5 digital trends shaping the travel and leisure sector

By Adam Ball, Digital Product Consultant

Still recovering from the impacts of the pandemic, the travel and leisure sector is not estimated to overcome 2019’s peak performances until at least 2024.

With further economic headwinds on the horizon and domestic tourism continuing to drive the sector’s recovery, those that invest in robust, adaptable technology to power their business and offer personalised user-centred experiences can thrive in these uncertain times.

And with further economic headwinds on the horizon and domestic tourism continuing to drive the recovery of the sector – UK businesses that fail to deliver seamless break-booking customer experiences face getting left behind.

But it’s not just about new tech – it’s about using digital tools and platforms to improve how you serve your customers. From personalised booking platforms to bespoke mobile apps – brands must invest in customer-first solutions to remain competitive in the years ahead, or face getting left behind.

Here are five digital trends shaping the UK Travel and Leisure industry in 2023. 

Customer experience in the spotlight 

Expectations of excellent customer experience have shifted significantly since the pandemic, and despite high satisfaction ratings, negative sentiment is on the rise.

Operational capacity is strained, staffing challenges are widespread, and amenities and services remain substantially down for many in the travel and leisure sector. That’s why the way you respond to customer service requests and deliver experiences is more important than ever.

A growing trend in the industry is investing in platforms that build relationships and enable customers to self-serve their needs as quickly as possible. Connecting with customers before, during and after their booking or journey is becoming essential to help generate positive feedback and drive engagement through online channels.

As travel volumes increase and business travellers return, there is potential for a wave of customer dissatisfaction – at a time when loyalty is up for grabs. In this changing landscape, those that prioritise CX can cater to this, build resilience, and future-proof their organisation.

Agile technology 

With customer demands ever-changing, innovative businesses are investing in agile, sustainable technology and software to power their platforms. This way, they are best placed to deliver the experiences today’s consumers expect and maintain a competitive edge.

As customer demands continuously evolve, cloud-based and open-source systems featuring modular and customisable components, including headless CMS, booking engines and payment gateways will become the technology of choice for the sector and vital for those looking to pivot when required.

Apps are also transforming how customers book, plan and experience their travel or activities. From custom itineraries and recommendations to promotions, discounts and exclusive offers – apps provide customers with greater convenience while at the same time reducing operational costs and enhancing customer loyalty.

Integrated revenue management 

Across many sectors, including travel and leisure, there is an ever-increasing need for seamless and integrated revenue management systems.

By leveraging the most up-to-date data, you can optimise pricing strategies in reaction to fluctuating customer demand to maximise profitability. Investment in this area can offer greater agility and responsiveness needed to manage the complexity of today’s customer expectations and be ready for what comes next.

Beyond-the-booking experiences 

Guests are now looking for a holistic travel experience, going beyond the traditional online travel agent booking website – think mini-guides, activities, wellness and eco-experiences.

By integrating a more onboarding service with pre-arrival notifications, recommendations, and discounts – you can offer a more personalised and well-rounded experience to remain competitive in the market.

Data-driven experiences 

Customers are increasingly expecting personalised travel experiences, which are increasingly being enabled by digital teams leveraging data to tailor bespoke offers.

By leveraging customer data and feedback, brands can optimise their customer journey for greater customer satisfaction and repeat bookings.

In a cash-pressed business, transformational activities are rarely at the top of the agenda. In this case, companies need to squeeze the last drops of value out of existing systems and integrations by maximising the speed of the experience in the browser and optimise the purchasing journeys as far as possible using experiments; and a clear understanding of the technical health of the digital systems running the business.

This way, a business case for change can be based on sales or lead data, justifying greater spending levels to transform operations in year two.

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