Think of the last time you planned a trip. If you're like most travelers, you went through a lengthy and labor-intensive process to determine the travel timeframe, decide on where to go, figure out how much you can spend and book the reservations. In an informal survey of our employees last fall, we found that it took one or two weeks for them just to plan a simple three-day trip.1
The fact is, travel planning is still time-consuming, despite radical changes in the last decade due to the Web and social media. Although technology has made it easier to access information, share opinions and make comparisons, today's travelers must navigate a range of channels at every turn. They might view photos of a friend's trip on Facebook or Instagram, check TripAdvisor for reviews, do further research on destination Web sites and compare hotel and airline prices on Orbitz and Expedia. Additionally, they might check their bank account or credit card balances to determine their budget realities, as well as the calendars and schedules of their travel companions to determine a travel timeframe.
But by 2020 — if the current pace of consumer digital activity and technology advancements continues — travelers can expect a much more automated and personalized approach to how they plan trips. By then, a single entity — an intelligent planning engine — will aggregate and analyze the far-flung pieces of data that are either provided outright or generated implicitly through the digital behaviors of travelers, devices, organizations and other entities within the travel and hospitality ecosystem. The result: intuitive development of a customized trip plan that is personalized to individual preferences, availability, spending habits and scheduling needs.
By offering this type of predictive and personalized capability, the travel industry follows other industries that have been disrupted by future- thinking competitors (i.e., Amazon, Google, Pandora) that are making meaning from the digital trails of people, organizations and devices. We call these digital pools of data a Code Halo™ and they not only form around travelers — many of whom lead vibrant online lives, sharing their digital information with travel agencies, social media Web sites, search engines, banks and more — but also companies (where travelers work), hotels (where travelers stay) and travel intermediaries (where they often book trips). By analyzing these Code Halos and distilling meaning at key intersections, airlines, hotels and travel intermediaries can better understand current behaviors and even anticipate future needs and desires in ways they never could before.2