Putting in place a mobile strategy is no longer a nice-to-have, it is the essential weapon in a fast-paced and competitive sector. EyeforTravel.com identifies some emerging themes

One thing is certain: the mobile channel is here to stay. The research – from a number of different sources – backs this up. IDC predicts that by 2015 smartphone sales will reach 982 million and according to Morgan Stanley, by 2014, mobile web users will surpass ‘traditional’ desktop Internet users. Travel firms, it seems are taking this seriously too; a recent Airline IT Trends survey finds that nine out of ten airlines are planning to sell tickets via mobile by 2015.

Unsurprisingly emerging trends and opportunities in mobile will be a central theme at EyeforTravel’s fast-approaching Travel Distribution Summit, North America which takes place in Las Vegas from September 13–14. So what are the emerging trends and opportunities? EyeforTravel.com goes in search of answers and identifies five central themes for mobile.

1. Smartphones are here to stay; not just for the last minute!

For online hotel booking firm, HotelTonight, the single biggest trend to emerge in 2012 will be the continued penetration of smartphones and the resulting shift of everyday activities from PC-based websites to the device in the customers’ pocket. “We believe the smartphone will become the new laptop and the resulting opportunities and challenges for businesses will be extreme,” says Jared Simon chief operating officer of HotelTonight.com. So which platforms is HotelTonight focusing its energy: on iOS and Android, of course although Simon says “we are always ready to move on a dime to take advantage of trends in this fast-paced mobile environment”.

Chris Blakely, vice-president of client services at comScore seems to be singing from the same hymn sheet. For him the biggest trend for 2012 is: “Continued growth of smartphone ownership in general, and the use of Android and iOS platforms in particular which are the core “rising tide that lifts all boats”.

For many firms, says Max Starkov president and chief executive of HebsDigital, the mobile channel is already a real travel planning and hotel distribution channel and this is especially true for so-called ‘drive-in and last-minute travel markets’. But going forward, even that may be changing. Priceline.com vice-president for corporate strategy, Todd Henrich, says that all the research points to the fact that consumers are becoming more mobile and before long they will be booking travel via mobile too – and this, he says, “this won’t necessarily just be the case for last-minute bookings”.

2. M-Commerce is ramping up but it is still the Wild West

It may still be a minority of smartphone users who are using their phones to transact, pay bills, shop and interact but this is changing as consumers become increasingly comfortable using their phone for commerce. This trend will only continue. In fact during May, online travel agency, Orbitz, reported that 6 million people used a mobile device to shop for travel, more than doubling numbers on the previous year. During the first quarter of the year, more than 9% of Orbitz hotel bookings were made via mobile devices.

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