In human versus machine, CWT study finds two-thirds of travellers prefer machines when booking air travel, but the human touch still dominates at hotels

Whether we like it or not, new technology and the ongoing digital transformation of global business means we will be increasingly interacting with machines rather than humans. This is already being adopted – and accepted – across multiple industries, whether that’s using self-service check-outs in supermarkets or even having a ‘conversation’ with a bot via an airline social media channel.


Summary:

  • New research from CWT highlights that travellers prefer to manage their travel transactions digitally, either via an app on mobile or a web-based browser;
  • But, acceptance of technology across the travel ecosystem differs significantly between booking a flight and checking-in or checking-out of a hotel;
  • Two thirds of business travellers prefer to book their flights digitally rather than have human interactions, but more than half want the human touch when checking out of hotels.

But new research from travel management platform CWT highlights that traveller acceptance of technology across the travel ecosystem differs significantly between booking a flight and checking-in or checking-out of a hotel.

On the whole the global research conducted by communications research firm Artemis Strategy Group for CWT at the start of this year and encompassing more than 2,700 business travellers who travelled for business four or more times in the previous 12 months, seemingly comes down on the side of machine in the human versus machine debate. It found most travellers prefer to manage their travel transactions digitally, either via an app on mobile or a web-based browser.

The results show that over two thirds (69%) of business travellers prefer to book their flights digitally rather than have human interactions. That continues to rise for hotel reservations (78%), ground transportation (71%), and checking-in for flights (68%). However, travellers remain more receptive speaking to a person face-to-face when checking into their hotel (46%) and checking out (51%).

“Technology is becoming more and more dominant in the travel ecosystem,” says Andrew Jordan, chief product and technology officer at CWT. “Digital interactions are taking over, so the travel industry must keep evolving to offer companies and their employees the experience they want and expect.”

The research shows that overall, Asia Pacific travellers are more likely to choose technology over personal contact – 73% prefer to book their flights digitally, versus 71% of Americas travellers and 61% of Europeans. Meanwhile, 84% of Asia Pacific travellers prefer to book hotels digitally, versus 77% of those from the Americas, and 70% of Europeans.

When it comes to checking in for their flights, travellers from the Americas are most inclined to use technology over personal contact: 73% said they prefer technology, versus 66% of Europeans and 65% of Asia Pacific travellers.

It is clear that smartphones are now catching up with computer screens as travellers become more mobile-centric. CWT’s research also shows that a significant percentage of travel is still booked through a computer screen – 45% in 2019 versus 53% in 2018 and 52% in 2017. But that number is declining and smartphones are catching up: 41% in 2019 versus 34% in 2018 and 32% in 2017. Tablets rank third with 11%, while only 2% of business travellers claim to get help from a person.

The data reveals that European travellers are most inclined to book their travel on a desktop or laptop (55%), followed by travellers from the Americas (49%) and travellers from Asia Pacific (36%). In contrast, 53% of travellers in Asia Pacific prefer to book travel on their smartphones, compared to 40% of Americas’ travellers and only 26% of Europeans. European travellers are most inclined to use their tablets (16%) or speak to a person (3%) than travellers from the Americas and Asia Pacific, who both scored 9% and 2% respectively.

When asked how they prefer to deal with disruptions or changes, 33% of travellers overall say using a mobile app is the most effective way to do so – 37% of travellers from Asia Pacific feel that way, versus 31% of travellers from the Americas and 30% of Europeans.

The study also revealed that eight out of ten business travellers have used technology instead of physically travelling for business in the past year, with a quarter using technology five or more times instead of travelling. With 29% of travellers from the Americas answering “five times or more,” they beat Europeans (26%) and Asia Pacific travellers (22%).

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