), deciding on the destination (where), figuring out how much you'll spend (budget) and making reservations (booking). Although technology has automated some of these steps and dramatically improved information access, much of the process is still done manually and there is no single entity that coordinates all four activities. As a result, travel planning is still a time-consuming process.
Let's consider the four stages of travel planning in terms of how the process could be improved through the use of Code Halo™ thinking1 (i.e., distilling meaning at the intersection of the digital information surrounding, people, processes, organizations and devices), built on the SMAC Stack™ (aka social, mobile, analytics and cloud technologies),
When: Automation via a schedule-aggregating capability that consolidates everyone's (i.e., those traveling together) calendars, availability and holidays into a single view.
Where: A capability that dynamically packages promotions based on group preferences can automate this step.
Budget: A budget management capability that automatically analyzes account statements, spending patterns and cash flow to develop a budget.
Booking: An intelligent planning engine that optimizes booking options based on personal Code Halos (i.e., social media interactions, previous travel transactions), schedule aggregation, dynamic packaging and budget management.
Envisioning an Intelligent Planning Engine for Tailored Trips
With the growth in big data analytics and a customer-centric focus, it's a natural step for travel providers to adopt the principles of Code Halo thinking. This shift will ultimately transport the travel industry to a new commercial era in which value is derived more from information than from physical assets. At that point, the capabilities will be in place for intelligent planning engines to harness the meaning contained in Code Halos of individuals and organizations to automatically compile trip plans that are optimized for the traveler's schedule, budget and destination needs and preferences, as well as reservation availability.
The Code Halos used by the planning engine would incorporate three types of information: primary, explicit and implicit.
A Code Halo Informed Traveling Planning Engine
Primary data: Basic information that is readily accessible. Information about places and locations categorized in a standard way, about suppliers and availability that can be analyzed in real time, travel group schedules, budget and other financials.
Explicit data: Factual information pertaining to an individual or group that is explicitly expressed. This involves general preferences to eliminate obvious choices and past vacation expenses to determine a suitable budget.
Implicit data: Preferences and interests derived from implied information. The planning engine can analyze social activity to optimize recommendations. Browsing history, links clicked, ads viewed and articles read or shared form another set of data that can be leveraged to gain meaningful insight into a traveler's preferences and interests.
Embracing Travel Planning's Transformation
It's crucial for traditional companies to divert swiftly from existing business models competing on cost and prepare for the new Code Halo-based paradigm. A few players, such as Flextrip, Gogobot, Tripit and Stay.com, have already begun the transition by focusing on the social aspects of trip planning and incorporating these insights into their offerings. Here are a few steps that travel and hospitality companies can take immediately to begin their transformation:
Build a strong "product/places halo:" Form alliances to develop and maintain a standardized catalog of various places and locations in different regions and geographies. An intelligent planning engine will heavily rely on such a database of places, with authentic listings of "things to do," along with genuine traveler ratings.
Build a "traveler halo:" Develop innovative ways to assimilate the traveler information from social media networks, digital footprints and different travel entities to build a complete traveler halo. Such profiling will be of immense help to the planning engine for sorting implicit traveler preferences.
Build capabilities for Code Halo interfaces: Different entities should build new interfaces through which they can collaborate. For instance, itemized details of hotel expenses should be shared with financial institutions; the exchange of such information will give the planning engine important insights for determining the budget for the next trip.
Build an ecosystem of sharing Code Halos: Seemingly unrelated organizations should develop digital channels to expose information upon authorized request. For example, travel agencies cannot currently integrate travelers' available vacation days. The sharing of individual calendars and schedules can help the planning engine optimize the best time for a group to travel.
For deeper insights into travel planning 2020, use-case scenarios and examples, please read our white paper Travel Planning 2020: The Journey Toward Market Prosperity. Visit Cognizant's travel and hospitality practice for more.
1 For more on Code Halos and innovation, read "Code Rules: A Playbook for Managing at the Crossroads," Cognizant Technology Solutions, June 2013, http://www.cognizant.com/Futureofwork/Documents/code-rules.pdfand the book, "Code Halos: How the Digital Lives of People, Things and Organizations are Changing the Rules of Business," by Malcolm Frank, Paul Roehrig and Ben Pring, published by John Wiley & Sons. April 2014,http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1118862074.html.