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AR, voice and visual search among the mobile travel trends to dominate in 2019 [New research]

The expert opinions are in, the data’s been analyzed, and we’re excited to say that our Mobile Travel Trends 2019 report is now available to download. 

This is our third year publishing our Trends report and we’ve made this one more comprehensive than ever. We’ve called on some of Travelport’s top experts to tell us what they believe will be the top trends to impact travel in 2019, including AR and VR, airline retailing and predictive analytics (to name a few).

We’ve also invited senior leaders from easyJet and Yatra to give us their view on two of the biggest things to happen to search: voice and visual. 

Along with these experts’ opinions, we interviewed more than 100 industry professionals and 1,100 end travelers to give the travel market’s view on the emerging areas to watch. We’ve put all of these insights together to bring you a complete guide to the trends that should shape your travel brand’s mobile strategy over the coming year.

It’s amazing to see how quickly things have moved on in just a year. More web traffic now comes from mobile than desktop. Travelers are booking holidays using just an Instagram photo, asking Siri to check their flight status, getting their boarding passes from messenger platforms and using augmented reality to check their baggage size. 

So what does 2019 hold for mobile travel? Let’s dive in and find out.


Pictures are the new keywords

easyJet made the headlines with its Look&Book app feature in 2018 and its Head of Digital Experience Dan Young was a key player in making the idea a reality. In Mobile Travel Trends 2019, Dan talks about why easyJet is investing in visual search, and why other airlines and travel brands should do likewise.

Using AI and machine learning, Look&Book allows users to search for a flight by uploading an Instagram screenshot to the easyJet app. The app can detect the location of the post and performs a geo-lookup to find the destination and its nearest airports and suggests flights for the user to book. So, users can search for a flight even if they don’t know where the picture was taken—no context, keywords or additional information needed.  

Since its launch in October 2018, Look&Book has matched over 10,000 photos to destinations on the easyJet app and is running at a 5.3% conversion rate in its first two months. Combine this with the fact that 62% of millennials want more visual search functionality over any other new technology and you’ll see why visual search has earned its place in our top eight trends for 2019.

Get the free Mobile Travel Trends 2019 report for more on visual search.

Customers expect more from voice

The rise in popularity of voice search over the last year has been phenomenal. In 2018, the smart speaker market grew by 187%, Google’s Assistant appeared on its 500 millionth device and there were reportedly 1000 Amazon Echo Dots sold every second during Cyber Monday.

Manish Amin is the CIO and Co-Founder of Yatra, an online travel brand that has ramped up its use of cutting-edge voice search technology. Based in India, Yatra is well-placed to experiment with voice—the latest Travelport global research shows that Indian travelers are leading the way with 69% using voice search in the travel process.  

This accelerated move to voice by consumers is causing a shift in how they interact with the technology and the questions and responses they want. Expectations are changing; users are not simply asking for information anymore, like “find coffee shops near me”—instead they’re commanding “order me a coffee”. “Check my flight status” is turning into “check me in” and so on. Voice search was a trend that Travelport Digital predicted last year, however, in 2019 voice will become less about “I want to know” and more about “I want to do”.   

Get the free report to find out more about the move from voice search to actions.


Planet of the apps: Battle for the Phono Sapien

In the last few years we've moved from a mobile-first world to, in many regions, a mobile-only world. What we do, the way we communicate and every touchpoint with a brand, is now being driven by mobile. We’re witnessing the rise of a phone planet, populated by a new species, the ‘Phono sapien’.

So what’s a ‘Phono sapien’? Here’s a quick recap in human evolution: our timeline began with ‘Australopithecus afarensis’, moved through ‘Homo erectus’ and for the past 200K years we’ve all been ‘Homo sapiens’—but of course any evolutionary expert will tell you that we haven’t stopped there. We’re still evolving.

What those evolution geeks won’t tell you though, is the fact that it hasn’t taken another million years (or even 100K years) to evolve to the next stage of human: it’s taken 11 years! Just a little over a decade of the iPhone has turned us into a brand-new species, the ‘Phono sapien’.

We check our phone every 12 minutes. We expect travel brands to be on whatever platform we’re on and we want a seamless and optimized experience across each and every one of those platforms. We’re not prepared to pinch and zoom on numerous websites on our phone to book flights or get a boarding pass like the Homo sapiens of old.

Glenville Morris, Director of Digital Insights at Travelport Digital, discusses how travel brands can engage with the newly-evolved humans in the full Mobile Travel Trends report.

New realities: Augmented and virtual

Augmented and virtual reality have long been on the list of emerging trends to watch, not only in travel, but across many industries like gaming, healthcare and engineering. Until now, they have been somewhat niche areas that seemed a long way off becoming mainstream. However, at the time of writing this trend, there are over 500 million AR-enabled mobile devices in existence and over 2000 AR apps in the App Store—there’s no denying it’s evolving quickly.

In 2018, we saw travel industry heavyweights experiment with AR and VR technology. American Airlines, KLM and Aeromexico are using AR bag sizers in their mobile apps, which lets travelers place a 3D bag overlay over their cabin bag and check if it is within the airline’s baggage size allowance. In 2019, we can expect to see more of the major airlines and TMCs create similar features.


