• Insights & Research

The Mobile Opportunity for Travel Marketers

Shamala DN
5 min read
Posted on August 21, 2013

Mobile phones have elevated from a means to communicate into the channel of choice for information source. It is known fact that Mobile devices have completely changed the way consumers shop, and search for information. Mobile phones have been impacting every business and travel industry is no exception.

Approximately a million people are flying across the world making travel and tourism one of world's largest industries, and impacting many economies either directly or indirectly. A record one billion people made international trips in 2012, according to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council. Travelers are now equipped with advanced smartphones by which they can access outright information related to booking, location, weather etc. Mobile phones are being used across the travel booking funnel from planning and booking and until the last day of the trip exploring maps, local information and weather information. According to a Nielsen study travel related searches raised the third highest number of follow-up actions per mobile search out of 15 categories. With the wide availability of free WiFi across many airports and in flight WiFi becoming a reality, the brands have tremendous opportunity to reach travelers and keep them entertained.


According to e-Marketer, US mobile travel sales will more than triple between 2013 and 2017, totaling nearly $50 billion in 2017. Mobile sales will account for almost 30% of digital travel sales. The main driver is tied to mobile penetration and usage trends and will also be due to rise in consumer confidence in making larger purchases over mobile devices. As per the study, 40% of digital travel researchers will plan trips via tablets and smartphones in 2013, and that more than one-quarter of digital travel bookers will buy on their mobile devices. As per eMarketer forecast travel marketers will spend $4.7 billion in 2016 on digital advertising which includes both online and mobile. As per mobile ad platform JiWire's report, 52 percent of travel bookings made in the last quarter were on a mobile device meaning smartphones and tablets have overtaken desktop. According to Airline IT trends survey 2013, more than 50% of airlines offer flight search, tickets, check-in and boarding pass via mobile. By 2016 more than 60% of airlines will plan new mobile services such as flight re-booking, missing bag reporting and bag status updates. By 2016, 83% will offer mobile boarding via airline apps, 62% via 3rdparty wallets like apple passbook and 41% expect to offer NFC-enabled boarding passes. The ability to plan their itinerary in real time from planning, booking, check-ins, car rentals, hotels and more has had significant impact on the adoption of these smart devices. The mobile channel is growing fast and very clearly people are now past the desktop experience. Mobile is becoming an essential channel in the travel industry and travel brands that do not have a mobile presence have to think about creating one soon and brands which have a strategy need to think about optimizing them and adding new and emerging features.


Mobile-connected travelers stand out demographically. Looking at the demographic profile of the smartphone travel user, the comScore study finds that although males make up 52% of the smartphone audience, they account for 62% of the smartphone travel audience. Females, by contrast, make up just 38% of the smartphone travel audience, compared to 48% of the total smartphone audience. 78% of the smartphone travelers were aged 18-44, while they comprised 63% of the total smartphone audience. There was less discrepancy in income levels, with roughly half of each audience earning at least $75,000 annually. Clearly the numbers indicate young males as the most likely mobile travelers. The reason may be due to the fact that they are more tech savvy and are much risk averse in mobile adoption than others.


As travelers continue to integrate mobile into their travel itinerary, it is important for marketers and travel companies to understand the customer journey, establish a strong presence on mobile to drive bookings and personalized experience to travelers. Clearly mobile is impacting every step of the travel process, and here are a few options marketers and travel companies should consider

Mobile Web

Mobile travelers are known to constantly research trips, tweet and post reviews about their experiences while on the move. Many companies are optimizing the mobile web to provide one stop shop for information for all the travelers. To tap into this trend, Brands need to consider mobile extensions to their digital marketing strategies, have a mobile optimized web site and focus on the distinctions between platforms and form factors. Marketers should plan their content cautiously keeping in mind the restricted amount of space to work with and at the same time have essential information for travelers.

Mobile Apps

 New age travelers are continuously seeking the convenience mobile apps provide with ever increase in accessibility and affordability of travel. Most of the airlines have launched their own version of the apps to purchase tickets, manage their booking and select their seats. Brands should embrace this trend to create mobile websites and apps to enhance traveler interactions and provide contextual information to travelers. Custom travel mobile apps improves traveler access, offers integrated location based services, provides capability to interact with social networking sites, allow instant updates, and more over helps build brand identity.


- is also playing an increased role in improving and enhancing the travel experience for travelers. Mobile phones are now used not only to search for information but also to pay for goods and services, coupled with the seamless exchange of information electronically.

Location based services

Mobile is all about creating personal relationship with consumers. Location based services provide a compelling opportunity for marketers to offer content that is even more relevant based on their location. Travelers now use mobile to search for places to eat and drink using peer recommendations through review sites and special offers. Although roaming data charges are higher, many airports offer free WiFi within the airports which provides an opportunity for retail brands to use geo targeted mobile ads and time bound offers to drive foot traffic.

QR codes

QR codes are becoming highly popular in digital marketing and are bound to be a great source for travel industry. Google has integrated this technology in three airports (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) and travelers can now download movies, music, apps and books direct to their Android device by tapping their device against the screen or scan the QR code using airports free WiFi. Brands can generate customized QR codes for their products or service which when scanned takes the travelers to the desired area of the website or downloads and allows them to engage the travelers while in transit.

Augmented Realty

Mobile phones are enriching the visitor experience with contextual information and making it possible to visualize elements of a site architectural or historical past. Copenhagen airport has launched the first 360 degree way finding app which allows passengers to visualize their journey through the airport on a mobile phone. Brands should embrace these available technologies to provide relevant and contextual information and enrich visitor experience.

Coupons and Discounts 

Coupons and discounts are essential incentives to lure prospective travelers to connect with brands and build loyalty. ROI Research's survey shows that 53% of social network users Liked or followed travel brands because of the coupons and discounts offered. Marketers can tap into this potential by offering seasonal discounts and attract travelers


Mobile has been an impressive and essential component of the travel experience and there are still many more opportunities to explore. From pre-trip planning to writing reviews on return, mobile has transformed every phase in the travel funnel with vital information and a range of marketing opportunities. Ever growing footprint of mobile devices and social media has allowed travelers to interact with brands providing instant feedback and obtaining real time customer service. Emerging technologies such as augmented realty, rich media applications are driving dynamic and interactive marketing campaigns. Marketers have enormous opportunities and many doors to explore at every phase of the travel funnel to connect and engage travelers, understand their journey and to establish brand awareness and loyalty. There has never been a better time to embrace the power of mobile revolution. So mobilize soon.

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