A smile may be the hallmark of good hospitality, but the next generation of travelers might not even be looking. 

As Millennials age and travel more frequently, expectations are changing in the travel industry. Travel companies must accommodate Millennials (U.S. consumers born between the early 1980s and around 2000), who are accustomed to turning to a mobile device for help, says Jeremy Kressmann, mobile travel analyst at research firm eMarketer Inc.

Airbnb Inc. is one company catering to these changes.  “Airbnb is shaking up the travel industry,” Kressmann says. Airbnb is an online-only lodging service with a heavy emphasis on mobile that enables property owners to rent accommodations such as apartments and rooms in houses to travelers. Travelers can research, book, arrive, depart and review their lodging all without interacting with another person.

“Airbnb’s biggest impact on mobile business so far has been in changing how travel marketers think about mobile as a channel for travel commerce,” Kressmann says.

Kressmann says more consumers are not only researching but also booking via mobile.  41.5 million travelers will book via mobile devices in 2015, which is 37.7% of travelers who book digitally, eMarketer predicts. This is compared to 2014 when 33.6 million travelers booked via mobile device, or 31.6% of digital bookers, eMarketer says.

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In fact, a good chunk of the Airbnb process is handled via mobile—20% of visitors to Airbnb.com come from a mobile device. And at some point during 65% of bookings, either the host or guest uses the Airbnb mobile app, the company reports.

Kressmann attributes part of the increase in mobile travel purchases to travel-oriented start-ups, like Airbnb, HotelTonight and Uber, that have built native apps for smartphones. They have made the process simple and fairly frictionless for travelers, in part by taking advantage of consumers’ location and previous searches to make relevant purchase suggestions.

The growing popularity of mobile travel companies has many hotels and other travel and hospitality brands adopting m-commerce for their own offerings, Kressmann says. For example, Marriott International Inc.’s loyalty program, Marriott Rewards LocalPerks, uses beacon technology to send discounts to guests’ mobile devices for the hotel’s spa and restaurant. Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc. has integrated a mobile check-in and mobile room key into its preferred guest app.

While Airbnb’s primary customers may be Millennials, Kressmann says, the company is also targeting business travelers with a business portal on its website.

 

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Follow mobile business journalist April Dahlquist, associate editor, mobile, at Mobile Strategies 360, @Mobile360April

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