We’ve also seen American Airlines experimenting with VR technologies and can expect more development in this area in 2019. For example, the airline is using both AR and VR to offer customers a view of how the plane looks from a chosen seat and how much leg room they will have at the booking stage, which creates opportunities for upselling.

Colin Pierse, Senior Software Developer at Travelport Digital predicts that as AR becomes faster, more mainstream and easier to use, it will become second nature and a core part of travel, removing key pain points and contributing to a more seamless customer journey.

Get the free report for more AR and VR use cases in travel.

Will predictive analytics spell the end of search as we know it?

We’ve already established that voice and visual are going to bring big changes for search in 2019, but could we also start to see the end of ‘searching’ entirely in some areas? 

Mike Mulligan, Product Director at Travelport Digital, believes that predictive analytics could mean a seismic shift in how business travelers search and book travel.

Imagine a scenario where you didn’t have to search for a flight or hotel for your next business trip. Why not? Because predictive technologies will present an itinerary to you based on your past travel experience, or even on recommendations from your colleagues.

The wealth of individual data now available is what’s making technology like this possible. Using this data will allow travel brands to know so much about individuals, that they will be able to present offers based on the customer’s preferences.

It’s unsurprising that our research found that 68% of travel brands will invest in business intelligence or predictive analytics in 2019, an increase on 21% from last year. And on the flip side, 65% of travelers are willing to provide personal details if it results in a more personalized travel experience. 

Companies like IBM and Travelport are already exploring this area and we can expect to see more advancements in this area in 2019.

Data, data everywhere

Data was a hot topic in 2018, and we can expect to see a continued focus in this area in 2019. Customers want personalized experiences and brands need to gather individual data to achieve this—but in the age of GDPR, legal and ethical use of data has never been more important.

This focus on collating data, perhaps even more so than on technological innovations, spells a move from digitization to datafication, says Sharon Doyle, Global Head of Product at Travelport.


Datafication is the term used to describe where every aspect of our digital lives is turned into valuable, computerized data that can be mined and used. This includes every search engine query we make, the locations we’re tagged and recorded at, our Instagram uploads, tweets, likes and swipes.

Our Mobile Travel Trends 2019 report takes a closer look at how travel brands will use this data to deliver personalized experiences. 

Conversational UI: It’s all about context

Over the last number of years, we have seen several popular conversational platforms enter the market. They can be broken down into two main types: those in which we converse through voice (e.g. Siri or Alexa) and those with which we converse mainly through text (e.g. WeChat, WhatsApp or Messenger).

These conversational interfaces, whether they’re text or voice, have their strengths and offer convenience and quicker searching for users by allowing them to have human-like conversations with chatbots. However, conversational UIs will only win out where they are the preferred mode of interaction for the customer, says the Head of UX at Travelport, Matthew Ovington.

For example, when a person is packing their suitcase they would likely choose to converse through voice because their hands are full. In a loud, busy airport, voice conversations become less convenient for users and text is a better option.

If companies are going to get the benefit of conversational UIs, they need to understand why this mode of interaction works so well in certain cases. 

Conversational UIs, chatbots and AI agents are all innovative, yet innovation isn’t simply about technology. It’s about social adoption too. If travel companies are to successfully engage with customers on this platform, they need to understand how to engage on terms that their users find beneficial. 

Explore the scenarios where conversational UIs could win out in our Mobile Travel Trends report.

Airline as a retailer

Airlines have been talking about being retailers for years, so why are we listing this as a trend for 2019? In a nutshell, 2019 will be the year that customers will start to notice the transformation. 

Airlines will move towards a digital retailing strategy. This means focusing on customer needs rather than pushing product. Airlines are selling a wider range of travel products beyond air, getting better at selling air products, and getting a greater share of the customer’s overall travel spend as a result.

So what will this look like in 2019? We can expect to see more airlines using retail techniques like gamification. They will start to measure eCommerce performance metrics like attach rate, basket value, cost of acquisition, engagement rates and lifetime value. 

Airlines will also sell a wider array of travel products to meet more of the customer’s total travel needs—for example hotel, car, insurance, lounge, loyalty and payment.  There has already been a noticeable shift away from using the term ‘passenger’ to using ‘customer’, all with the goal of increasing the focus on creating a more seamless customer experience.

Read Mark Lenahan’s full analysis in Mobile Travel Trends 2019.

Which trends will shape your 2019 strategy?

These are the eight trends that will shape travel in 2019, but what can you do with this information?

We recommend looking at these trends as subjects to guide key decision-making when creating your mobile strategy for the year ahead. By knowing the areas that experts believe will shape travel, combined with feedback from industry leaders and end travelers, you can prioritize digital spend and stay one step ahead of the competition.

Download the full Mobile Travel Trends 2019 report now for all the analysis and research data.


David MacHale - Digital Marketing Director

David is the Digital Marketing Director at Travelport Digital. He is a digital marketing specialist with almost 15 years experience working with B2B and B2C brands in the travel, retail and learning tech industries. David has been at the forefront of introducing next-generation product platforms such as Oculus Rift, 360 video, gaming and mobile apps. Today, he manages the marketing strategy, content and digital platforms for Travelport Digital as well as supporting new clients on their engagement journey.

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