Travel insights from Taylor Coulson, contributing editor of The Compass

Looking Back on Travel Technology in 2018

Technology is just as dynamic, intriguing and unpredictable as the travel industry, and 2018 has definitely proven that. Here are four major travel technology developments that occurred in 2018.

VAX Got an Update

For starters, VAX just had our best technology year ever this past year, furthering our mission of being the travel marketplace where agents can earn, learn and grow their businesses. We redesigned the entire site to give it a more modern look and feel and to reorganize some sections of the site. One of the biggest enhancements we made was the addition of The Compass, a new editorial resource exclusively for travel agents. We publish articles every day on topics ranging from agent development like social media strategies for agents to major tech innovations like the use of biometrics throughout domestic and international airports. We also created our Industry Calendar, which compiles important industry events geared toward travel agents.

“Hey Siri, when should I go to China?”

Let’s not forget about the exciting travel technology developments outside of the VAX site. Voice technology was a big one in 2018. By now, most of you are familiar with voice devices like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant and more. Nearly 47 percent of travelers have had experience with voice assistance, and your clients probably have voice assistants in their everyday life, leading them to expect them during their vacations as helpful guides while on-the-move. But the challenge of voice assistance and travel is that there are so many details involved in booking travel, and though it may be fun to ask Alexa for flight options to Barcelona, the actual booking will most likely not be done through a voice-activated device.

Amazon vs. OTAs?

Amazon is a force to be reckoned with in many industries, and travel is no different. Skift recently published an e-book analyzing Amazon’s potential impact on the travel industry and the biggest takeaway from this research from an agent’s perspective is that Amazon venturing into travel is not an immediate threat for agents. It’s the OTAs who should watch out, especially when it comes to younger travelers. Even so, a shift for consumers to booking travel through Amazon will likely not create an impact for a while. If anything, Amazon may become a research tool for travelers planning their next trip, still leaving agents the opportunity to book it for them.

Cookies for Everyone… Almost

Within the travel industry there are numerous acronyms and you’ve probably seen “GDPR” a lot within the past year, since it was officially enforced as of May 25, 2018. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) a data protection policy that requires companies to get consent from consumers to collect their data. GDPR is designed to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe, protect data privacy throughout the EU and reshape the approach to data privacy completely. For instance, when a pop-up appears on a website asking you to accept that the website uses cookies to collect and use your data, that’s just GDPR working its magic.

So should you be worried about GDPR compliance? Yes, but only if your agency has clients living in any country in the European Union (EU) and if you want to target your marketing to those clients or other travelers living there. But if you’re not using their consumers’ data to target your marketing efforts to anyone in the EU, you’re probably ok. Plus, since this is a regulation in the EU, it’s not yet clear how businesses in the U.S. could be fined. However, as a consumer, you have the right to prevent a company from collecting and using your data when you visit their website.

Are there any travel technologies that launched in 2018 that aligned with you and your clients’ preferences? Let us know in the comments below.

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