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Appetite Grows for Mobile Travel Services

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Travellers both young and old are increasingly using mobile devices for flight notification, check in, and seat selection, and are also willing to accept advertising with free travel applications. These findings and more, were revealed in a global mobile survey of travelers, conducted by Sabre Travel Network, one of the world’s leading providers of high-performance solutions for the travel industry.

The survey of 800 corporate and leisure travellers from Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America covered topics ranging from preferred features to fees travellers might pay for travel applications.

The majority of travellers surveyed had a smart phone (69%), with North American travelers most likely to own one (78%) and APAC travellers least likely (46%). Daily usage is highest for email at 63% with the internet not far behind at 49%. The study also found that nearly half of all travellers (47%) are 40 years old or older, demonstrating that the exploding use of mobile services is not strictly the domain of younger travellers.

While APAC travellers are currently the least likely to own smart phones, this number is increasing rapidly, signaling to the industry the importance of having a mobile strategy alongside an internet strategy.

“Travel suppliers and agencies can no longer ignore the mobile platform as the numbers are showing a definite uptrend towards mobile adoption for travel services. This is especially evident in the post-booking phase of the travel buying process,” said Hans Belle, vice president Asia Pacific, Sabre Travel Network.

“Smart phones are becoming a traveller’s preferred tool for managing post-booking activities and getting relevant information,” added Belle. “This represents a tremendous opportunity for the travel industry to leverage mobile solutions to demonstrate value to their customers and creatively reach target audiences.”

Corporate and leisure travellers both showed strong adoption for using their mobile phone to gain timely and relevant information in particular:

• Flight notification (72%)
• Weather forecasts (68%)
• Viewing of hotel locations via map (67%)
• Flight performance (65%)
• Destination information/city guides (64%)

Flight services on mobile most attractive to APAC travellers APAC travellers registered highest interest in having flight services on their mobile devices.

• 51% of APAC travellers are interested in using their mobile device to check in for flights, compared to 27% for destination specific offers from local businesses.
• 46% of APAC travellers would like to select/change seats via their smart phone.
• 40% of them would use their mobile device to automate reaccommodation services in the case of a cancelled flight.
• 38% of APAC travellers would like to use their smart phones to book flight upgrades.

Travelocity, a Sabre Holdings company, has noted a measurable increase in bookings originating from mobile devices in recent months.

All travellers surveyed are willing to accept advertising with free use of travel applications. For example, 28% of responding road warriors (very frequent travellers) said they preferred free applications with advertising, versus eight% who preferred to pay for the application. Leisure travelers had a similar spread, with 22% preferring free with advertising versus 5% preferring to pay.

“There’s been a lot of experimentation with pay-for-services in the past but with advertising emerging as a more palatable choice for travellers, application providers and retailers now have a way of monetising their offering and driving more value out of a potentially lucrative marketing channel,” said Belle. “For our own part, Sabre remains committed to helping the travel industry advance their mobile strategies, and next year we will increase our mobile investments to continue growing our award-winning portfolio of mobile solutions for both agency and airline customers.”

Sabre’s 2009 launch of TripCase, a mobile application available today for both iPhone and Blackberry users, continues to gain momentum with tens of thousands of individual downloads. Sabre’s Virtually There itinerary service is already used by more than 30,000 travel agencies around the world and their clients.

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